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?