Personal column: Pale is the new tan

May 2, 2008 — by Dorey Schranz

It’s that time of the year again. The weather warms up and everyone heads to the beach to lie in sun, returning a nice shade of tan. Oh, except me.

When I go to lie in the sun, I bring my Costco industrial-sized jug of 50 spf sunscreen and prepare to blend in with the white sand beaches, destined to return the same shade of fluorescent white I was when I left.

I’m not entirely sure how I ended up with a negative amount of melanin, especially since most Hungarians have a more Mediterranean look, complete with gorgeous, tan skin and dark hair. Even in my own country I look like a tourist from some light-starved region of the world.

Being pale was one of the first things I can remember ever being self-conscious about as a child. Being different is almost always an issue when kids are young, and living in sunny Orange County (which, since the invention of sunless tanner, has gotten quite a bit more orange), pale was certainly different.

I’ve tried to change. I used to try to get a little tanner by spending more time in the sun and wearing less sunscreen, until my dermatologist threatened to make me get sun-protective clothing if I continued my harmful ways. Black lycra parka? Not the best fashion statement.

It is taking a lot of courage for me to admit this for fear of reminding anyone who knew me then… but I am also guilty of having tried sunless tanners. The girls look so natural in the advertisements. What those advertisements fail to show, however, is that the sprays only work if you are tan to begin with. If you are pale, the product turns your skin a nice shade of Oompa Loompa. The saddest part of this story is that this all happened in seventh grade and helped contribute to one of the worst awkward phases ever.

Now, though, I think I have come to terms with my skin color, or … lack thereof. I realize there are plenty of benefits to being pale.

For example, you never need to find a Halloween costume; ghost is always a popular (and easy!) choice. Also, it takes almost no time to find yourself in group photos. Hey, what is that bright white spot over in the right hand corner? Oh, it’s me.

It has taken me a long time to get comfortable in my skin, but I’m glad I have finally gotten to a point where I can embrace the fact that I am pale instead of constantly trying to change it. It’s nice to have something that sets me apart from the rest of the world. And, if I ever want to blend in, I could always just take a quick vacation—to the arctic circle.

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