Be wary of the (embarrassing) dangers of the sun

David Fong TDN Columnist

I suppose, at some point, the sun will start shining this spring (summer, perhaps?) in the great state of Ohio.

It’s bound to happen eventually, right?

So let this be an early public service announcement to you … when the sun appears again in (hopefully) July, please make sure you keep yourself safe from the sun’s harmful rays. I’m not talking about the possibility of developing skin cancer, however — although that most certainly is an issue not to be taken lightly when planning prolonged exposure to the sun — I’m talking about making a choice you might regret for months to come.

My name is David, and I sometimes suntan potentially embarrassing messages onto my chest.

I come from a family of folks who bronze easily under the sun’s rays. I rarely burn and it usually only takes me — or any of my family members — about a day in the summer’s sun to acquire a deep, rich tan. Many years ago — back when a dark suntan was considered healthy looking and before we knew just how harmful the sun’s ultraviolet rays could be — my eldest brother decided to take full advantage of this.

It was the summer of 1983 and the rock band Van Halen was at or near the height of its popularity. The band’s winged “VH” symbol was easily recognizable to anyone under the age of 30. So popular was the band and the symbol that one summer afternoon, my brother took strips of masking tape and recreated Van Halen’s “VH” symbol across his broad chest.

He spent a few hours laying out in our backyard and, when he took off the strips of masking tape, the skin around the area where the tape had been had turned a deep mahogany color, leaving behind the pale imprint of the Van Halen symbol where the tape had been.

He would proudly sport this symbol all summer at the community swimming pool, where he received endless amounts of attention. Because I idolized my older brother at the time and because there’s nothing I love more than endless amounts of attention, I knew I had to steal his idea.

Of course, at the time, I was a 75-pound fifth grader, meaning I didn’t exactly have much real estate on which to put messages on my chest. I probably could have fit a nice exclamation point or possibly a semicolon.

As I got older, however, the idea of tanning messages into me chest never left me. I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but am deathly afraid of needles. I figured this would be the next best thing. So ever few years, I like to get out in the sun and, with the help of some well-placed sun block, tan a message into my chest.

I’ve ended up regretting every one of them.

My first foray into branding myself using the sun’s rays took place in high school, when I tanned the name of my favorite band into my chest. This was all fine and dandy, except for the fact I was pretty insecure about my lack of musculature in high school and tried to never remove my shirt in public. So all that effort went for naught.

I would try again several more times in college — I wasn’t any prouder of my body in college than I was in high school, mind you, but at least in college I could legally consume enough alcohol that it seemed like a good idea.

“Seemed” being the operative word, of course.

The first time I did it in college, I tanned a girl’s initials into my chest. I remember showing it to someone who said, “I hope you really like this girl — but much more than that, I hope she really likes you.”

Of course, she ended up dumping me like a week later. So I had to go around explaining why I had the initials “GW” tanned into my chest for months.

A few years after I got married, I sat out in the sun without any sun block, but with my hands covering my chest. I sat motionless for several hours — and when I pulled my hands away, it looked like a pair of hands were covering up my chest. I actually thought this was hilarious.

My wife, on the other hand, failed to see the humor. She made me go out and buy self-tanning lotion before our next family outing to the swimming pool.

Last summer — again after a fair amount of alcohol at a Fourth of July party — I took some sun block and wrote the words “Fong Rules” on my chest, then let the tan set in. Once again, I got a few good laughs out of my little stunt last summer.

I didn’t realize, however, the joke would be on me. Here I sit, 10 months later, and I can still see the words “Fong Rules” on my chest. That’s right … it hasn’t gone away yet. I’m beginning to think this might be permanent — unless I can get out in the sun and even things up again.

Which, based on the weather we’ve been having, might never happen again.

Oh well — it’s still a better idea than the initials of a girl who was going to dump me a week later.

Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at; follow him on Twitter @thefong

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