Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Knowledge November - Day 12 - White washing

Fellow blogger Lorna Lilo was chatting about the warm weather we’ve had recently and reckons she gets sunburned sitting too close to the light bulb and spending “a day in the sun is something that would require major preparation to the point that by the time I was ready to go out summer would be over. Women can't just chuck on the shorts and head out.”

I realised that I also get burned standing on a railway platform in the middle of winter under heavy cloud and that too often I’ve noticed the ‘what the hell....?’ looks of passersby if I’m wearing my running shorts and feel morally obliged to stop, introduce myself and explain that my legs are indeed whiter than fluoro tubes but are a much less reliable source of illumination due to rarely having the covers taken off.

My face is so pale that – if my legs are hidden in jeans - people always furrow their brow in concern and think I’m recovering from a viral infection. This unwanted whiteness is never more apparent than around the pool wearing bathers.

One thing I’ve learned is that I owe my mother big time for insisting, even in the early seventies, that swimming in a t-shirt and slicking my face with zinc cream was a must. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, especially when frolicking with two brown brothers and bronzed, pool-owning neighbours, but she saved me countless peeled noses, raw shoulders and freckles.

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 golden brown: cellulite is no friend of the cottage-cheese coloured.

On our last tropical Queensland holiday, 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 lazy-boy-bound 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 Plugger. Have you just arrived?”

I decided that it was time for some chemical assistance. The plastic tube’s promise of a Sunless, Golden Glow For An Ultra Natural Tanning Result was impossible to turn down. The morning after we arrived back home, 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 was going swimmingly until.....

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?”
(uncertainly) “Oh, OK.”

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, it was bloody freezing in there and I had to do the school drop off in twenty.....

Dammit, I’d forgotten to bring in my watch. One elephant, two elephants, three elephants, four….. My fingers were turning blue. Perhaps a jog on the spot would make things a bit warmer. Perhaps not. The lack of elasticated underwire support made things in the chest area rather painful and my buttocks were still reverberating a minute after I stopped.

Bing Bong Bing Bong went the front door bell.

Marvellous, that was just flippin’ marvellous. Our bathroom was 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 Dad? Can you get him to sign it?”
“Dad’s in the toilet.” And not likely to emerge until the first orange leaves of Autumn.
“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 can’t wait around, he’s got other deliveries to do he says.”
Stuff all this – “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.

“Whew, what on earth is wrong with you?” said Love Chunks, sniffing at me suspiciously as we settled into bed that night.
“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 every time I bend over to pick up the newspaper.”
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.

Since that first and last dalliance with the fake stuff, I’ve often mused to Love Chunks that fellas have it easier on the physical side. Their clothes are functional, hair removal is optional, bodily excretions are actively celebrated and long board shorts and rashie vests are de-rigeur at the beach.

...which is why, at 41, I wear 'em too. It means that I only have to slather my face and feet with the dreaded 30+ and can hide my blinding white from others on the beach.


The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I'm a fellow whitey who fries almost as soon as the sun rises.

However, I've never ever had the urge to even look at a bottle of fake tan.

And now, having laughed once more at your exploits, I am more determined than ever to remain like a walking milk bottle but have nice youthful skin.

Great post :0)



drb said...

grass is always greener on the other side. In asia, white skin is the sought-after (think Geisha). My best friend in S'pore CANNOT understand why people want tan skin. There is a saying that 'Fair skin can disguise ugly face'. So, we have whitening moisturizer instead!
Move to Asia and you will be the Fairest of them all!

The Man at the Pub said...

Gee, you sure are having a busy, blogging November. drb makes an interesting point. At least you are largely camouflaged as you walk past the white picket fences of Flemington, solving mysteries and whatnot. Just got to get some peroxide onto Milly and noone will see you coming.

franzy said...

I got freckles and I tan up real nice BUT ... I have only ever done it once. Because for most of my life I've watched Ma & Pa Queensland get skin cancers hacked and burnt out of them from a life-long attitude that a little bit* of sun every day is a good thing. Not for me. I'll stay mighty whitey thanks.

* At least half an hour - what's all this burn factor shit?

Cat J B said...

I'm a boardies and long sleeved rashie gal too AND it assists in your modesty 'cos when you have two small children hanging off you in the water they inevitably grab a strap or tie...

the projectivist said...

that last photo?
he's a poster child for fake tan, isn't he? or a vision from your nightmares. take your pick.

i'm also very pale-skinned, i slathered on a bit of the old fake tan last night because i'm planning to get my legs out tonight. put em on show. it's very natural though. lots of trials involved to find the right amount of 'glow'. i put it on ONLY when i know i don't have to go out because that stuff sure smells crap doesn't it?

River said...

I'm concerned that the couple in your picture look so happy. Do they not own mirrors? Her pink face doesn't match the over brown body at all, and he just looks like someone left him in the oven too long.
I'm an easy tanner, as a child in summer, with brown skin, brown eyes, sun-bleached straw like hair, I was often mistaken for one of the aboriginal kids at the beach. Had the skinny legs too. These days I spend much more time indoors, so don't get quite as brown, but still....walking home from work on a hot day last week got me a layer of tan which I didn't notice until later that day when I took off my watch and my wrist had a white band where the watch had been. I have to apply sunblock to my face, because I have Rosaecea and direct sun triggers the redness and "swelling from the inside feeling" that make me look like I've spent the weekend sipping gin or something. Unfortunately this means that now my face will always be lighter than my arms, similar to the lady in your picture, but not as bad.

Anonymous said...

Fake tan? I just can't do it. I'd look like a hippo rolling around in the mud.

Decorum, darling, decorum!

lovin' the blog!

Jilly said...

Hey, but have you tried that Summer Glow moisturiser - nice smelling, very subtle and after a few days the fluro glow is gone? I love it. But I have a very naturally brown husband who I hate walking next too with my lilly-whites.

Baino said...

I tan but due to my self consciousness about my body shape, I rarely sit in the sun. So . . why not try the Dove Summer Glo I thought. It works but it does smell funny and somehow wacking all those chemicals directly onto my skin seems a bit risky. White is right . . .nothing worse than a leathery complexion from years of burning to a crisp. drb is right. I have Korean neighbours and they never let the sun in. Even on the hottest days, they have long sleeves, broad brimmed hats and long pants on!

Kath Lockett said...

Plastic Man, if you have youthful skin, then well done - I'm white *and* wrinkly like one of those hairless cats....

DrB - maybe Asia is *my* place?

Pub Man - if I stand utterly still in front of the white picket fences then yes, my legs do blend in perfectly.

Franzy, me too - my Dad has only half his eyebrows left because of so many skin cancer removals and even Love Chunks has had two taken out as well.

You're right, CatJB - my mate Jill always recommended wearing at least a longish pair of board shorts to prevent any untoward views as she was bending over swooshing her two year old in the water.....

Yep, Projectivisit, it still stinks, even after all these years. Mr and Mrs Muscles in the last photo would have REEKED (in more ways than one methinks).

River, a light face is OK, but I envy your brown legs and arms.

Thiswoman, you're too kind

Jilly even those 'Summer Glow' or 'Holiday Skin' thingies have a bit of a pong to them and I've even stuffed up the application of them and wound up with really brown ankle bones and white toes.

Baino, after reading Jill's and your comments, maybe I'll give the Dove 'Summer Glow' a go... Today, however it's 34C and I'm taking Sapph and her mate to the local pool - all of us wearing rashie vests, hats and boardies!