Our truant sun, rumored to have defected to another solar system, finally has appeared. Throughout the Midwest, mothers pull plugs and hide batteries, demanding their offspring “go outside and play!”
For generations, these card-carrying members of The Great Mother Conspiracy have specialized in kicking kids out of the house.
However, during the 60s, moms spouted unique wisdom: “Sunshine’s good for you!”
We needed vitamin D, or some such thing.
Ha! Had I not read of Laura Ingalls Wilder, forced to wear sunbonnets to keep her skin white? My own grandmother donned sunbonnets while gardening or bringing the cows home.
Why, on sizzling days, couldn’t I stay inside and read? At Mom’s bidding, however, (and because she locked the screen behind us), I obeyed, accumulating a dark tan.
During adolescence, my desperate friends, afflicted with peaches-and-cream complexions and tiny allowances, smeared baby oil (with and without iodine) from head to toe, frying in backyards. Affluent palefaces bought trendy suntan lotions guaranteed to turn them into California girls. Instead, orange-streaked and -striped, they resembled Tony the Tiger.
Regardless, orangeness equaled popularity. I, blessed/cursed with a natural tan, sighed for such status.
Regardless of skin tones, all “lay out.” Working assiduously on my tan, I nevertheless concealed a deep, dark secret: I disliked it. Lying out resembled the Mother Conspiracy command to “go outside and play.”
The similarity should have roused parental sympathy as they watched us loll on blankets, listening to transistor radios. Yet they could not comprehend how hard we were working.
What could you expect from moms who tanned only while weeding gardens and chasing after kids? From dads who sported farmer tans? When parents insisted on family beach time, we teens spread our towels far away, lest their chubby, lily-white backs and bellies shame us.
I, suffering a bald father who wore a hat while water skiing, spread mine in the next county.
By the time I frequented kiddie pools with my toddlers, the Great Mother Conspiracy did a 180-degree turn. Expensive sun block replaced expensive suntan lotion. No evil sunshine would attack our babies!
The tanning industry responded with infinite wisdom: free sunshine was bad, but expensive tanning beds would make us sexy, increase I.Q.s, and free us from excess cash cluttering our lives.
Hubby and I keep our cash and slather on sun block. I still prefer hot summer afternoons inside with a good book. But he slaps on sun block, then hands me the tube.
“It’s hot outside,” I whine.
He tugs me free from the sofa’s soft, seductive clutches. “Exercise is good for you.”
Sigh. How long before medical authorities and The Great Mother Conspiracy overturn that one?
Have you ever worked hard on your tan? What was your favorite tanning concoction?