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Red Shoe Ramblings » SPC: Imperfection, Week 4 - Too White (and a little clumsy)

SPC: Imperfection, Week 4 - Too White (and a little clumsy)


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Another week, another flaw. That’s the story of the Self-Portrait Challenge in October.

So what’s the flaw I’m sharing this week? I’m white. Oh, I’m not white like snow, or styrofoam cups, or albino bunnies. But I’m way toward the pale end of that peachy-beige sort of color commonly known as “white” when used to describe skintones. What, you don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with being white? Yeah, that’s what I think too, but it turns out that in the eyes of modern society a person can be “too white.”

Most of my ancestors came from the cool, misty northern regions of Europe where there wasn’t a lot of reason for genetics to favor the production of melanin. In other words, I was born to be pale and to not have a lot of tanning capacity. But still, I can’t tell you how many times people have taken one look at me in the summer sun and exclaimed, “You’re so WHITE!” I’ve heard references to cave dwellers, vampires, fish bellies, ghosts, and things that glow in the dark.

Ironically, as recently as a few decades ago milk-pale skin was considered fashionable and highly prized in most Western cultures. Women who had it guarded it carefully, while those who tanned easily covered up in the sun and used lemon juice (or even more caustic substances) to try to bleach out unwanted color and look more like their paler sisters. But somewhere along the way, lifestyles and fashions changed. Creamy-white was Out and Coppertone-tan was In.

For years, I was certain this was a “flaw” I could overcome. As a teenager, I spent hours in the sun, coated in baby oil, in the quest for the golden-brown shade society considered perfect. And I burned. And peeled. And burned again. And peeled again. I shudder to think now of all the damage I did to my skin trying for something I could never really achieve.

And then there were the tanning beds I tried in my early twenties. Because yeah, THAT’S a good idea for an extremely pale woman - strip down to your skivvies and lay in a coffin-shaped box while allowing yourself to be bombarded with ultraviolet radiation. If they’d offered barium-laced cocktails on the side it could’ve been almost like a post-apocalyptic spa day.

After that I tried some tan in a bottle stuff and, while I wasn’t happy with the results, at least that’s not permanently damaging (as far as we know…ahem). I consider it to be akin to coloring my hair or trying colored contact lenses - temporary and fairly benign.

But still, eventually I wondered why I was even bothering with that. Why was I letting other people tell me that a darker skin tone is prettier, or healthier-looking, or automatically “better” than the skin I was born with? It makes no more sense to me than the futile practice of generations of women trying to bleach out darker skin. Isn’t it more important for my skin to be healthy and to look good with my hair and eye color? That’s what I ultimately decided anyway. So now if someone decides to point out my dreadful flaw by saying to me “omigosh, you’re so WHITE” I just smile and say “thank you.”

Oh yeah, and here’s a little bonus flaw. See the boo-boo on my leg? I have no idea how I got that. I’m so used to bumping into things that I seldom even pay attention when it happens. I absent-mindedly say “ow” and go on with whatever I’m doing, and then later I see a scratch or bruise and think “Wow, that looks like it must’ve hurt. Wonder when/where/how I did it.” Heh.


“Too White (and a little clumsy)”
(Clickable if you want to see it larger in a new window)

38 Responses to “SPC: Imperfection, Week 4 - Too White (and a little clumsy)”

  1. on 24 Oct 2006 at 2:38 am Shirley Goodwin

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    oh I can SO sympathise with you knocking yourself and not noticing - I’m exactly the same - I find bruises and have no idea how they happened. Just as well we’re smart, cute and charming, isn’t it?

  2. on 24 Oct 2006 at 3:11 am Vedrana M.

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    hm…maybe we should open a club and call it snowhite *lol* i’m white also :) and who cares what others say, just enjoy your royal white skin :D

  3. on 24 Oct 2006 at 3:38 am bee

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    oh, i’m so glad that i found another person who does the bumping-into-things-absent-mindedly.

    hello! you’re not alone! ;)
    seriously, i was the same “white girl” you were for most of my life, until i moved to california and didn’t wear sunscreen the entire time i was there. NOW i tan better. :)

  4. on 24 Oct 2006 at 4:14 am Bohemian Girl

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    i’ve always been attracted to light skin because mine is so dark. i find it classically beautiful…xoxo

  5. on 24 Oct 2006 at 4:47 am Susannah

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    sweetie, we could be twins - i am without a doubt the palest person i know and rarely tan (and believe me, i’ve tried! i spent my entire teenage in the sun - and burnt to a cinder LOL) and as for bruises.. let’s just say it’s not pretty :-)
    i think you have gorgeous skin, esp with your hair colour - fabulous! xo

  6. on 24 Oct 2006 at 5:12 am Caitlin

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    Count me among the palefaces! Once, when dating a delightful dairy farmer (*le sigh, my one regret!*) his best mate took one look at me a drawled “Gee, Pete, you won’t have any trouble finding HER in the dark!”.

