“It’s called ‘sunkissed’ not ‘dorito-raped’.“
There aren’t many places that I can say that you’ll never find a black person.
At least not any black person that I know.
But near the top of that short list is a tanning salon. As I’ve been told repeatedly by my lighter friends (that’s code for white people. what? it’s better than calling them pasty or translucent. #didijustsaythat? #ohshit):
Black people don’t “tan”, we just get “darker”.
A statement which perplexes me because isn’t the point of tanning to get “darker”? Are you trying to say that I get “darker” without tanning? i.e. “it just happens” without my knowledge or control?
Hold on. I’m thinking (insert hamster on a wheel out of breath or me at the gym – same imagery – only the hamster is cuter.)
Ohhhhh, now I get it.
We, as black people, do not purposely try to tan. By virtue of our skin composition we get “darker” when we are out in the sun. Tanning implies a purposeful attempt to get “darker” rather than a natural propensity. #gotsit #onlytook20plusyears
Now back to the story at hand.
During my junior year of college I was out shopping with a dear friend of mine that we’ll call M. At the end of our shopping excursion she told me that she wanted to go to the tanning salon. She would invite me, “but (insert awkward pause) I would probably get bored.” Usually this is my cue to gracefully exit but this time I replied, “Nope. I’m sure they’ve got magazines. Let’s go.” After giving me the i’m-confused-but-if-you-say-so look and a slight scramble for the appropriate response she settled with “Ok.”
On our way to the tanning salon, I tried to ask her all the questions I had ever had in regards to tanning, such as: How much does it cost? Why is it so expensive to expose yourself to harmful rays – isn’t it like paying some to poison you? Why tan in the winter – aren’t you supposed to be pasty? How often are you supposed to go? How do you pick a color/shade/tan? Why go tanning before going to the beach? It is like pre-gaming for your skin? #hotmess. I swear someone should collect all these non-P.C. (politically correct) questions and their truthful, yet sometimes inappropriate answers because it’s sure to be a best seller.
Here’s a working title: ” The black girl’s survival guide to awkward moments made possible by having darker skin and traditional African parents. ”
I really needed the “How to explain prom to your frugal African mother who had only ever ridden in a limousine… on the day of her wedding” or “How to explain the need for a huge sweet 16th birthday party when all you can do at 16 is get pregnant and drive a car…both of which just costs your parents a shit ton of money” or “What is the proper etiquette for a tanning salon: Do you request a discount due to already being black-as-hell and will spray tans make you lighter or just a Casper the ghost wanna-be? ”
I’ll admit that walking into the tanning salon I was slightly nervous, sort of like walking into a bat mitzvah – you’re invited, but you’re never really sure if they actually want you to attend or if they just didn’t want you to feel left out.
So I decided to use my bat mitzvah etiquette (see #1 and #2) for the tanning salon:
1. Think before asking a question. I tend to ask every question that comes to my mind. #hotassmess Keeping with the theme, here is bat mitzvah related awkward question that I wish I could say I’ve never asked:
“How Jewish are you? Like on a scale of 1 – only when it come’s to bat mitzvahs or Chanukah. I’m mean who doesn’t love receiving tons of money and gifts? to 10 – you have those curly hairs by your ears and p.s. do you use a curling iron? if so which one?”
2. Try not to scare the white people. The end.
As we entered the tanning salon I tried to stroll in like this wasn’t the first time I had ever been to a place than had tanning beds instead of clothing racks, mini Banana Boat tanning oil bottles instead of perfume bottles, and neon lights instead of…well… lights. When I finally made it over to the front counter I noticed that the salesgirl looked more flustered than I was. #hallelujah She said hello to me, but then looked unsure of what to say next. So I decided to rescue this poor girl and just ask her about the 6 packages I saw highlighted on the board.
Well…I think that only made it worse.
Because each time I asked, “What would that shade look like on me?” She would pause, stare at the package and then at me as if to gauge what the color would look like on me only to realize that I was 1 -4 shades darker than the shade on the board. By the time we got to package No. 4 I decided to put an end to her misery and skip to the package that I have always been curious about – spray tans.
Look don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that I do not have to tan, but the idea of being able to lighten my color especially if my skin and foundation began to clash really intrigued me. And anyone who wears make-up understands that its a bitch to have to buy new foundation just because you got a little sun action.
The salesgirl looked ready to put in her two weeks notice when I asked her about the spray tan packages. At this point she gave up the pretense of even knowing what the hell would happen and just admitted that she had “no idea” because no one my particular “skin tone” have ever come in before. At this point I knew it was to shut up and just sit in the lobby silently reading magazines until my friend was finished with her tanning session.
And I did. Yet, even in my silence I was still a problem.
What would YOU do if you walked into a tanning salon and you saw a black girl chilling in the waiting room?
A. Think, “Hells yes, I’ve come to the right place. They have a burnt graham cracker special going on right now.”
B. Think, “What the HELL happened to her and how the HELL do I make sure that it doesn’t happen to me.”
Needless to say most people chose option B. And every single person who walked into that tanning salon did this:
1. Looked at me.
2. Looked at the salesgirl.
3. Looked at the door to make sure they were in the right place.
4. Slowly walked to the front counter and tried to subtly ask the salesgirl “What package did SHE get?” or “What the HELL happened to her?”
I think most of the customers were horrified but a fraction were definitely jealous. Either way watching them all squirm and try to look at me “without” looking at me was the highlight of my day. #ilovelighterpeople
So in honor of the #awesomeness that in ORANGE is the New BLACK, I decided to share with you a story about…you know…being black. #sooringinal And I think I might just head over to the local tanning salon and ask – just for old times sake,
“Do you offer the burnt orange spray tan?”
And when they ask, “What? Why do you want to be burnt orange?
I will reply:
“Because ORANGE is the New BLACK.”
(If you like this, then you’ll LOVE “Dear _____, you have 72 hours to get in MY BOX. Do you accept the challenge?” )