This week's fig is going to be a spray tan. As you may recall, I have very white skin. My sister says it's more like translucent than actually just white, and you don't have to look awfully hard to see the veins running up and down the backs of my legs.
I think I have come to terms with my skin. I mean, I think there will always be a part of me that wishes I wasn't quite so glaringly white, but I have outgrown the phase of allowing it to stop me or hold me back. And in the past years, especially since living in Asia, I've grown to see it as a positive aspect of my appearance rather than something I should cover up and hide.
I know it seems like a lot of angst, the color of my skin. So lest you think I'm hung up on it for no good reason, allow me to regale you with a few stories of my romantic past.
In college, my freshman year, I dated a football player. Well, he was a little bit more than a football player. I lived in Texas, and I attended a Texas state school, so he was more of a football hero - as are all Texas football players (in the very least in their own minds). Not only did my boyfriend play football for our college, but he played baseball as well. He was quite the athlete. He was also very big. I use that word because there isn't another word to describe him. He had a medical condition (acromegaly - a hormone imbalance) that made him big. He was 6'3 inches tall and 275 of muscle. He was so big that my entire hand fit into the palm of his hand. His calf muscle was bigger than my thigh muscle (we measured them). He was blond and blue-eyed and tan. Everywhere we went, women sort of looked at him and smiled at him and threw themselves at him, all of which he laughed off with an affable shrug. So, right there you can kind of see that a girl might be a little insecure as his girlfriend, and then he was 24 and I was 19, and he was a senior, and I was a freshmen. Well, I could go on.
I remember several times waiting for him to pick me up in my dorm room only to find that he'd never gotten past the elevators, what with the small crowd of girls hovering around with their questions, and hair-twirling and infectious laughter.
Lest you think he wasn't a good boyfriend, I can assure you he was. He was very sweet, cooking for me and shuffling me all over town and spending hours sitting with me while I studied (he never did study, that I can recall, and yet he seemed to sail through his classes with ease - I guess that happens when one is a sports science major). Anyway, he was lovely. I was sick once and feeling pathetic and miserable, and I was all self-pitying and mopey and he said to me, "What do you want?" And I sort of threw myself on the floor and said, "I want cake."
I'm well aware, at the age of 34, how pitiful this story sounds.
Anyway, he got up and went out in a snow storm and got me two different kinds of cake and fed them to me from a palate on the floor, in front of a fire.
So, he was sort of great. The only thing I ever recall him being not-so-great about was my skin. He was, as I said, very tan. And he always hinted that he'd love it if I tanned. Finally, one day he just came out and said, "Will you go to a tanning booth if I pay for it?"
I didn't know what to say, and so I shrugged and agreed. I knew, of course, that I wouldn't actually tan. I mean, it wasn't as if I hadn't tried. But people never believed me. It's as if they thought I should just be trying harder or something.
I went to the tanning bed the next week. His excitement was palpable as I walked in and winked at him over my shoulder. Really, he could hardly contain himself.
In his defense, when I walked out 15 minutes later, red as a boiled lobster and sort of walking with my arms and legs splayed out to keep them from rubbing against each other, he was mortified and shocked and felt very badly. Very badly.
He never mentioned tanning again. But I knew how he felt about my skin, then, and it was always hard for me to wear shorts around him. And we lived in Texas, so the option of wearing jeans throughout the summer was slightly worse than my alabaster legs.
This week, since I've given the old tanning bed the college try (literally), I'm going to get a spray tan. I've used tanning lotions over the years and given up. Looking streaked and smelling as if I peed myself isn't worth it. But I've always wondered if a spray tan would look good. And I've talked about it for years.
I don't know what worries me more about it - that it will look (and smell) like crap or that it will be fabulous and I'll spend my family into deep debt from a tanning habit that stems from an insecurity about myself that is so superficial I am embarrassed to write about it.
Quote of Inspiration
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar