Wearing a bikini under my clothes, I hesitantly walked into the neon-lit salon. The owner greeted me without looking up, while his orange-hued customers eyed me with suspicion. I had just returned from the Caribbean so the glow I sported came from Mother Nature, and they knew it. Within minutes, I was handed a contract stating that a number of bad things that could happen to me and, if they did, it was not the salon’s fault. I signed my name, evidence that I too was ready to join the ranks of the orange-hued. Even I was finding it hard to believe that I had just agreed to something that I had always claimed was risky, vain, and pointless. I was always the voice of reason, and now that voice was silent. I was about to enter a tanning booth.
Putting on a pair of weird red goggles with painted eyes, I settled into the tanning bed, which looked like a coffin. Lying there, I had anything but the peaceful thoughts I was told I would have. With each moment, I grew angrier at myself. Why was I lying in a box that my dermatologist specifically said would harm me? Why was I ignoring the warning that ultraviolet light causes skin cancer? Most of all, why had I allowed myself to be blinded by the media’s ideas of beauty? There was a simple, and stupid, answer: I wanted to look good for an upcoming dance.
Most of the time I was tanning, I was thinking of my life in 30 years. If I ended up with skin cancer, I’d be taken away from those I loved, people who would not care if I had a tan. Would my future husband and kids have to pay the price for me giving into peer pressure now?
At last, my eight minutes of tanning ended and I got up. As I was dressing, I stared in disgust at the bed I had just been in and then took a long, last look at the tanning salon. I knew I’d never come back. On my way out, I felt bad for the customers coming in. I knew they were the victims of peer pressure too, and I decided it was terrible that people felt they had to expose themselves to dangerous UV rays just to fit in. Passing a trash can, I threw out the red goggles with the eerie painted eyes. I was done with tanning salons.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.