Cocoa butter: (n) a fatty substance obtained from cocoa beans used for a variety of cosmetic purposes
Long before SPF meant anything in the world around me, I was a very white, fair-skinned, blond man who wanted to get a tan.
There were those who warned of the danger of too much exposure from the sun, but it was like they were speaking their concern in a private closet adjacent to a loud dining hall.
Nobody was listening because everyone wanted to go to the beach and get brown.
There was a consensus that in order to get brown, first you had to get red. And getting red meant you had to spend some time with Papa Sun unmercifully beating down upon your pale skin.
Now, I traveled in a music group with two girls. One of these ladies was very health conscious. She rubbed her body with cocoa butter before going out into the blaze.
The other girl used a concoction of baby oil with four or five drops of iodine added, shaken up and spread all over the skin. The concept was that the baby oil would fry you up like a good fritter, while simultaneously the iodine would paint your epidermis.
I chose her potion.
I got the worst sunburn I ever had in my entire life. It was so painful I couldn’t wear pants. I went to a drug store and they gave me some spray–“Solarcaine”–but my skin was so hot and inflamed that the spray turned into little balls of cotton.
I was miserable for two-and-a-half days. But on the third day, I began to turn a little bit brown. So for the entire summer I used baby oil and iodine–as the other female comrade favored cocoa butter.
I got browner and browner. She stayed as white as the Ku Klux Klan.
In the middle of August, I noticed that my iodine–which I thought had melded into my skin–began to flake off–at first, little tiny portions, but then, bigger chunks. Soon I was a combination of white, red sunburn and iodine tan.
The girl who used the cocoa butter called me “Leopard Boy” because I had spots.
I now realize the wisdom of SPF. But for that summer, I was temporarily brown and looked damn good.
I couldn’t have done it with cocoa butter. I needed what my other traveling friend referred to as “Baby-I.”