An Indian and a negro walk into a tanning salon…
It might seem like the setup to a cheesy joke, but in reality it was just a scene from the latest Raymond/Hummus adventure.
Growing up in the south in a predominantly chocolate neighborhood, I was oblivious to the existence of tanning salons. I was pretty naive.I knew people could get a tan if they spent large amounts of time in the sun, but I had no idea that bronze skin was something people were willing to shell out cash for. I was enlightened about this phenomenon when I was 15.
I’d just moved to a small town outside Chicago when I noticed a classmate who was the deepest shade of orange I had ever seen. Had I been back home I would have just assumed she spent lots of time outside. However, context clues let me know this wasn’t the case. The biggest clue was the fact that it was December and there wasn’t an ounce of sunlight to be found. I thought maybe she might have back from a vacation but one of my friends explained the classmate had overdone it at the tanning salon.
I was shocked.
“You mean people pay money to get darker skin?” I asked.
“Yeah,” my friend replied.
“Because they look good.”
Apparently, I had been taking my perma-tan for granted all these years. I was intrigued. After years of research (pestering my white friends), I learned that tanning can be a fun experience. If done responsibly, it can be relaxing and make one feel better about himself. Just like whiskey.
I decided to cross tanning off my bucket list last week. The plan was to make it a group outing. I invited my buddy hummus and an alabaster buddy of mine. Hummus was game, but my vanilla friend flaked out the last minute.
Undeterred, we walked into Sun City Tan to get our bronze on. I asked the woman behind the counter how much it would cost for a session. A single session cost 12 dollars, but there were discount packages for those looking to make a long term commitment. I told her I wanted a single session for me and my vegetarian companion. She stared for a second, repeated my request, rolled her eyes, then rang up my order. If I had cared, I would have told her to lose the attitude but instead I kept my cool.
I was hoping to be given a detailed rundown of the mechanics of tanning, but that didn’t happen. I got a hurried explanation and given a booth number. I walked into the dimly lit room and felt lost. I had a vague idea of what to do, but wasn’t exactly sure how the next 10 minutes would play out. It was like prom night all over again.
I almost stepped into the bed fully clothed, then I realized that’s probably not how the experts do it. I undressed, put on my fancy tanning goggles, and waited for the magic to happen.
I waited. And waited. And waited.
8 minutes in, I felt like an undercooked Hot Pocket: freakishly warm on the outside and painfully cold on the inside. Laying on the bed was relaxing, but it wasn’t any more soothing than stretching out on a park bench. Granted, the nudity was a perk but not enough to make me want to come back.
Hummus was equally unimpressed. We took a few glances at each other and noted that neither of us looked any different. If we went a few more times the difference would probably be more noticeable, but we decided to retire from tanning.
Why mess with perfection?