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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Confessions of a recovering tanorexic

I managed to escape the horror of teenagehood without suffering from an eating disorder. Don't worry; I had plenty of other problems. For one thing, I was a tanorexic.

Here's a picture of me and my sister Barb on a beach in Santa Cruz. I think this was summer 1986 although it might have been summer 1985. (Barb, do you remember??) My sister is the one wearing the Exodus shirt. I'm on the left holding the can of Tecate beer. (I told you I had plenty of other problems.) We were 17.

I was big into tanning when I was in high school. In my mind, tanning solved all of my problems; it cleared up my acne and made me look thin and healthy. I was all about the tanning. I timed my tanning sessions and made sure I spent equal time on my back and on my stomach. When I was on my stomach, I made sure to turn my face one way and then the other, to get the sides of my face. I paid careful attention to how I held my arms, to avoid white (un-tanned) undersides. On the weekends and during the summer I spent most afternoons in the sun. When I read the sun was at it's hottest during the hours of 10 and 2, guess what time I made sure I was out there tanning?

I continued to be all about the tanning until I went goth. Goth is about staying away from the sun, usually because you slept all day and partied all night, watching movies like "Cat People" and taking Ecstasy. And deeper things, too, although I never bothered to figure out what. I didn't feel comfortable as a goth, maybe because I never felt comfortable wearing white face powder and I couldn't pull off the Siouxsie Sioux look. Here's a picture from early 1988 of me (left) and my step sister Karen. I was 19.

I spent my entire twenties locked in an office building in San Francisco. No risk of sun exposure there. Those years probably saved my life, but now that I'm a playground mommy in a sunny suburb, I'm being visited by my old archnemesis: tanorexia.

Curse you, tanorexia!

I was thinking about tanning today while I put on my 40 SPF sunscreen and again while I slathered on my Dove self tanning lotion. I thought about tanning A LOT a couple of years ago when an ex co-worker died from melanoma. She was in her early thirties.

I'm writing this post to remind myself that I look just fine without a tan and that tanning will kill me. Because even though I know the risks associated with overexposure to the sun, I still like the way it feels on my skin, and I still like the way my skin looks when it's some color other than pasty white.

Sigh. It seems silly to call it tanorexia, but when an individual (let's call her my "friend") continues to do what she knows could kill her, what else should you call it?

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