When the comment trolls come out to play, they generally focus their attacks on several expected topical targets: I’m fat, I’m ugly, I have horrible hair, I have too many clothes, I’m a self-righteous ass, I have atrocious taste and no right to call myself a style expert. These things, I expect. Especially after nearly four years of blogging and a lifetime of experience with bullying. But the supposed-insult that throws me for a loop every time? I should get a tan.
A TAN, people. I am too pale to be fashionable. My reputation would be much improved if I hit the beach or the tanning salon. Or just got off my pasty white butt, walked to Walgreens, and invested in some self-tanner.
I shouldn’t be so dumbfounded by this. Skin color and shade are charged topics, and people all over the world seek to lighten or darken their skin tones through artificial means. While I’m all for taking steps toward crafting a look that suits your personality and tastes, the idea of tinkering with skin color unnerves me. Utilizing clothing to define your figure, hair color to highlight your features, nail polish to embellish your fingers and toes, even tattoos and piercings to express your creativity … none of these things set off warning alarms. But skin color is different somehow.
And I’m aware that Caucasian women are encouraged to tan, generally for reasons of aesthetics rather than politics as far as I know. Supposedly, tanning makes us look thinner, better rested, younger, healthier. But I just never considered it something I should want to do. Maybe it’s because I am suspicious of ANYTHING that is supposed to make women look thinner, better rested, younger, healthier. Maybe it’s laziness. Maybe it’s obliviousness. Probably a mixture of all three. But until these comments started rolling in, I had never considered my paleness to be an affront.
And I bike all summer and wear loads of sunblock, yet I still get a bit browner and frecklier by autumn. And that’s fine. But whenever anyone tells me I should get a tan, or that I should consider using some bronzer on my face, I think: That is not for me. I think about how versatile my skin tone is, how I can wear so many colors right next to my face and look amazing, and how monkeying with that tone could throw it all off. I think about Cate Blanchett, my paleness hero, and how elegant she looks. I think about how encouraging all Caucasian women to tan is just another way to reinforce that we must all look like homogenized Barbie dolls or feel shame for our differences. And I think about the money, the effort, the time, the upkeep it would take to make my ghostly self tan all over all the time. That is most definitely not for me.
This is a topic that will hold different meanings for each of you, as I know some of you are Caucasian women who tan, some of you are skin cancer sufferers and survivors who have strong feelings about tanning, and some of you are women of color who have dealt with the racial issues inherent to discussions of skin color. But I’d love to hear ALL of your thoughts about paleness, tanning, and artificially altering skin color. What are your feelings and experiences? Have you ever been told that you’d look better in a lighter or darker skin tone? How did you react?