In Defense of Pale


Yesterday’s temperatures topped out at a withering 96 degrees. Leaving the office in the thick of it, at around 5:30 PM, I encountered an employee of the nearby tanning salon, handing out fliers (presumably offering some sort of discount for their services). He took one look at me, smirked, and OFFERED ME TWO.

I looked at HIM and said, “Seriously?”

If you’ve never seen me in person, know this: I am pale. On the pale spectrum I am somewhere between “peaches and cream” and “deathly pallid.”

Understand – I have nothing against people with tans; my own parents are veritable bronzed gods from spending their golden years on golf courses. It is simply not my bag.

Mostly, this is for health reasons. Skin cancer runs in my family. When I burn, it’s bad. And it doesn’t fade into anything resembling a healthy glow. I burn, it hurts, and then I peel. At least this is what I remember; I have not had a sunburn in close to 20 years.

Partly, too, it’s for aesthetic reasons. I simply prefer to be pale. As I get older, this continues to work in my favor. I’m in my forties, and I still get carded at clubs. I’ve also managed to keep the wrinkles at a minimum without going to stupid (and possibly poisonous) lengths to do so.

Also, I’ve invested a good deal of money, time, and pain in my tattoos. Blanching them in direct sunlight until they resemble faded old posters in beauty salon windows kind of defeats the purpose of having them, in my opinion.

Much like a bodybuilder, I work very hard to stay this way. Let me tell you – it was devilishly challenging to stay this pale while living in Florida for four years. But I did it.

I feel guilty, sometimes. I feel as though Coombsie would have a much better time on vacation without constantly having to deal with me and my sensitive pelt. I’m the one most people hate to be around during the summer. I cannot step outside, even to fetch a newspaper, without making sure I am adequately covered in sunscreen.* I’m the person who has to stop whatever’s going on, roughly every 4 hours, to reapply the sunscreen. I’m the person who is embarrassing to be around, because I am either wearing a HUGE HAT, or carrying a parasol.

Exhibit A: me at the beach.

Eek!  A ghost!

Yes, I go to the beach. I’m not anti-sun. I’m anti-damage.

Obviously, the mere sight of me at pools/beaches/outdoor music festivals is enough to bring on a barrage of witticisms such as: “Yo, Casper! Cover them legs up!” At a family barbeque several years ago, a friend of my in-laws verbally attacked me for a good 2 or 3 minutes about how “sick” I looked (I did nothing to provoke this other than to seek shade under a tree). Trust me, folks, I’ve heard it all, and your vocalized horror at my ghostly pallor is not going to make me retreat to my lace-bedecked boudoir, fall upon my fainting couch, and think, “Gosh, they’re right. I really ought to try getting a TAN.”

Then I giggle daintily and put another record on the phonograph. Tra-la!

*Yes, I’m aware that certain sunscreens/sunblocks are “bad” for you. Please do not lecture me on this, as I’ve spent decades now as something of an expert on sun protection. I mean – LOOK AT ME, for Christ’s sake.