Six Days Seven Nights

Everyone knows the only way to get a tan without causing wrinkles is to use self tanner. So being in an ageist industry and having a Nicole-Kidman-like pallor, I naturally chose this route to becoming a bronzed summer beauty (as advertised on the bottle).

Shortly after the first appearance of the British sun, when most of the population had pink-tinged skin from their annual first-burn-of-the-season ritual, I decided to try the new L’OrĂ©al self-tanning spray. It would give me enough time to build up a nice color before my date with Marcus the following week.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 1
“Not too much,” I warned Cheri who had volunteered to spray my back. “The can says if you feel wetness, it’s too much.”

“Relax,” she said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

Visions of her blonde yarmulke rushed to my head. “Okay, but not too much on my lower back. I don’t want it to drip down and look like, well, you know…”

She finished my back and relinquished the can so I could spray my arms and legs – up the arms and down the legs as per the instructions. After standing in a squatty body builder pose to let the stuff dry, I got dressed and waited for the magic to happen.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 2
Surprise! I had so many stripes I could audition for a part in the London Zoo. I unsuccessfully tried to shower some of the color off, and then went for a long run – long enough to get a bright red sunburn on my shoulders.

Self-Tanning Mission – Night 2
“Okay, this should be simple. Just point the spray can and fill in the gaps,” I thought. I did the body builder thing, then went to bed.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 3
Impossibly, the “tan” was now 10 times worse. I looked like I had a skin disease. Luckily, I thought, my calves were okay and lower arms were passable with judicious use of bracelets as distraction.

As soon as I got to the office, I noticed a brown spot on my ankle. Then I noticed the inside of my calves was much whiter than the outside. I had to keep finding excuses to use the elevator (best mirror in the building) so I could see how the different spots were developing throughout the day.

I rode home on the tube and tried extra hard to avoid eye contact with anyone. As I walked toward the exit, I heard people laughing behind me. I was sure they had spotted my multi-colored calves and were snickering. I half expected Marcus to be there when I turned around to check. But he wasn’t, and they weren’t laughing at me.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 4
My self tan wasn’t fading, and I was running out of long-sleeve tops. In desperation, I looked up “self-tan disaster” on a search engine and found they now have products specifically made for situations like this.

I sped to SuperDrug and grabbed a foaming can of disaster relief, and a Nivea self-tan wipe. I figured it would help fill in the gaps.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 5

I was now two tones of fake tan, white in patches and red in the shoulders. I’d gone from pinstripe suit to patchwork quilt.

I ran to Topshop and bought three more long-sleeve tops.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 6

I was seeing Marcus the next day, so I had to get my skin back to semi-normal. I decided to get a professional spray tan to get a darker color sprayed all over. I found a little place off Regent Street that would hose me down with golden brown after work.

I walked out feeling covered in grease and hoped no one would sit next to me on the number 19 home. The color seemed even, except my ankles. But when I got home I noticed the liquid had adhered to the root of every hair on my arms and seemed to collect in every pore on my body. I looked like a George Seurat painting.

A few showers before tomorrow ought to do the trick.

Self-Tanning Mission – Night 7
Just when I got the color evened out enough to be seen in public, Marcus called to cancel.


When London’s summer finally arrives, a shared joy spreads across the city. Moods are improved and people are friendlier and less hurried. Bars and pubs from Angel to Soho to Clapham have people spilling out of them onto the sidewalks and streets, taking the rare opportunity to enjoy a pint in the great outdoors.

When it gets too hot however, trouble begins. Bus rides become sticky and getting on the tube is like stepping into a high school weight room: stale heavy air tinged with the smell of fresh sweat. The city isn’t equipped for extreme heat – most flats don’t have air conditioning and even the cinemas and grocery stores can’t quite crank it up high enough to provide respite for the masses.

It was in these conditions that I set off for my first audition with the BBC: Crime Watch. I was told I’d be auditioning for the part of the victim and, as I have an American accent, I assumed either the vic was American too, or the role was non-speaking. I thought they’d just show me being shoved into a car or something – piece of cake. I can get shoved with the best of them.

I like to arrive at an audition the standard 15 minutes early. This gives me the chance to get a look at the script (often not provided in advance). If I get there too early, there’s a chance I’ll get called in before my appointment, negating the benefit of early arrival. So when I realized the Central line had “severe delays” due to God knows what weather-related excuse, I decided to jump in a taxi to White City.

I made it to the audition early as planned, only to find out that it was a group audition and everyone else was late due to the tube delays. Plus, they weren’t handing out scripts.

As I sat in the waiting area with nothing to do but delete old text messages from my mobile, in walked what I ascertained to be my competition: blonde hair, pale skin, similar height. She was a bit plump but that might have been a good for the part – you never know.

We had a friendly chat as we waited for the others to arrive. I found out she lived in Brighton and made the long trek to London very time she had an audition. I went to the water cooler for a drink and offered to get her one too. When I brought back our cups of water, she seemed more distant. Mental preparations for the audition, I assumed.

Then I sat down. In a puddle.

“Oh my God, this chair is wet!”

“Is it?”

“Yeah, I was just sitting here. It wasn’t wet before—”

“Well maybe you were only sitting on the edge.”

“I don’t think so…” I spied the half-empty cups on the table from the morning casting session. “Well good thing this skirt dries quickly.”

I knew it would because the last time I had worn it, I got soaked on my way to the Royal Albert Hall and had to stand under the bathroom dryer before the show so I wouldn’t be sitting in a puddle for two hours while trying to enjoy Romeo & Juliet as a ballet.

I moved to stand by the wall and madly flapped my skirt dry. “That fat Brighton bitch won’t get the better of me,” I thought.

Finally the two guys in my audition group turned up. As we walked into the audition room, I knew I would not get the part. With my modest Kenneth Cole heels on, I was about 5 inches taller than both of the guys. It’s not very victim-like, on TV anyway, to tower over your attacker.

At least I went into the audition with a dry skirt – and a clear conscience.