On Spray Tans, On Bodies

Tan crayon! Image: Wikipedia.
Tan crayon! Image: Wikipedia.


I stood in a well-ventilated clapboard chamber, totally nude, while a gal named Heather worked me over with an airbrushing machine. I got a spray tan yesterday.

I’m hardly the first person to point out that a body paint job is a ludicrous concept, a frivolous, vain expenditure. That’s fair, but it’s something else, too, I realized today: Getting a spray tan transgresses deeply grooved boundaries of the public and the private, and I believe this has value.

It’s is the same transgression that occurs when I go for a bikini wax. Every time I’m in these situations, when I’m nakey in a tiny room with another person who is fully clothed, I think about these things. Why is being naked in the name of grooming okay while most of us will go to great lengths to cover up in the gym locker room? Weird.

This is an observation, not a complaint. I’m not suggesting we all run around naked and start dismantling body taboos. (I think we’re all in okay with most folks keeping their pants in place). But I do think these “intricate rituals,” as artist Barbara Kruger put it once, help us remember that we don’t have a body; we are a body.

What is it to be seen? What is it to be still, with your back to a stranger, without a stitch of clothing on? It’s certainly not comfortable. For some people, it’s their worst nightmare.

Ah, but the spray tan girl. She’ll make it better. Mine was chatting about her upcoming wedding.

“I really wanted a gold gown but no one would let me do it! It’s crazy how people just tell you no! The dress place was like, ‘You look like you’re going to prom. You look like you’re on Dancing With the Stars.’ And I was like, ‘Crap, you’re right.’ So I got a dress with lace but I’m getting gold shoes and my fiancee and I are going to Italy for the honeymoon but not yet, so we’re thinking a long weekend in Lake Geneva…”

It was a stream of small talk and we had very little eye contact from the start, especially when my gal knelt down for my lower half. I turned when she said, “Okay hon, turn,” and I made the namaste-like gesture so she could get my sides properly. We acted like there was nothing wrong or odd whatsoever that I was nekkid as a j-bird, as they say. Well, except for my shower cap.

I can’t believe I just told you about the shower cap. Perhaps that’s the thing to feel ashamed about?