You're So Vain

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain,
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you?
Don't you?

-Carly Simon

Tanning to look good

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a few days before my friend’s wedding. It was the late 1980’s and it was Southern California. I was checking off my ‘to do’ list before my appearance (the wedding). Tux, check, haircut, check, teeth whitening, check, tanning salon, about to be check. It was close to the wedding day and I was in the wedding party and I was still not tan. It entered my mind to lay out, but why not speed up the process and lay in a tanning bed? After all, I hadn’t seen some of these folks in a few years and I needed to look fantastic.

Vanity game

For me, fantastic meant sharply dressed, Chiclet-white teeth, a suave haircut and a dashing tan. I would strut my stuff in the church, then the banquet hall and others would take notice. In some dark place in my mind, the wedding had become about me. That darkness led me to the blinding lights of a tanning salon where I would expose myself to dangerous UV rays. I sit in my chair today and just shake my head.

Baking at the salon

I remember walking into that little room with mini eye goggles and my Walkman cassette player listening to Phil Collins. I hopped in the chamber and began to roast, all of me. It was not hot. They had a fan to cool things off. I set the baking alarm, which would alert me to rotisserate. At the appointed time, I spun around and nuked the rest of me. I was nothing, if not thorough. It’s tough to even think about this today.

Ready for the grand entrance

The fan shut off. The baking lights went dark. The alarm rang. My time was over. I was well done. I was proud of my baked appearance. In my mind, I looked great, sparkling teeth, deep red burn/tan, sun-lightened hair, black tux. I looked like I was right off the set of LA Law. Don Johnson had NOTHING on me. I was ready for the wedding and my grand entrance.

Blending in

Except that when I entered the church and later, the banquet hall, no one really took notice. I didn’t really stand out. Everyone else looked about the same. My immediate thought was something to the effect that at least I don’t stand out for looking bad! I fit in and I guess that is really all that I wanted, to be accepted. The problem was that I had based my acceptance on my physical appearance and not stuff like good moral character, kindness, and love.

Wrong priorities

Don’t get me wrong. Appearance is important. Proper attire is critical in most professional situations. It is always a good thing to look your best in those types of social settings. The problem was that I was getting my self-esteem from the affirmation of others based on my appearance. I had bought into the lie that the most important thing about a person is their hairline, jawline, and had ignored the value of a good storyline.

My own skin

So, why do I write all of this? I firmly believe that my vanity contributed to my sun exposure. I had a track record of getting sun to impress others at weddings, reunions, parties, vacations, conferences. I was really good working on my tan and I have paid for it. I had to change not only my tanning habits, but what I thought about myself. An old, wise man once wondered in amazement that he was “fearfully and wonderfully” made. I had to become comfortable in my own shoes and in my own skin. I have and it makes all the difference. I feel good about myself without the tanning salons.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.