Maybe it’s not the reason you think.
It starts like a lot of my stories.
“This one time, when I was in college…”
I had a roommate who was platinum blonde and tanned and wore shorts so short they made my little brother’s [and my dad's] eyes bug out of his head the day I moved into my freshman dorm. She had been in Albany over the summer living in the dorms getting a head start on her courses so she already knew the neighborhood and had friends. I was lonely as all get out and a ball of nerves. Plus, it was simply sweltering humidity that first week.
“You’re so tan,” she said to me.
Are you for real? I thought. I wanted to compare arms to see if she still believed I was tanned next to her. Instead, I said, “I was lifeguarding on a lake all summer.”
“Oh, so it’s totally natural! That’s so bad for you.”
And she judged my real tan, and I judged her fake tan and then we had a pony beer together and it all got better and we became good friends.
The semester flew by and and winter break dumped me back at Lima Hall with dear roommie, and she had an idea.
“So. I just bought my spring tanning package at the salon over on Madison Avenue and I’d love for you to come with me. You’ll be all set for summer!”
I told her I would think about it because there’s something just so…plastic about tanning.
Of course, at that time I was totally up for trying new things [that could potentially be dangerous for my skin and start breaking down my precious collagen.]
We got to the storefront and signed in. I paid cash for a trial session and the only available room had a booth, not a bed.
“It’s fine,” my roommate said. ”I like the booth.”
So I got into the room and the desk attendant told me how to turn the booth on. ”Your ten minutes starts when you flip this switch, then it automatically turns off.” And she closed the door behind her.
I put on my mini-eye-protection-goggles, got naked and got down to business! I shut the door to the booth and the blue lights went on and so did some hip-hop music.
It was awesome.
I busted some moves I’d been trying out at The Post, a basement dance club we went to every weekend on Washington Street and twirled around and suddenly — BRWWNNN, zzzzz.
“Hello?!” I yelled. And before waiting for an answer I panicked. I reached for the door handle and tried to shove it open. It wouldn’t budge. ”Oh my god, HELLO?!”
I took as much of a step back as I could in the booth and threw myself against the door again.
Nothing. ”HELP!” I screamed and tears started welling up in my eyes.
All of this unfolded in about 30 seconds and then the lights went back on and the music started up.
There was a knock on the room door. ”Hello there, everything okay? We just had a little power surge. No biggie.” It was the attendant.
“Please get me out of here!” I yelled as I threw myself against the door again and stumbled out into the room. Wearing only mini-goggles.
“Oh!” the attendant jumped back. ”Are you okay?”
I was not even embarrassed. I was horrified and my heart was beating so fast I thought I may throw up.
“Please tell Laurel I’ll see her at home,” I said as I pulled my panties on in front of the attendant.
“Okay,” she said as she closed the door.
On my two-block walk back to the dorm, I felt flush from the excitement and nerves and panic…and then embarrassment.
Never. Ever. Again.
I’m just not cool enough for tanning.