It’s winter and without my clothes I look like a plucked chicken. A frozen one. This is why I feel the need to try on a spray tan. It’s also super fashionable right now to avoid the sun and get your tan from a can. Or a bottle. I don’t know how it works.

So I’ll make an appointment. On the phone a lady advises I should dress in loose-fitting and dark clothes, since the color can transfer, and that I’m not allowed to shower for ten hours after the tan. A piece of cake, and the appointment is for tomorrow already. Need to remember to shave my legs so I don’t look like the tired and busy mom that I am.

I walk into the tanning salon. Behind the reception desk there’s a man. A good looking man, in his thirties and obviously straight as an arrow. He takes me to my dressing room and asks:
“Which hue were you thinking of?”
“Certainly not orange” I say lightly, aiming for humorous, and wonder how does a little salon like this afford to have separate employers for reception and the spraying. Must be expensive.
“Well I’m not gonna make you yellow” The handsome straight-male says, and gives me instructions on getting undressed.

I’m left standing staggered in my dressing room, as I realize that behind door one there’s a very good looking man getting his spray gun ready for just little old me. I feel paralyzed. So they expect me to strip down to my underwear and go stand in front of that man, and then get rid off my bra too? Basically let my tits hang out? This is what I get for trying to get that naturally sunkissed look, unnaturally in the middle of November in Finland. Finns are a pale species, and apparently that’s how we’re gonna stay.

There’s no escape. I could walk out the door and loudly let it be known, that no one informed me that the tanner is a man. I demand to be sprayed by a woman. It’s not like he’s a doctor who doesn’t care what kind of naked is standing in front of them. But I don’t. I am a good customer, apologizing for taking so long while I present my half-nakedness.

Photo by Annie Spratt, cover photo by tripleMdesignz.

He starts the spraying, and gives me instructions, but I’m so distressed that I mishear them. When he tells me to lift my arm I lift my leg instead. The expression “spread your arms” gets a completely new meaning in my head and it’s an image that is very hard to shake off. All I can think off are the hair and shapes of my body. I forget to breath and so, on top of it all, I’ll probably pass out half-naked on the floor, on that sticky brown puddle.

I try to lighten the mood by blurt something similar to “interesting career choice you have here”, but that gets no response. I bet he’s mentally scoring my tits at that moment.

After the spraying he knocks on my dressing room door to tell me that I shouldn’t put my bra on, so I don’t get tanning lines. The humiliation is complete. At the cashier I fear that my credit card payment gets declined, to add to the misery, but it doesn’t, a lucky break.

I’m always the good customer. The nice one. I never send food back at the restaurant, even when it comes out cold and topped with the chef’s toupee. I understand human error. I don’t complain. If someone cuts in line in front of me, I might give them a dirty look, but that’s all. I don’t raise my voice, I don’t demand justice and I don’t make a scene. You need to be well-behaved in public, I always say, and my family could add “so at home you can get crazy”.

I think it’s a matter or upbringing. I don’t remember being raised specially to be the good girl, but there has been an admiration for good behavior for generations. And if you get a little out of control, you get scolded for being bad. With time I have learned that being a good girl doesn’t get you anything that the bad girls are missing out on.

Putting up a good front is really a hindrance. If I am willing to step almost naked in front of a stranger with a spray gun, I wouldn’t stand a change is someone crossed me in a dark alley. Just take everything and you won’t hear a peep from me. My old hair dresser burned my hair and my scalp and I just assured them that it’ll be fine. Of course it wasn’t fine.

Same thing with Christmas. For the past ten years, I’ve dreamed of a Christmas in Lapland. In a cabin in the middle of a snow covered hill, far away from civilization, and Christmas lights. I wouldn’t have to perform on Christmas. Just get cozy with a box of store bought mac’n’cheese, and after that go out sleighing. In spite of what I wanted, this year was again a year when I stayed at home in the southern part of Finland, traditionally ruining holiday dishes and wondering where did Christmas go again.

— Editors

The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.

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