Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pasty White Chicks of the World Unite!

Recently I read a post in which Jo-Lynne of "Musings of a Housewife" had the opportunity to consult a makeup artist. He used a shade of powder called "China Doll" which he said he'd wanted to call "Pasty White Chick" but the company wouldn't let him. I and several other commenters said we'd totally buy a makeup called "Pasty White Chick" because--well, that's what we are. It would take all the guesswork out of the decision.

I've always been fair-skinned but when I was a child, I was outdoors so much that I did turn a pretty, light golden color in the summer. I think the last tan I had was when I was ten years old. After that my sedentary, indoor-loving personality took over and I didn't spend much time outside. As a teenager, I could never stand to "lay out" and tan. First of all, we didn't have a pool, so I couldn't cool off when I got too hot lying in the broiling Texas sun on our driveway. Second, I did get hot. Very hot. And bored. I didn't even have a Walkman to listen to as I lay there baking. (Note to anyone under thirty: Walkmans were radios and/or tape players with headphones. That was what we had before iPods. And now I have just admitted to being old enough to remember having no portable music at all. Oh, the shame.)

Third and most important, it was useless for me to lay out because I don't tan. I don't. I burn, peel, and then maybe, if I have done enough damage to the subcutaneous layer of my skin, there might be a tan under there--a very light, barely noticeable tan. But only if the burn was really painful and destined to increase my risk of melanoma years later.

I don't actually know what subcutaneous means or if I used it correctly in that sentence, but I do know what melanoma means. And that pasty white people are at a greater risk for it than people with more melanin in their skin. Fortunately I decided at a young age that being tan wasn't worth painful sunburns and yucky peeling. I was wise beyond my years, people. I didn't even try tanning beds when they became popular. I have reddish-brown hair, and I wondered if I would look all reddish-brown if I tanned my face. Plus I heard the story of the girl who liquefied her internal organs by tanning too much, and it doesn't matter if the story is true or not because it kept me out of the tanning bed. I did try self-tanners back in the day when they were...not as good as they are today and I was as orange as a traffic cone for a few days. Not a good look for me. Or anyone, really.

So I decided to embrace my whiteness. It's been around fifteen years since I tried to change the color of my skin much. I did discover the Aveeno lotion with a hint of color and it does even out the skin tone on my legs (white legs are one thing; white blue-veined legs are another). And if I were going on a vacation in which I would appear in pictures wearing a bathing suit (gack!) I'd probably try a Mystic tan. But other than that--it is what it is. I have my paternal grandmother's skin, and the plus side of protecting your skin is that you look younger when you're in your eighties. So as you can imagine, I'm looking forward to that decade of my life.

Other women I know don't feel the same way at all. Two acquaintances recently told me that they just can't stand to go bare-legged unless they've tanned. Their "pale" is probably as dark as I'd ever get, so I asked them if they ever worried about the effects of tanning and both of them said they'd rather be tan and wrinkly. (Tactfully, I didn't bring up skin cancer.) I've also had people tell me, "I think other people can look good without a tan. You look fine pale! But I need a tan." I don't know if they're just being nice or if they have something like body dysmorphic disorder in which they think everyone else looks fine but they are just not pretty when they're white.

What about y'all? Do you tan easily, with or without trying? Do you wear sunscreen? Do you already proudly embrace your identity as a Pasty White Chick?



  1. I completely embrace my fair skin, though, I have learned that yelling "WHITE POWER!" is a good idea in very few contexts.

    Even though I'm content as a whitey, as you point out, there's that whole blue-white leg thing.... yeah, I could probably stand to get a tube of that lotion for myself. I wore a skirt today for the first time in ages (yay for springtime warmth!) and I might have blinded my coworkers. Oops.

  2. I tan pretty easily, if not darkly, but every year as I progress closer and closer to the 30-year mark I find myself covering up my skin more and applying more sunscreen. As it is, my daytime face lotion has SPF 15 in it and my makeup has SPF 20. Once the sun's out full time I'll be using SPF 55 sunscreen as my face lotion, and I'll replace my body lotion with sunscreen.

    I hide under umbrellas at the beach unless I'm in the water (which drives my MIL crazy, because she hardly ever wears sunscreen and wears her bikini to do yard work and then buys expensive lotions to combat the wrinkles), and I'll probably start wearing hats soon.

    Here in Okinawa, locals over age 40 cover from head to toes in order to keep any amount of sun from hitting their bodies, even when it's 90 degrees with 100% humidity. I don't think I'll do that, though.

