Monday after work I went to a local tanning salon, but not to lay face-up like a human slab of bacon, sizzling underneath the UVA and UVB rays. While I used to be a huge fan of tanning beds in high school and college, I had to give them — and my tan lines-less existence — up a few years ago.
History: I was the victim of an unfortunate incident where the silly little barely-legal twit behind the counter sent me to my usual sun worshipping without informing me that the bed had been supercharged to be three times as strong as it had ever been in the previous three years I’d been tanning there (since the salon opened, actually). I spent 30-minutes in a tanning booth that I shouldn’t have been in for over 10 minutes, and I suffered intense burns — almost to a level of sun-stroke, or said the nurse my mom called in a panic the next morning when my tear-stained face woke her up, unable to stand the feeling of the sheets against my body.
Thus ended my stint as a Bronzed Woman. In the summers I had to settle for getting a dark “driver’s arm” (the left arm) and assorted bikini, swimsuit and tank top lines across my shoulders in the summer… and a very white fanny all year long. It has not been a pretty existence since I have up being golden.
Where was I? Oh, yes… I went to a tanning salon yesterday, but not to get a traditional tan. I went to get a Mystic Tan.
I don’t particularly like being pasty, milky, porridge-y. And with a friends’ upcoming wedding less than two weeks out on my calendar, I figured there was no time like the present to try a guilt-free way of looking a little less like a piece of paper, or a bedsheet, or a marshmallow.
I showed up, watched the instructional video, disrobed, slathered my hands and feet in barrier cream and got in the booth. Because I paid attention to both the video and this salon’s barely-legal expert, I knew where to stand and how to hold my hands. But there was a discrepancy — the video referenced a pair of eye goggles and a noseplug, but the salon provided no such thing. The girl’s advice? Close your eyes, and when the spray starts, hold your breath. Um…. okay.
So I step in and stand on the rumble-stripped oval. The green button glowed, but before depressing it I performed a quick mental run through of the instructions: Press button and resume position one, spray starts (it will be cold), take a deep breath and close eyes, wait until spray stops, turn around and assume the second position, hold your breath with closed eyes and wait out the final pass.
Perfectionist final check? Done. I pressed the illuminated green button, and waited for the spray to start so I could take that deep breath.
There was no warning. The mist came out of three separate nozzles simultaneously, dousing my legs and quickly — too quickly! — moving up. I wasn’t able to take a deep breath before the slightly stinky fog coated my face, I barely took a sip. Not. Enough. Air.
The system sprayed my body in a constant up and down shower for roughly 12 seconds. Twelve long, oxygen-deprived seconds. I tried to suck in a quick refresher breath about mid-way, but instead got a mouthful of mystic mist and tried to work up enough spit to stop my gums from bronzing. The front spray finally stopped, and I spun around, disoriented. I barely remembered to use my body to protect my palms before the second spray started, and I inhaled another coppertoned lung-full.
Finally, the nozzles quieted. I opened one eye and cautiously peered around to make sure it was over. I toweled off my body and my tongue, got dressed and went to leave the salon only to be stopped by the ladies behind the counter.
“Wait! I got an umbrella for you while you were in there,” the young one said. “It’s raining.”
“Oh, it’s okay — I parked out front, I won’t get too wet between here and home.”
“No, you can’t get wet at all or your color will run and streak. No water at all for FOUR HOURS,” she clarified. “You shouldn’t take a shower or wash your hands… don’t even cry for four hours!”
“Well damn,” I dead-panned. “And here I was, headed home to bawl my eyes out.”
She giggled, “You really shouldn’t.”
I peeked out the front door, and reported back that the afternoon shower was over — it wasn’t currently raining — and I thanked her for thinking to get an umbrella to protect my new candy coating.
I got in my car, and then I saw it, across the street — a beautifully prismatic and vibrant rainbow!
Turns out it’s not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow after all… it’s ARBY’S.