The strabismic alternative to a spray-on tan

For a quick tan, some people buy “spray-on” tan formulas, other go to tanning salons and burn themselves in tanning beds, I have just found a safe way to tan. One caveat: the only person who will recognize your tan has to have alternating vision.


Last month, I was talking to my former landlords in their living room and suddenly, Mustafa’s (my former landlord’s) face became darker.  I stopped paying attention to what he was saying in another language about Ottoman history and got distracted by his face. He looked like he had just spent a week on the coast under the sun. But he hadn’t gone anywhere in the split second from when his face appeared paler until the moment he looked tan. I hadn’t moved anywhere. Ash hadn’t fallen from the ceiling.

My brain was using my left eye instead of my right eye. The window was on my right side. When my left eye was leading, there was less light reflected on the man’s face from the window and he looked tanner.


Imagine talking to someone and seeing their face change from white to tan like the colors in this photo.

A few days later, a friend of mine was getting on my nerves asking me questions about my vision and not understanding my predicament. To illustrate the confusion I feel with my unreliable vision, I gave him the example of the split second tan à la strabismus. I think he thought it was funny but I doubt he understood how disconcerting it can be to not know what color someone’s face is. As soon as Mustafa’s face became tan, I stopped listening to what he was saying because I was too distracted by his facial coloring.

Last week, I was at a small presentation and when the red background behind the speakers suddenly changed from one hue of red to another, I had trouble paying attention to the speakers. Again, my eyes were alternating and I was distracted by colors.

Does anyone else get distracted by changing colors?


2 responses »

  1. Lynda Rimke says:

    My first childhood memory that my alternate way of seeing different colors is described here http://leavingflatland.wordpress.com/about-lynda/ I believe the pink vs. blue coloration I was seeing was due to the warm light coming in from the window to my right vs. the cool light I was seeing from my left shadow side of my face.

    I was swiveling back and forth in a dining room chair, looking at the white formica table in front of me: pink, blue, pink, blue … of course my mother had no clue what I was talking about!

    • Lynda,

      I recall reading about your changing color experience as a kid.

      As a child, I used to stare at objects and make them move, believing I had magic powers! It is so distracting to see objects change color, isn’t it? It makes me really question what reality is if colors can change so rapidly.

      One Eyed Princess

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