I do not tan.
Oh, how I’ve tried. In my twenties, like so many undergraduates, I donned those weird winkie things and lay back in tanning beds — not enough, I hope, to wreak significant UV damage. (I knew better and it never worked for long, anyhow.) But I didn’t stop chasing a tan, no way. I’ve bronzed. I’ve lotioned. I’ve spray-tanned a few times. But the fact of the matter is, my half-Viking, half-Scots-Irish self ain’t gettin’ nut brown for long. I am a pale thing.
When I’m in yoga, my near-albino-ness is more evident than usual. There’s more of my skin to see in the yoga room; in Bikram, you’re one sweaty strap away from nude. Even in winter, when most yogis are not actively tan, I stand out in the room as though there were a beam of moonlight shining on me. This observation is not clouded (milky?) by the fact that I’m commenting on my own body and it’s hard to be objective about oneself. No, it’s really true that I’m vampiric compared with everyone else in the room.
All through school and into my adult life, my palest pale skin was a source of shame for me. I was enraged that I couldn’t manage to turn more than barely-toasted marshmallow for more than a couple days. All these honey-colored girls seemed to prance about without a care in the world from May to September, their bare, sun-kissed shoulders tossed insouciantly at recess. Then the girls became women and were effortlessly tan at parties, at bars, at charity events.
But growing up is highly recommended. As years go by, you (hopefully) start to care slightly less about such surface things, or maybe you start to love yourself more. Sometimes it’s as simple as meeting more people — because the more people you meet, the more likely you are to meet people who are totally into what you’ve got going on. That’s the best discovery of all. Being told that my pale skin is pretty, even beautiful, is a great way to get over it. Someone told me my near-translucent skin was “gorgeous” once and that very day I stopped feeling like a cocktail shrimp.
Whatever physical difference you’re annoyed about, don’t forget for a second that there’s someone out there who thinks you are seriously hot precisely because of the thing you’re freaking out about. There’s someone out there who will howl at the moon for you and try very hard to take you out/kiss you/marry you/etc. because you’re so unique. Trust me on this. I don’t know a lot but I know this is true.
And so today, in beautiful New York City, as all the Soho fillies passed me by in their short shorts, enjoying their Coppertone souls, I donned a cute, lacy white dress I got at Neiman Marcus that perfectly matched my pale skin. I turned a few heads, too. Probably because the sun actually glinted off me. That’s what sunglasses are for, people.