I’ll admit that something in me had broken, that two hours of reading waiting room magazines had left me not simply groggy but impaired.  My speech was thick, my step uncertain; I tried to rouse myself from stupor as my wife emerged from her appointment.  I rose uncertainly, grunting in what I hoped was a supportive manner, holding the last magazine I had found, an issue of People devoted to fashion, pointing clumsily at a photo that filled half a page.

My wife is a photographer.  A really good photographer.  I am sure she thought that I found the picture magnificent or inspiring.  She would have been mistaken.  The page shone with the image of a glistening model languishing above two small paper towels, one stretched to its full length, the other slyly folded on an angle.  I shook the page with purposeful energy; she nodded, and asked me to smile, that being one of the demands a first responder is expected to ask the victim of a stroke.  I swatted the magazine again, unable to put my thoughts into words.

My wife nodded.  “I see.  Two towels.  What about them?”

The ‘what’ of this exchange was a full-page ad for self-tanning towelettes.

Let’s start with the self-tanning piece first.  The product advertised was the L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Towlette, a product offered at fine stores and equally fine web-sites everywhere.

Convenient and easy to use, these Sublime Bronze Towelettes for Body create a streak-free, natural looking tan. With enough self-tanner for one application, each towelette is perfect for at home or on the go. Made with Vitamin E and gentle AHAs (alpha hydroxy acid derivatives) to provide a beautiful, 100 percent natural-looking tan and ultra-smooth skin.

First of all, any tan is a self tan.  OK, I guess you could tan someone else, as in “tanning a hide”, but with the exception of Buffalo Bill, the character introduced in Silence of the Lambs, you don’t see much of that anymore.  “It puts the tanning towelette on itself…”?

Then, one might think each towelette is chock full of more than an adequate dose of  bronze tanning substance, but the ad only cagily suggests that each towlette has enough self-tanner for one application.  No real guarantee there, as who knows how many applications of  towlette tanning juice one might need in order to achieve the tan and ultra-smooth skin the bronzed model appears to have realized with one swipe of this streak-free stuff.

L’Oreal itself has some explaining to do.  Back in 1907 when an enterprising Alsatian chemist came up with super snappy hair dye, he named it after a popular style of hairdo, approximately a “halo”.  L’Auréale, nom inspiré d’une coiffure de l’époque arborée par les femmes : l’auréole. No stone left unturned in this relentless search for truth in  tanning.  The company can’t even spell its own name correctly; how is one meant to trust them to tan with one application?

The good news is that L’Oreal (cough) is not the only source of self-tanning supplies.  The thoughtful shopper can choose from – Fake Bake Flawless, Tan Physics True Color, San Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse, or the Maui Babe Browning Lotion.  To be sure, these products are not tan-infused towelettes; the San Tropez Tan Mousse, for example, goes on with the help of the San Tropez Applicator Mitt.

In the towelette section of the bronzing aisle, the choices include the Tan Towel Self-Tan Towelette (Classic 10 Count), the Tart Brazilliance Skin Rejuvenating Maracuja (Paraguayan passion fruit) Self Tanning Face Towelettes, and the Helios Full Body Tanning Towel.

The choice is up to you.  Applicator mitt or full body tanning towel?

To add ignorance to injury, I hadn’t known that products known as towelettes existed. I suppose one could make almost any noun smaller with the flourish of an “ette”.  Kitchenettes, vignettes, majorettes, dinettes, roulettes, brunettes, luncheonettes, coquettes, sure, even baguettes, assuming that the classic French comestible was not actually a small bag?  What else had I missed?  Are small owls, I wondered, known as owelettes?  No, those are owlets, single “t”.   A band of tiny dominatrices known as dominettes?  Probably not.

Side note before retiring from the universe of self-tanning agents:  “Brazilliance” may be the best new word to emerge in decades.  Pass it on.


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