TCU Daily Skiff Friday, April 2, 2004
Frog Fountain
Skiff page design
My editors made me do it!
A tanning virgin shares his ‘dark’ experience

Brandon Ortiz

Like so many of my most embarrassing stories, this one begins with me opening my mouth before thinking.

A handful of Skiff editors and I were brainstorming story ideas for this page on tanning — which is probably facing your desk right now because you’re busy doing the crossword puzzle — when it was suggested that somebody who had never tanned before write a column about their first time. (To go to a tanning salon — get your mind out of the gutter!)

“Why don’t you do it Brandon?” our production coordinator, Jenny Hall, says to me.

“OK, sure.”

Stupid, Brandon. Stupid.

“Oh he should do Mystic Tanning,” says Features Editor Catherine Pillsbury.

Like so many things involving the interests and habits of women, I had no idea what that meant. “Mystic Tanning?” I thought to myself. “That must mean the tan is mystically good.”

So I agreed. Mystic Tanning it shall be.

Only later did I find out that it’s a sunless tanning booth where you get sprayed with a solution that produces a “natural-looking” tan. I was skeptical, to say the least.

We’ve all seen the sorority chicks who tried those sunless tanning creams, only to wind up being covered with uneven blotches of orange. I imagined a machine that crudely blasts orange paint all over me — and the hell my ever-so-understanding friends would give me when I explain why I look like a cheetah that rolled around in bleach and paint thinner. Saying “my editors made me do it” probably wouldn’t pass as a good excuse.

But I couldn’t get out of it. There’s a lot of things that stink about being editor in chief. There is a lot of emphasis on setting an “example.” You can’t skip work because you don’t feel like coming in, you can’t show up hung over and you can’t weasel out of stories you promise to write.

I was screwed.

Pre-tan preparation

Sunday rolled around, and after fruitless hours trying to think of excuses that would not make me look like a slacker, or worse, a wimp, I gave in when Photo Editor Sarah Chacko called to see if I was ready to go.

After Catherine, being ever so “helpful,” told us where Palm Beach Tan is — there went one excuse! — Chacko and I arrived.

We explained to the manager, Brian, why we were there. Him being a nice guy (or cognizant of the benefits of free publicity in a college newspaper), he agreed to let us take “before” and “after” photos at the booth.

But first I had to sign a “consent” form. I perused it carefully, making sure there were no clauses like “We will not be held responsible if you end up with pumpkin-colored skin.” There weren’t, but I did see that pregnant women shouldn’t tan. (“If you’ve got something in the oven, you don’t want to overcook it,” Brian tells me.) Luckily, I’m not pregnant.

Next was a short test to see what skin type I have. I must have got a bad grade, because I was soon forking over $20 to fake tan.

“When you write your article, you need to describe it like it is really manly,” Brian said.
Um, OK. I decided to pretend he didn’t say that.

Soon I was watching an instructional video. As you can imagine, it was about as entertaining as an instructional video on how to change your spark plugs. The people who make it apparently watch way too much “Futurama.” It had a lot of sound effects that seemed as if they came from space ships.

The narrator says what to do as an attractive blonde gets ready for her fake tan. Some people, the narrator says, may choose to cover their feet. Brian explains that some people don’t like having tanned feet. This struck me as kind of weird, but I was always taught not to judge other people, even those who date people with strange foot fetishes.

There was probably a lot of stuff in the video that I should have paid attention to, but I was distracted by women in spandex and tiny shorts coming in to tan. I now understood why a guy would work at a tanning salon.

Back to the video. The attractive blonde steps into the booth and assumes the “proper” tanning position. Most people go into these booths in the nude, but unfortunately she left her bathing suit on. After fake tanning, she walks out with nice unpumpkin-like bronze skin.

Experience of the booth

I am taken back to the Mystic Tan booth. I peeked into the rooms to the see what tanning booths look like, because I had never seen one before. They are best described as large silver and blue caskets from the future. At any moment I expected Scotty from “Star Trek” to walk out.

The Mystic Tan booth was large and blue. When the door opened, it made a “sssshhhh” sound. (Once again, think “Star Trek.”) It instantly reminded me of the Orgasmatron in the Woody Allen classic “Sleeper.” It’s a large household appliance that you walk into for, well, instant pleasure.

Sadly, the Mystic Tan booth was not nearly as fun.

After Chacko took the “before” photos, I shut the door to the room so I could undress and get ready to fake tan.

I reluctantly step into the booth. After struggling to figure out how to shut the door, I assume the “tanning position,” press the button and quickly close my eyes. Nothing happens.

I press it again and rush to get back into place. Once again, nothing. I finally figure out that it’s not a button at all, but a sensor I have to run my finger under.

I hurriedly get back into the proper position as the booth tells me, in a woman’s voice, it will start spraying in five seconds. I squint my eyes, and the chemical mist finally hits me.
Man was it cold — and stinky.

It was so cold that I’m very thankful that no one walked in while I was undressed and frozen. The laughter would have scarred me.

The booth tells me to turn around, and it sprays my back side. And like that, it’s done. I still had my eyes closed when I stumbled to leave the machine.

I towel the solution off, which, much to my relief, is not orange paint. I actually felt like I had been at the beach all day. My skin felt like it has been in the sun and it had a stickiness that was like cheap sun screen — the only kind I buy — mixed in with sweat.

After I get dressed, Chacko snaps “after” photos. We notice no change whatsoever, but we’re told we won’t start seeing results for another four hours. We would have to take the pictures later.

And the results are in...

My skin didn’t turn orange. And the tan was actually fairly even — except for part of my right arm that wasn’t in the proper position.

(That said, the cool part about tanning in the nude is that, for the first time ever, I have a tanned butt. I thought about asking Chacko to take a picture of it for this story, but, fearing a sexual harassment lawsuit, I decided not to.)

The tan actually turned out pretty good, but it’s not real dark. If I want to be darker, I’ll have to fake tan again — which, at $20 a pop, is probably the point. Nice little racket they have going here.

As I walked out of the tanning salon, only to see more cute chicks coming in, it hit me.
I’m in the wrong business.
Brandon Ortiz
Sarah Chacko/Photo Editor
Editor in Chief Brandon Ortiz claims we “made him do it.” We think he was hoping tanner skin would add definition to his muscles.
TCU Daily Skiff ©2004
news campus opinion sports features search awards skiff home advertising jobs back issues skiffTV image magazine converging news contact