They said, “You’ll never love your tan as much as you hate your wrinkles.”
Let’s get something out of the way. This isn’t your typical “why the sun is bad” type of piece. This is more of a “coming of age” thing. See, I’m a Sun Goddess. I feel my most alive, my most beautiful, with the sun beating down on my bare body as I frolic on the beach, bask in a sun-lounger by the pool, or ride a wave on my surfboard.
Since I can remember, the sun has loved me back. Sunburns have been a minimum thanks to my olive skin tone, my hair always has sun kissed streaks, and the shade I achieve after just a brief tennis match makes for quite the glow. But I’ve been in denial.
For most of my life, people have complimented my tan fervently. “You are always tan,” and “You always have the best tan” were like music to my ears. I didn’t have to work hard for it, nor did I have to slather myself in sunscreen as a child to avoid a tender touch of red wreaking havoc on my supple skin.
My mother is a Sun Goddess too, and so, she never chased my sister and I around the beach trying to apply a chemical-ridden product just to protect myself from something natural, and which didn’t burn us terribly, if at all, anyway. Growing up in Maine, sun was of the essence in the summertime, so why mess with a momentary thing, right?
By the time I reached college, I was relishing in year-round sun in sunny Florida. The goal, for all of us snowbirds on campus, was to achieve maximum darkness, so as to make going home during the holidays torture for the ghostly northerns that we left behind.
By the time I graduated and moved to Los Angeles, I kept my tan up, but found myself around a community of people who were way more protective of their epidermis than I’d ever come across. Californians, in general, have a level of health that is revolutionary. In fact, it wasn’t long before I became a resident that I had bought myself a juicer and had sworn off meat. My steadfast approach to being a Sun Goddess has remained unscathed, however. Until now.
It’s been eight years since I moved to California. I just turned 29, and the wrinkles are starting to surface. My mother waves me off when I point out my fine lines, saying I’m just a baby. Perhaps I am, but I would like to remain that way.
I had been at a facial appointment recently when my esthetician bluntly pointed out my sun damage like I was a science experiment. It unnerved me. I had never, as bizarre as it sounds, thought my skin and the sun would have such a falling out. I went home that day and looked in the mirror. I did have sun damage—not bad, but enough to see where things were heading. The worst one for me is my chest. It’s a freckle-free chest, but unbeknownst to me, it’s not immune to wrinkles. I can see them forming, and they’re making me feel old.
With this being the last year of my twenties, the last thing I want to do is feel old. And if it’s the sun making these lines thrive, I have to say goodbye, right? The answer, for me, is yes and no.
One thing I have learned from my Sun Goddess mother that I will always cherish and practice is not to take life too seriously. Eat well, but enjoy the indulgent treats. Exercise often, but take a break. Work hard, but have that cocktail. Love the sun, but don’t be a lizard. Depriving yourself is never a good idea, not with food, not with the sun, not with fun. A little can go a long way.
I’m not going to rush for the towel to cover my chest at the glimpse of sunlight like I see so many women do or glob on the sunscreen at the site of a ray peeking out from behind the clouds.
What I am going to do, however, is be mindful. Wearing an SPF-based face lotion every day is now a reality. Grabbing the umbrella for the beach isn’t a question anymore. Laying out for hours, and I mean hours, to achieve maximum darkness, is a death wish. But being in the sun, enjoying the warmth, letting it love me as much as I love it, is still going to happen. But not to be “tan.” To me, something about needing to be tan is much different than getting a tan. It’s a step in the moderate direction of enjoying vitamin D in all its glory, but not abusing it. So, sun, my love affair with you has come to an end.
It’s a mutual breakup, I think, but one where we no longer need each other as lovers, but can enjoy each other like a vacation. It’s there, it’s needed, but it wouldn’t be a vacation if you did it all the time.