I bought into the hype that tanning beds "give you a nice base tan so you don't burn" and "it's no more harmful than the sun" in my youthful ignorance. My best friend in college had a tanning bed at her parents' house in Dayton, and when we visited, we sunned ourselves in it. Wrinkles, schminkles. We were 20.
On my last appointment before the wedding, with seven days to go, I felt good about my tan and all of the planning. The centerpieces were ready, my dress was perfect, flowers were ordered, and I was taking it all pretty well, all things considered. I relaxed into the tanning bed and settled in for my 15 minutes of what I thought, at the time, was innocent skin enhancement. I thought it was a good idea, at the time.
When I woke up, 30 minutes later, I sat up quickly and looked in the mirror. My skin was bright red. I jumped up, threw on my clothes, and ran into the reception area.
“My timer didn’t go off!” I said, breathlessly.
“Oh,” said the young woman at the front desk. “I guess the timer is broken.”
I stared at her through raccoon eyes.
The damage was done, and there wasn’t much I could do. My skin hurt to the touch, and my eye sockets were trimmed in a lovely shade of pale. A day later, I woke up and looked in the mirror through still-groggy vision, and saw something that would strike fear into the heart of any bride-to-be: my lips had blistered. MY. LIPS. HAD. BLISTERED.
Panic mode set in and I dialed a local dermatologist with scarlet fingers. I explained the situation and begged them to fit me in that day, and they took pity on me. When the doctor saw my predicament, he pursed his lips and refrained from comment until the end of the appointment, when he gave me a prescription for oral steroids and told me to stay away from tanning beds.
I gave him a look that said, if I ever get near one again, please put me in a straitjacket.
The blisters healed just in time for the wedding, and the rest of my skin had faded to a fresh pink. I was the epitome of the blushing bride. Or the bride in blush. Luckily, the pictures didn’t betray my embarrassment. The Great Tanning Bed Incident of 2000 was barely ahead of the Great Sun-In Orange Hair Embarrassment of 1986, but it definitely takes the trophy.
Maybe the Great Tanning Bed Incident was a harbinger of doom for the marriage - it failed after four years. I should have seen that as a sign; there is a fortune cookie somewhere that says, "Burn skin in tanning bed, don't get married."
These days, I can't even look at a tanning bed, and I wear a hat and sunscreen and often, a rash guard if I’m out in the sun. I can’t undo the years of baby oil, and the laughable SPF 4 (FOUR!) Coppertone suntan lotion, and the tanning beds, but I can be smarter these days. That’s what middle age does for you.
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This is part of a blog hop led by the illustrious Nancy Kho of Midlife Mixtape. If you love music and smart writing, she is your woman. Go and check out some of the posts on this topic at my friends' sites - they will be sure to have some fun stories about what seemed like a good idea at the time.
Genie in a Blog