Journal entry: October 30, 2009 (age 40) – Halloween Tan
While deciding on a Halloween costume this year, the most frightening image I could conjure was of me… with a tan. An Irishman of the palest order, I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating the skin tone of a deep-sea crustacean. My SPF is higher than my IQ.
My friend, Denise Kocan, has been bugging me for years to go to a tanning salon. As much as I appreciate her wish for me to develop melanoma, I have always demurred. But recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a tan purely as a novelty stunt, and the development of “sunless tan” technology offered a way to try it out in relative safety.
Tonight, my wife, Amanda, and I hosted our annual Halloween costume party. Two days ago, I visited a professional tanning salon. I felt ashamed walking in. I didn’t belong there. I worried that a sophisticated redhead sensor would set off an alarm, resulting in my violent defenestration by a throng of angry albinophobes. Happily, though, the establishment was not crowded. At the counter, my selection of the Level Three treatment gave the attendant pause. “That’s the very darkest option, sir – are you sure?” I nodded with grim confidence.
I was led to a changing room, which contained a chair, a towel, and, in a touch I thought was unnecessarily cruel, a full-length mirror. I obeyed the sign on the wall and removed all my clothes. (I guess they figure as long as you’re there, you might as well get the undercarriage rustproofed.) Next, I entered a plastic chamber that looked something like a plus-size porta-potty, and stood on a metal plate that I was told “ionizes” the chemical spray. As instructed, I assumed the awkward posture of an orangutan that refuses to drop its suitcases while airport security subjects it to a thorough frisking. I pressed an ominous-looking green button, closed my eyes, and held my breath. What followed allowed me to cross “be naked in a car wash” off my bucket list.
The tan takes a few hours to develop, so I went home and awaited my transformation. By the next morning, it was clear that the process had not worked. The inexorable gravitational pull of my whiteness had torn apart the darkening agents, scattering and hurtling them toward an epidermal event horizon. I returned to the tanning salon in search of answers. The attendant looked at my still-pallid face and said, “Wow, it’s never not worked before!” Determined, I asked for and was given an unprecedented “second coat.” The result was better this time.
This evening, our party guests arrived, prepared for the dramatic unveiling of Tan Tim. I had replaced my Facebook profile photo with a portrait of tanning superstar George Hamilton, and I imagined my social network was abuzz in anticipation of my special party pigmentation. I wore swim trunks, flip-flops, and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt to accentuate the look. But one by one, the arriving revelers reacted with blasé puzzlement. “I thought you were going to be tan.” “Are you supposed to be a vacationing Dane?” What for me was a savage tan still looked to them like an undercooked fish belly.
They just don’t appreciate the subtlety of my fashion genius. Off-white is the new white.