Right here in the UK we’ve been enjoying a glorious heatwave. We don’t always get such hot and sunny summers so when we do we’re sure to go all out and make the most of it. Barbecues, the beach and clothing reduced to the teeniest of shorts and tees. The aim of the game? Absorb that sun and tan up, baby!
But, not all of us tan that easily. I’m dark haired and fair skinned, a colour combo you’d expect to bronze up in the sun. Yet, I just don’t tan, if anything I burn. Forget that sunscreen or wear an exposed top and my shoulders are looking a rosy hue of pink. I just can not tan.
“To be tanned is to be glamorous”
There’s dozens of remedies for this inferior non-ability to tan. Check out any pharmacy or drugstore at this time of the year and you’ll find row upon row of fake tan. Self tanning lotions and sprays in a plethora of sun-kissed shades, all in the name of depicting an exotic goddess. To be tanned is to be glamorous. But isn’t it all a bit… taboo? Racist?
In complete paradox, Asia has long led the way with its women buying into the alabaster Caucasian look, investing in skin lightening and bleaching creams in a bid to be fairer skinned. Earlier this year, African singer Dencia received much criticism for her Whitenicious product for encouraging women of colour to be ashamed of their naturally dark skin. Paler skin is regarded highly as more desirable, attributed to a more affluent, successful – Western – person which is absolutely derogatory and yes, racist.
Okay, to be fair, tanning is arguably a natural skin reaction, whereas lightening using chemicals is as synthetic as you get. But, both are about acquiring a skin shade or colour that isn’t natural to you. If your skin doesn’t tan you can get it out of a bottle, and that’s altering your genetic colouring.
I spent my teens and early twenties covered up in trackie bottoms and jeans all because of zero body confidence. Bullies – general school arseholes – picked on me for everything from my arm hair to my skinny legs, calling me a ‘monkey’ and ‘anorexic’. I remember the hot day I went bare legged to school and a boy made fun of my white legs; from then on I covered up, ashamed to be so pale.
So forgive me – after years of coming to terms with being a ‘milk bottle’ and learning to love my paleness – when I say, no, I don’t want to tan.
If the sun decides to give my skin a peachy glow then that’s great but I’m not going out of my way to darken my skin and be not what I am. I do not have the time nor inclination to twist and writhe my torso in two applying lotions to every crevice of my body, hoping my ‘white bits’ don’t see the light of day again. And those bullies who shamed me into hiding myself away for all my developing years do not own me, and will never again.
The current glamorisation of tanning demeans those of us who don’t, can’t or won’t tan, which promotes bullying and a culture that doesn’t embrace natural skin colour. There’s a stigma around being pale but you know what? I’m pale and proud – just don’t call me pasty.