Sunday in the Park
My era was baby oil. Which matured later to coco butter. By this point, in the summers of my youth, I was cooking my skin to crispy brown perfection in an attempt to look healthy and happy and relaxed, which was all equated with looking very tan. No one was aware, really, in the ’60s, of the long-term effects of sun exposure on the skin. And days would stretch out in terms of maximum tanning time, where young girls in bikinis could be seen poolside, lakeside, deckside, on fluffy towels with silly magazines, from the hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays could do the most good/harm.
We all know better now. My children slather their children with white lotion designed to ward off the sun. So even now, in the middle of July, my family looks much the same as they look in the middle of winter. Evenly pale skinned from top to bottom.
Old cowboy songs that refer to someone as "brown as a berry" no longer seem relevant. (And in adulthood, I am kinda creeped out by the concept of looking like a brown berry, which would be spoiled, since in the real world I don’t know of any berries that are naturally ripe and brown. But I digress.)
Tan lines are practically a thing of the past.
But old images die hard. And while I protect my skin from the harshest rays of the sun in various ways and I no longer have the time or the body or the inclination to lay poolside for hours on end to cook my skin to a golden California Girl brown, I have a small confession. I love my lines.
They start to appear, depending upon the spring weather and my excursions and activities, in June. This year, a bit later, with our lack of any real spring and my lack of travels to anywhere with sun. I wasn’t seeking them out but I have to admit to a certain thrill when, in the shower one day recently, I saw a tan line of my youth. I know you will be tempted to scold the folly of such a thing but, as lines go, I think mine are pretty tame. At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
The upside-down V that starts pointed at the top and spreads out, white, in the darkening field of tan is a thing of some measure of vanity to me. In my youth, I doubt I ever considered it. But now, that V speaks volumes in my head. And at night, when I undress for bed and rub my feet with lotion, I admire the inverted V on the top of my feet. It represents long hours spent in open-toed sandals, flip flops that, while not recommended by, say, Smith and Hawken for gardening, are, in fact, my gardening shoes of choice. And especially flip-flop crocs. What a brilliant yard shoe that is!
And in the interest of full confession, I should add there is another white winter white patch of some distinction/delineation on my body. No, not farmer/gardener-tan upper-body arms. Mine have a faded kind of color gradation in relation to how much I have rolled up my sleeves on any given day. And there is, on occasion, an actual V where I may have forgotten to dab a little sunscreen on my neck and chest.
But the other patch of white I see, at the end of my undressing day, is a circle with a long tail that meets the circle again on the other side. It is where I wear my watch. I have friends who eschew The Watch. Say it enslaves them. Say they just use their cell phones or cars to know the time. And, as the old ’60s-era band (was that Chicago?) sang all those years ago, "Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?"
I find The Watch a comfort. Sometimes a statement. Sometimes, like when I wear my great-aunt’s elegant timepiece from the ’20s with a face so tiny it would take laser vision to actually read the numbers, really just jewelry. But I’ve always been a watch girl. At this stage, my most constant companion is a solid Swiss Army piece with simple reflective numbers and a serviceable second hand. I picked it up some time ago on a trip to New York.
When I unbuckle the leather strap each evening and lay the watch down on a counter or bedside table, I admire its functionality. And in the interest of exposing more of my own vanity here, I admire the ghost watch left behind on my wrist. The white stripe tells me I have been outside for a length of time enough to produce those tan lines. It is a marker of summer, of sorts. How much whiter the ghost watch becomes signals how much time I have taken to enjoy the sun of summer.
Silly, you might say. And you would be right. Because while the dollar is dipping and gas prices are rising and the economy is at least flat, I could be all wound up about much meatier issues. And I often am. But sometimes, in my head, I am more girl than grandmother. And loving my lines seems like a thing even an old girl can enjoy for no extra expense on any summer day, even this Sunday in the Park
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.
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