Kelly Epperson: The things we do before the thing

Kelly Epperson

As summer approached, did anyone else say to themselves, “I have to get a tan before I can go outside?”

Tanning used to be an outdoor event. In the olden days of my youth, when June arrived, I would hit the beach, backyard or pool to get some sun. There were no tanning beds, tanning lotions, or spray tans. Except the kind that turned your skin that dead-giveaway artificial shade of orange.

I no longer douse myself in baby oil and lay out in the sun all day, but I doubt that I’m the only one that doesn’t want my pale skin to see the light of the day until I have a little color. I don’t want to blind anyone with my whiteness.

My calves have the luminous quality of fish bellies. Before I bare my pasty flesh to the world, I want the “bronze glow” that I’ve been brainwashed to believe is summer skin. With the advent of sunless tanners, I now can have summer skin year round. As long as I remember to buy it.

Or how about this one: “I have to get in shape before I can go to the health club.” I remember when the gym was the place you went to get in shape. Now working out requires a little fitness from the get go.

I am, um, not buff. A few extra pounds have wrapped themselves around my middle and decided they don’t want to let go. When the new mega sports/health club opened near us, my boys and I took a tour.

The hard-body trainer showed us the equipment, the weights, and the machines. I asked about the various exercise classes they offered and admitted it has been a very long time since I’ve done any regular physical activity. I was told: “You might want to get in shape a little bit then before you take on any of the exercise classes.”

What? Nothing for beginners? No Richard Simmons sweating to the oldies? No “one, two,  three, four, and clap and clap?”  I peeked in the door of a class in session and beads of sweat formed on my forehead just watching them suffer.

I don’t own hand weights, a medicine ball, or any kind of spandex. My cardiovascular routine is my trot downstairs every hour to the kitchen to get another Coke. (I gave up cola and all caffeine for over three months, but I recently fell off the wagon. And the allure of dollar Cokes at the golden arches is fueling my relapse.) The allure of the health club is not so appealing.

OK, so I need to get a tan before I go out in the sun, and I need to get in shape before I go work out. What else? In theory, one should learn the language before moving to a foreign country. I didn’t do that. I suppose one should learn how to cook before preparing meals for her family. I still haven’t managed that.

Brides today feel pressure to get their teeth whitened, lose weight and take dance lessons before the wedding. And mothers of the bride (or groom) feel the need to get their teeth whitened, lose weight, get a tan, get Botoxed and dye their hair before the big day.

Jeepers. I’m not knocking it. Look good feel good has merit, but there is also something to be said for learning as we go and aging gracefully. It’s a lovely summer day today and I’m off to take a walk; catch a tan and exercise at the same time. Maybe I’ll walk to the golden arches and get a Coke.

Kelly Epperson is a columnist for The Journal-Standard. Write Kelly at or PO Box 2324, Loves Park IL 61131. Visit and