19 April 2008
Self-Tanning, Then and Now
Something really great about women’s magazines in Europe is that they very often give you a really cool prize for buying them. They know that most of us “gals” are children at heart, or at the very least willing to spend a little cash to compensate for shortcomings in our personalities. There are probably a good proportion of women who only buy magazines when they get something cool with it. Sure, the magazines can dazzle us with fancy headlines (the magazine pictured above has a lead story with the title, Men Talk About Their Pubic Hair), but nothing draws the customers in like a little freebie. It’s a brilliant marketing tool. Occasionally it’s really lame things like bad lipgloss (which we as consumers show our distaste for by not buying that week’s issue), but other times they hit the jackpot with excellent things like sunglasses or makeup cases. I got this one in a magazine in England a few years ago and I still use it (It’s the shiny thing next to the angry grey cat):
So this week I was thrilled when I saw Flair Magazine offering “Nutribronze Self-Tanning Lotion”; and not just little samples, either, but a full size product (pictured here to display size and also the color I’ve painted my kitchen walls):
And let me just say, this stuff is amazing. It does give you a lovely tawny glow, just like it says on the package. I'm exactly the target customer for this sort of thing, being a rather pale blue-eyed type. I squint when I see scenes of sunshine on television, and I'm not one to go lying poolside covered with oil practically begging the elements to give me skin cancer. So I really appreciate that there are fabulous creams on the market these days to make it look as if I'm not quiet so challenged in the melanin department. Now I can smear on a little cream and it looks as if I go outdoors occasionally. And let me tell you, this is a far cry from how things were back in my day. Back when I was a teenager, they didn’t have all the variety of different “bronzers”, and they certainly weren’t put out by cosmetic companies. They had one industrial strength “sunless tanner”. It was called “QT” , and rather than giving you a tawny glow, it would dye your skin a disturbingly deep shade of orange. The effect was the same on everyone, and yet we’d all go out and buy the stuff, hoping against hope that this time we’d end up looking like the sun tanned beach bunnies on the TV commercial. Basically we were a whole generation of teenagers who looked like Donatella Versace.
“QT” will forever be emblazoned on my mind (and quite possibly stored in some of my skin cells), because it played a strategic part in my ugliest day ever on this planet.
Let me paint the picture for you: I was 13. I was the most awkward combination of chubby and lanky that you can imagine. I was living in England and my mother had left the country on a business trip, so one of her friends from work was staying with me. She let me get away with everything. So no sooner had my mother’s car left the street, than I was down at the corner hair salon getting a haircut which she had forbidden. It was short, but with a long flip in the front that needed to be kept propped with hairspray. It was all part of a makeover I was doing on myself that I planned to show everyone Monday at school. I was going to be a suntanned blonde goddess with modern hair and a body to die for. I had picked out a rather low-cut dress of my mother’s, and I had it laid out and ready to put on the next morning. Before I went to bed, I applied the QT. And instead of a thin layer like the bottle suggested, I put it on extra thick. Because I wanted impact. I wasn’t going to mess around with subtlety.
I have never been much good in the mornings, so when the alarm clock went off, I slipped on the dress and matching sandals (which were a little big on me), shoved a few pairs of socks into my bra (for the “wow” effect), ran a brush through my hair, and headed out the door. I didn’t get a chance to look in the mirror, because the one in the bathroom was too high for me to see into, and the full length one was in the other bedroom. But it didn’t matter – I knew looked good. I would just bask in other people’s appreciative stares.
As I walked down the street to the bus stop, I was apparently so strikingly beautiful that everyone was stopping to have a look at me. I was a real head-turner. I simply couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It was such a special feeling being so astonishingly gorgeous. When I got on the bus, some kids laughed at me, but I thought hey, they’re probably just so amazed that a supermodel like me is actually taking the bus.
When I got to school I was a few minutes late, but appreciative of the importance of making an entrance. “Assembly” was already in progress, so I walked into a room already full with all my fellow pupils and assorted teachers. Most people’s eyes were on the person who was speaking, but Miss Mullens, a nun/teacher who had a special hatred for me, turned around to glare at me. She stared me down until I had no option but to stare at my feet. Finally, a friend grabbed my hand and whispered, “Come with me”. Once we were outside the Assembly Room she said, “What are you doing?! I can’t believe you came to school looking like that!”
“What’s wrong with looking sexy?” I asked innocently.
And without answer she led me to the Ladies Room and set me squarely in front of the mirror.
“Look.” She ordered.
I looked. And contrary to the gorgeous sexy self-image I’d been operating under all morning, there before me stood a bright orange freak, with dark wrinkle lines everywhere where the fold of the sheets had pressed against my skin while I slept. My eyebrows looked like someone had melted orange crayons on them. My hair was sticking up in an unnatural tuft in the front (think Cameron Diaz in Something About Mary), and my low-cut sexy dress was low-cut enough to reveal not only my bra, but the argyle socks hanging out of it.
How I got through the rest of the day, I don’t remember. The memory of it is sort of contained in a dark shame-cloud. I think I borrowed some gym clothes to go home in. But I do remember that when I got home I made a point of squirting the rest of the bottle of QT down the toilet, cursing all the while.
So anyway, this stuff they make today (that I got free in a magazine!) is like gold to me. You kids don't know how easy you've got it.