Life by Design: Feel the Burn

Down at Manor Beach, over at Rye, anywhere there’s water, and even where there isn’t, the tanners are out in force.






The tan is the only sin left that isn’t getting taxed.  Cigarettes are getting hit with another giant tax increase under the guise of protecting the smoker, when indeed smokers are expected to fund the state deficit.  But just in time to thwart summer fun comes a new report: The Tanning Addiction. 

As a product of the ‘70’s when our deep tans were accompanied by a pack of Marlboro Lights, foil reflectors and six packs of Tab laced with arsenic saccharine, all I can ask is, what took you so long?

We’ve all been beat over the head with news blasts that a tan doesn’t say healthy, it says stupid, but now we know the damage is not only physical, it’s mental.

 No kidding.  When tanning was en vogue and images of Bianca Jagger in St. Barts came to mind and not Snooki in New Jersey, we were stretched out on webbed lounge chairs in the dead of winter, wrapped in down coats turning our reflective album covers to the sun.  Those lucky enough to go on spring break never let the tan fade, going to extreme measures that included the stand alone sun lamp and QT, a staple in every medicine cabinet, right next to the Sun In.  Admittedly without intervention some of us morphed into a look most commonly seen in soft-core porn flicks. 

Help is here.  Now you can take drugs such as naltrexone to block the pleasurable side effects that basking in the sun is providing you.  How do you know if you’re addicted?

Being really too tan jumps to mind, but there’s a criteria called CAGE where you’re asked whether you need to cut down on your tanning. Are you annoyed if you’re criticized about being super tan?  Do you feel guilty about being so tan, and have you ever felt the need to get tan first thing in the morning?

As a non-regulated addiction there can only be a handful of people responsible for these guidelines:

     A. Dermatologists (who only schedule appointments during winter months when you are lily white   can escape any tanning  critique), and

B.  Really white people.

As a person who tans easily, I can attest to the fact that a solid partnership isn’t based on shared values or similar socio economic upbringings, its tanning compatibility.  Having dated a really white guy for years, I yearned for a beach vacation, but instead traipsed around Europe fully clothed, knowing that any sighting of his illuminated body on a sandy beach would have been devastating to the relationship.  I also know that as much as I valued his opinions I eventually strayed and found someone who not only doesn’t burn but appreciates me, with a tan.

In the days of the fashion tan, the last thing you would admit was that your golden glow was anything but au naturale.  Now you have to lie about being in the sun, and instead give your lists of products and spray on tan experiences- the latter costs around $60.00 a session and lasts about a week.  Spray on tanning is not considered part of the sun addiction because it does not provide the same ‘mood enhancement and relaxation’ that lying in the sun does.  I would say this is accurate when you have a perfect stranger standing two inches away from your naked body while it is sprayed with a non-identifiable substance.  Tanning beds and tanning salons: addicted.

If you do go in the sun, you’re lathered in sunscreen products, or at least you say you are.  Problem is the current rules on sunscreen regulations are left over from my prime tanning days when Carter was still in office.  Who can you trust?  Evidently the F.D.A. has been unable to keep up with its thousands of comments and proposals from advocacy groups and citizens on what is bogus labeling of crazy SPF numbers, dragging their heels on pinpointing effectiveness.  Some say nothing over an SPF 30 matters, others say nothing but a big hat and long sleeves will do.   And although the sunscreen manufacturers come out with new products every season, they have no interest in seeing new regulations since specific UVA guidelines may make their products suddenly ‘ineffective’.                 

   It seems that after a certain age you have to apologize for everything you do since you should know better.  The key is self-regulation, exposing only one or two addictions at a time.  Being aware of being too tan, or too drunk or too willing to sneak a smoke with someone you barely know.  Then summer can still be fun!  Can’t tax that.    

Kim Berns is a writer and designer living in Rye.


  1. I remember the album covers with foil and being called “casper the friendly ghost” if I wasn’t bronzed — or at least pink — by late April (which in Massachusetts did require a blanket and a wind shield).

  2. I too remember the days of being slathered in baby oil-trying to get some color on this ghastly white body. There is no feeling that beats the one when you have tan legs-I don’t care how I get ’em – but NEVER, NEVER au naturale-I have sworn off sunbathing forever. Tan legs feel great. Those imperfections that get louder and louder with each birthday don’t look so bad on bronzed legs. I am now somewhat of an expert in fake tanning. Spray tans-too inconvenient for this crazed mom’s schedule. I’ve tried every creme over the counter (Channel self tanner is out of this world-the smell is amazing). Michael Kors even had one for a while-with sort of a glittery effect…very cool. The Tanning towlettes offered on QVC are awesome. You just have to get the “hang” of using them-yes, there is a bit of an art to it. And you must remember to wash hands (and inside of wrists) after use. I guess I am sounding pretty addicted to something???

  3. I love it. And good advice too – only expose one addiction at a time. If I have only one life to live, let me live it TAN!

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