Whiter than White
Now that it is getting warmer, I recall a self-tanning experience with fond memories (yeah, right) ...
“I must be desperate,” I said to my twelve-year-old daughter Meredith, “or crazy to be seduced by that infomercial.” I dumped the contents of the Fed Ex box onto the bathroom counter. A bottle of self-tanner, instructions, a pink exfoliating puff, and latex gloves spilled out. “What happened to the days when getting a tan was fun?”
“Probably skin cancer and wrinkles,” Meredith said, looking with me at legs too white to be mine. “But I guess you do need all this junk to get a tan for your friend's wedding.”
I had to agree. With Meredith’s help, I was determined to achieve the beautiful “faux tan” the infomercial promised.
I tried to sound confident. “We apply it sparingly tonight, and then I shower in the morning,” I said and picked up the gloves. “We wear these to avoid tan palms.”
“Sounds easy,” she said, pulling on a glove, snapping the wrist, and studying the directions. “It says that the tan is instant and will intensify, but we’re not to worry because the bronzer will help us keep you from looking streaky.” She squeezed a glob of dark brown gel onto the glove and cocked a brow, waiting. “So get naked.”
“No way,” I said and stripped down to my undies. “I don't mind a tan line, but I don’t want streaks.”
My mind raced back to my first self-tanner experience when friends said to each other, “Orange you glad you didn’t use QT?”
“It stinks,” Meredith said, wrinkling her nose. She turned her attention to the glob on her glove and slapped tanner against the back of my thigh. Dark liquid smeared on pale skin.
I studied legs white enough to cause depression, regression, or serious indigestion.
Meredith looked me over. “Fiddle-dee-dee,” she said, exaggerating Scarlett’s Southern drawl. “You should have lived in the Gone With the Wind era.” She smoothed out the tanner. “Your skin’s that wimpy Melanie’s whiter-than-white.”
“Wimp or not, she never had to suffer this kind of humiliation,” I said and squeezed a glob of gel onto my glove and rubbed it on my other leg. “Careful,” I said as Meredith moved to my feet. “I don’t want dirty toes.”
“That’s what the pink puff is for.” She gulped. “Uh-oh. You were supposed to exfoliate first.”
“Great,” I groaned, doomed.
“Don’t worry,” she said, studying the directions. “We can fix it -- somehow.”
I reached down to smooth out the tanner at my ankle and focused on white feet. Memories of my childhood flooded me.
“When I was a little younger than you are now," I said to Meredith, "I spent the summer outside. Each morning, I'd get up early, put on my socks and tennies, and jump on my bike. Consequently, I'd end up with a tan that stopped at the top of my socks."
“This will take care of white feet,” Meredith said, pulling out a cosmetic sponge from the drawer. “And the tops of your toes.”
I sighed and watched Meredith carefully apply the gel.
“Halfway done,” she said and plopped a cold, gooey glove against the middle of my lower back. I flinched. Next, her glove raced over the top of my hips, circling faster and faster. “Shimmy, shimmy, shake, shake. We're making an earthquake,” she teased. “At least your butt isn’t moving south like that magazine article said would happen after forty.”
“What did you say?” I choked back a laugh. “You know that proper young ladies don't say b-u-t -t." I cocked a brow and waited for her come back. For once, she had none. "Besides, you make it sound like all I have to look forward to is a behind that will drag after me like a train on a wedding dress.”
“Dum-dum-de-dum, dum-dum-de-dum.” Meredith hummed the beginning of the wedding march.
I laughed and focused on my arms and shoulders until Meredith announced, “I’m ready to do your face.” My stomach flip-flopped.
She picked up the directions. “It says we have to be careful because some areas ‘pick-up’ the self-tanner more easily than others.” She snickered. “We don’t want to end up with a mustache, do we?”
“Very funny.” I rolled my eyes, but I scrubbed my face just in case.
Meredith followed with a cotton swab to blend in a thin amount, taking care on my nose and hairline. Together, we applied the finishing coverage down to the last patch of remaining white skin on my hands.
“Wow, I’m impressed.” I preened. “I haven’t had a tan like this since I was about your age, and Mom dropped me off at the pool with friends every day.” I remembered how the crystal blue water sparkled. The warm breeze caressed my cheek. I could smell the chlorine until Meredith yanked me back to reality with an earnest, “Can we do me now?”
“Are you crazy?” I glanced at the clock. “It’s bedtime.”
“You can’t put on clothes or go to bed yet.” She stuck the directions in my face. “It says so right here.”
After an hour or two, exhausted, I slipped on an old shirt and climbed into bed.
The next morning, I shot out of bed, eager to check out my tan. I ignored the light brown outline of my body on the sheet and headed to the shower. I jerked the curtain back, turned on the spray, and stepped in.
“Oh no!” I screamed.
“What?” Meredith asked and poked her sleepy head inside and watched my beautiful tan, comprised mostly of bronzer, roll down my legs and swirl around the drain.
“No biggie,” she said, closing the curtain behind her. “We’ll do it again when you get out. It’s called layering.”
Above the sound of the shower, I heard drawers opening and closing, and items clanking against each other.
“Even though we have to hurry, we’re going to do it right this time,” Meredith said. “You have to shave your legs, exfoliate, moisturize, and apply the self-tanner, again.”
I dropped my head back into the spray and sighed.
“Fiddle-dee-dee, Meredith, whiter-than-white’s not so bad after all.”
“Forget that,” she replied. “I'm not going out in public with you with those white legs. It’s time for phase two.”
Later at the wedding, Meredith and I sat side-by-side. The organist burst into the wedding march. “Dum-dum-de-dum.” We jumped to our feet. "Dum-dum-de-dum." Meredith’s arms started to shake. “Dum-dum-de-dum.” I nudged her and tried to give her a stern look. But I, too, was so tickled I could hardly stand it. Shimmy, shimmy, shake, shake.
To gain my composure, I relived a day when two girls giggled, played, and shared a lot along the way. Just two friends, a mom and her daughter, spending time together on a quest for a beautiful “faux tan.” I smiled at Meredith. She winked back at me. We turned our attention to the bride and watched the long lacy train flow after her, and of course, we hoped her b-u-t-t wasn't moving south behind her.