As a kid, summer wasn’t summer until my shoulders bubbled up with blisters and I experienced my first bout of sun poisoning for the season.
Into my teens and twenties, I inevitably kicked off the end of every winter by spending endless hours and countless dollars trying to convert my pasty white complexion into the same golden bronzed look all of my friends were sporting by April.
St. Patrick’s Day marked the beginning of tanning season, and Easter ended it. Somehow, all of my friends were beach-ready (to just maintain their tans) by then, while I was lucky to look like an oompa loompa for a few days (or at least until my fake tan washed off).
I tried creams, lotions, spray tans, tanning beds, sunshine, you name it, but I’d always land in some range of cream, pink, orange or red. No brown, bronze or tan for me.
In 2002 I was headed to Mexico for an all-inclusive resort vacation. I was also hell-bent on being tan before I got there, and the kind of tan that wouldn’t rinse off at my first dip in the pool. I was on a mission.
I found a full service salon near work that specialized in hair, nails and tanning. Perfect! I could get some fake nails, highlights and spend my lunches tanning EVERY DAY!!
The salon was owned by a spunky little Asian man who ran the fort. He was excited about his salon’s services and had a plan for me to achieve the perfect tan without burning. I’d tan so many minutes in a variety of beds with a rotating schedule between this bed and that bed. It sounded complicated, but he seemed to know his stuff.
I signed my life away and purchased the top of the line “all you can tan” package. It gave me unlimited access to all beds for three months straight. He also offered me a full line of products to best achieve my success. I was invested, so I bought it all. No turning back now, no returns or refunds, and no way I wouldn’t be tan by Mexico.
On my first appointment he showed me the ropes and gave me the ground rules for tanning. He demonstrated how each of the beds worked, and showed me the emergency release in the event that I felt or smelled my flesh starting to bake (literally).
I was officially in tan camp for the next twelve weeks, and with my very own “Mr. Miyagi” to mentor me through it. Fantastic, or should I say tantastic for me.
Week one came and went quickly. I checked in with Mr. Miyagi every day, then slathered up with my products and spent ten to twenty minutes (depending which bed I was in) frying from the inside out. I wasn’t seeing much difference though. Maybe a little off white in different lighting, but overall no tan lines.
At the start of week two, Mr. Miyagi followed me back to the room and gave me another tutorial. He wanted to be sure I was turning the bed on, and to be clear, the shut off was only for emergencies. He explained in his broken English, I should stay in the bed “The ho time. THE HO TIME!”
The whole time, got it.
So, week three started and still nothing, not even much pink. The “accelerators” must have had some crazy ultra violet repellent because I wasn’t getting anything, not even burnt. Mr. Miyagi gave me the tanning tutorial AGAIN. We went over the schedule and looked at the tanning chart together and reviewed how the beds worked, top to bottom. Losing patience, he shouted, “YOU NO USE THE SHUTOFF!”
I’m NOT using the shutoff. Sheesh, tan camp was overrated.
Week four, I dreaded checking in at all. Mr. Miyagi never seemed to have a day off and always managed to be there for every friggin appointment. He wasn’t spunky anymore either.
At the end of my fourth week, Mr. Miyagi stopped me on my way out. He waved me close to the cash register where he was waiting with a pile of cash and a receipt for me to sign. He hastily counted the money out and pointed to the signature line.
Confused, I read the receipt and realized he was refunding my remaining eight weeks in cash. Seriously???
I told him I didn’t want a refund, I planned to continue tanning. Besides, what about the policy; no returns, no refunds?
Him: No, you no tan here. You not tanning. You take money back.
Me: I don’t want the money, I want a tan.
Him: No. You take money. You no tan here.
We went round and around, but there was no changing his mind. Apparently, some of the other regulars were starting to notice that I wasn’t becoming the bronze goddess I should’ve been by then. Mr. Miyagi thought I was bad for business.
So there you have it. It’s official: I am SO pale, that I was forced to take a refund on a non-refundable all you can tan package.
Because I was bad for business.