OR­ANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

Just like Hughie Maughan, Donal Lynch waged a bat­tle with the tan bot­tle, but he no longer dares to be brown

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - FIRST PERSON -

It’s still very dif­fi­cult, in 2017, to take male van­ity se­ri­ously. Cor­po­ra­tions that try to sell us stuff, they take it se­ri­ously, and Louis Walsh knows it’s no snig­ger­ing mat­ter, but, to the rest of us, it’s a bit of a joke. You see it in the way we treat male and fe­male van­ity dif­fer­ently. If a woman loses her hair, it’s all coun­selling and fun runs and rib­bons of sup­port, whereas if a man loses his hair, he just gets open de­ri­sion from his mates and (creep­ily) targeted ads for plugs on Face­book. If a woman has to have a mas­tec­tomy, it may well be the sub­ject of a photo es­say about how brave she is to em­brace her new body. Whereas if a guy de­vel­ops moobs, he just gets gags about buy­ing a bra.

I thought about all this a while ago as I watched what was dubbed Hughie Maughan’s “fake tan dis­as­ter” on

Un­derneath this head­line, a pair of huge, hope­ful eyes blinked, like those of the Dal­ma­tian that falls in the soot in Hughie was a deepma­hogany, Donatella Versace-in-Au­gust kind of colour. It did look a bit alarm­ing. Had he been a girl, the tan would, at most, been the sub­ject of some side­bar tut­ting. He would be a sub­ject of pity. But, be­cause Hughie is a guy, and a Trav­eller, there was open mock­ery from all sides. Death threats came from Amer­i­cans, who pre­sumed he was in black­face, tak­ing the piss. And the RTE make-up artist said some­thing like she tried to wres­tle the bronzer out of his not-brown-cos-he-for­got-to-do-it hand. As soon as was over, Hughie got even browner. And ev­ery­one won­dered, is Hughie go­ing to be the Amy Wine­house of fake tan?

I took this all in with the weari­ness of a sur­vivor who once waged my own brief, ter­ri­ble bat­tle with the tan bot­tle. I was 22 and go­ing through the stan­dard 1990s-south­side-boy thing of wear­ing a solid head of Dax wax with Ben Sher­man shirts and hor­rific boot-cut jeans. I had not yet made peace with my mousey grey Ir­ish­ness. I didn’t re­alise that most peo­ple worth lis­ten­ing to are translu­cently pale. I just

Danc­ing With The Stars. 101 Dalmatians. Daily Mail Danc­ing With The Stars

wanted to be all golden-coloured, like a Ger­man ex­change stu­dent or a porn star. So I went into this salon in town, and wore their pa­per un­der­wear, and got sprayed by a girl who wink­ingly told me I was the third guy that day. Still, I did feel like this had to be the guy equiv­a­lent of the boat to Eng­land. The shame and se­crecy, for one thing. The cash pay­ment. The hu­mil­i­a­tion of be­ing prod­ded by strangers. The new life await­ing. Yet, no­body was march­ing for my rights.

There is a mo­ment when you emerge from these places and re­join so­ci­ety, and you have a choice: do you ’fess up to your en­hance­ment, or do you lie through your teeth and just pre­tend you got a colour? With jaw-dropping brazen­ness, I opted for the lat­ter. “I’m just back from Spain,” I told friends, who won­dered where they’d seen me be­fore. I was Bollywood brown. I was the colour of Hughie. Ex­cept, had I been a Trav­eller, a bet­ter name would have been Blackie.

It was, by to­day’s high stan­dards, a fairly tame mo­ment of youth­ful ex­per­i­ment. It wasn’t like I was get­ting some­one’s name tramp-stamped on me, or hav­ing per­ma­nent eye­brows tat­tooed on (those will al­ways be the dream). But still, I had to be pun­ished. I left a trail be­hind me, like a slug. Ho­tel sheets looked like they had the skid marks of a gi­ant on them. Plus, the tan­ning liq­uid turned my beard red, so I looked like a sort of gin­ger Pak­istani; not in dan­ger of get­ting laid, but cer­tainly a pos­si­bil­ity for a flight watch list.

In the long, dark years since that dis­as­ter, I have man­aged to stay clean and dry. Not a sin­gle sponge or air gun has been aimed at me. I still ap­pear as though I bathe in milk on a daily ba­sis. And when I look back at the self who thought tan was a good idea, I re­alise it’s re­ally not that shame­ful to be so vain. It takes tremen­dous self-be­lief to be overly brown. It might help you charm ev­ery­one on or it might take you to the White House. Or it might, very sim­ply, help you to brazen out the state­ment, “I’ve just been out­side in the sun a lot lately”.

Still, I did feel like this had to be the guy equiv­a­lent of the boat to Eng­land

Big Brother,

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