A spring wedding is a wonderful thing. A spring wedding in the south of France, in a chateau, surrounded by dark woods and fields of lavender, with a pool, and guests flying in from all over the world, has to be supreme.
But it also puts a certain pressure on any man of the Irish persuasion: i.e. non-tanning. And after a long London winter the F-Bloke’s skin looks like stale cheese. One gets used to being the whitest man on the beach, but in a few days there’d be RayBans and poolside bubbles, and I didn’t want to scare the staff or ruin the photos.
So the Trophy wife suggested I get a spray tan, which sounded like a good idea. Quicker than a sun bed and presumably similar: I imagined a ten-minute hosing in an automatic booth. She made an appointment for me with her Iranian beauticians.
They looked a bit surprised when I arrived and pointed downstairs into the basement, where a startled girl handed me a small plastic bag containing the kind of paper pants they give you before surgery. I looked at them doubtfully. They were very small.
“I don’t want tan lines.” I joked, looking around for the tanning booth. There wasn’t one. Just a windowless room; the kind of place you’d chop up a body. A tiled floor to wash away the blood easily. Fine-bladed tools and boxes of latex gloves. I started to feel uneasy.
“You have to wear them.” She said firmly, leaving the room. So I put them on, which required some tucking and packing because I don’t think she’d given me the gentleman’s cut. I pulled a little paper cap over my hair (because who wants tanned hair?) and caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. It wasn’t a good look. ‘Is this what being a woman is like?’ I wondered.
A door opened (without knocking, I noticed) and in walked the beautician. Iranian. Gorgeous. She looked at me in my paper pants and visibly steeled herself. Her eyebrows were manicured into dark crescents so sharp they could have been tattooed. Her skin was smooth and Persian caramel. Her nails were flawless and coffee coloured. Everything about her was groomed. She barked ‘Arms in the air’ and plugged a tiny airbrush pistol into a compressor and started spraying a thin orange mist across my chest.
We stood there in silence. My arms ached. After a while they started to drop.
‘Don’t drop your arms!’ she said.
I thought about Abu Ghraib where the Americans amused themselves humiliating their Iraqi prisoners and wondered whether this was payback time. I looked around for hidden cameras and marvelled at how slowly the hands of a clock were moving.
The pain of the stress position was surprisingly intense. But a beautiful woman’s proximity is a remarkable analgesic. She smelled of cinnamon, so I tried to focus on that. But then she started on my thighs, the tiny brush tickling up and down in long lingering strokes and I started to worry about the paper pants. I looked down but could only see the top of her head so I went back to thinking about the pain in my arms again which seemed to work. Everything stayed put down below.
I focused on the clock and thought of the time the Trophy Wife persuaded me to go for a colonic and I hadn’t bothered to check beforehand what a colonic actually involved. Having the tube inserted wasn’t all that bad, though having to watch my contents pumped down it was disconcerting. What threw me was how attractive the colonic woman was. If somebody is going to do intimate, non-sexual things to my body, I want them to be really, really ugly. Which is unfair I know, but there you go.
When it felt safe, I looked down again. I didn’t seem to be getting any browner.
“When does the colour change happen?” I asked, assuming it would react with the skin like a dye.
She tutted. “You are too hairy. It would be better if you shaved.”
“Shaved my legs?”
“Or wax. That is more permanent.”
“Oh.” I didn’t want to wax my legs. But I sensed that if she insisted, I’d probably have to. She seemed that kind of girl.
“There. I’ve done what I can.” The beautician stood up and took of her gloves with an exuberant snap. She stood back to look at me and very, very nearly hid her disappointment. “Very nice.” she lied.