It all started when I was about sixteen years old…  I wanted a beautiful golden tan instead of my pasty white skin.

I decided to take care of the problem one Sunday afternoon.  I put on my bikini, grabbed a beach towel, a kitchen timer, and headed out into our back yard for a boring hour on my back.  One hour the first time out should be about right…


What I got wasn’t a golden tan, but a horrific burn that left 3-inch diameter blisters all over my face, neck, and belly.  My doctor prescribed an oral antibiotic to ward off infection as the blisters popped and oozed.  The blisters on my face turned into scabs that pulled and bled when I smiled or laughed.  It was a great look for a self-conscious 16-year old.

That horrific burn didn’t stop me from tanning, though.  I became obsessed for the next 15 years with always having the perfect tan during the summer.  After all, a golden-glow went perfectly with my healthy lifestyle and I thought it made me look even more healthy.

My early tanning days were farming tans, but I saw to it not to get a farmer’s tan.  I wore my bikini from the last day of school in the spring until the first day of school in the fall.  If I was working out on the farm with Dad, my work attire was a bikini.

In a round about way, my tanning obsession led me to meet my hubby.  I started school at Virginia Tech in June, only two weeks after I graduated from high school.  I didn’t really know anyone that first week, so after classes I went out alone into the quad to study and catch some rays.  I caught the attention of three guys who came over to introduce themselves to me.  I became great friends with those guys, and the following fall my future husband became one of their roommates!

On a visit home from college, I saw a tube of sunscreen in my parents’ bathroom.  It was the first time I’d ever heard of such a thing.  I asked my parents what it was and why they used it.  I was used to slathering baby oil on my skin to attract the sun; why would I use something to reflect it?

The following spring when many of my friends were heading to Florida for spring break, I went home to my parents’ house.  Not to be outdone, I lay out in the sun in 48° protected from the wind by our garage. My dad laughed at me, but when I returned to school, my tan was a good as any of my friends.

Continuing on with my tanning obsession, I had the perfect tan for our wedding…

I had the perfect tan when my first son was born…  My doctor even commented that my baby was getting plenty of vitamin D because I had the tannest pregnant belly he’d ever seen…

And I would have had the perfect tan when my second son was born, except that he was born in January…  Fortunately, I hadn’t gotten into tanning beds, yet…

I finally broke down and used a tanning bed about seven times before we vacationed in Hawaii during October because I wanted to have a healthy base-tan and not burn while there…


Once I got busy with my little boys, I no longer had time to spend endless boring hours out in the sun just for the sake of tanning.  My sun worshiping was limited to our time at the beach, goofing off and playing with our sons.


When I think back to the number of boring hours I wasted just lying in the sun, it blows my mind. Sometimes I read, sometimes I shared my time with friends, but mostly I just wasted time, damaged my skin, and planted the seeds for future skin cancers…

Today my time out in the sun is limited to running, and for the most part I run early in the morning before the sun is too hot.  A couple of years ago, I hired a lawn service so I wouldn’t have to spend so many hours in the sun each week cutting the grass.  And now I garden smart, and work on the side of the house that’s shaded and limit my time outdoors during 10 AM to 2 PM.

I lather on the sunscreen and seek shade whenever possible.  Unfortunately, I still feel like I look healthier with a little color…


  • Questions:
  • Are you a sun worshiper?
  • What SPF sunscreen do you use?
  • Have you ever had a really bad burn?


As promised in This May, Please Learn From My Mistakes, look for these articles on Deb Runs during the month of May: