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August 12, 2011

Tanline City

by Barbara O'Neal

I am a Colorado girl  woman, born and raised.  Rocky Mountain High and all that—the scenery is splendiferous and the weather is unbeatable and people take their exercise in the outdoors.  They do everything outdoors, all summer long. 

Which is the problem for me at this time of year.  It’s the battle of the tan lines. At 7000 feet, the atmosphere is thin.  There is virtually no humidity.  The two conditions mean that the sun is intense.  I am naturally prone to tanning and never think much about sunscreen except on my face, where it goes on in thick layers.*    I also spend at least a few hours at day outside. Walking the dog, puttering in the garden, hiking; even going to the grocery store or running errands means another layer of tan. 

All of these things mean I have tan lines.  Lots of tan lines. Sharp lines at the shoulders and chest where tank tops and swim suits end.  Fainter lines on upper arms from t-shirts and upper calf from capris and fainter still on the thigh from shorts. 

But the worst, most embarrassing emblem of Colorado Womanood are my feet.  The are deeply IMG_2050
tanned with big fat stripes across ankle and toe from Tevas.  Not the cute ones with tiny little straps that you can wear in public, but the solid granola style that you can actually wear to hike or bike or anything else you like.

If I did not have to go anywhere else, I would live in those Tevas.  In my neck of the woods, they’re perfectly acceptable footwear, along with heavy duty sunglasses meant to cover the entire eye area and keep irises from burning.  (Oh, I forgot those tanlines—the goggle look.  Not quite as extreme as the ski-goggle tan, but bad enough.)  In Colorado, Tevas are kinda sexy. They mark you as a woman who can Do Stuff. 

And I am that woman.  I like that marker.  However, I sometimes travel to other places.  Worlds where shoes become an entirely different conversation and the standards of hipness are…um…not the same.   Every summer, before the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America, Facebook posts are all about shoe finds, complete with brand names I’ve never heard of and would get me laughed right out of my own town,  while I am freaking out about my tan lines and how to IMG_2054 hide them.  I try alternating shoes—I have a whole collection of other sandals I wear for Real Life, as when I go to the store or out to dinner or even just down to Pueblo to see my mother.  I don’t actually wear the Tevas all the time.  (And believe me, I do know never to wear them in Europe, where one could be laughed right off the streets.)

But nothing helps.  Last weekend, I went to Minneapolis for a reunion of the women with whom I hiked the Camino de Santiago last summer.  This is an athletic, outdoorsy lot.  One friend in particular has contests with herself to see how many sports she can do in one day (basketball, rollerblading, golf, swimming, hiking), but she does not have these tan lines.  We all went water-skiing and swimming.  I was the only one so tattooed by the sun, and trust me, the feet were silly looking indeed.

I would love to make a resolve that this will ever happen again, but it will.  By the end of September, my feet will be as dark as coffee beans and the tan will not fade until February.   I’d like to  IMG_2045 say that I’m going to replace these sturdy Tevas with something more appealingly feminine, but that’s not going to happen either.  I might buy a second pair, but for the sturdy Stuff I Do, like hauling bags of mulch and soil, digging holes for trees, and hiking modest mountain trials (for the big ones I do wear actual shoes) I gotta have Tevas. 

So it will all happen again next summer.   Ah well.  I guess you gotta be who you are. 

Do you have footwear native to your neck of the woods?  Or tales of woe when you travel outside your locale? 

*I know, I know. Don’t lecture me—I should be slathering it on everywhere, but I just don’t.  I already have to wear entire bottles of lotion from head to toe (see note about humidity), and I really don’t want another reason for mosquitos to add more unsightly bites to my bare arms and legs. 



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I am not a sandal person at all, I wear sneakers and ankle socks all summer, I do end up with a faint tan line at my ankles but I do wear capris all summer so my legs don't get much direct sun . . . Also, we have yet to have a truly hot day yet this summer in Vancouver, have barely crossed into the 70's. I burn easily & my dad died of melanoma so most summers I end up wearing a hat everyday, this summer has been great - not so many hat days.

I don't travel much except my annual trip to Disney World and then I really shake up my foot wear choice, I wear - you got it, sneakers & ankle socks.

Just my old faded with sea salt TopSiders and Bean's camp mocs. No socks. No, never. No sneaks except when I have to wear my leg braces, which I never do anymore. Maybe socks with ducky boots if the weather is bad. And winter brings out the Timberland hightops. Socks with them too. But socks don't show with those, so who cares.

These all fit in everywhere, except my relatives in Quincy and Milton. You know who you are. Relatives on the Cape? Marblehead and Salem? Perfect.

The only time I wear tennis shoes and socks in the summer is when I'm hiking. Other than that I'm wearing flip flops. So I have tan lines on my feet in the shape of a v. I am another one who should be never wears sun screen. I'm sure we'll be sorry that we don't. I don't lay out in the sun, but still spend plenty of time hiking, biking and walking to get tan.

Barbara, there is lotion with sunscreen in it. There's even lotion with both sunscreen and insect repellant. In case you were unaware.

When my husband and I first met, 33 years ago, he was always trying to get me to get "sexy" tanlines. But I'm not now, nor have ever been, a sun worshiper, and I resisted. In fact, we have a pair of photos from our first road trip together: On Stinson Beach (California), him wearing nothing but cutoffs; me wearing running shoes, jeans, and a hoodie, pulled tight up to my chin. It was too chilly to "lay out"!

A friend just told me I'm the brownest she's ever seen me this year. That's because of riding, a LOT of gardening, and travel to places where I was expected to be outside a lot: Florida, northern Michigan, Boulder, and Cody, Wyoming. Just last night my left eyelid got sunburnt while I was riding in the ring. But that's the only sunburn I've gotten this year, thank goodness.

Barbara, I feel your pain!

I live in NE OK and we have tons of humidity and lots of sun and heat from May to October. I too permanent Teva tan lines across my feet. And, I have tan lines on my earlobes from a pair of heart earrings along with the two rings and my watch etched on my arm, all from a day at the zoo.

I've finally learned (mostly) to NOT drive with the window down and my arm hanging out because the one armed farmers tan is just pathetic and NEVER goes away.

Did I mention that I work in a semi-formal office environment where all these tan lines really stand out? The feet marks are really the worst.

(And, my lotion with sunscreen helps prevent wrinkles and keeps me from burning, but does not prevent the tan lines on my olive skin.)

I can't believe it! Another Teva fan!
I couldn't walk if I didn't wear them. Good support. Toes exposed for the claustra toesna in me and great colors. I have one of each and am on my second set of red and green ones.
Sadly, as with everything you like too much, Footsmart has discontinued them.
I've tried googling the style I like but can't seem to find them.
And I'm another one for no lotion or sunblock. Hats...lots of hats that of course are color coordinated with the Tevas is my solution!
Can you share where you buy yours Barbara?

I live in Michigan and we also spend a lot of time outdoors, enjoying the summer. I have a huge collection of sandals (including the red version of your Tevas). Rotating doesn't help though. I end up with strap road maps on my feet by the end of summer too. I also currently have a tanned stripe on my chest from when my bathing suit top moved after I applied sunscreen. :)

"claustra toesna". . .lol, xena. I have that, too, but I also have "heelstrapphobia."

Marcia, ear lobe tan lines, too funny! I hope they're heart-shaped.

I used to like to have tan lines on my feet because at least I could show people that I *had* some tan.

I was thinking of my days when I could spend four to six hours bicycling. You can tell a hard core bicyclist by the brown oval on the back of their hands from the bike gloves. If they are old school, they also have the little dots from the mesh backs.

I spent the summer of 1979 in Israel. Hiking in the Negev and Sinai, working in kibbutz fields and swimming in the Red Sea made me a bronze god. I have also burned easier ever since. At the beach at Sharm El-Sheik there were warning signs not be be in the sun more than an hour. Five or six languages and the sign was about 6 feet tall. A woman fell asleep in the sun. She needed to be medivac-ed to a hospital.

Princess One has her mother's fair skin, she has three shades; pale, pink and burned. Princess Two has my complexion. She is enjoying tan lines.

