Things We Love But Can’t Talk About: Tanning


It is my clandestine lover.

I confess the depths of our relationship guiltily, in secrets. I know it can hurt me. I know our love may not end well. But I’m addicted. It feels so good I just keep coming back. Nothing can please me quite the same way. Nothing else knows just how to relax me, seduce me, slow me down.

I feel so much prettier in the glow of our love. I radiate health. I look like I’ve just returned from a lazy sunny vacation.

But I can’t tell just anyone.

Not everyone would understand. Some people would admonish me this love affair, shame me for it. Others would be shocked – shocked! They’d never understand how deep this love is, how many years we have dallied off-and-on.

But the girls at the salon, they’re not shocked. They’re cheerful, pleasant little chickadees when you walk in the door. They know they have what you want, and they’re gonna give it to you. “Hi! How are you?” They chirp when you walk through the door. Sometimes they remember your name; true love will do that to you. True love makes you unforgettable. “How long do you want to go today?”

There’s no feeling quite as sweet as laying in that close embrace with the tanning bed for twenty minutes, feeling heat all around you, enveloping your whole self top to toes in warmth. It hums along to soothe you and oh! You can adjust the fans! It wants you to be happy. It wants you to tune the facial lights to your preference. It wants to fulfill you. It wants to make you feel prettier, skinnier, like the California girl you’re supposed to be. It wants to shield you from the cruel, temperamental Midwest seasons. It makes every day summer.

“I just want to make you happy. I just want to give you what you want,” it says in a lover’s voice. “Tell me what you want. Tell me how long. Tell me how hot.”

It asks you if you want the radio on. Sometimes you like it with a little music playing and sometimes you don’t. Your lover just wants to make sure you’re comfortable. It provides lotions and potions to enhance your experience. The tanning bed never demands anything in return. It just wants to love you.

And so you stretch yourself out and let your lover lavish you with its light and warmth. It feels so good even though you know it’s bad. It’s so bad for you, but you gotta keep coming back to it. It’s the sweetest addiction. The best love affairs have just the teeniest twinge of guilt mixed up in there.

And then you leave. Sometimes your lover hurts you; you stayed too long and it burnt you! You’ll take a few days off, but your lover knows … you’ll be back. Until your minutes run out.