July 1, 1999
My Place Out of the Sun
I don't want you to take it personally. It's not you; it's me. I just need some time to get my head together. I just need to find out who I am without you in my life. After 28 years, I just need to move on.
Don't think this is easy. I have loved you like no other. But, Sun, you big ball of golden-tanning fire, you Coco Chanel-bronzing, George Hamilton-burning, skin-searing, ozone-permeating, UVA-ray-emanating, freckle-making love of my life, it's time for me to leave you.
Everyone says our relationship is toxic. It was one thing when my mother suggested we stop seeing each other after reading some article in the paper about melanoma (melanoma, how could anything sound so pretty and be so ugly?). But my mother has been wrong before. It was Dr. Lewis who really turned me against you. My dermatologist, after the careful inspection and removal of several suspicious moles and sun spots, has told me that I can no longer see you.
We're not good for each other. Me, with my Hungarian-Jewish pink skin; you, with your cancer-causing rays. It's a bad mix. And we both know that SPF thing only works for so long before I get burnt.
This is difficult for me. I can't stop thinking about the summer we met. I was a lifeguard in Yosemite, exposing myself to you at a high altitude and really getting to know you. You made me look 10 pounds thinner. You made me look more like everyone else. You made me feel special. You made me look great in white. Even back than, however, I knew we weren't a perfect match.
I never expected to look like the girl next door (unless you happen to be living in Budapest). But I was hoping to look a little more like the golden-brown California girl seen on the cover of most Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions. Instead, I turned a shade that can only be described as well-done Canadian bacon.
When my dad came to visit me that summer, he knew something wasn't right. "I have never seen a person looking quite that color," he said. "I don't think it's right."
I slathered on some extra sunscreen the next day, but nothing could keep us apart. I was addicted to you, to how you made me feel, to the warm sensation on my shoulders, the peeling nose, the tingling skin. I was just a crazy kid in love.
Remember when I would sneak away from work to see you whenever the temperature rose above 75 degrees? It was just you and me alone in my yard with a good book and a pair of sunglasses. How about when I drove across country and I'd pull over every couple of hours for a brief rendezvous with you at the pool of some illicit motel? I couldn't get enough of you. I knew you were bad for me, but I needed you.
The trial separation we had in the early 1990s was difficult. Just when I was learning to live with the white skin and black hair combo that makes me look like a witch, or at the very least like Morticia Addams, I saw that stupid "G.I. Jane" movie. Demi Moore's tan made me think of you. Suddenly, every model and magazine cover made me think of you. This city is full of reminders of you. I had to have you back.
At first, it was great. We were reunited, and it felt so good. But Dr. Lewis really put a scare into me. Young people like myself are dying from some of those innocent looking moles you gave me. He says it's not good enough to avoid you between the hours of 11 and 2. I have to give you up completely. And, Sun, you and I both know the cancer isn't the only problem. There's the wrinkles.
Alpha-hydrox, Retin-A, peels, scrubs -- those only go so far. With you, it's look good today, crow's feet tomorrow. I just have to let you go and start seeing other skin tones. Sure, I'll miss you. I'll miss the trips to Vegas and the days at the beach. Self-tanner will only be a paltry imitation, a mockery of our passion.
Please, don't try to lure me back with the promise of a healthy glow. I know there's a price to pay for our love, and losing my life just isn't worth it. I have to say goodbye. I know I'll see you around, so I hope we can part on good terms. Just know it's going to be one long summer without you.
Teresa Strasser is a twentysomething contributing writer for The Jewish Journal.