“It’s a spray tan!” my sister said excitedly, twirling this way and that to model her bronze legs. A few weeks ago she was visiting us for Jack’s Communion and showed off her instant tan, created within minutes in cloudy Connecticut. She explained how she stood in a booth and magic chemical sunrays transformed her into a sunlit goddess.
Well, I was intrigued. If I learned nothing from that woman in the news last month whose face resembled my brown Ugg boot, it’s that tanning beds are out. And that you shouldn’t bring your kids in with you. Bummer.
But a spray tan? Sign me up. I made a couple of calls the following week and found a few salons that do it, the only hitch being I couldn’t find a booth like my sister used. Instead, there were real live people administering the fake sunshower.
I can’t lie, it gave me a moment’s pause. The girl on the phone assured me that most people go naked, but I was welcome to wear a swimsuit or underwear if I preferred. If I preferred?
Dear reader, it’s time for me to make a confession. As many people in my life already know, I don’t wear nice underwear. I wear underwear that comes five to a pack and tends to be slick and shiny for its first five years. Then they disintegrate to an uninteresting shade of grey. (No, this line was not inspired by that book everyone is talking about. I don’t read trash.)
So there I stood, posed like the stick figures my kids draw for a game of Hangman, while a 19-year old sprayed me with man-made sun. Except for the part where she asked if I might roll my grey briefs down a little so she could tan my stomach, it was a very natural experience. Yes, it was. (Until she got to the part at the end where she used a hair-dryer to dry off my skin. That felt a little low-rent.)
She kept saying things like “I’m so excited for you!” and “You are going to be so happy now!”, as if all I needed to get my miserable train-wreck of a life back onto happier tracks was some chemical paint. Together, my spray tan and I were going to conquer the world. We were going to cure autism and feed the hungry. We would make sure all the lonely kittens in the world had somewhere soft to lay their cute kitten-y heads at night and warm milk to drink in the morning.
Her enthusiasm was contagious. Emboldened by my sticky tan, I sauntered into Macy’s and tried on a new sundress a size smaller than I normally wear. Couldn’t zip it up; apparently bronze coloring can only do so much. Unfazed, I invested in a few new tank tops to show off my bronze arms. I never wear tank tops.
I followed the teenager’s instructions and didn’t shower or wipe my skin for the rest of the day. She promised me my beautiful tan would continue to get darker and darker, and when I felt I had turned the right shade I could bathe and wash off the excess. Before bed I got into the shower to rinse off, and that’s when I saw it. Or should I say them.
My feet were the color my autistic son, Jack, sees Friday: orange. The size ten clodhoppers I sport looked like they belonged to an extremely tall Oompa Loompa, if there is such a thing. Aghast, I started to scrub and exfoliate and scrub again, to no avail. Their deep orange color was as permanent as the rest of my tan, which is to say it would last five to seven days.
For the next week I wore my size ten ballet flats to cover up my size ten orange feet. And you know what doesn’t go with ballet flats? Tank tops.
So much for helping all those kittens.