Objects of Desire: A tan for the pale gal

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From the June 28, 2012 edition

The older I get, the less I feel the need to hide my vanity. If a beauty or grooming splurge makes you feel better about yourself or your life, who cares if it seems unnecessary to someone else?

I do think it’s important to consider whether you are doing this routine because it honestly makes you a better, happier person or because of some crippling insecurity brought to you courtesy of an unattainable beauty standard (cough, Heidi Montag racking up a gazillion plastic surgeries by age 24, cough).

Teenagers, however, are a whole other monster. Teenagers’ inalienable rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of not being the ugliest kid in the room.

Enough time has passed that I can joke about what I considered my teenage hotness Achilles’ heel: I am consistently the color of cottage cheese.

I spent much of my senior year of high school actively pursuing the skin tone of Magda from “There’s Something About Mary” (see photo). I looked like a Dorito. To be fair, this was 2004, a time when being orangey-tan was as hot as Paris Hilton’s growing fame was shocking.

I haven’t been in a tanning bed since I got “sun” poisoning from one in 2006 (long story), but I still pray that some of the sun’s rays work their way through my 85 SPF and give me a smidge of a hint of a glow. I’d happily take a “tan” that is the shade of your stomach in the wintertime.

Health effects of tanning aside, much in pop culture has contributed to natural color now being considered chic, not the least of which is that no one wants to be compared to someone from “Jersey Shore” or that leather-bag of a mom who made her kid lie under the lights.

Fake tanning in a bed is still a mind-blowing business, though. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the indoor tanning industry revenue was around $2.6 billion in 2010. On an average day in the U.S., says the AAD, more than 1 million people are using tanning salons.

I don’t blame them. I’d pay for a spray tan of a natural hue on me in a heartbeat. Now I’d do it because I wanted to, not because I felt like I needed to. Maturity level unlocked and achieved. Proceed.

Objects of Desire is a biweekly column that explores the items Columbus shoppers crave. Follow Jackie Mantey on Twitter at @Jackie_Mantey.

Magda in “There’s Something About Mary”