Quest for a Summer Tan


“You tan really well for a redhead,” someone told me on the weekend. It took all my self-control not to pounce on the speaker with an enthusiastic and grateful hug. Little did she know that her words were music to my ears. I’ve been on a quest for a tan for most of my life, but that’s nearly impossible for a redhead like me whose skin is so naturally pale that it borders on translucent. There is no gradual darkening, mellowing-out process that slowly turns into a tan. If anything, the number of freckles on my skin multiplies to the point that they all meld together into one giant freckle that sort of looks like a tan.

My paleness used to be the bane of my existence, much more so than the colour of my hair. I liked having red hair but hated the endless application of sunscreen, the painful red burns if I missed a spot, the constant search for shade, and sweating under a T-shirt to shield my sore shoulders while sitting on the beach. Add to that the dorky hats I had to wear because I wore glasses and couldn’t have sunglasses, and the overall effect was as far from ‘cool’ and ‘sexy’ as I could possibly get in my early teens. The pair of clip-ons I saved up to buy was the most exciting purchase of my fifteenth year, but that’s a whole other story…

In recent years, however, it seems as if my skin has changed. I don’t know if it’s the combined effort of years of lying on the dock, trying desperately to darken my skin ever so slightly, or if there’s been an actual physical change in my skin composition since having kids (I’m no scientist, simply speculating), but I can actually get a decent tan now. The most probable explanation is that now I live in a beach town and spend significantly more time playing in the water and building sandcastles with my boys than I did while living in Toronto. Never will I become as dark as those blond surfer babes in Quiksilver ads (nor do I want to, since I’d probably contract skin cancer) but I do get tanned enough that my bikini lines are starkly defined – something I never tire of pointing out to my husband.

It was a fellow CrossFitter who complimented my ability to tan as we were warming up for our Saturday morning beach WOD (“workout of the day”).  My inner voice was shrieking “Yes! Yes!!” as I started my rounds of shuttle runs, burpees, lunges, and sit-ups and helped to motivate me to keep going, despite the sweltering heat. My final score for the WOD didn’t even matter because all I cared about was having accomplished the toughest mission of all – a tan.

You might also like:
A few facts on life as a redhead
Anne isn’t Anne without red hair!
Sometimes it’s hard to hair the truth


5 thoughts on “Quest for a Summer Tan

  1. As a fellow freckle-meld tanner myself, I totally get this. My brothers used baby oil; I used hats, 50+ and shade trees. My brothers used my sun screen (heavy duty) to write words on their backs (which tanned easily) so that they would end up brown with white profanity accents.

    1. Wow, I can’t even imagine tanning that quickly! The upside of being pale is that we’ll have much healthier looking skin in the long run, so I shouldn’t complain. Just a touch of colour is quite nice, though.

  2. I spent 2 hours cowering under a giant umbrella on the beach today as my boy played in the water with his dad and some friends. As a freckle-faced blondish redish browish-head, my two colours are white and lobster. White hurts less.

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