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a woman

Designs on Tanning

Thanks to Hulu, I am having a moment. It’s not the kind of moment you have when you get teary over a Kate Winslet movie. I’m not even talking about those moments when you lose your breath laughing at the timeless humor of most any National Lampoon’s movie. To both my delight and now my chagrin, Hulu has added Designing Women to its menu. Laughing my way through all of the episodes I practically have memorized, I am more than slightly triggered.

Tanning on my mind

Designing Women aired from 1986-1993, some of my prime tanning years. My attempts to obtain some semblance of a tan through what can only be described as intentional sunburns began around the age of 12. This sitcom, in particular, was a favorite of mine during my tanning days. Julia’s sharp tongue and Mary Jo’s quick wit never fail to take me back to those days when I would come in from my backyard still slathered in baby oil. With lemon juice in my hair, hoping to have blonder hair and tan skin, I would sit and absorb the southern charm of the ladies of Sugarbaker’s while my reddened skin stung and I ignored it.

Throughout my teen years and into college, Designing Women ran in syndication and remained one of my go-to shows while I studied, wrote papers, and prepared lessons for my student teaching assignment. Again, from March to October, I would park myself in front of the television with my binder in my lap following a visit to the tanning salon. I worked as diligently on my tan as I did on my assignments. I am more than sure that the recliner situated in direct line with the television maintained a permanent smell that can only be described as a mixture of coconut and seared flesh. My fellow recovering tanners will recognize that description with no elaboration needed.

The road leads back to tanning

In August, my flashbacks began. Hulu added my show to its menu, and I jumped in headfirst. Of all my tanning triggers, I never considered the fact that a television show could elicit such strong memories, but here we are. Sitting in front of one of my favorite episodes, I am recalling the way the freckles on my hands popped following tanning bed sessions. That was a time in my life when I believed the increasing number of darkening freckles was a sign of tanning success.

I would glance at the tanning bed’s results in the glow of the television and wonder if I was dark enough. Occasionally checking my legs to make sure they didn’t have any pale patches at the knee, I found myself wondering if I had laid long enough that week. Once in a while, I would lift my shirttail to examine the contrast between the tiny white palm tree-shaped patch on my stomach to make sure the area covered by the little sticker looked white against the surrounding skin. Those were thoughts I regularly had for over two decades. Listening now to Suzanne torment Charlene, I realize the utter ridiculousness of the entire scenario I created for myself.

I don’t expect it to stop

There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue discovering new tanning triggers. After all, tanning is an addiction in its own right, and reminders are everywhere. One melanoma and three basal cell carcinomas have been sufficient to keep me on track with sunscreen and sun-safe practices over the years. I guess I can say that Designing Women is as much of a reminder of my mistakes as much as it is a reminder of exactly how long ago and how far in the past I ditched my damaging habits.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.