    Mr Beloved tells me I tend to navigate by a “ping-pong” method when the pain is bad - bounce off one wall through a door frame, onto the corner of another door.. I’m always covered in bruises I have no memory of , too.

  7. on 24 Oct 2006 at 5:13 am Catherine

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    I have a fantastic tan, but only in freckle sized patches :) In between I am lily white. I’ve been known to be told how well I’m looking when I’m running a fever, because it gives me rosy cheeks! As for bumping into things, my all time high for that was when I had babies feeding in the middle of the night - I would wake up with huge bruises and no idea how I got them. And when I go orienteering I get strange lines of bruises on the insides of my thighs from squeezing through the wire fences. Probably more than you needed to know :) It sounds as if we whiteys are in the majority from the comments above. So where are all these people who really do tan easily? Lets go back to the days when white skin and round bellies were fashionable!

  8. on 24 Oct 2006 at 5:39 am karen

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    That bumping thing … bizarre isn’t it. I’m often surprised by new bruises. Particularly striking on pale skin eh!! LOL

  9. on 24 Oct 2006 at 7:19 am JC

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    There’s nothing wrong with being white! As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate pale skin more.

  10. on 24 Oct 2006 at 7:23 am Anonymous

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    Deb the bumping into not remembering large unknown bruise thing its genitic i think i passed it on to my daughter but not my son so i guess it follows the female line and oh yea we are really pale the better to show of the lovely array of color in our bruises lol julia

  11. on 24 Oct 2006 at 7:58 am acumamakiki

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    I’ve always loved pale skin and you’re pale skin with red hair is so pretty.
    I think walls and furniture jump out at me, thus explaining the mysterious bumps and bruises that often litter my skin. LOL

  12. on 24 Oct 2006 at 8:13 am dee

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    first let me say that white looks lovely on you(hee)I,too, am pearly white-interesting because my Dad was, in large part, Cherokee. Mom is German and I was born there somehow cancelling out all the golden color I could have had. Blond and blue eyed is what I have to go with-it was great when I was younger but now I’m grey-blond and washed out. It appears the only thing I got from Dad is a sense of humor and arthritis.Not a bad deal of the cards….

  13. on 24 Oct 2006 at 8:36 am lovegreendog

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    i am of the white and clumsy sort myself.
    i think i reflect the sun.lol…
    club snowhite here i come :D

  14. on 24 Oct 2006 at 8:55 am Misty Mawn

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    I think your skin is lovely and looks fab with your hair!
    I always hurt myself and discover it much later too. Mostly bruises, I will have a huge bruise on my leg and my husband will ask me what happened…hell if know. ;-)

  15. on 24 Oct 2006 at 10:39 am Gypsy

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    Some useless trivia for you — Coco Chanel started the tanning trend (in the 1920s), probably having gotten a tan by accident while vacationing in the south of France.

  16. on 24 Oct 2006 at 10:54 am Left-handed Trees...

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    It’s all about diversity–maybe you’re just ahead of the next “trend”. When beautiful pale comes back “in” you’ll be a style-icon–okay, I am pretty fair too, so I’m hoping for this anyway!

  17. on 24 Oct 2006 at 10:56 am Janet

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    This could have been written about me! I am pale skinned, too and I’m constantly discovering some new bruise or knick or scrape that somehow mysteriously appeared from nowhere! I’m just not very graceful!! Maybe I should use the glow from my pale skin to light my way in the dark!!!

  18. on 24 Oct 2006 at 11:47 am barbie2be

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    i’m with caitlin about the ping ponging. i am constantly bouncing off walls, filing cabinets, cubicles… you name it. i think i am the only person i know that can be standing still on a completely flat surface and manage to trip.

    but boy, can i tan! although, i never, EVER leave the house without sunscreen.

  19. on 24 Oct 2006 at 12:08 pm gkgirl

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    in an odd way, i kind of know
    what you mean…
    except that i do tan very well
    in the summer…
    but for the rest of the year
    (read: ten months.)
    i am um…not really white,
    but more like white,
    tinged slightly with green.
    i have olive skin i guess
    but in the winter,
    all i see is white..tinged green…
    that has gotten me some comments. :)

  20. on 24 Oct 2006 at 2:06 pm Kim Carney

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    I do wonder if that “tan trend” will ever turn around and we will go back when they actually put on white cake makeup to achieve that look? Will Marie Antoinette movie become a make-up trend? ;) Here is my problem, I have olive skin and need a little sun to avoid looking a white/green…and in the NW I just don’t get any sun …

