Photo by: iStock

The "Perfect" Spray Tan

Photo by: iStock

“Here ya go, just undress and put this on”, she nonchalantly said as she handed me a minuscule ziploc bag containing what looked suspiciously like a tissue.

“Um, by undress, do you mean all my clothes?”, I stammered, nervously and naively hoping I misunderstood her words.

“Of course! But don’t worry, you will still be wearing those.”, she kindly reassured me, pointing to the little baggie I was clutching in my sweaty palm. The baggie that was so tiny it couldn’t possibly contain anything even loosely fitting the description: clothing.

I laughed nervously and nodded. I attempted to act nonchalant about this whole ‘get naked’ thing, like I do this all the time. I tried, in vain, to be cool by shrugging my shoulders as if to say, “no biggie”. It came out like a giggling seizure.

She shut the door and exhaled.

Intrepidly, I opened the bag and extracted the ‘undies’ inside. These were no ordinary undies. They were clearly made out of recycled tissues. They were not One Size Fits All, as stated on the bag. LIES! They were One Size Fits Miranda Kerr.

They were recycled tissue, miniature, G-string panties. And, by “G-string”, I mean dental floss attached to the tiniest triangle of transparent tissue I’ve ever seen.

I began to simultaneously hyperventilate and blush as I faced the prospect of stripping off my clothes and putting this flimsy nothingness on, and then facing another person in all my naked, untanned, post-three-babies, gravity-affected, stretch-mark-decorated glory.

((Knock, knock.)) “Are you ready?”, the perky teenage voice called out.

“Um, I’ve just opened the bag and I don’t think I ca do this!”, I replied.

“Oh, don’t worry, doll! I do this a thousand times a day! Really, there’s nothing to worry about!”, she naively reassured me, her voice emanating from a perfectly toned and tanned, pre-babies, undecorated-by-stretch-marks, gravity-defying body.

“I don’t want to traumatise you!”, I called back through the door. You can’t unsee things, you know and I really didn’t want to give this sweet girl a sneak peek into her future.

She giggled, “Oh, honey, I’ve seen it all. Don’t worry – you’re gorrrrrgeous!”

I have to hand it to her, she had this sales pitch down to an art.

“Okay”, I conceded, “just a minute.”

Off went the clothes, fast and furiously because I knew that hesitation would be the game-changer. On went the Miranda Kerr-sized, paper g-string (which, might I add, would even make Miss Kerr look hideous).

I looked in the mirror and there, I saw a deli ham. You know – the hunk of ham you see in the bain-marie, all tied up with string? Like that. No exaggeration. My mouth made an “O” and my brain unsuccessfully attempted to reinterpret what my eyes were seeing.

((Knock, knock.))

“O-okay, come in.”, I stammered. Time to get this over with. The door opened and Miss Spray Tan walked in.

“Um, hon, you need to stand up straight and stretch out your arms and legs – you know, like this.”, she sweetly explained as she demonstrated a police-strip-search-style pose. I nodded, did some deep breathing exercises – the ones I’d learned in Lamaze classes and which hadn’t worked during labour, either – and uncurled myself from the crouched pose I had adopted. Burning with humiliation and nervously awaiting the moment she’d spontaneously go blind from the vision in front of her, I stretched out and assumed The Spread Eagle.

“Perfect”, she smiled.

Huh? She didn’t die? She didn’t even recoil! But… but… how was that possible? Did this mean that my stretch marks, excess weight, less-than-perky boobs, love handles and c-section inspired kangaroo-pouch-tummy were, in fact, not as evil as the world had led me to believe?

As I marvelled at Miss Genetically Perfect’s alive-and-well status, she sprayed me from top to toe, asked me to turn around and do the reverse spread eagle and then present her with a bonus sideways pose (arguably, the most unflattering stance imaginable). All this time, she didn’t faint, suffer an attack of shock or die. Amazing.

“That’s it. You’re done!”, she declared, grinning at me. She walked out and shut the door.

I looked at myself in the mirror, all spray-tanned in an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, paper, g-string bikini. I looked past my tummy and my stretch marks and my boobs. I looked past all my physical imperfections.

I saw her. I saw a woman who was doing the best she could. I saw a mother who would die for her husband and kids. I saw a person with a vibrant mind and a kind heart. That flawed, naked, and very real woman blinked and looked back at me.

I thought about what the kind girl who had spray-tanned me said when faced with me in all my naked glory: “Perfect.”

I studied the woman in the mirror. She was far from perfect but she certainly wasn’t hideous, hateful or shameful. No, not at all.

I smiled at that vulnerable woman in the mirror and said, “Good enough.”

When I walked out and paid Miss Perfect Spray Tanner, I said “Thank you” and I meant it with all my heart. She will never know that, in that scary little room, I’d received so much more than a tan.

Michelle Lewsen is an internationally awarded writer with over 18 years’ experience in the advertising industry. She is the founder of where she writes about womanhood, ADHD, surviving parenthood and how she is discovering that it is her children who are raising her. She was gobsmacked to be chosen as one of the 25 Voice of the Year Honorees in the “Inspiration” category by BlogHer in 2013 and again in 2014 in the “Heart” category. Michelle smiles a lot. Mostly to hide her bewilderment. She spends her days raising three chaotic little people, while trawling through numerous piles of unfinished projects.

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