It’s been a really long time since I’ve written my last blog, and a pretty long time since I’ve visited the tanning booth, but as usual, I’m always up for a good story where I get to poke fun at myself.
I first started spray tanning about 10 years ago, when I was newly single, fairly fit and making use of any and all self-improvement techniques at my disposal. There’s something about that bronze glow that makes all the rest of your imperfections pale in comparison, and being the progressive baby boomer that I am, I figured dousing myself in brown mist while standing butt naked in something that resembled a time machine plunked down in a compact tanning salon in the middle of a mini strip mall a few blocks from work was a good idea.
For anyone who’s ever seen the classic episode of Ross getting spray tanned on “Friends” you’ll understand why I was just a little apprehensive the first time I went. Ross’ big mistake was in not turning when he was supposed to so that the front and back of him would be evenly tanned. Trust me, when that stuff starts spraying, and they’ve been really specific about telling you to hold your breath and not breathe til it’s done or you’ll end up with tan lungs and brown teeth, you’re not as focused on which way you’re standing as you could or should be. And if you don’t turn soon enough, that stuff just starts a sprayin’ anyway, and you get coated on whatever side is facing the nozzle. Poor Ross ended up very, very artificially sun-kissed on one side and distinctly white on the other. I know exactly why he went back the second time though, cause I definitely know what it’s like to believe you really, really get what they tell you after you totally screw it up and they explain it to you in simple (you must be an idiot) spa talk with hand gestures. You just know you’re going to get it right the next time.
Back in those days, you got in the booth, stood on marked lines, pushed a button in front of you, and held your breath while the thing started spraying heavy icky smelling mist in a rhythmic up and down motion. Kinda like The Wave. You know, the one you do when you’re not batting a beach ball around AND you should just be watching the baseball game. Anyway, that goes on for a few minutes, or around 10 up and downs, and then it stops. THAT’s when you’re supposed to turn around, and the whole thing starts again. Now you’re coated on both sides, and you can get out. Pretty easy to follow, and though I’ll admit I never got the hold-your-breath stuff down, I was fine with the process and okay, I rubbed my teeth off real good when I got out.
I always got the dark tan (level 4) because I have olive skin and I can handle the sun fairly well so I have a good base to start with, but the darker you spray, the darker you drip. Everywhere. Yeah, that dripping thing was kind of a problem. So once you’re out, you start wiping the excess off and then you get dressed, in your crappy clothes that you brought to change into because no matter how well you think you’ve wiped and dried, there will be orange on the waistband of your pants and a ring around the collar by the time you get home. They give you towels and wipes, but you have to be very careful how you wipe it off (they tell you to pat it dry) or you can be streaky and stripey. Your ankles, palms and elbows will also look like they belong on an orangutan, not a 50 something trying to feel good about getting out in the world. I always left there in a good mood though, knowing as the night wore on, I’d get tanner and browner. I remember actually feeling myself getting that bronze glow all the way home. Glowing on the inside, staining on the outside. And in the morning, I’d shower and enjoy my tan until the next time. I got pretty good at the whole thing, more confident with each spray. I only remember one time when Donna (my friend and manicurist) had to use acetone to wipe the orange off my palms.
So I did that for years, on and off. I’d be outside and get mostly naturally tanned in the summertime, and then in the winter I’d check in periodically for a touch up. Same place, same booth, same process. Until yesterday.
I’m a 60 something now, the weather’s getting warmer, I haven’t been outside much tanning since I got married a few years ago, had grand kids, a job, two dogs and you know, a life. But I’ve been feeling kinda pale lately, and a few of the girls in my office are tanning, so I decided to head on back over there to get myself sprayed. I knew the place had changed hands, or its name, something, but it looked the same on the outside and I hadn’t heard that anything was different on the inside. I had to re-register, pay, sign my life away and all that, and then the girl took me back to the room with the booth. To her credit, she did ask me if she needed to explain anything and I assured her I was an old hand at this and knew the ropes.
The first thing that tipped me off that I might be in trouble was that the lines on the floor of the booth had been replaced with four numbered ovals (see above). Remember, I’m still thinking that it sprays the front, you turn around, and it sprays the back. People must have been having problems with the lines (??) so I logically deduced that now you just put your feet on the 1 & 2 for the front, then you turn around, and your feet go on 3 & 4 for the back. Okey dokie then.
I’m standing there, on 1 & 2, ready, when I’m surprised to find out that apparently Siri has taken a second job as a tanning booth assistant. Listen, whatever pays the bills, right? So now I have company in the booth and sure enough, she tells me to put my left foot on 1 & my right foot on 2, and we’re about to get started. I’m there, in position, let’s get this show on the road. The spray mist is much finer now, and I feel like I’m farther away from the sprayer, so I’m thinking this is pretty cool. Yay for new technology. It stops, and now my new friend tells me we’re drying. Warm air, nice, bet that means less drips. Seemed like it was a shorter spray time than I remembered, but maybe we’re going to do this a few more times. Face front, turn, spray the back side. Again. Then she tells me to put my left foot on 3 & my right foot on 4, so I turn around and do as I’m told. More spraying, although in retrospect, I’m not exactly sure where it was coming from. Anyway, we spray, and we dry. Then she tells me to do what sounds something like put my right foot on 1 and my left foot on 2. Or my left foot on 4 and my right foot on 3, I don’t really remember, but if you look at that picture up there, it would have required me to turn myself into a pretzel to tan. I understand that they want you to get all the nooks and crannies so that you’re an even color, but come on, that seemed a little excessive, so I just stood where I was and kinda turned a little. This happened at least 3 more times, alternating between the spraying and drying. Finally Siri told me it was time to get out, the session was over.
I was amazed to exit the booth and find that I really was dry, no drips. What did I even need the towel for? I was more than a little confused, but determined to ask the girl at the counter some questions on my way out. That conversation went like this:
Me: “Hey, so that was great, but I was a little confused by all those numbers on the floor. The first spray went great, I turned around, got the back side on 3 & 4, and then it got really weird with where she told me to put my feet next.” (remember, I’m still thinking front, turn, back)
Counter girl: “Really? I think maybe you misheard her, cause it’s pretty simple.”
Me: “Hmmm, I’m pretty sure she was articulating properly. I just wasn’t up to playing Twister in there just to get an even tan.”
Counter girl: ” Yeah, well, hmm, the process is that you hold up your arms (spa tan gestures) and then you just move in a circle from one number to the other before each time the spray starts. Until it’s done. Don’t worry, though (dumb old lady) the booth is designed to spray you evenly, I’m sure it won’t look weird if you were twisting and standing in the wrong place the entire time (lots of spa tan talk). And if it does (look weird, you know) just come right on back in and do it again, for free.”
Me: “Ohhhhhhhhh…..thanks, bye.” Great visuals by the way. Left right, left right, in a progressive circle, huh? Geez, got it.
Trust me, I’ll be back. And I promise, I’ll listen to Siri and do the Hokey Pokey and turn myself around next time. Slowly, step by step. Number by number. Oh, and I learned something else for next time too. You know how there were no drips and I was all dry? Well, apparently, all the fine brown mist that doesn’t stick to YOU, sticks to those numbered ovals your feet are standing on and turns the bottom of your feet browner than if you’d roasted them on the BBQ. It only looks weird when I wear sandals though, which is all the time now, so let me tell you, Counter Girl definitely has some more spa tan explaining to do.