Ode to An ’80s Tan

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It’s that time of year again, when families with an average of 1.86 children* and access to some type of motorized vehicle migrate south for a week of fun in the sun, or rather, hopefully not killing each other while suffocating under three layers of UVB protective clothing.

I can’t help but get a little nostalgic as I pack a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer, ear buds, and my candy cane shiv for the flight to Florida. Things were much simpler when I was a kid, and quite frankly, more tan.

I will cut you if you take the last Grey Goose orange vodka mini-bottle on the plane. Image via Flickr.com

Despite repeated warnings from the Surgeon General and my preternaturally aged hands, I love the sun. In my book? Tan is good, and every single white-bellied resident of Cleveland playing cornhole on the beach this spring proves my point (by the way, if you happen to be a Facebook Robber and are casing my house, good luck getting through the copious piles of laundry, Halloween candy wrappers, and discarded LIVESTRONG wristbands blocking all points of entry).

This is a cornhole tournament. On the beach. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Image via pressofatlanticcity.com

When I was young, we didn’t have enough money to fly the friendly skies, so we drove to Florida for spring break in The Grey Ghost, our family’s unaffectionate nickname for my dad’s sometimes air-conditioned, often not, Thunderbird. With a piece of masking tape cutting the back seat in half and delineating sides that dare not be crossed for fear of losing a limb, my brother and I played the license plate game to pass time, which pretty much sucked after about fifteen minutes because every single car headed south was from Ohio.

Things changed once we crossed the Georgia-Florida border, though. With empty bags of pork rinds at our feet and the wind in our hair, we knew we’d arrived at a mystical place filled with lightning bugs, fudgesicles, and an unusually large amount of seedy lounges advertising Elvis impersonators.

Is that a camel toe you’re wearing or are you just happy to see me? Image via zonamilitar.com.

We all piled into one room at a value-brand version of a Holidome, and Mom doled out the quarters she’d saved all year long so we could have whatever we wanted from the vending machines. Eating Taco flavored Doritos in bed while watching Saturday Night Live was nothing short of awesome, and as soon as I could see sunlight filtering through the curtains the next morning, I was out the door with my tube of Bain de Soleil, a Teen Beat magazine, and a dream.

This was my dream when I was a kid. In many ways, it still is.

Back then, a tan meant you were going somewhere in life, like the mall, to get an Orange Julius and some sweet new parachute pants. Now, being tan can still take you places, but it’s pretty much limited to your dermatologist’s office, usually for some minor outpatient surgery to get a spot of precancerous basal cell carcinoma removed from your nasal septum.

This too could be you if you stay in the sun too long or inhale a lot of recreational drugs. Image via 4.bp.blogspot.com.

Today, my family boards a plane to go on vacation, which is great, except for the aforementioned need to carry a concealed weapon that looks like a piece of half-eaten Christmas candy. And the ear buds that plug into something that, while providing entertainment, makes us more co-travelers than anything else. And the lines.

In response to an overwhelming cry for change (mostly from parents), the airline industry will now allow you to kennel your children and buy a seat for your dog.

Hence the nostalgia.

But the only thing you can count on in life is change, so like every other pasty mother I know, I’ve packed the SPF 300 and a little something just for me that’s stashed away in the recesses of my luggage. No. It isn’t a baggie filled with the medicinal marijuana you can now buy on every street corner in Colorado to enjoy with your Caramel Macchiato before a great day at the beach.

It’s a bottle of  Hawaiian Tropic Diamond Strength Dark Tan Accelerator.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Apparently, my parents only had enough money to buy sunscreen for my little brother, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Old habits die hard, and if youth is wasted on the young, I’m pre-qualified to appreciate every fine line coming my way.

*According to the 2000 Census, the average number of children in families was 1.86. Apparently, a child isn’t considered whole until it threatens to run away unless you lift the ban on smart phones after 9:00 p.m.

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65 responses »

  1. There you were making me completely nostalgic for the road trips of my youth due to your superior powers of description (seriously, I don’t possess them and so I’m envious of yours) and then WHAM! that Elvis picture made me spit up my breakfast. I’m pretty sure his camel toed testicles are seared into my memory forever. I’ve seen horses that had smaller testicles. Dayamn!
    Also, I love that picture of you and your little brother. Is he sucking in his stomach? And how did your face get that dark? You have tan-talent. It really sets off your pale lipstick, which I think would look awesome under a black light. God I love the 80s!

  2. Hilarious and awesome! Loved that the “sunscreen” shown in the Bain de Soleil ad was SPF 4. Great memories — the 80′s rocked!

  3. I remember when I was a teen, purposefully baking outside for hours with only baby oil slathered on. Now I would probably spontaneously combust if I sat out in the sun for more than 10 minutes.

    I laughed at the road trip memories. That license plate game never held our attention for long, either. We used to drive from Maine down to Florida to visit my dad’s family. I shudder to think what my parents went through on that long drive with all us kids in the back of the wood-paneled station wagon!

    • I always wanted a wood-paneled station wagon so I could sleep in the back in a prone position rather than with my head up against the window and drool coming out of my mouth. It was fun to get a start on my tan though, at least on one side of my face.
      Thanks for stopping by, Darla!

  4. I can still remember the smell of the Bain de Soleil orange gelee. It was my all time favorite. A particular past time for me and my friends was to put Sun-In on our hair and use baby oil mixed with iodine and foil on our beach towels for maximum effect. I see that you, too, used the highlighting concealer under your eyes, as we all did. I grew up in Texas and you in Ohio, but those times and trends obviously crossed all the state lines.

    Have fun and stay cancer free!

    • Lisa, you are definitely a girl after my heart. We can schedule our recurring dermatologist appointments together, because it sounds like you, like me, may be the proud holder of a frequent visitor punch card.

      Thanks for the great comment!

  5. (Crap! I just replied from *work* email, please delete above… here it is again, from correct blogger)
    I so love reading your posts, Stacie. Full of aweome images, well-crafted sentences, and humor! Pork rinds at your feet and wind in your hair… so wonderful. You’re lucky that the fine lines are only headed your way, as opposed to my Irish-thin skin which has been a line (or lined) receptacle since I was too young to care what I saw in the mirror *sigh*. Have fun, brown lady!

  6. New Englanders got ripped off. We had winter break at the end of February and trudged off to the ski slopes under weird hats, heavy sweaters, snow pants, and thick jackets. We didn’t get to mix iodine and baby oil plus an aluminum foil face reflector and plant our selves on a sunny beach with frigid water until the 4th of July.

  7. “every single white-bellied resident of Cleveland playing cornhole on the beach”—Hey, I take offense to that! ;)

    You’ll be happy to know my pale near-Cleveland-residing family is not going to Florida next week. Instead, we’re spending our spring break at home giving our house a thorough spring cleaning–closest, cupboards, the works. You can imagine how excited my kids are. Are we the worst parents ever?

    Great post as always, and I love your pics, though Elvis’s crotch and your Oompa Loompa face will scar me forever.

    Have a great time!!

  8. OMG!!!! It is way to early for some of those photos. Surely I will now have ptsd. Yikes. The Elvis impersonator…REALLY??? Going to get more coffee now before it’s too late. Okay and wow the Michael Jackson face…euwwww. Love love love the piled up livestrong wristbands…what a tragedy that whole deal was for the fans. It’s tough to see your hero go down in flames. We did not do family vacations when I was young save for one or two in a motorhome so thanks for allowing me to live vicariously through yours. :) Love the photo of the kids in the crate. LOL The candy cane shiv is priceless. Great post. Thanks for the smile.

    • Thanks for the smile in return, Dani. Your comments make my day. Sorry for the early morning images, it does take a certain amount of caffeine to get through some of those pictures. =O

  9. Candy cane shivs? Dark tans? Elvis? A creepy photo of Michael Jackson? This post really has something for everyone. I never ever had a tan. Seriously, I’m the whitest person someone may ever lay eyes on. My mom was really concerned about skin cancer, and so we were just taught from an early age to wear sunscreen and hats and basically just fear the sun’s almighty rays. Oh how I wanted a golden tan like the one you’re sporting in that picture. You know your tan is super sexy when it makes your lips look white.

    • Jen,
      You’ll SO benefit from your mom’s good sense. As for me? I’ll be an MVP at the dermatologist’s office. I’d much rather be an MVP at Nordstrom, but you know, whatevs.
      xoxo

  10. Okay, that ooky photo of Elvis was just wrong! But I totally feel you with the tanning. I ADORED tanning back in the day. Even today, knowing what I know, I would love to jump back in a tanning bed and feel those decadent rays seep into my skin. It was bliss, falling asleep in the warmth of that fake sun. But now I’m paying the price for my sins, with all the blasted hyper pigmentation polka-dotting my face. Oh well. Youth youth!

  11. Nicest part of being an adult with a car is getting to pick when you’re going to the beach, without needing to wait on someone else’s kindness.
    Well, that and being able to make candy weapons…

    • That best part of making a candy cane shiv is the process of ingesting pure high fructose corn syrup on a pretty consistent drip. Or making your kids do it and then shoving them out the back door to learn how to fence with their new toys. =)

  12. I used to think it was a threat when I told, “We’re gonna tan your hide.” Now, I realize that I missed out on a a lot of sunny vacations.