When I worked in a middle school, one of the gym teachers wore long pants and sleeves all spring. He had no desire for a farmer's tan.


Barbara, I live in the Florida Keys. I work at a dolphin facility set right in/on the Gulf of Mexico. Even though my job means I'm inside most of the time, there are other times when I'm outside all day. I also boat and fish. I live in Crocs flipflops. I currently have at least four pairs in different colors. I have two or three pairs of the "closed toe" Crocs with the air holes in them.

I embrace my sandal tan. I think the lighter Vee sort of frames the starfish tattoo on the top of my foot. I have had polka dots when the sun tanned through the air holes of the closed-toe styles.

I'm overweight so I don't wear tank tops. I also try to protect my skin when I'm on the water because the reflection intensifies the sun. I have some short-sleeved rash guard shirts with spf protection. All this results in a variety of trucker tan on my arms. Usually I can even this out by the way I wear sunscreen and when I wear my bathing suit in the pool.

I am much more careful about sunscreen than when I was younger and sunbathed in dark tanning oil. I use an expensive, but terrific sunblock on my face by TiZo that has both titanium and zinc but doesn't feel heavy on my skin. My esthetician has me trying an organic based srpay sunblock on the rest of my exposed skin. So far I'm really pleased with the way it works. If I'm going to be outside for a significant period of time, I also wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Dang. Just lost all my replies.

Love all these cute tan line stories--Alan and the cyclist glove circle and speckles, Marcia and the heart shaped earrings. Good one!

Claustra toesna! Ha ha. I'm that way, too, though, like you, I do real hiking in closed toes, of course. One does not wish bloodied toes. I buy my Tevas at REI. (The very same REI where the dastardly Doherty gang were spotted this week, thus leading to their capture. On I-25, which is the busiest drug highway in the land, thus riddled with cops. Nobody ever said criminals were smart.)

Mary Stella, what a cool job!

For me it's cowboy boots. The first time a horse stepped on my foot when I was wearing tennis shoes was the last time I wore anything but boots when I'm working with or cleaning up after my horses.

I also love my hiking boots and wear them when I hike. A lot of my friends swear by their Tevas, but I've just never been able to get into them.

Maybe I'll try again next summer....

Irish girl, here. Pale or burnt - those are my choices. I did end up with a little color from golfing last week - just around my neck and on my arms under the short sleeves. Not cool. I used to try and get color when I was younger - usually resulted in just burning and peeling. I had basal cell skin cancer taken off my shin a few years ago, so I don't even try anymore. I use body lotion with sunscreen daily, and spray the heck out of myself (I love the spray sunscreens) if I know I'm going to be outside for any length of time.

I also got a little foot tan - not while golfing, they are from my LL Bean velcro/mesh sneaker type thingies - little criss-cross straps on my foot. Those are what I wear for casual wear most of the summer. More sandal-type stuff at work. Today it's blingy flip-flops. I only wear sneakers and socks in the summer if I'm getting on the treadmill or walking the dogs (we usually go a couple of miles with them.) Maybe I'll check out Tevas.

My daughter actually got the tattoos on her foot (she's a Beatles fan - "All you need is <3" on one foot, and "Imagine" on the other) placed so they could be aligned with flip-flops, her footwear of choice from spring to fall.

I love the picture of all the tan lines up there.

Love the chart!!
I used to prove that I had a (bit of) tan by removing my watch, and I did once when I fell asleep in the sun, I had a perfect outline of the bow of my bikini top, but now . . . carcinoma already had me being so very careful to wear hats and sunscreen, but my body decided to be allergic to sun, so I have long sleeves (hot), driving gloves, and have replaced the cuter hats with this Legionnaire's gear -- oh so stylish . . .
It's always something . . .

My mother was a life guard on Lake Erie in her youth. She is a part of a cancer study now. She has had a few minor growths removed. The doctors love having her in the study. Longevity in a cancer study is a very GOOD thing.

