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.