50 Shades of Dismay – Adventures in Spray Tanning

by Kirsten Benzel

I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution. I’m 28. I reasoned that the new year is nothing more then an arbitrary number and I’ll take care of business when it’s time and not when I have a champagne hangover and glitter stuck in my hair. Or maybe I just know deep down inside that I’m incapable of sticking to something unless I’m one hundred percent damn well good and ready, armed with a prepackaged, intellectual response to parrot during the week leading up to January first.

See, we paid our dues. We hired a trainer, did cardio, ate the right things, at the right time, in the right quantities. And it worked – mostly. I lost 30 pounds of fat and he gained 35 in muscle: keep the fat girl skinny guy jokes to yourself or I’ll poop in your Cheerios. All of that effort was still stacked against a 40 hour workweek in an office chair. Flat, rippled abs? Never happened. I’d watch the infomercials for whatever the trending workout was at the time while mentally screaming “Yeah! Yeah, bitch!! Let’s see you get through 400 emails in one day!”

We did the healthy lifestyle for four years and then fell off the bandwagon. Nine months after that we became Arizona transplants living in San Francisco … and my legs are translucent. My skin tone became a concern a week or so after I failed to roll my skinny jeans up my thighs. You do that “thing” where you start to look for a quick fix to tide you over until the diet starts working. That nine month lapse put me back further then I cared to face directly so a spray tan snuck on the To-Do list.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, emerged from our health sabbatical with the luminous complexion of Michelangelo’s David, looking like King Leonidas with just the faintest ghost of a pooch that could be chalked up to his girlfriend’s bad cooking from the evening prior.

How did I look? Gollum with a potbelly. Imagine Gollum in a snuggly bathrobe sporting giant bear claw slippers while shakily holding a coffee cup and you get the picture.

I was tired of being the same shade of white as the bed sheets and everyone said spray tans worked. A close friend at work. A coworker’s wife. An old therapist. I ignored the little voice in the back of my head that was squealing something about tanning beds still existing and being the primary source of income for tanning shops and if it was so easy then you’d know more then three people who had done it.

At the Salon-Spa a vivacious and suspiciously unbronzed blonde invited me into spray tan booth six.

“I really don’t want to come out of here looking like Boehner”, I said. She advised that I “totally wouldn’t” and she had gotten a spray tan and her friends were armed and ready to give her a hard time and then it looked so good they couldn’t give her any shit. Later on after the damage was done the little voice in my head snotily mentioned, of course her friends wouldn’t give her shit if they wanted to keep using the tanning beds at a discount.

The spray is made of three ingredients. It’s natural and vegan or some shit. The dye is made from green tint so you won’t turn orange.

Lies, the voice said later.

It’s all machine operated to take the human error out of it.

Some idiot sued for an uneven tan and now you’re in your birthday suit encased in a machine designed by lawyers!

It will take about two hours before you start to see the tan, she said. It’s like when you leave an apple out and it turns brown.

You’re spraying a chemical on your skin so air exposure kills it. This will be pretty.

You can get a bronzer for another $5 that makes you immediately tan.

Lock and load, I thought to Spray Tan Booth Six.

The event itself was uneventful and quick. I tried not to think of athletes foot and ringworm and other unknowns underfoot as I spun into Posture Two – a sideways Egyptian pose – in all my chubby glory. Perhaps I noticed some odd splotching on my calves while dressing. It’ll even itself out.

The fallout began later that night during sexy time.

“You smell like … barbeque.” my boyfriend said.

The following morning I rounded the kitchen corner and my boyfriends beautiful luminous eyes take me in, blink, and a snicker escapes.

“There’s just so many things I could say! And they all come so easily!”

“Fine. Since you think this is a riot I’ll just make this extra hysterical for you. Look:”

I showed him the half-inch line around my left ankle where I didn’t remove a pair of anklets before zero hour.

“So those got sprayed?”

“Yep. And so did my hair, because I forgot the hair net.”

He’s now cracking up as I’m examining the contrasted speckles on my right hand while trying to make a funny mental comparison and failing.

I showered. And used a pumice stone everywhere that wasn’t a mucous membrane.

“I can’t even imagine what color the water was in there” he said.

“Shut up. You’re stupid.”

I’m so glad I work at home and it’s January – shucks – and long sleeves are a necessity. This was supposed to be a quick little fix to add some sexy. Too bad it left the object of my affections doubled over, laughing his well-formed posterior off.


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