It was just over this past Spring Break that I found yet another thing to blame on my mother – blaming extremely ridiculous things on your mother is one of the automatic rights of a daughter in the mother/daughter relationship. Each year we go to Boca Raton, Florida for a few days to bask in the warm sun and to see my dad’s family, who happens to be Italian. After a delicious lunch, we decided to go sit by the pool. Now, first of all, wearing a bikini in the middle of March is really not my favorite thing, but I had been increasing my gym time from non-existent to once a week so I was feeling alright.

But then I heard the laughter. “Oh my gosh. You are so pale!” my beautiful olive-toned cousin Laurie said. This comment of course then forced everyone to turn their heads to look at the pale white freak on the lawn chair. Even my Great Aunt Phyllis – an 85-year-old who I am fairly certain suffers from dementia since she had been calling me Shannon the entire day – was able to suddenly come back to planet Earth for this one moment and tell me I should really get out in the sun more. Was it my fault that I had inherited my mother’s Scottish ancestry, which included a lack of pigmented skin? Apparently it was, and my relatives could not believe that I did not go to a tanning salon once a week to fix what they referred to as “my problem.” They are not the only ones.

I have never been against the whole tanning phenomenon, I have just never personally endorsed it. I just feel that it is part of nature that I am supposed to look white and depressing in the winter and then healthy in the summer. In the recent years, though, society has rejected the pale look and has encouraged people, especially young women, to look as if they have just been to Jamaica for the day, even if they may be living in someplace like oh, I don’t know, Rochester, N.Y. in the dead of winter. Ahh, society – those are the same bastards who have also rejected the healthy body image and convinced us that “Dancing with the Stars” is must-see TV.

According to a survey done by the American Academy of Dermatology, people under the age of 25 have tripled their use of tanning salons since 1996. The tanning salon fits right in the multi-taskers generation of being able to get something that would normally take an entire day – like going to the beach – done in one intense 30 minute segment. Artificial tanning has become a $5 billion-a-year industry, and currently there are 30,000 salons around the country for young people to go soak up generated UV rays. Now, though the tanning industry insists that their product is safe, the recent reports have shown that 1 million new skin cancer cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year and there are more than 7,000 deaths due to melanoma – the mother of all skin cancers – per year.

Tanning has become yet another thing that young people, and by young people I mean mostly girls, are becoming obsessed with rapidly. Writer David Sedaris brilliantly coined the term tanorexic to describe these people that feel the need to go tanning every day to keep up that fake-bake look absolutely perfect. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good obsession as much as the next crazy girl, but the fact that certain states are creating laws to prohibit teenagers from going to the tanning salons because they are so out of control is a little bit scary to me. Some of these girls feel that they only look thin and beautiful if they are brown to a crisp.

Since I came back from Florida, where I did in fact get a very nice natural tan, and people have been complimenting me and telling me I am more attractive than I have ever been, I am desperately going to try to convince myself that people will still love me even when I am pale again.

So maybe I will make the choice to go tanning when my tan fades away but I certainly hope I do not start going three times a week. I already have so many other obsessions jamming up my schedule – Grey’s Anatomy, US Weekly, the news anchor Brian Williams and my pursuit of a John Galliano skull scarf. Also, as some ambiguous wise man once said “I could never take a well-tanned person seriously,” and, obviously, I am an extremely serious person.

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