There’s something magical that happens in our backyard when the sun starts peeking through the trees, and that’s just what our 13 year old daughter thought this past week too.

Our 30 degree rain and frost crazed days scrambled all the way up to 65, and she immediately donned her shorts and tank top, grabbed a blanket and announced it was definitely hot enough to lay out right back there on our sand volley ball court. (I’m dreaming of the green trees, but they haven’t even started to bud yet, silly winter weather.)

Her die hard approach to garnering some natural Vitamin D through the age old love of “tanning” kicked me into mother mode.

“Honestly, honey, it’s too cold to lay out. Even when it’s chilly, you can really burn. Sometimes the most damage occurs when we don’t feel it. Don’t stay out too long. “

I chuckled as she snuggled down and found her spot in the sand. My husband is hard core about skin damage, so he’s very insistent about sun screen, yet no matter how often I remind our children of the dangers of our hot NC sun, until they learn that one hard life lesson, it won’t sink in.

Unfortunately, she is her mother’s daughter, and my hard tanning life lesson came in the form of sheer bedlam. The kind of bedlam that I created by choice.

Remember the letter I wrote last year to my 16 year old self? (It’s a good one, and the comments are even better.) Well, I really should have warned that teenage self of mine just what my disobedience would cost me in only a few months.

Growing up in Wisconsin, autumns bore frost and winters bred insanity for those that love the outdoors. What seemed like too many months out of the year, we holed up in our homes because of the freezing temps – brrr – way too cold to play outside. When wind chills dip below zero, the only “sun” to be found is in the form of tanning bulbs, which my parents strictly forbid., and at that time self tanners left you carrot orange with self tanning lines that told every one you were trying way too hard.

Once the sun started poking through those WI clouds in April, my friends and I would slather baby oil on our bodies, grab our silver reflecting tanning mat and attempt to maneuver the cold winds just for a glimmer of a tan. Oh, how I wish we had other options like the new Jergens Natural Glow moisturizers, but alas, this was our only hope.

Now, for the most part, I was one of those “good girls.” I obeyed my parents on the big issues, but when this pale, pasty skin needed a dramatic make over, a friend offered her ginormous tanning bulb, and of course, I obliged. You all, I didn’t even know they made such things, and I am pretty sure that the FDA has banned them by now, but it was one of those industrial light bulbs for the expressed purpose of giving yourself a “healthy glow.” Oh, how I wish I had a picture to show you.

What WAS I thinking?

If there were directions on the side of the box, I didn’t read them, and if I had, I’m sure it didn’t state, “Put your face as close to the bulb as possible to hurry the tanning process along because if your parents poke their head in your room, you’re in big trouble.”

Yep, pretty sure their marketing guy would have tossed those directions in the waste basket, but I thought it was a darn good idea. I mean, it made sense to me that I should get a little closer, thus taking less time for that glow to appear, right?

For sure! That glow appeared alright. Thrilled I was. Within ten minutes, the color was coming back to my face. I had a healthy glow and my cheeks were quite pink.

“Sun kissed”, I thought. “This bulb is a Wisconsin sun miracle worker. Yes, the skin right under my eyes is a bit tender to the touch, but that happens even when I am in the sun too much. I’ll just get a good night sleep and all will be well in the morning.

I shut the bulb off, put it back in the box and slid it under my bed, safely out of sight.
Within an hour, I knew I was in deep trouble. My eyes began to burn, and my entire face hurt. I grabbed a cold rag and lay it across my face. My conscience pricked and I knew that my parents’ warning had my best intentions at heart.

I’m pretty sure I lay in bed praying, “Lord, please, pretty please, let this go away by morning. I am so sorry. I will never do something so stupid again.”

As I tossed and turned throughout the night, it wasn’t getting better. In fact, I knew without looking, this was bad. I continued to keep the washcloth over my face, and when my school alarm went off, I could barely open my eyes. They were swollen shut. Blisters covered both cheek bones and I looked like the Elephant Man’s main squeeze.

Since we typically started our morning off with personal devotions, I laid down on the coach. Teenagers are known to lie down early in the morning, but I knew if my dad found out, I would so hear about it. He entered the room, saw me lying down with the washcloth across my entire face, and questioned the situation.
Yes, I admit. I stretched the truth just a bit.

“I have a really bad headache.(Oh yes, I did, that was true.) I’m praying.”

Oh ladies, how could I?

PRAYING? That’s my excuse? Yep, I tried to pass off my disobedience as a spiritual act. Good thing lighting didn’t strike right there.

I chuckle about it now. As a mother of four teens, they think they are SO smart. Sometimes my boys assume I am this dumb blond who just fell off the turnip truck. They look at me with this completely straight face and give me the most ridiculous excuse in the world and they think I will fall for it.

REALLY? Do they not know that I know you are lying?

I often state teens think they are “so wise in their own eyes,” but as I think back, that’s exactly what I thought as well.

I mean, good girls do pray.   🙂

My dad didn’t fall for it. He knew something was up. He walked over, grabbed the washcloth, looked at my swollen face and gasped.

I don’t quite remember what happened next. I do know that I didn’t go to school that day. I vividly remember they made me go to school the next day, even though I begged to stay home. Yes, vanity holds its own set of natural consequences. They gave me exactly what I wanted.

Decades later, I still bare the results of that choice. That blistered 16 year old skin is still hyper sensitive to sun. I can be out for an hour and it will get bright pink. Now, it always tans by the next day, but that skin damage never corrected itself.

I’ve told that story to my children because they all love a healthy, tanned glow. They can’t believe I was that dumb, but on those days when they fry themselves at the beach, after being reminded and reminded about wearing sun screen, I raise my eyebrows and give them THAT look. You know the one. More importantly THEY know the one.

SO please tell me I am not the only crazy one that has had a tanning bedlam moment.

I know my nieces tried the professional spray tan and when they walked in the house, we all started laughing. There have to be others out there that wanted that natural “glow.”

Share your bedlam moment (and be entered to win a $250 gift card.)

Since I am in Dallas right now for a conference, I was able to try the Jergens Natural Glow over the last few days and I love it. My legs have gone from pasty to a great subtle color and nothing smears or smells. Two important factors for me. I’m going to use it on and off over the next few months and I’ll let you know how it goes.


This post is written by me on behalf of Jergens, but all dumb tanning decisions are my own.

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