Daily Archives: July 11, 2012
My mind goes to strange places. I was sitting at a stoplight yesterday when this White woman walked in front of my car. This is gonna sound weird, but she had the perfect tan. If tans could be measured on a scale there would be the guy from the movie “Powder” at one end and a person who took a few Ambien and passed out in the sun on the other end. This lady was perfectly in the middle and I’ve never seen that before.
It was a long light so I started wondering how she got it. Tanning bed or sunbathing? Then I thought to myself, “I wonder if another White person could tell the difference?” Women can point out a weave, wonderbra and girdle in a heartbeat, so it stands to reason that another White person could tell me how she got that tan.
Why the sudden interest in tans? No reason. It’s not like I can get one. Black people do tan, but at my complexion you have to be practically sitting on the surface of the sun to get one. I’m not checkerboard Black, more like an Ikea Mahogany. I’m just dark enough to be pretty much impervious to the sun (knock on wood. I don’t want skin cancer…we get that too). Although after my cruise to the Grand Cayman I was a nice rich M&M brown.
I don’t know, I just found it interesting because it’s something I’ve never really thought about. I know how the process of tanning works (the sun reacting to the melanin), but as a darker skinned Black person it’s something that I just don’t do. I put the question up there in the same category of racial exclusivity as the ones I used to get from the White girls in Duke about my hair. I had cornrows in college and they loved to touch and play in my hair especially on those “in between braidings” days when I had it out in my 14 inch radius afro.
My Black female friends took offense. “I’m not some dog you can pet!” But I didn’t have a problem with it. As long as they didn’t have an issue with me touching their hair, it was cool. They’d never seen Black people before or at least been close and comfortable enough with one to touch his hair and I’d never been close enough to someone who had straight hair that wasn’t the result of Dark & Lovely, Motions or PCJ relaxers. I like exploring racial differences. I just don’t like it when it’s done from a place of bigotry.
So anyway, I wondered to myself how the intricacies of a tan work. Can you get one in a couple of hours or does it take a few days of repeated application? How do you get a tan but not sunburn? Do you have to factor in your upcoming outdoor activities? I know when you cook meat they say to take it off the heat before it reaches its final temperature. It’s gonna keep cooking even after you remove it so you don’t want to ruin it. Do tans work like that? If you walk 30-45 minutes to work each day in the sun, do you stop tanning prematurely so that your daily commute can “finish” it?
These are the questions that popped in my head as I waited for a very long light to change. Moments like these are why I need close White friends who would answer these questions without thinking I’m crazy. In return, I’d explain concepts like “ashy,” and why most Black women swear by shea butter, which quite a few White people tell me they’ve never heard of before.