As I walked in for my much-anticipated spray tan, I thought about a lunch date I had about 12 years ago, when I was a fresh little thing just out of college. I was meeting a friend, a good friend, a male friend. I'd met this guy in college, when he was my waiter at Chili's. He was adorable. He was very nice, and we became fast friends and I was aware that he had a crush on me. This went on for several years; though he never came right out and admitted the crush. But, it was obvious not only to me but to others. I only mention this because it relates to our lunch date, which I'll get to in a minute.
This friend, I'll call him "R," was very sweet and good to me. We were friends all throughout college and kept in touch after graduating. I even visited him once, for a weekend, and we had that kind of friendship that is easy and fun and honest.
That honesty is a stickler, though.
So, fast-forward to our lunch date. I hadn't seen R in well over a year, and I was excited. We were meeting at a swank restaurant in Dallas, and I'd gotten all dressed up (like a good Texan girl) and was waiting at the table when he arrived. He walked toward me, all smiles and he hugged me in one of those big bear hugs that lasts a minute or two longer than it probably should, especially at a restaurant full of other people. We sat down. I put my napkin in my lap, and he looked at me and said, "God, you'd be gorgeous if you just had a tan."
Here's the thing: he was fairly pale, freckled, with strawberry-blond hair and a good extra 20 to 30 pounds. I mean, this guy was no American Gladiator.
I can only think that in his mind, he was giving me a compliment.
I thought about R as I arrived at the salon for my famed spray-on color. I had to take my kids. That's part of this whole year, actually - doing these 52 figs even when it's inconvenient or a hassle. It's hard for me to take my kids to things like a spray tan. I'm not one of those easy-going women who can somehow handle a brood of small children in a public place without alternating between a horrid sing-song voice of false enthusiasm and the clenched-teeth whisper of a mother at her wit's end. But this year I'm not going to say to myself: oh, I can't do that because I can't take the kids. I can't find a sitter. Blah, blah, blah.
So, I took the kids. I plied them with sugary treats from Peet's Coffee, which I held ransom until the very last minute before I headed back into the depths of the salon where the spray tans are doled out.
The receptionist promised to keep an eye on the kids, and the spray-tanner (I'm sure this woman has an official title I'm unaware of) also did the same. I left my kids with a carton of yogurt, a lemon-iced scone and two boxes of chocolate milk. Dear God, I thought. What will this waiting area look like when I return?
I followed the woman back, and I was somewhat calmed by the fact that she too had pale skin. She assured me I was going to love this, that it was going to be fabulous and that I'd be back again and again.
"Don't worry," she said. "You'll be a little blotchy and dark for a day, but when you shower later, it will wash off and you'll just have a nice glow."
"I won't be all streaked and orange?" I asked, still skeptical. I mean, I know other people get spray tans, but other people have natural pigments in their skin that lend themselves to color. I don't.
"Don't worry," she smiled, handing me a bottle of lotion and telling me to apply it to the bottoms of my feet, the palms of my hands and my knees and elbows. "You'll be great."
So, here's how it works - the spray tan. First, you are taken to a small room that has a tent in it. It's like a camping tent, except that it's very tall and just big enough to stand in. On the floor is a little pad of what looks like aluminum foil. You stand on that. You can chose to wear underwear or you can chose to go naked. I chose to go naked.
I asked the woman, "That doesn't bother you? To spray tan naked people all day long?"
She laughed and said, "Oh no. Just last week I had to hold a woman's boobs up for her to get underneath."
I sort of loved her right there and then.
Okay, so I stripped down, applied to the lotion to my hands and feet (I guess to keep from the spray tan collecting there) and then sort of just waited, half covering my naked breasts with one hand, my legs kind of crossed over one another. It was awkward. She finally came back.
"Ready?" she called to me. I assured her I was ready. She opened the door.
"Your kids are fine, just waiting for you and eating."
I loved her even more for checking on them for me.
So, we commenced. She took hold of a small tool with a long wand on the end of it, and she began to spray me down much like you might spray-paint a car. It was odd. I stood still, buck-naked, and watched her evenly apply a light mist to my body.
"Okay, turn," she said. I turned to the side and lifted my arm. I turned around. I turned to the other side. I closed my eyes for a light misting over my face.
It was all done in about 5 minutes. After that, she left me with the said machine, that had been converted into a dryer, and I stood there for another 5 minutes drying myself off. Then, I got dressed and walked out into the salon.
I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and my first thought was this: Holy Shit I Look Like George Hamilton.
As the day progressed, things only got worse. First, my bra wiped off the tanning solution around my boobs, and since my boobs are so small I have to wear a padded bra with chicken-cutlets, the area with the chicken-cutlets had apparently sweat so much that the solution had entirely worn off. So, my boobs alternated between deep orange, slight orange and stark white.
The woman had also failed to catch that area underneath my butt, that nice little spot where one's ass overhangs one's thighs. So, if I bent over, there were some really nice white creases there.
Also, after about two hours, my skin took on a strangely green pallor. It's hard to describe, so I'll just let a photo speak for itself.
All of this, however, is nothing compared with my face. My face. My face. My lips seemed to be gone from my face, because now instead of being white with pink lips, my lips are just the same color as the rest of my face, which is a very strange look. My face, after a few hours, was very dark. I looked like I'd just rescued a box of kittens from a smokey basement in Boca Raton, Florida.
I called my sister on Skype, and when she saw me she had to turn away. Finally, she just gave in and laughed openly. When she could talk she said, "Um, don't take this the wrong way, but you look like you're 80."
I hope this whole thing eases up with a good shower and some exfoliant!
Quote of Inspiration
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar