The hard way to find the best self tanner.
When I was in the sixth grade, I won the school spelling bee. As you might imagine, this brought untold fame and instant popularity.
Allow me to point out (as my mother did) the gracefully crossed ankles and/or legs of the girls on either side of me.
This was also, unfortunately, the year I tried out for the cheerleading squad.
Of course lots of girls try out for cheerleading. But my situation was somewhat unique in that not only did I lack most of the physical qualities typically associated with cheerleaders (see photo), I also wasn’t a dancer or gymnast, nor could I do a decent roundoff.
Although it was the mid-70s — well before making the cheer squad required at least a silver medal from a previous Olympics — it was still assumed that cheerleaders could, as a basic rule, do the splits. I could not. In fact, the only gymnastic trick I had mastered at that point was a forward roll, and as it turned out (to my chagrin), there wasn’t a big call for forward rolls in cheerleading tryouts, even in the 70s.
So without so much as a cartwheel in my arsenal, I tried out for cheerleading. I’m still not entirely sure why, other than the girls who were cheerleaders were cute and popular and got to wear uniforms on game days, none of which came with my spelling bee title.
Wait, did I mention my beautiful, popular younger sister was also a cheerleader?
To this day, I can still vividly recall the tryout cheers, complete with accompanying motions, in their entirety (included as a free bonus, below). As horrible experiences go, it was up there with that dream where you forget to wear pants.
Only this wasn’t a dream.
But the worst part of my cheerleading tryout nightmare actually had more to do with my appearance than with my complete lack of grace and coordination.
The night before tryouts, after modeling my short shorts and despairing over my ghastly white legs, my mom let me borrow some of her Coppertone QT (for ‘quick tan’). QT was pretty much the only game in town in the self-tanner market back in the olden days.
I was delighted to find this classic QT ad on YouTube. It perfectly captures what I was expecting from my first self-tanning foray:
Per the instructions, I applied the QT liberally, waited for it to dry, and went to bed. The next morning I awakened to discover — in horror — bright orange legs streaked with white. But the best part was the perfect, hand-shaped outline on my lower thigh where I apparently hadn’t bothered to rub it in at all.
I tried scrubbing my legs in the shower, which slightly faded the overall orange but somehow made the handprint even more pronounced. At that point, I probably should just have stayed home ‘sick,’ but I did not. Before I even started my tryout routine that afternoon, I could see some of the judges snickering about my orange legs. In hindsight, perhaps it was good there was something to distract them from my performance.
Needless to say, I didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Nor did my mom let me stay home from school the rest of that week, although I begged. I did, however, leave self tanners alone for a LONG time after.
Luckily they’ve come a long way since the 1970s. And as a fair-skinned redhead diagnosed with skin cancer a number of years ago, I’ve tried many of them.
After much trial and error, I’ve finally found one that works well, is readily available and doesn’t cost a fortune:
Since by now you are probably as sick of reading about this as I am of writing it, I’ll save the self-tanner specifics for tomorrow…
FREE BONUS! As promised, the cheers from the Scenic Hills Elementary Tigers cheerleading tryouts circa 1975. Pure poetry:
Gotcha, uh huh
You’ll never catch a Tiger, nuh uh
You’re never gonna win
Go, Tigers … fight!
We’ve got spirit, we’ve got might so
Go Tigers … fight with might!
Good, Better, Best
Good, Better, Best
We’ll put … you to … the test.
Good, Better … Best!