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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thoughts on a Spray Tan

I've had the spray tan now for a few days, and it's much, much better. In fact, it's nice. It is even-colored and not at all blotchy. It gives me a faint glow, nothing particularly noticeable. I'd say that it sort of just takes the edge off the starkness of my white skin. The shower and loofah obviously helped, and by the next morning, the green color was gone and I no longer looked like a part-time, volunteer fire-fighter.

So, I looked at myself and my first thought was this: I don't look better.


I didn't look any worse. But even with that soft glow, I don't think I looked better. And I'd been waiting basically my whole life to look better.

I think what struck me most is that my skin didn't look like my skin. It looked like a tan person's skin, except that I'm not a tan person so my own personal coloring wasn't such a big hit with the spray tan. I think if my skin naturally tanned, things might be different. But since my skin doesn't naturally tan, it sort of just looked odd to me. Again, not bad but not good either. Just different.

I noticed that my eyes didn't stand out as much against the tanned skin as they do against my white skin, and I realized that I like my blue eyes in part because of how they play off my skin.

My lips also seem pale to me, not quite as pink. My lipstick and make-up look slightly off with this warmer skin. It all just doesn't seem to suit me as much.

I had a friend write me an e-mail after reading my first post on this blog, when I was floating in the pool contemplating my life. She said something that I don't think anyone has ever said to me before: she said that my skin is part of what makes me beautiful.

I have been thinking about that ever since she wrote it. It's the first time someone other than my mother has said I have nice skin - and even then my mother encourages me often to get tanning lotions. Isn't it nice when our parents give us those blessed mixed messages???

Anyway, my friend's comment made me realize that I've always thought of myself in terms of being on the cusp of being beautiful. If I only had tan skin, I'd be pretty. If I only lost 10 lbs, I'd be thin enough. But now that I've actually gone and gotten the spray tan, I realize that it doesn't make me any prettier; in fact, my skin looks best in its natural state, and I guess I have to give mad props to God for creating me right the first time, sans golden skin and all.

I think that if I have a beauty-based goal, it's got to be to love myself as I am, today, right now. I think that if I could teach my daughter one thing about herself it would be that - to love herself as she is, to appreciate what she's been given and to focus less on the outside and more on the inside. Because as I age, I do realize that it's the soul of who we are that gets us through the rough patches and enables us to celebrate the joy - it's never the size of our thighs or the color of our skin.

I know some people don't understand how a woman could be so consumed with a spray tan. But I think we all have our thing, and for whatever reason, it's our thing. It's that proverbial monkey on our back that tags along with us, sometimes in the forefront of our thinking and other times lingering behind but still somehow attached.

I sit here tonight, the remnants of my spray tan starting to fade, and I can't express how happy I am to have had this experience and to put it behind me. I look forward to my skin returning to its glaring white, and I hope that this feeling lingers, that it knocks that monkey officially off my back, allowing me to shift all of that mental energy to the experiences that will enrich my life.

Isn't it funny that in life, so often when we get what we think we wanted, it turns out we were wrong all along?


*Photograph/Painting: John Singer Sargent - Madame X


  1. I hope that your daughter will take your lessons to heart. I always had to do things my own way, regardless. I once packed up and moved from NYC when my mother kept telling me that all I needed was a vacation. She was right, of course. I was back in NY within a month...searching for a new apartment! I was 22 at the time. Boy, did I learn a lesson.
    All the best,

  2. Catherine,

    Isn't it nice to no longer be 22? I suppose we have to go through it to learn the lessons, but it's nice to be past it. Somehow the lessons we learn as we get older aren't quite so hard and don't take so long.


  3. This is a great story Mama P. I wish something like this could be taught to all people (esp. girls/women) in school before the programming is too deep.


  4. This post brought tears to my eyes!!

  5. (in a good way - hope that was obvious)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...