I'm stuck with a farmer's tan every year because I hate my arms and hide them in sleeves. When I was a teenager (because I did not have enough to whine about) I used to complain I was going to be one of those old ladies whose arm skin flaps in the breeze. Now that I'm slipping into old ladydom my prediction is proving true. Should you ever run into me at any public swimming place (and I've lost enough inhibition to indulge) I'll be the one wearing a t-shirt in the water.

I never thought of tattooing my feet. That would deal with the tan lines in pumps, but I fear I would be silly at this age.

Rocky Mountain Woman--horses require special shoes, no doubt about it.

Okay, all you spray-on sunscreen ppl: do the mosquitos eat you more? Because I really do have trouble with the monsters. They adore me and will nibble every inch of my skin if I am not careful.

They don't seem to go after me more, but they really prefer my husband, so maybe that's why. ;)

Barbara, if you find out how to keep mosquitoes away, let me know, okay? The little bloodsuckers love me, also. No one else will be bothered by them, and there will be clouds of them around me. My fans. Sigh.

Barbara, there is a brand of spray on sunscreen with mosquito repellent called Bullfrog Mosquito Coast. I use it all the time. I use it all the time on my fair-skinned family and it works pretty well for the repellant as well as sunscreen properties.

When I used to tan in my 20's, I was in Rockledge, FL for the month of July, bought a new bikini that was just a bit smaller in the back than the old bikini. I didn't know this, we went to the beach and I ended up with severe burns on my butt, 1/2 in strip about 5 inches long, holy heck that hurt while it healed.

My sister got so badly burnt one summer the freckles on her face turned green . . .

I did tan easily when I was younger and now I burn really easily to go along with the heat stroke. I will stick with being pale year round and convince myself it makes my skin stay so much younger looking!

Y'all do know that the term "redneck" originated about the same time as "farmer's arm," right? Poor whites working in the sun, bending over a hoe.

Barbara, you're never too old for a tattoo. Just sayin' :)

Here in Oregon you have to take the sun where you get it. This summer, it's been in short supply so far, so when I look down at the Birkenstock stripes on my feet, I smile. And I wear the signs of a Get It Done Woman with pride. Are my tan lines sexy? You bet, I got them doing the things I love the most. Are my tan lines in the shape of a bikini? No, because I work in my garden; tank top and shorts are the uniform of the day. But I always wear a hat - heat stroke once in a lifetime is enough (I was in Mexico, not Oregon.)

OH, tan lines...I used to love them, check them every day. Now I have to admit, I'm so happy that I have NO tan lines at all. (I was just getting too many dots and freckles, all over, and the doctor said: SUNCREEN, please.) Gaylin, I'm with you.

Footwear I love? We HAVE talked about my flip-flop room, haven't we?

The first half of my life was spent in LA; the second half's been on the east coast. Did the first half inform my second? I don't know, but I am a flip flops girl through and through. I even bought a pair of wool-padded ones from Eddie Bauer billed as slippers. I like my clothes loose and comfortable, my hair loose and free, and a cute pair of flip flops on my feet. I have a huge collection of them!

As for the tan line, I love that you have this emblem that defines who you are at a glance. You don't have to make a statement with a vanity plate or a tattoo. It's just a natural product of the life you live. I wouldn't cover it up at all. Every time I looked down at my feet I'd probably grin and think, That's me, all right.

Yeah, I am big with using sunscreen. I have had 3 moles removed "benign but active", it felt like they were removed with a dull spoon. Hurt like hell while healing. Pale is the new tan . . .

Gaylin, ow!

Karen, that's me, too--mosquito central, even if no one else is getting it. They bite me through my clothes, on my scalp. Ugh! I'll try the Bullfrog if I can find it.

Kerry, I think I'm waiting to walk the entire Camino de Santiago, so I can get a shell on my foot. ;)

Heat stroke--oy! I wear a hat, too, Evalyn. I usually don't feel the heat too much here, but I can fall quickly anywhere there is humidity. Highlanders are stupid about humidity.

Suzanne, you do look great in your flip-flops.

You have a flip flop room, Hank? My mother has a Croc room, all the colors of the rainbow (to match her earrings).

I have that exact pair of Tevas, only mine are substantially more faded due to river and lake excursions. Love my Tevas!

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