My Decade Long Relationship with Self-Tanning
I was a fresh-faced, white eyeshadow wearing 15-year-old when I lost my spray tan virginity. It began when I spotted a fake bake salon next to the Panera my mom dropped me off at after school, logical because my Frapacinno obsession was in full swing. After all, I was in High School, and I assumed everyone around me wondered what scraps of genius I was loudly typing on my school-issued tablet. LOOK AT ME PRETENDING TO WRITE A COLUMN FOR SEVENTEEN. I was actually reading FanFiction.
Shortly after that, my fellow ginger, and best friend at the time, accompanied me to the salon. (She has been one of my best friends since 5th grade, but over the years I have tried to “vote” her out of our friendship circle because Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants had 4 main girls and not 5, plus she played soccer at recess- that’s why I said “at the time”) She is a more stunning strawberry blonde, while I am the reject of the rejects. My lack of freckles, my brown eyes, and my visable eyelashes and eyebrows kept me from falling into the ginger category, but kept me out of everything else as well. I like to think of myself as a hair color nomad, wandering admist a sea of blondes having more fun than me with their brunette best friends. For some reason the airbrush tan mixture, when applied to my particular coloring (is translucent even a color?), turned me green. Like a rotten carrot. Google it. On the plus side, yes there is a plus side, my teeth looked dazzling white compared to my Hulk-like complexion. I actually enjoyed smiling becuase I didn’t stop wearing my retainers until I was 16, so my teeth were straight instead of British.
I think I inhaled too much “non-scented” (cough bullshit cough) self-tanning fumes over the years, because another friend convinced me that self-tanners caused cancer the same way UV rays do. She smartly informed my impressionable teenage mind that the orange dye seaped through my pores and into my blood, somehow resulting in cancer.
Nothing could stop me from using though, I was already addicted. I tried gradual tanning lotions to appear natural, MicroMists, MacoMists, and tinted lotions. I only applied the tanner to my legs because I hated how I looked in maroon spandex volleyball shorts. Worse yet, nothing prevented me from looking like a tiger had recently mauled Carrot Top and shat him out. I was King Midas of the Jersey Shore, everything my self tanned body touched turned orange. It blended in with my hair color just enough to make me look like an orange Mystique.
The next time I tried a spray tan was spring break my senior year of college. Which was completely pointless, just like my BFA. The second I got in the salt water it disappeared and was replaced by a sunburn that lasted a month. Drunk peeing in the pool / everywhere else probably didn’t help my case either.
Which brings me to about 2 weeks ago when I got an airbrush tan before going up north. I loved the place I went. I had a super effing hard time finding it though, but mostly that’s because I have no sense of direction / am a woman. I wish MapQuest had a “landmark directions” option where it would say, at the McDonalds get a large fry, then turn right. Anyway, the salon was owned by a redhead and the girl who applied my tan was a redhead- I’d say I felt at home but my dad has black hair and my mom has brown hair soo yeah, not home. She completely understood what I meant when I requested just enough color to hide my veins. Translation, when I wear a bikini it’s like I have a giant bullseye on my chest. All of my veins start at a cental point where my heart is and branch out from there, like a fucking dart board. I don’t know how to say I want a normal person skin color without sounding unintentionally racist, but I wanted the base color girls capable of tanning complain about having in the winter. Regardless, It’s pretty much a lose-lose.
I get made fun of for being too pale,
EVERYONE ELSE: “Oh I thought you were wearing white socks with your flats.”
ME: “Nope, that’s my skin. Thanks.”
I get made fun of for being too spray tanned,
EVERYONE ELSE: “Oh my god, I can’t believe you paid money for that. You look like an oompa loompa.”
ME: *silent tears, shaking my fists at the sky* then *shaking my fists at the ceiling* because I can’t stand outside that long without sunscreen.