    Are you actually taking your dog on the plane?

    • Thankfully, no. My husband wanted to see if we could (this is true), but the only way to get him to FL with us was underneath the cabin with the luggage. No heat or A/C and too dangerous. I love our dog, but I’m not complaining about leaving him behind…

      • I agree. I think it’d be an “only if there are no other options” kind of thing. Luckily, there’s a nice kennel close by that’s a great option. =)

      • Seriously, it’s really nice! I had to have a pre-stay interview with Wrigley for 30 minutes before I could even sign him up. It’s like the Ritz…individual rooms to sleep in, room service, and massages. I’m not making this up. He’ll probably never want to come home…

      • I believe you. We went to one that had individual rooms that were built into individual cottage facades. Some of the rooms even had televisions and cameras to check in on your pet from wherever you were. It was super nice!

  13. Have fun in Florida! Hope you get a tan like you had back then; hope you get to participate and win in a cornhole tournament, and finally, hope you get to see the live image of that Elvis impersonator (or not!)

  14. Hahaha, that brought back memories for me too….Hawaiian Tropic SPF4, when I already had a tan….otherwise it was baby oil! And of course some Sun-In. I’m going to have nightmares about that Elvis impersonator….that’s just gross.

  15. Enjoy your vacation Stacie! Don’t stay out in the sun too long. Yes, black people sunbathe too. I used to stay out in the sun for hours and get three shades browner. I used to sunbathe on my rooftop — haha! I thought it made me look healthier and that it made my complexion look better. But nowadays even brown people have to be careful. I think I’ve grown more moles on my face because of my exposure to the sun.

    • I still love turning several shades darker. I can’t help myself. I’m using at least an SPF of 30 though, and hoping that it’s somehow meaningful. Thanks for the comment, Sandee. =)

  16. After way too many car trips back and forth to Florida, now I discover cornhole tournaments on the shores of Lake Erie. Where were you when I needed you?

    Lightning bugs! You called them lightning bugs, too? I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say that. I’ve always assumed it was a New York thing. And speaking of lightning bugs, where did they go? I never see them anymore.

    I loved the post, Stacie, as I love all of your writing. This, especially: “Now, being tan can still take you places, but it’s pretty much limited to your dermatologist’s office, usually for some minor outpatient surgery to get a spot of precancerous basal cell carcinoma removed from your nasal septum.”

    Have a great trip.

    • Charles,

      So glad I’m not the only one. “Fireflies” sounds way too cultured compared to lightning bugs. Speaking of which, we don’t have any in CO. We live at too high of an altitude and even summer nights are too cool for them to live here. They’re still around in my home state of KY, though, but not in nearly the same numbers as when I was a kid. That’s kind of sad.

      It’s great to see you here, hope you’re well.
      Stacie

  17. Living in SoCal, “laying out” was a great pastime from April to September. I tried it a few times, but I never saw the appeal. It was too hard to hold my book, and I just got sunburned. In the 70s, my aunt used to slather herself with baby oil and lay in the backyard all afternoon; she was as brown as bread. Then she had melanoma removed from her leg. (Over 25 years later, and she’s still okay. Knock wood.) I’m a firm believer in sunscreen. But make sure it’s got Titanium or Zinc oxide in it, because otherwise it won’t protect you from the cancer-causing rays.

  18. Ahh sunbaking, I remember it well! Incredibly my friends and I use to cut letters and shapes like love hearts etc out of sticky tape and stick it on our body. After a day of tanning we would peel it off and hey presto a ridiculous tan tattoo. We would smother ourselves in sun baking oil that smelt like coconut so basically we would smell like a tropical slow roasting torsos, yes good times! Of course now I’m the complete opposite and spend a day at the beach applying SPF 700 on my kids skin every thirty seconds while I hide under a pop up tent fully clothed!!!!

    • You’re much more intelligent than me. I’ll apply SPF 700 on my kids, and sneak a little SPF 4 on myself. I’m a dermatologist’s wet dream. Thanks so much for the read and comment!

  19. Bain de soleil? Lol, hello 1987! I used to lather my body up with baby oil and lay out on the deck in the sun while listening to Scorpion! Rock you like a Hurricane some sweet tea and a mild melanoma issue = heaven!

  20. Oh gosh, I love this. I’ll be on a quest tomorrow to unearth my own weirdly-bronzed self, lips adorned with what looked like the stuff people now put on their noses to prevent sunburn. That self, of course, exists only in curling, oddly yellowing polaroid photos. This is a wonderful tale, hon, I salute you.

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