Bronze is in, but skin cancer is out.
I am standing naked and spread-eagled as she comes at me with the gun.***image3*** Wide-eyed and goose-pimpled, I probably look like one of those drug-crazed streetwalkers on COPS who's just been thrown against a squad car and ordered to spread 'em. Luckily, I haven't been picked up on some seedy street corner; I'm safely enclosed by the bubblegum-pink walls of a private treatment room at an upscale Santa Fe spa, getting a spray tan.
To be fair, Terri, the aesthetician who specializes in spray tanning at Wink in the Sanbusco Shopping Center (500 Montezuma Ave., 988-3840) is waaaay less intimidating than the officers on COPS. In fact getting totally naked in front of her really isn't that weird. I mean, sure, sucking my tummy in for half an hour gets exhausting, but in retrospect I shouldn't have bothered. Terri has tanned dozens, if not hundreds, of naked people. She also does bikini waxes, so you know she's seen it all before.
In our pre-tanning phone conversation, Terri said I could wear my bathing suit, my bra and panties or nothing at all. I said, "Screw it! If I'm paying for a spray tan, why would I want tan lines? I'm goin' commando." So that's how I ended up in my birthday suit in a little pink room with a stranger peering closely at my nether regions.
Terri's spray gun looks a lot like a bisque-colored vacuum cleaner. She tells me to arch my back and stick my butt out; she wants to make sure to get an even coat across the underside of my cheeks. I almost interrupt to say that I can't see why my undercarriage needs to be so tan when it never was before, but I figure, hey, she knows best, so I do as I'm told. Terri aims her vacuum-cleaner gun and sprays a fine mist of tanning solution at the extra-pale underside of my creamy white rump. Pfffp, pfffp, pfffp, the machine sprays. Terri inspects her work, adding a little more here, rubbing off a little there. I feel like I'm being prepped for a porn shoot. Should
I also have scheduled a Brazilian wax?
She gets my glow-in-the-dark inner thighs, the snowy white backs of my knees and covers my abdomen right down to the line where it really doesn't matter anymore…pfffp, pfffp, pfffp. I'm supposed to be able to see the results right away but, in the warm mood lighting of the room, I can't quite tell. Plus, I've got my glasses off. With glasses on, looking closely at the crook of my arm, I'm reminded of the summer I spent working in New York City. Every sweaty, humid afternoon I would walk from my office in SoHo, up Broadway and past Union Square, back to my aunt's apartment. And every night I would wash the black soot from my limbs, watching disgustedly as the dark water circled the drain. The spray gun seems to do just as well as a fleet of diesel busses, only Terri assures me that the tanning solution is totally not toxic.
One by one I present each hand, foot and breast for spraying. I even let her do my face. Why not? After what seems like half an hour, but was probably only 15 minutes, I'm done. Terri tells me to stand still and I pose like a chubby Malibu Barbie while the chemicals dry.
Five minutes later, when I get dressed, I don't feel wet…but I don't feel dry either. Terri says the sugars in the tanning solution make your skin feel slightly sticky. I'm thinking, Whatever, no big whup. Until I start walking out of the room. As my right foot moves forward, my left ass cheek briefly meets the very top of my left thigh-and gets stuck there-only to be pried off with a smacking noise with the next step. Smick, smack, smick, smack all the way back to the car. Hopefully the noise was only in my head and not audible to the folks perusing the sale rack outside of Borders Books and Music.
Back at the office, my colleagues are eagerly awaiting the results of the spray tan experiment. The only appointment I could get was in the middle of the afternoon; now that I know better, I wish that I'd scheduled it for the end of the day. I feel sticky and slightly vulnerable and after getting out of the car, I notice dark lines on my skirt where the fabric sank into the creases of my lap as I drove (it comes out in the wash).
Eager for some sort of scientific gauge of my tan, I had asked Terri to put two little stickers on my ankle before the spraying. An hour after the appointment, I take one of the stickers off and the difference is obvious. Beneath the sticker is a pasty white spot. But the solution continues to work for several hours after the treatment (I'm counseled not to bathe or work out) and by evening I feel positively bronze. Two days later, when I put on a ridiculously poofy dress for an '80s prom party, I look like I just got back from a week-long Hawaiian Tropics binge at Daytona Beach. Everyone compliments my awesome tan, and like a total idiot, I confess that it's sprayed on. I had been terrified of turning orange like an Oompa Loompa, but no one can tell my tan is fake; it looks great.
According to Terri, my temporary bronze complexion should last anywhere from five to 10 days, depending on factors like how often I bathe (not too often!) and how vigorously I scrub and towel off (like dabbing a newborn!). I give her full credit for the smooth, even color distribution. It's only on my hands and ankles that I notice a little too much color and I'm able to smooth it out easily with a soapy bath poof.
It's hard to say how long my tan actually lasted because it faded smoothly and naturally. About a week later, I noticed my former pallor creeping back. Not ready to cough up another $45, I decide to augment my waning tan with Jergen's Natural Glow daily moisturizer with firming action. The lotion seems to work and although it's much, much more subtle than the spray-tan, I'm hoping it will tide me over until the next time I need to wear a backless dress or, I dunno, star in an adult film.