Vanity be damned!!

I’m not a particularly handsome man.  No one has ever mistaken me for George Clooney or Brad Pitt; probably never will.  The closest that I’ve ever come to being identified as a celebrity is back in the 1980’s when a co-worker stated, “You remind me of Bob Saget.”  Bob Saget?  Really?!  That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of  “chiseled masculinity” in my book.  Recently, while at a grocery store, a lady looked at me, her face brightened and she said with a hint of giddiness in her voice “I didn’t see you on the news last night!”  I dunno, maybe I look like the local weatherman too…. unless Bob Saget has started doing the weather forecasts for Cedar Rapids.  Nonetheless, I’m not gorgeous, that being said I’m not hideous either.  I’m just your basic middle aged white guy who buys his blue jeans at the local farm supply store, his socks in packages of six, and doesn’t spend more than about fifteen seconds on his hair in the morning.  That’s why this next sentence is somewhat embarrassing to me.  I use a tanning bed.

Working in retail management for the past 22 years, I rarely get any routine exposure to the sun.  It could be January or July…I’m still pasty white.  An elderly customer of ours (Hilda, God rest her soul) used to come up to me and ask “Honey…are you over that mono?  You’re as white as a ghost.”  (I had mono and had recovered from it two years earlier, but was still white as a ghost to her).  I blame it on my heritage…a zany mixed cocktail of German, English, Norwegian, Welsh, Irish and Polish ancestry.   Three years ago I decided to start using a tanning bed during the month of May so I’d at least have a “base tan” and look normal for the summer months and serve a second purpose of not being so white at the pool and getting burned to a crisp the first time out.  That being said I know the bad side of using a tanning bed; I think about it every time I use it.  The upside to being so white and using a tanning bed is that I only have to be in it for a few minutes and viola!!  I’m tan…or at least less white.

It comes down to this argument for me:  Would I rather “not tan” and be on vacation and get burned (even though I use sun blocks) and then be miserable on vacation, OR would I rather use a tanning bed to get some color, a little at a time to decrease the chances of getting burned (a series of little burns verses one big one).  Regardless, here’s some advice and observations about tanning for any of you middle aged guys who might be thinking of using a tanning bed for the first time:

  • Take your own music.  Federal law states that every tanning room has to have a crappy AM/FM radio that’s had its antenna broken off.  The radio only gets stations that play Brittney Spears, Lady Gaga and some other “flavor of the month”.  So you’re screwed right off the bat.


  • The tanning beds themselves are like coffins.  Brightly lit, hot, coffins.


  • The tanning salons sell tanning lotions that really work.  They’re expensive.  I was perusing the selection of the least expensive, bottom shelf lotions when I came upon the cheapest…called “Swedish Beauty”.  I asked the young female super model behind the counter if it mattered that I wasn’t Swedish nor a “beauty” and she gave me the vacant stare that is usually reserved for when I ask our teenage daughters if there’s any change from the $20 bill that I lent them the night before.  The upside is that you’ll smell like a coconut for a day or two.


  • Tanning salons are a predominately female thing, hooked up with beauty salons.  It’s considered to be in poor taste for a middle aged guy to come out of his tanning room, wearing only his tidy-whities, asking if one of the staff could  “apply some of this lotion to my back” since he cannot reach that part of his body.  Once the shrieking, screaming, wailing and overall pandemonium settled down I explained to the Lieutenant that I can’t reach the area of my back between my shoulder blades (I offered to show her if she would’ve just uncuffed me).  Lesson learned; communication is so important; and I’m thankful to Lieutenant Murphy for her understanding and gentle touch.  Go CEDAR RAPIDS POLICE DEPARTMENT!!! 


  • If you smell a pot roast cooking when you’re done with that days session, it probably wasn’t a pot roast…it was probably your love handles…simmering in the glow of those infernal ultraviolet tanning bulbs.  You now know what a “wonder-roast chicken” feels like that you see for sale at the grocery store deli department.


Now that I’ve tanned I’m still not mistaken for George Clooney or Brad Pitt…but I’m not mistaken for the Pillsbury Dough Boy either….unless he’s been nicely browned, either way…we both smell good comin’ out of the oven.


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