by Lucy E.M. Black
Visualize a raw turkey breast in the grocery store: white dimpled skin covering a rounded, fleshy chunk of poultry. That’s what I thought my un-tanned legs looked like. I was reckless with my skin as a young person, tanning myself for hours under a slick coating of baby oil—essentially roasting myself for the sake of a “healthy-looking” appearance. It seems so ironic now, as I have become much more careful about staving off cancer-causing exposure by slathering myself in 30+ SPF sunscreens with a newly found fervor. Still, I continued to be embarrassed by the uncooked turkey appearance of my legs and decided that I should do something about it.
Now I recognize that I am no longer the type of person who attracts a lot of attention. The days of wolf-whistles when I walk by construction crews have long since passed. But I’m still a teensy bit self-conscious. There’s a part of me that remains just a little bit vain and superficial, and I’m conscious of trying to make a positive impression. So I did what we have all learned to do in such cases: I googled “fix pasty legs.” There was an amazing array of articles on the exfoliation of legs, instructions on how to get gorgeous legs, and four steps to beautiful legs. I scanned the selections eagerly and with interest.
The crux of my troubles it seemed was that I had not “prepped” my summer legs with a self-tanning product to give them a natural, light-tan-colored, glowing base! Hurrah. An obvious solution was in sight. Never having used a self-tanning product before (no need when I had deliberately burned my skin with ultraviolet radiation), I began to search out available products. I read product descriptions and reviews with meticulous attention to detail. If I was going to do this thing, I was going to do it right. Besides which, I pride myself on being an informed consumer.
Having chosen an “all-natural” product with “effortless” application instructions and a five-star review, I placed an online order and waited for delivery. I admit to feeling a twinge of excitement. I had found a way to improve my appearance with very little effort, little expense, and no risk to my health. It seemed like the perfect solution. On the day my parcel arrived, I unpacked the tin and re-read the instructions (although I admit to having had to use a magnifying glass to do so, as they were printed in a space on the tin no larger than a postage stamp).
I had purchased (for $49.99) a spray-on solution. I took the tin to the shower and practiced the gyrations necessary to spray the backs of my thighs. After maneuvering myself into various pretzel-like contortions, I decided to ask for some help. (I needed help actually. I had twisted my back in the distortions and now couldn’t get out of the shower).
Once I had recovered sufficiently and could once again walk normally, my good-natured partner accompanied me to the back garden and agreed to spray the stuff on my legs. I should tell you that my partner is a very talented painter. What this means is that, among other accomplishments of note, he is accustomed to painting with a variety of materials and should have been a fairly reliable assistant. Wrong! The promised “effortless” application did not begin to describe the shrieks (mine), the apologies (his), and the bedlam that ensued.
First of all, the instructions didn’t warn me that the spray came out of the tin ice cold! When I jumped in shock (re-injuring my back), the spray continued misting, missing huge patches of leg as I wriggled and writhed. Determined to do a good job, my partner re-sprayed the offending areas, meaning that some patches received a double application, which promptly turned my legs a deep orange. As we both stared at the vivid, carroty mess, excess liquid from the double-spray application began to drip into dazzling trails of an even brighter orange color. Grabbing a handful of paper towels, my partner daubed at my legs in a panic, attempting to even out the color treatment. Instead, he created a dappled effect which he, ever the artist, deemed to be “quite interesting.” His further, and not particularly helpful, suggestion was that interior decorators would refer to the final effect as a “Tuscan wall treatment.”
I hobbled back upstairs to the shower and tried using a loofah to scrub off the $49.99 self-imposed (and misguided) stain. The resultant mess meant that my pasty legs now closely resemble a pair of oversized Cheetos. I have resolved to wear slacks for the rest of the summer and have (for now at least) relinquished thoughts of further self-improvement projects.
Photo by Marvin Meyer (Switzerland) @marvelous
Lucy E.M. Black studied creative writing at the undergraduate level and later earned an M.A. in nineteenth-century British fiction. She has also studied at the Sage Hill School of Writing, the Humber College School of Writing, and the University of Toronto Creative Writing Programme. Her short story A Hawk in Winter won third prize in the 2014 International Rubery Short Story Competition. Other stories of hers have appeared in Cyphers Magazine, Fast Forward Fiction, Gargoyle Magazine, under the gum tree, the Hawai’i Review, Forge, Temenos Fiction, Romance Magazine, Vintage Script, and The Antigonish Review. The Marzipan Fruit Basket, a debut collection of her short fiction, was released by Inanna Publications in June 2017. Her first novel, Eleanor Courtown, was published by Seraphim Editions in October 2017. She lives with her husband in a small town near Toronto.