The Palest Girl in California

It’s that time again.  The time of year when bikinis come out of storage boxes, pants are traded for shorts, and skin that’s been covered and protected for months comes out to see the light.  For most people, this also means that it’s time to get their tan on.  For me, it’s the time to spend another summer learning to embrace my pasty, almost albino, Casper-like, self.

Thanks to my Russian grandparents, I have been “blessed” with milky, white skin.  My freckles are deceptive, but underneath lies the palest skin that most makeup artists have come across.  In fact, there are only two brands at Sephora that carry foundation light enough for me (Lancome and Make Up For Ever, in case you were wondering).  So, when I try to “tan”, I usually end up a nice, ripe shade of tomato red that lasts for a week until I peel and reveal my original shade of alabaster.  I can’t even tan after the burn!

Before you correct me, I’m fully aware that tanning is bad for us all and we all say that we’re diligently applying sunscreen in an effort to remain youthful and wrinkle-free.  But the truth is, in California, people tan.  A Californian’s “pale” skin is still about 10 shades more golden than my own.  And each year, I struggle through the full range of emotions that comes with having blinding white skin in a society that embraces a golden glow (even if they don’t want to admit it).

When I was a kid, I was teased relentlessly about my skin.  And, as an adult, I have trouble shaking the fact that I’ll always be the palest person in the room.  It’s an inner dialog that happens daily from about May until October.

My thoughts go like this:

Ugh, it’s 95 degrees today, I guess I should find my one pair of shorts.  No, my legs are too pale, someone will say something, I’ll just wear these capris.  UGH – it’s still too flipping hot, shorts it is.  Maybe this self tanner will help?  Nevermind, they only make self tanner for people who already have a little tan. On me, it looks fake, streaked and ORANGE.  Maybe this bronzer will work?  Oh, this stuff is a mess and the color of brownies, what on Earth was I thinking?  Ok… maybe they’re not as pale as I think they are.  After all, there are lots of pale, gorgeous celebs out there that don’t self tan – Emma Stone, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore come to mind.  I’m sure they don’t worry about this stuff.  But, maybe they do, and they’re just so incredibly gorgeous that you forget the milkiness of their skin.  Maybe, I need to lose weight and people will forget how pale I am.  Maybe, if my outfit and makeup are perfect, people will notice that first.  Maybe….

See where this is going?

And, now that I have 2 little girls, I feel like I’m hyper-aware of how I portray my body and my self-confidence.  My older daughter has my fair skin and my baby has her daddy’s “spaghetti sauce” (aka gorgeous, Italian, olive) skin tone.  I worry that my oldest will compare herself to her sister and wonder why she didn’t get the golden skin that is so highly praised and coveted.

I know how easy it is to fixate on something about yourself and have that manifest into a circle of self-hate.  So, this summer, I’m going to wear my shorts and my bikini and try my best to embrace the qualities that make me ME.  It’s never to early to teach self-love and, with my daughter approaching four, she’s starting to notice the things people say about their own bodies and others.  Maybe, in the quest to teach her to love herself, I’ll be able to love myself a little more too.  SPF 100 and all.


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