This One's for the Pasty Girls: A Case for a No-Tan, No-Bronzer Summer

by Kim Bongiorno
Originally Published: 

Have you often found yourself approached by strangers on sunny days and told in a concerned voice, “You should put some sunblock on?”

Have you chosen the foundation option labeled “Ivory” in the makeup aisle, only to find it much too dark for your complexion?

Have you ever appeared as only eyeglass frames and a sweater when photographed in broad daylight?


This is the time of year when many around us become obsessed with the idea of revealing skin that has been hidden during the long winter months. They wonder aloud about whether nylons are still a thing and run to cosmetic stores for the fanciest self-tanners they can find.

They can do what they want, but I’m making a case for yet another no-tan, no-fake-tan, no-bronzer summer.

I happen to be a genetic experiment between a man whose farmer tan was the color of milk chocolate by August and a red-headed woman whose freckles burst into flames when she muttered the words “summer solstice.” I have the ability to tan a bit, but I simply don’t care to. I’m comfortable with the natural lack of pigment in my skin, hair and eyes—no matter how many people insist I could use a little color.

Over the years I have dabbled in the art of looking less albino, but it never worked out well. Self-tanner looked more like rusty high fives up and down my person than the all-over glow the package had promised. All the bronzers looked like I sneezed into a box of chocolate cake mix. Trying to be something I wasn’t was expensive and embarrassing—why on earth would I continue?

Sure, I could just go lower on the SPF and slowly build a little tan over time, but my gene pool has all sorts of cancers swimming in it, including melanoma, so it’s not worth the risk. Also? Sunburns hurt like a mofo, dude. No, thank you.

I’ve become used to people assuming I was sick because of my paleness, that it was an ailment—not a choice—that made me glow in the dark. I don’t get offended anymore by remarks about seeing right through me, getting called “Casper” and “Powder,” or the vampire jokes. OMG, so many vampire jokes. Thanks, “Twilight.”

Honestly, it is absolutely ridiculous to me that anyone—no matter which end of the skin color spectrum they fall on—should be told by others that they need to do something about it. Or feel ashamed by what genetics gave them. Not long ago I had a discussion with a friend of mine who is my photo negative, and the similarity of comments we got about our opposing pigment situation growing up were strikingly similar. I just don’t get it, and I’m done with even listening to that bullshit.

In fact, I’ve learned to embrace the biggest part of me that has been considered undesirable and unattractive by the masses since the 1920s. These days I can only see my natural paleness’s perks:

1. I never have to worry about tan lines when picking which tank top to wear.

2. I never pay to accidentally look like a giant Oompa Loompa.

3. I don’t have to change makeup colors with each change of the season since I stay the same color all year round.

4. My sunblock usage is probably what I have to thank for the fact that sometimes I still get carded when buying booze.

5. Ever see someone sweating off her bronzer? It’s like a Salvador Dali painting, but even more depressing. No, thanks!

6. I’ve accepted myself for who I am. What can possibly be better than that?

So if you’re someone who tends to poke fun at another’s paleness or suggest she “fix it,” how about instead of judging her, you appreciate that she has accepted the skin she was born in and compliment it instead? Maybe seeing the beauty in her no-tan, no-bronzer ways could inspire you to see the same in yourself some day. Now that would be beautiful.

Oh, and for the record? I’m not just “pasty.”

I’m porcelain.

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