The fork on the far left is for your salad. Always text a thoughtful thank you note to your hostess. When being introduced to your future brother-in-law, resist provoking a political argument. Never play “chicken” with a poultry farmer.
All social pursuits, from playing “chicken” to corporate takeovers, carry sets of guidelines for acceptable behavior. Emily Post somehow made it through her entire career without addressing sunbathing etiquette — an inelegant omission, in my opinion — and so we here at Tanning Central have endeavored to fill the gap. (Note to serial iconoclasts: There is no rebellion inherent in committing a social faux pas if you don’t know you have done so. Such behavior merely demonstrates ignorance tantamount to anchoring one’s pinky firmly to the handle of one’s teacup.) After all, one should always be aware of exactly what constitutes uncouth behavior, if only so one can make fun of it in others. But be warned: If you are the only person at the pool who’s read this, you’ll be the only one pointing and laughing, which often incites a level of retribution against which impeccable manners are a shabby defense.
Sunbathing rules are simple, but strict. Indeed, Congress could take a couple of pointers from this approach, but try telling that to your future brother-in-law.
1. Keep toenails clipped and clean. When on the beach, you will save nearby bathers from needing a tetanus shot if you roll over too quickly. When on the water, you will save a lot of money on air mattress replacement — and possibly shark repellent. Fun fact: Keeping other people’s toenails clipped and clean can lead to long-term relationships.
2. Make sure you’ve packed your suntan lotion. After you’ve borrowed your way through June and July, even your best friends will avoid you in August.
3. Do not do “cannonballs” into the water when other sunbathers are stretched out on the edge of the pool. It will always spark unrest, and if you are a 380-pound halfback, it could lead to mass drownings.
4. Cheerfully assist others by applying lotion to their backs. First, however, make sure that they a) want lotion applied to their backs, or b) know you from somewhere.
5. Never point out other sunbathers’ physical flaws, especially if they are the same flaws you yourself have been in denial about. Not only is it inconsiderate, but bystanders will easily pick up on the irony. They will not speak of it, however, because they are more considerate than you.
6. Do not block others’ sun with your body unless by warm invitation.
7. Warn others of encroaching shade due to the movement of the sun, but stay away from situations in which this shade may have been the outcome of a warm invitation.
8. Avoid the temptation to flip your air-mattress-borne companions into the water. Their anger will be in direct proportion to the price of the suntan lotion you’ve just washed off, and while money can’t buy them love, it can buy them Bain de Soleil.
9. If a fellow tanner accidentally steps on her or his sunglasses, graciously offer her or him your hat. Carry on with grace even if the hat is refused based on disgruntlement with the sports team or tractor manufacturer whose logo it displays.
10. Finally, never, ever shake out a sandy towel upwind of an individual covered with tanning oil. The sand will stick to them like sprinkles on ice cream, but will not be nearly as enjoyable to lick off under the threat of physical harm by their 380-pound halfback boyfriend.
When in doubt, the Golden Tan Rule applies here as it does to any other human endeavor.
Remember, tanning is not a zero-sun proposition.
— Cindy Hoyt is a local writer, reformed sunbather and morning disc jockey on Voice of Vashon. This piece is excerpted from her soon-to-be published book, “Tansmania.”