One evening, last year, I bought a bottle of Johnson’s holiday skin in to combat my white pasty complexion. On the same evening, I rushed home to lather myself up a tan. I didn’t read the instructions. Men don’t need instructions. I took two palm fulls of cream and applied it. The shit stank to Holy High Heaven. Is self-tanning really worth the displeasure of such a stench; the risk of skin cancer seemed more appealing. I finished my tanning application and went to bed. I didn’t sleep a wink. I could feel the tan working its way onto my skin. I was so excited. I would be a sallow beauty by morning. I could barely wait for morning light.
My eyelids fell back. I jumped out of bed and rushed to the mirror. “Oh”, I said aloud, “where is my golden tan?” There was no tan. There were, however, a few orange streaks up and down my arms. I had unknowingly “umpalumpafied” myself. In the bathroom, I noticed my hands. They were not streaked with tanning solution. They were bright orange. The skin surrounding my nails was yellow. I looked to have dirty-old-man-smoker hands. “Ugh”, I yelped. I scoured vigorously. The stain would not come off. The colour was embedded in my skin. The botched tan job was now, like my personality, a part of me. I could do nothing about it.
During the DART journey to work I stared at my hands. They did not belong to me. They were dirty- fake-tan-hands; the type of hands, that on someone else, would make me laugh. On arriving at work I waved to my colleagues with a closed hand. I did not want them to mistake my hand for a Simpson stunt hand. I invented alternative ways of giving things to colleagues. I would leave a file next to the person, instead of placing it in their hands. I clenched objects between my wrists. If anyone came to my desk I would place my hands on my lap out of sight. I was ashamed of my discolouredness. “Avert your eyes” I wanted to scream.
I returned home to find myself face to face with the bottle of Johnston’s lotion. I put the yellow bottle to the back of the wardrobe. There it remained for a while until last night. I decided to apply another course of lotion. I was reacquainted with the same familiar stench and greasy film on my skin. In the bathroom, I thoroughly cleansed my hands. I returned to bed with nostrils full of Johnson’s pollutant. Morning light arrived. I checked the results. There was little effect. My nails were slightly tinted. There was no cause for embarrassment. I readied myself for the day. At 08.40, I left the apartment, locked the door and set off for a hard day’s work at the chocolate factory.