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.