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Reflections from the Tanning Bed

Summer 101 

Wear sunscreen and know your limits 

By Liz Hodge 

Um. Hi. 
I may have made a weensy poor judgment call today. Maybe. Ok, so here it is. I’m transparent, so I’ll share. Laugh along if desired.
I usually enjoy a little spray tan from time to time (hello, I’m blonde and I look ghostly in the winter otherwise). 
But today I went all in. Strongly lighted and with UV warning…all in. 
I did a tanning bed. Like  high-school-prom tanning bed. 
Where are the playboy bunny stickers for my hip? 
I feel that some disclosure is in order here: 
I walk into my local tanning salon and tell the leathery 24-year-old with frosted blue eye shadow that I’d like to “tan.” We then get into her 15-minute spiel on the lotions that I should slather on to “hold my enzymes in.” 
(Sister, your enzymes have already leaked into your faux Chanel bag that matches your elbows.)
Then she asks “Ma’am…?” (like she’s addressing her mother’s BFF), “Ma’am…would you like the FULL time?” 
Hell YAS, Tiffany. I’m paying. Give me the full amount.

I go in. 

It smells like Cocoa Beach circa 1992. 
Or like a Barbie was just baked in a toaster oven. 
I disrobe. I crawl in. 
The giant clam then talks to me. “Would you like more facial ventilation?” 
Yes. I would not like to smell myself cooking. 
“Would you like music?” Sure thing, Kit the Talking Carcinogen. 
Something like house music pumps into my ears. 
I lie there. I meditate. I re-evaluate my life…
I’m in a tanning bed at 42 and I am having flashbacks to a ‘Tan and Pawn’ from my youth.
I spend what feels like an eternity in a solitude chamber and then I am released. 
“We hope you enjoy your new you!” Kit says.
I feel like I just put on pegged jeans and my Swatch and am going home to watch Full House. 
I feel great!

Fast forward four hours. 

Things feel…hot. Like, maybe I’m hormonal, or the AC is off, or I’m just needing to take off these jeans. 
My daughter and I head out for a date night, and that includes swimsuit shopping at Target (where you walk in needing toilet paper and walk out $6000 later with a home remodel and new wardrobe.) 
I pick out a few cute suits. And btw, none of these suits are a medium. None. They are teeny freaking tiny, extremely small, and designed for waifs. But I forge ahead. I get in the dressing room, with fluorescent downcast lighting that would make even Uma Thurman look like a beached manatee. 
And I strip. But….there is pain. 
I catch a glimpse in the mirror. 
I look like a blonde lobster that is ready for the buffet on a Carnival line. Like a scalded naked chicken. But pinker. And more hideous.
I let out a squeal. 
“Momma, you ok?” my daughter asks.
“Yes, baby.”
I tell her how this suit makes me look “more intelligent and involved in my community.” 
Disclosure: I hate shopping for bathing suits. 
Next stop is a movie, where I sweat, and feel my seat getting more tender by the moment.

I’m home now. 
My daughter’s in bed. 
I strip to assess the damage. 
I look like a spring breaker who fell asleep drunk. 
I shake my head. 
I apply lotion. 
Lots of lotion.
Sweet friends, here is the lesson: 
Do not attempt more than your capacity. 
I don’t try to breakdance now; I don’t do Feats Of Strength and I don’t try to out-drink the large Russian guy in the corner. 
Know your limits. 
I now know that mine stops at the Tan and Pawn, and keeps me in the spray-tan-for-geriatrics aisle.
I’m good with being called “ma’am.” 
But I still wanted my playboy sticker.

Liz Hodge’s essay appears on page 6 of Ace’s 2024 Lexington June Summer Guide. Click here to page through the digital edition of the June 2024 print issue of Ace. To subscribe to digital delivery of Ace’s print edition each month, click here. Click here to join the Ace Eats Out Facebook.