From baby oil to SPF: sunbathing a different world today

As you read this, the plan was for me to be exposing as much of my pasty-white carcass to the sun as possible

As you read this, the plan was for me to be exposing as much of my pasty-white carcass to the sun as possible, without frightening anyone too much.

“Look Gertie, it’s the Bumble from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV movie. And he’s wearing a Speedo!”

The weather doesn’t look like it will co-operate in the short term. This is usually the case when I’m on a two-week vacation. No matter what summer weeks I pick, the first seven to 10 days (if we’re staying in B.C.) are overcast and unseasonably chilly. Then, I’ll get a couple of sizzling days in, just enough to guarantee a painful sunburn upon the return to work. And then, of course, the two weeks following will be non-stop sunshine.

This isn’t as troubling as it once was, since my tanning regimen has been scaled back considerably. No longer young, foolish and bulletproof, I acknowledge the importance of SPF.

Anyone of a similar vintage can surely remember lying at the beach or in the back yard, slathering yourself with baby oil, occasionally basting yourself with a spray bottle of water. My one acknowledgment of the potential problem with too much sun was to put that neon (it was the ‘80s…) ‘protective’ stuff on my nose.

Back then, even sunburns were embraced. Anyone else recall the satisfaction of slowly peeling off a large piece of skin, then triumphantly holding it up for all to see?

“Look at this one. I’m like a snake over here…”

Without the encumbrance of children or a full-time job, there were endless hours to spend overcoming the farmer’s tan leftover from ball season.

As I moved into my self-obsessed 20s, I discovered the phenomenon that was the tanning bed. You mean, I can look like an Oompa Loompa in the middle of the winter? Sign me up for that! Who cares if I’ll look like a piece of well-worn shoe leather when I’m older?

That said, for the most part, my tanning career ended when my son was born. My focus was no longer scheduling my workouts to be followed by a nice fake-and-bake.

But that doesn’t mean I still don’t love the sun.

The mere smell of Hawaiian Tropic transports me back in time — I’m at Willows Beach in Victoria or Peachfest in Penticton, ‘Wave Babies’ playing on the boom box as we watch the bikini-clad gals saunter by, ignoring our invites to come and share a towel.

On the rare occasions I get a few minutes to myself these days, I have an elaborate home tanning ritual.

Spray on the SPF 512. Set up the sprinkler beneath the trampoline, designed only to hit the bottom half of your body. The air circulating underneath, coupled with the water, creates the perfect cooling effect. The one downside is the shock of the water hitting your face if it gets windy, but even that’s not too bad. Phone loaded up with throwback tunes, timer set for an hour in case I fall asleep.

Yup, I’m old.