  3. I live in so cal and I swear it is like a sin to not have a tan. But the older I get the more freckles I get! I use sunscreen on my face everyday all year. And I heavily sunscreen the rest of me when appropriate. I'm not planning on plastic surgery in the future so I'm trying to grow old as gracefully as possible!

  4. Oh, yes, I'm a Pasty White Chick and I embrace it! Not much point spending the money and jeopardisint my health in order to get a tan, and then feeling the desperate need to spend more and jeopardise more on the upkeep of that tan!

    Take me white, or don't take me at all.

    And as an aside, doesn't it break your heart to hear little girls with an African heritage saying that white is "pretty" and the darker the skin, the more "ugly" it is? Don't you want to scoop them up in your arms and tell them how beautiful they are and how silly we white women can be, trying to change our OWN colouring, and how God made us all perfect in the first place?

  5. As I blush and shy away a bit, I tan easily - can't help it. But my mom -she doesn' tan she just freckles!

  6. I am of the pasty white chick. I am. I put on sunscreen and when I'm lucky, I yellow.

    (My old walkman fell out of our cd cabinet the other day and my son pointed at it with disgust and then interest, What is that? A walkman, I said. Like that added any clarity at all...)

  7. I am of the slightly reflective variety myself, although when we lived out west I was tanned (no choice really when I'm allergic to somthing in many sunscreens). So I know that I can tan, just choose not to.

    I kept under cover for years trying to keep my skin nice and hoping to reduce skin cancer. I don't have veins, so no blue lines, but unfortunately now I'm in my thirties it looks like I'm going to have little red blood spots all over which don't show up where I do get sun exposure. White with little red spots doesn't look attractive in ANY culture. *Sigh*

  8. I was born darker than normal, the old folks blame it on my mom's addiction to coffee when I was still in the tummy....

    surprisingly, I don't tan easily (maybe because I'm pretty tan already), neither do I 'whitened' easily too, it sort of stay pretty much the same, unless I sun-bathe on purpose, then I'll be RED and peeling... *laugh*

  9. I can't believe you're not allowed to name a makeup Pasty White Chick! It's just being honest! For years, I never had to even think about which makeup to choose. I always just grabbed the lightest shade available (which was sometimes still too dark). These days I seem to be 3 or 4 shades up from the lightest shade. I don't know if that's because I've gotten darker with age *gasp* or because they finally figured out how to make lighter makeup.

    I am very glad there are others who embrace exactly who they are. I'm white (though alabaster sounds more glamorous). I don't tan. When we go out on our friend's boat in the summer, I'm constantly reapplying sunscreen and following the little bit of shade. I decided a long time ago that it's easier to work with what we're given and embrace it then to spend our lives fighting it. My hair won't curl to save my life. My fingernails will only grow in the summer. My small chest is never going to say "voluptuous buxom woman". And I'm never going to be tan. That's just me.

    My sister-in-law uses the tanning beds, and I always think she looks horrible in the summer. Her skin is much too dark and her hair is much too blond. I think it just makes her look old. Not a good look for anyone, no matter what your skin color (unless of course you ARE old, but that's another topic altogether).

  10. I am what I am... usually in the summer I get a little tan, nothing like I did when I was little, but one step up from pasty.. and in the winter it's back to sheet-of-paper-white... but I won't tan... I'm not giving cancer a chance.

  11. I'm not pasty white, but believe me I get tanned in the Australian sun - and yes, when I travel as well.

    Really enjoyed this post!

  12. I am deeply white. Very, very white - but with enough of an olive tint to my skin that I don't have the china doll-style whiteness - and when I go outside for any length of time, I get VERY dark. Instantly. So I have three shades of foundation in my repetoire - my winter dead white, my mid-tan and my deep, deep brown.

  13. I used to get tan as a kid ... okay who am I kidding. I used to turn a darker shade of off-white as a kid. Now it's even worse. I usually tan before I have to stand up in a wedding, but a friend of mine really yelled at me for doing this (because of the skin cancer risk), and I'm seriously afraid she'd hurt me!
    I've embraced the pale... I use the Jergens lotion that has a little self tanner in it, though. It works pretty well. At least in my mind it does.

  14. This is a funny post. Obviously, I am NOT a pasty white chick, but I'm a makeup artist. And this is one of those things I hear so often. "I'm pasty. And white. I can't wear any makeup without looking like a coloring book page." And don't let me do a wedding party! It's so frustrating to match everyone's foundation a week before the event only to have everyone show up the day of the event looking Hispanic! Tanning booths for every last one of them. Now NONE of the colors we picked works. I wish my clients could embrace their whiteness. Maybe you could start a movement or something. Get a theme song and everything. LOL