About once a year, since my sophomore year of college, I buy a tanning package at a local tanning salon. I know in the long run that it isn't good for me. It increases my already significant risk of skin cancer, I know. Being of Irish and German decent, my parents were overly diligent in slathering me in sunscreen from an early age, yet I still spent plenty of summers looking like a lobster. I thought I was condemned to forever carry aloe in my purse during the summers if I planned on being outside or even taking a long drive. Tanning changed that. I could enjoy the sun with much less worry than before, since I wasn't getting all of my UV exposure at once.
Those of you who have never lived through a midwest winter may not understand my next line of reasoning. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that I have serious seasonal effective disorder, I would say that by January 1st each year, I am thoroughly sick of winter. Heating is expensive, therefore, I am often cold. I bake more in the winter, therefore, I am chubbier than I'd like. I have spent far too long under layers of sweaters and unflattering winterwear, therefore, I need a new wardrobe. The sky has been gray and snow filled almost as long as I can remember, therefore, I need a tropical vacation or the beginning of summer, which is always too far away. All of these things result in a very cranky me. Throw in the stress of the holidays, dealing with my family and crowded airports during the holidays, and missing The Writer while he's visiting his family and you have a veritable tornado of frustration.
By February, I crack. I walk into that tanning salon, show my old college ID for a discount (hey, I don't want to pay more for my cancer than I have too), and lay under pure sunshine for eight minutes. For eight glorious minutes, it isn't winter anymore and I forget about the months I've spent trying to remember what my fingers and toes feel like. It doesn't last long but it feels incredible. My skin is warm and tingly for several hours following and I feel happy, despite the still gray skies. Wait, I am still talking about tanning, right? Right. Thank goodness the tanning bed is the only thing in my life that shuts off automatically after 8, 10, or even 15 minutes. (Sorry, I had too)
Twelve tans later and the package I bought has run out. Luckily, by that time it's very nearly summer, or at least spring. Spring usually includes a good amount of sunshine, warmth, and cool breezes, too, so we get along.
This year, I'm getting extra lucky. The Writer's parents moved to Florida not too long ago and we are going to get to go visit them next month for ten whole days! Ten whole days of sunshine! I've already bought one new bathing suit and am trying to hold back on the rest of my shopping 'til the last minute. Here in the midwest, the spring collections hit a little late and I want to make sure I can see the whole picture before I decide which clothes I want to spend the next five months in.
I don't feel bad about getting a fake bake tan leading up to this vacation and summer. I may eventually regret it, but not as much as those who tan several time a week, all year round. I'm also at a fairly low risk for other types of cancer, since I don't eat red meat, try to eat lots of fruits and veggies, quit smoking, and maintain a healthy weight. If I can be in a better mood for the last few, bleak months of the Ohio winter and run less of a risk of burning once the real sun comes out again, I consider tanning a risk well worth taking.
So sue me.