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Man of the House: College girl stops home for a spray tan

March 26, 2011|Chris Erskine

Spray tans are everywhere these days. It's like the entire nation has been lightly toasted. Soon, there will be an app for that. Hold your smartphone directly to your face. Click.

The other day, my wife, Posh, got her car spray-tanned, a discretionary expense that a lot of people might frown upon. Not me.

"For all I care, you can spray tan the house," I told her.

"Really?"

"Spray tan whatever you like," I said.

"The dog?"

"The kids."

"The luggage?"

"The income taxes."

The college girl, back for spring break, went out and got herself spray-tanned the other day. She came back looking guilty about something, and I noticed that her mid-March Midwestern complexion had been minked ever so slightly, to something Crayola might call "cutaneous."

"What'd you do?" I asked her.

"Nothing."

"What'd you do?"

"Nothing."

"What'd you do?"

"Nothing."

This is a line of questioning every parent will recognize. Eventually, you annoy your child to the point of surrender. Because, within the past few hours, a teenager will have always done something morally or financially foolish.

And if you've raised them right, they eventually start to feel guilty about lying to their parents, the only people in the world who would ever pick up their wedding tab. Though sometimes an interrogation can take hours.

"What'd you do?"

"Spray tan."

"Huh?"

She claimed to have paid for it with "that twenty I found at the Pacific Design Center." For two years now, our daughter has been paying for questionable purchases — shoes, scarves, trips to Catalina — with "that twenty I found at the Pacific Design Center."

So, if you happened to lose 20 bucks at the Pacific Design Center in 2009, you now owe me a little over four grand.

I told my daughter about the best bargain in town, the Irish spray tan, which is two beers and a Slim Jim. It works best when you're Irish, of course, but anyone with a pale-pink northern European skin tint can use it. After two beers, I always look like I've wintered on a burro in Mazatlan. After three beers, the capillaries begin to rise in my face till I look like a sewer map of Manhattan. No worries. I'm proud to be a person of color.

"So, you're drunk all the time," my daughter said.

"Yes."

"What kind of example is that?" she asked.

Depends on what you're after. But it does occur to me, as the father of four (or five?), that I've got to start being a better role model. This is difficult, for I'm easily as flawed as my children, maybe more so. I rely on a certain amount of wisdom to maintain the upper hand. When that doesn't work, I just explode.

That's the other Irish spray tan, anger. We Celts are a wonderful people, but we're always a little miffed about something someone said, and we reserve our greatest miffs for the people we care about the most.

So, to summarize, we're a warm and loving people — prone to literature and fistfights, happy hours and war. As direct descendants of leprechauns, we also cry very easily — mostly about the outcome of sporting events.

As I've confessed before, farewells still do me in as well, and when the little girl returned to college the other morning, with a suitcase thick with fashion choices you just can't find in Indiana, my heart went with her too. Not the whole heart, just a chamber or two, a ventricle, a couple of valve covers — a spark plug.

Really, I'd prefer to be shot.

I lifted her suitcase into the back of her mother's spray-tanned car, nearly pulling a schnitzel in the process. It was 5:30 in the morning, and I think my schnitzel was still aschleep.

As you know, once you pull a schnitzel, you are essentially doomed. At the risk of getting too technical, I will tell you that it is the body's biggest muscle, running from the back of the tongue clear down to the Achilles — thick as a pork loin, tight as a guitar string.

I call it the evolutionary muscle, for without a schnitzel, we'd essentially still be walking on all fours. Like people from Oregon.

So, pull a schnitzel, and you can be done as a dad unless you are very, very lucky. Heartstrings, schnitzels, wallets, tear ducts, they're all connected. Inside, I look very much like a very wet, very vintage slot machine.

You know, parenthood is really an amazing thing, a 60-year symphony of wars and happy hours. Or maybe a 60-year polka.

But tell me, do you ever get used to them going away?

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter @erskinetimes

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