Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pale and Proud


My feet are not my only bodily hang up. Allow me to also mention that I'm quite pale.  I've never liked that trait either.  I've been self conscious about it and displeased by it for most of my life. 

When I recently lamented the fact for perhaps the millionth time, my husband said that probably no one else even notices.  Oh, but they do.  Their noticing is exactly why I became so sensitive about it.

Let's start with the middle school boy who followed me most of the way from school to a friend's house chanting "Ghooosst" and making, yes, ghostly moaning sounds.  He noticed, and made something of it in that special pubescent style.  This event made an impression on me to say the least.

Later, when I was about sixteen, I dared to go to a pool in a two-piece bathing suit--a red one even.  A boy I did not know also noticed and made fun of my pale skin.  That was the first and last time I wore a two-piece suit. 

When I was thirty-something, a man who ought to have been old enough to know better commented that my bare legs were blinding him.  By this time, I was over worrying about my paleness and old enough to speak up for myself.  I replied that if they hurt his eyes, then he shouldn't look because that was how God had made me.  That was the end of that.

So yes, people do notice.  There are other, kinder instances that I didn't mention. I'm pale, and I notice it in other people. Albedo draws attention.  If you're not familiar with that word, it's a measure of reflectivity.  I learned it in astronomy.  Planets seemed distant but that concept did not.  

I know that there are steps I could take to quit being pale.  I could try to tan.  I did try when I was a teenager, but "laying out," as we called it in those innocent, pre-sunscreen days, was boring and dicey.  I usually ended up burned instead of tanned, which isn't a hot look either.  I tried a tanning bed once, but I didn't want to spend the money or the time needed to carefully cultivate color, moving gradually from seven minutes to....well, I didn't know my burn limit.  It was way too much work when it was unhealthy anyway. 

Recently someone suggested that I use one of the lotions that gradually darkens the skin.  I already do--one for medium tone skin, at that. The most it's done is take the edge off the glow, which is enough for me. 

Basically, even though I absorbed the message that pale was not cool and suffered bitterly for years from feeling unattractive to others, I've apparently not been so very tortured that I was determined to change the allegedly unacceptable feature, which I have done with other troublesome facets of myself.  (None of them were physical, by the way. I'm noting my priorities now).  I've been aware of this peculiar reluctance within myself for decades:  I may be unhappy because I think that something about me is undesirable to others but that doesn't mean I really want to change it.  What I truly want is to be loved and approved of just as I am.  It's less that I'm bothered by my paleness, than that I'm bothered because other people are bothered by it.

Way back in high school, I read a magazine article that asked the theoretical question "Who would you rather be?"  I believe they had in mind swapping places with someone famous.  It mattered not.  I realized, though it would be years before I used the knowledge to be OK with being myself, that there was no one else I'd rather be. I wanted acceptance not disappearance.  Somewhere under the squishy veneer of people pleasing and abuse toleration, I was already stubbornly, proudly me.  I just didn't know it yet. 

The crucial person from whom I needed acceptance and fondness was actually me.  Life keeps getting better now that I give it and worry less about what other people think. I'd still rather not be pale (objectively speaking, even I don't find purple vein show-through lovely), or have difficult feet and an imposing nose.  I just spend less time focusing on those aspects and more time thinking of fun, challenging, beautiful things to do.  That's a much more profitable investment of energy, for me and everyone in range of my ivory glow. 

1 comment:

Dave Flora said...

It does take a while for "standing out" is more fun than "blending in", but I think it's worth it in the end...don't you?