WHY DO I NEVER NOTICE WHEN someone else’s legs are totally white but when mine are, God help me. I used to be so obsessed about this that I simply would not be caught dead wearing anything short without a tan.
As a model I was painfully aware that summer fashion shoots happened in the winter when, horrors, my legs were skinny little white sticks. Laying down to roast myself in one of those coffin-like tanning beds was a much more economical alternative to frequently flying far away for a tan.
Of course I then discover later that tanning beds are about the worst thing I can do for my skin. Worse than all that backyard baking I did slathered in baby oil spiked with iodine. Cornered, I resort to self-tanning creams for that sun kissed look, the unnaturally orange QT is my initial weapon of choice.
After years of perfecting the process, I can reach every inch of my back.
The whole insta-tan plan suddenly goes south when Derrick, the hottie I’ve been primping and preening for unexpectedly calls me…. “Hi Sweetheart, I just flew in a week early and would looove to see you tonight for dinner.” At the poshest place in town, of course.
This promises to be a very exciting evening, maybe even an extend-a-date. But whoops, it’s the post Christmas work slump and my neglected tan-in-a bottle now has my skin looking like faded ochre mildew. Au secour!
Naturally I barge in to the nearest neighborhood spray-on tanning place, demanding to be sprayed at once! Sensing my desperation the attendant, Mindy immediately shuffles me off to a little room with a cheap, aluminum shower stall at one end.
Unaware that I am a spray virgin she casually hands me a package with latex gloves, a couple of those O.R. type footies, a shower cap and a tiny filtered straw contraption.
The gloves, Mindy explains, I should wear to keep the spray tanning solution off my hands and to help evenly smooth out the streaks directly afterwards. The cloth shower cap is to keep the goo off my hair. Good idea, since I’m a blonde. The straw I should use to breathe through, for who knows if the spray is toxic and they’ll find me laying on the floor of the shower stall streaked with brown, wearing nothing but latex gloves.
Oh, the footies I must wear to prevent slipping on the soon to be wet tiles. Plus the dye is always shockingly darker on thicker skin such as heels or, heaven forbid, the soles of the feet.
Okay, got it, I think. Mindy tells me the spraying is very brief so as soon as I push the red button, I have thirty seconds to jump in and close my eyes before I get basted.
Good, I strip down, hurriedly slip into the latex gloves, push the red button and pull on the cloth shower cap. I pull and I tug, but the darn thing is just too small and heaven knows, I’ve got a lot of hair. I discover the supposed shower cap is nothing but a third footie.
I am now stark naked except for the gloves AND in my rush to erase my paleness, I’ve already pushed the wretched red button. I realize there is no turning back. I cannot just pop open the door and ask for a bigger head footie.
Quick as a bunny I hop into the stall. Don’t want to miss a second of tanning spray, it wasn’t cheap, after all and my skin is ghastly white. Who could ever love ghostly me, I wonder? Casper?!
I close my eyes and a split second before the spray tan commences I notice I’ve forgotten the straw filter contraption so I suck in a huge breath and hold it. Just before I turn blue it’s all over with and as I quickly exit the suffocation chamber my foot slips and I wipe out, scraping my bony knee very hard on the sharp aluminum stall door. Forgot to wear the flippin’ footies… caution, tiles slippery when wet.
Luckily, since I held my breath, I am alive so with my gloved hands I quickly begin to smooth out the many streaks before they dry like rivulets of brown all over my body. By now my knee is gushing blood so it is a bit of brownish bloodbath. Oh well, I can shower at home and scrape the excess dye off my feet.
On my dash out of the cursed spray tan salon, still bleeding, I complain bitterly to Mindy about my mishap and the minuscule, impostor shower cap. I am now approaching a panic attack. While searching for a bandaid she casually mentions, “Don’t shower for a few hours or it won’t take”.
That evening I wear opaque leotards and thigh high Chanel boots to dinner. My knee is gashed, I’m covered in vertical, red-brown streaks and my hairline has this strange, orangey hue. As we head back to Delicious Derrick’s place I playfully suggest, “Let’s fool around with the lights out this time.” He graciously accepts, I wonder if he’s on to me.
Or, maybe he likes me for more than my looks.
Thank God it’s mid-winter and work is slow.