I first noticed it at the gym last week. Standing in front of the mirror, peeking out from my leggings… white, ashy, pale. Yuck. Could this actually be my leg, I wondered? Last time I checked it didn't look like that, I swear. It’s only been a month or six since it saw the sun, how could things have gone so drastically wrong so quickly?
Then I looked over at the bronze goddess next to me and the inevitable comparison began. She was wearing leggings, too, but somehow the tiny bit of flesh visible between her lower shin and her ankle looked smooth and perfectly brown. How could ANYONE of Northern European ancestry be this sun-kissed in mid-March? I inched away from her so she wouldn’t notice me staring while I pretended to maniacally swing my kettle bell. Yup, she definitely had that all over Nordic tan.
Don’t laugh. This is totally a thing.
It is also a secret that no one tells you when you move to Norway. Mainly, that Norwegians are mad for the sun, and even madder for tanning. When I first landed on these fair shores, I must admit I thought it was a generational thing. Back when I was in my early twenties, I remember using what we then called “tanning booths”, which always gave me the mental picture that somehow I would emerge transformed, possibly with super powers and a cape. Unfortunately, all I ended up with was a super rash all over my super stomach and back that itched insanely for about 4 super days straight. Never again with the tanning booth, I swore.
But these days it seems I am in the minority in embracing the natural look. Almost every Norwegian I know has indulged in the occasional trip to the solsentre this winter. Some to their own detriment. Most get the colour right, but as with all addictions, there is a fine line before you go over the edge and into “My name is Anders, and I’m a tan-a-holic” territory.
The interesting thing is, Norwegians DO know that tanning is bad for you, (my rash was a big enough warning for me) but some figure that the benefits of spending a little quality time in the old sun coffin outweigh the risks. It’s like they were raised to seek the light at every opportunity, ignoring any potential pitfalls. I have a Norwegian co-worker who defends the practice of tanning by swearing that having to work inside all day with NO sun ever would certainly do him more harm that the occasional sun bed session. He believes the lack of tan would make him irritable and moody, not to mention depressed. And since I have to sit next to him 38 hours a week, who am I to argue? I am in favour of ANYTHING that improves his mood.
And to some extent-I do get the attraction. We are just emerging from what can only be described as a hundred days of darkness, and unless you are a vampire, this is bound to affect you. We all look healthier with a bit of glow in our cheeks, and when it’s rainy and miserable outside the thought of curling up inside a warm little box does sound appealing.
And so I face a rather strange dilemma, and not exactly the sort of thing I ever imagined having to think about in Norway, of all places. To tan or not to tan, that is the question.