Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I’ve never understood people who like to tan. Especially those who devote entire days slowly roasting away on the blindingly hot sand. To me, it’s quite possibly the worst case of wasting-your-time since the invention of the bikini thong. It’s like, why bother? You might as well stick your head into a microwave. It’s faster and less time consuming.

My mother, who has spent her entire life indoors or hiding under a silver reflective umbrella, brought up her children to run screaming for the shade like well-dressed vampires at the first hint of solar activity. As a result of which she has flawless skin.

“You have such lovely skin!” complete strangers will tell her, marveling at her porcelain complexion.

“That’s because I stay out of the sun, dear!” Mother will tell them, while discreetly looking at the wrinkles on their faces. “As you should too! And you shouldn’t frown so much.”

“Your mother is just plain weird,” my flatmate Amanda recently told me as she got ready to go downstairs to our pool for a session of sun therapy. From the depths of our sofa, I mumbled, a little distractedly, into my latest issue of Men’s Health, “If you say so…I’m sure these stomach muscles aren’t real! What freak has eight-packs?”

“And anyway,” Amanda continued as she surveyed her latest Tomas Meier bikini in our lounge room mirror, “a nice tan goes with every outfit.”

“So does melanoma,” I muttered as I mentally did five sets of sit-ups. “I’m sure these pecs are computer generated!”

Just then, my friend Barney Chen walked in through our front door, dressed only in the skimpiest of Speedos and baby oil. Briefly, I wondered what mode of transportation he’d taken our apartment and why he’d not been arrested for indecent exposure. He took one look at Amanda and growled, “Girl, you look fabulous! You know, you really should lock your front door. A rapist could just walk in and ruin your day. And why are you reading that magazine?” he asked me, pausing for breath. “Everyone in there has been airbrushed!”

For the past three weekends, Barney and Amanda have - since discovering their mutual adoration for the sun - been tanning buddies, gently pushing each other to reach richer shades of mocha. “She’s amazing!” Barney rumbled to me after the first session. “She really knows how to work that sun-bed!”

But, I protested, what was the point of a tan, which was really slick marketing spin for severe skin damage? “You get all wrinkly and leathery and how unattractive is that?” Apparently, I am the only one who has this opinion.

“I wish I could tan,” Saffy said, coming out of her bedroom. She stared at Barney and Amanda with the kind of deep envy she normally reserves for honeymooners and Heidi Klum. “Five hours in the sun and all I’ll get for the effort is coral pink. It’s just not fair!”

“Come down with us anyway,” Barney said kindly. “You never know, you might meet your future husband there, which P.S. is why I’m currently wearing the flimsiest of Speedos in my wardrobe. You like?”

Put on the spot, Saffy hesitated. “It’s, uh, it’s, uhm, it’s very figure hugging!” she said eventually. Later, she wondered to us how anyone with Barney’s assets was able to walk in a straight line, to which Amanda replied that it was Barney’s boyfriends that she worried about.

After Barney and Amanda had gone downstairs, Saffy settled into the sofa next to me and channel surfed while eating Ben & Jerry’s straight from the tub. “It’s not fair that I can’t tan. And it bugs me that you,” she turned to me accusingly, “have perfectly good tanning abilities but here you are indoors.”

“I don’t want wrinkles,” I said comfortably. “It’s the one neurotic hang-up I’m grateful my mother passed onto me. When I die, I want people to walk past my coffin and say, ‘Gosh, he looks terrific for 98!’”

Saffy looked at me sideways and frowned. “You are so weird, you know that? You and your entire family!” she pronounced.

Meanwhile, down by the pool, Barney had struck up a conversation with the man tanning next to him and Amanda. “I don’t know how he does it,” she said later. “We hadn’t lain on the deck chairs more than two seconds before this guy, oh hello gorgeous!, comes up and lies down next to us. How does he do that?” she wondered again.

According to Amanda’s report, the man was American, a single ex-pat banker living on the fourteenth floor. “And he’s gay!” she exclaimed when Saffy showed immediate interest. Saffy’s formidable bosom deflated. “Well, of course he is!” she sighed heavily.

“We’re going on a date next weekend,” Barney gloated over the phone that evening. “His name is BJ. And all day, I’ve been wondering if it means what I hope it does!”

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