A few weeks ago, we three had ten very glorious, sun-drenched days in tropical Queensland. All three of us enjoyed the steamy heat, the warm and inviting swimming pools, the gorgeous white sandy beaches, rainforest-like gardens and - perhaps most of all - no housework or cleaning to do.
There were some great restaurants and cafes on Hamilton island and if we weren't eating out we were enjoying some rather delicious meals cooked by Love Chunks. And yet, despite being on a hard-earned holiday, we didn't gorge ourselves as much as we'd normally do.
The reason for this uncharacteristic culinary control was mostly due to seeing some of the other guests who shared the resort and pools with us – mostly parents our age or younger. It was with mild horror we witnessed a rather huge percentage of beginner beer guts, fat backs and love handles of the men and the multiple chins, life-preserver waists and ice cream cone thighs of the women. We were also shocked though by some of the garb worn by these brave folk – tiny bikinis and miniscule speedos – all with confidence and ease in such a public area. We then realised that we looked rather fit and slim in comparison to most of them.
Don’t get me wrong; everyone deserves to be relaxed and have fun on holiday regardless of their size and I admit to being pretty harsh when making comment on the appearances of others (mostly to deflect attention from my own). And, even though I’m a tallish size 12/14 gal who’s fairly fit, I’m white. Whiter than white. Legs like fluoro tubes. Arms like chunks of new chalk. Face so pale that people always think I’m recovering from a viral infection.
This unwanted whiteness is never more apparent than around the pool wearing bathers. Although we have all known for years that a tan is risking sun damage and skin cancer, I defy anyone to line up two women of the same body size and appearance - with the only difference being that one is tanned and one is not - and not admit that the tanned one looks thinner, fitter and healthier.
Carrying a little extra weight is easier to hide if you’re a golden brown – cellulite is no friend of the pallid colourless sufferers amongst us. So, I was naughty. I decided to do my utmost to get a tan. For the entire ten days I slathered every visible part of my body with factor 30+ sunscreen, rotisserating myself half-hourly like a take-away chicken. I swam 40 laps every late afternoon with the sun beating down on my arms, back, shoulder and legs and moisturized every evening with a fevour that Mrs Nivea would be proud of. Sunburn did not dare venture my way once – surely I was attaining a tiny, tiny bit of pigment? Surely I was no longer the whitest one in the pool?
All too soon, our lovely holiday was at its end. Strolling back to reception to hand over the key, the porter remarked to me, “Welcome to our resort Mrs Moo, we hope you enjoy your holiday with us. Have you just arrived from Antarctica?” Well, Antarctica might be exaggerating the exchange a tad, but you get my drift.
It was therefore time for some chemical assistance. The promise of a Sunless, Golden Glow For An Ultra Natural Tanning Result was impossible to turn down. The morning after we arrived back in cloudy South Australia, the fake tanner came out. Or, as cosmetics companies prefer, ‘Moisturising Bronzer.’ The instructions, well, instructed me to get in the shower, shave everything worth shaving, exfoliate everything worth exfoliating, get out, dry off and moisturise everything worth moisturising.
All OK so far------KNOCK KNOCK – “Mum! Can I come in to the bathroom to wash my hands?”
“Um, can you drag a chair into the laundry and use the tap in the trough?”
“Um, can you drag a chair into the laundry and use the tap in the trough?”
(uncertainly) “Oh, OK.” I'm sure she won't fall over on the tiles, crack her head on the edge of the basin and be lying there slowly bleeding to death whilst I wait for the lotion to work it's magic.....
The bronzer was applied in smooth, even strokes with very little applied to the dry areas of heels and knees. As I sparingly rubbed it into my elbows, it reminded me of what Billy Connolly once said: ‘Elbows are where God put his left over testicle skin. He thought it was a sin to waste it.’
Next step read ‘Let set for 30 mins before wearing any clothing.’ Thirty minutes! That's a aeon when standing in a freezing bathroom. Then I realised that I'd forgotten to bring in my watch. One elephant, two elephants, three elephants, four….. My fingers were turning blue. I thought that perhaps a jog on the spot would make things a bit warmer. A few seconds later I decided that perhaps not. The lack of elasticated underwire support made things in the chest area rather painful. I didn’t dare fold my arms under my acheing rack in case it led to unsightly sweat lines. Bugger it, I eventually thought: it would be far easier just to streak into the bedroom where at least the heating was on-----"BRRRRRING!" went the front door bell.
This was not exactly well-timed: our anti-feng shui nightmare of a bathroom is directly in line with the front door, and I had no intention of providing any sort of visual comic relief to the hapless visitor. In the meantime all I could do to keep warm was a sort of crippled side-to-side shuffle like a teenage boy at his first disco, and hope that the visitor would leave soon---
“Mum, there’s a guy from the post office here for you. He’s got a package that he says you’ve gotta sign for.”
Poo Bum Bugger Shit Fart.
“Where’s your Daddy? Can you get him to sign it?”
“Daddy’s in the toilet.”
And not likely to emerge until the first buds of Spring.
“TELL HIM I’LL BE THERE IN FIVE MINUTES,” I yelled to her through the keyhole.
My lovely little one relayed the message.
“Mum, he said he can’t wait around, he’s got other deliveries to do he says.”
My sigh echoed around the tiled walls – “Tell him I’ll be right there.”
“Sign here please.” He didn’t even look up. It felt nice and warm in my dressing gown and I no longer cared if the thirty minutes were up. ‘Your true golden tan will be achieved in three hours,’ it said on the tube. Whatever, it was nearly my bedtime anyway.
“Whew, what on earth is wrong with you?” said Love Chunks, sniffing at me curiouslyas we settled into bed.
“Bronzing lotion,” I muttered.
“FAKE TAN? Why? You’re a whitey and you can’t change that, it’ll look strange. It smells strange….”
“Yeah well, it’s OK for you, brown boy. You just have to think about wearing shorts and you’re nice and tanned. I hate being mistaken for the first full moon.”
The bed was shaking slightly in the darkness. We weren’t doing any horizontal folk dancing: LC was laughing. The next morning found me in the shower, frantically trying to exfoliate off the orange streaks. Clearly my application technique was not as smooth or even as I’d hoped. There were distinct finger print marks at the back of my neck and a generous amount of lotion run-off had decided to settle within my cleavage, forming a fetching fault-line of orange zig zags. My legs were golden but my feet looked as though they’d been varnished in a hailstorm. As for my arms, well, on their own they appeared sun-kissed, but I’d been too stringent in ensuring that my palms didn’t turn orange, so my hands were still pallid. It gave the impression of the gloves worn by Mickey Mouse.
It was the only time in my life that I was glad it was 20C, raining and cold. Thank the lord for black polo neck jumpers, jeans and gloves.