  21. on 24 Oct 2006 at 2:18 pm la vie en rose

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    hooray!!! girl i am white, white, white too. and yes, i’ve done all the things you’ve done as well. i wish the days when white skin was in would return. i’m so white that i won’t wear shorts or bathing suits. i just won’t. i haven’t come as far as you have in accepting it. and yes, i’ve received all the nasty comments too. the worst was when i was in the hospital for britts birth. oh how i was made fun of in my hospital gown and my white legs…

  22. on 24 Oct 2006 at 2:21 pm Georgia

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    I covet your whit skin :) I love pale skin, mine is quite dark naturally and I tan soooo easily. This summer i realized I actually get freakishly tan… think Bob Barker… GAH!

    xoxox
    Georgia

  23. on 24 Oct 2006 at 3:13 pm Samantha

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    Well, I would prefer to be considered milky pale white instead of ridiculously ruddy. You know, like I just had a keg of some alcoholic beverage and worked out excessively and am all flushed and sweaty looking… All of the time. Even in the dead of winter. It’s so attractive and “come-hither” especially in the dog days of summer. Only time I am not red is when I am immobilly (new word as of today) planted directly in front of an airconditioner. And to top it all off, I BLUSH!! How even more ridiculous is that? RED on Red on red. UGH.

  24. on 24 Oct 2006 at 3:33 pm Laini

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    Loved this post! I’m pale now and have been since my mid-20s or so, but before that I made the most of the Italian side of my heritage and baked myself copper. Now, I shudder. Now, I see tan people and I think, “Cancer.” I see pale skin, milky, beautiful, pale skin, and I think, there’s skin that’s going to look great in old age! It took my mind a while to really make the transition, but I have totally made it. Yay, pale!

  25. on 24 Oct 2006 at 3:52 pm Paige

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    As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As long as you & your beloved as good with it-so be it as well as that is how nature wanted you.
    FYI we have a Paris Texas, the land mark there is a big oil rig (looking thing-not real) with a giant red cowboy hat on top. A must see when passing through that part of our great state.
    Enjoy your post.

  26. on 24 Oct 2006 at 5:08 pm Tammy

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    When I look back I wish I would have had your beautiful milky skin. Now I’m spotted and leathery :) You will age gracefully!

  27. on 24 Oct 2006 at 5:24 pm Loralee Choate

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    I have ONE shade of foundation.

    GHOST.

    I don’t look like it,though. Make up people are always skeptical until they put the color they THINK is mine on my face and it looks like they have smeared orage mud all over.

    My empathy with you (I’m a complete Klutz too)

  28. on 24 Oct 2006 at 5:30 pm ceanandjen

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    You EMBRACE that whiteness! I come from a long line of fair-skinned, freckle-faced frenchies….and we are white too. I have tried all of the tan-quick schemes, and somehow, they just fail, and I don’t feel any better. So, I say, forget it, I am what I am…and you are what you are…and that is perfection.

  29. on 24 Oct 2006 at 7:00 pm Lostcheerio

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    Post-apocalyptic spa day! HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Ahhhhh with me it’s freckles.

  30. on 24 Oct 2006 at 8:18 pm Jamie

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    I hear you on the white thing. When I first met one of my husband’s family members he said, “You really are a white girl, aren’t you!” The other day I heard a guy being bugged by his friends about being so pale. I loved his reply: “I prefer to think of myself as Victorian.” hehe.

  31. on 25 Oct 2006 at 2:02 am Bedazzzled1

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    Great post! I think there was a study done recently that discussed how women’s skin is thinner than men’s. Perhaps that is why so many women who are and have always been sun worshippers end up looking like worn out leather wallets as they age. No thanks! I keep myself fairly protected from the sun. (But I drive a convertible! LOL! I just make sure I have used a sunblock lotion prior to sunny day drives.)

    When I think of alabaster white skin, I am thrown into another time and place of long ago and faraway. Old England. I like that place. ::smile::

    Klutz? I closed a car door on my head once. Yeah, I am a klutz to the nth degree.

  32. on 25 Oct 2006 at 9:20 am Nicole

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    Pale skin and mystery bumps and bruises make a lovely combination!

  33. on 25 Oct 2006 at 10:27 am Deb R

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    Who knew so many of us were white or cumsy or both? Thanks for the wonderful comments, everyone!

    And Gypsy, I love trivia like that!! So CoCo is to blame for more than those ugly-ass quilted purses with the chain strape, eh? Bah! ;-)

  34. on 25 Oct 2006 at 11:11 am utenzi

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    Your leg reminds me a little of that sequence at the beginning of The Big Chill where they’re busy dressing Kevin Costner up. In the last scene you see the X-like stitches on his wrists. Chilling, for sure.

  35. on 25 Oct 2006 at 12:05 pm Amber

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    I only get so tan, (ie:not much) an dthat is it, no matter how long I am in the sun. i am a white girl, too. Even though my grandma is American Indian, and most of my family has that reallly beautiful smooth, hairless tan skin. Not me. white and hairy, that is me. I don’t mind the white, but the hairy kinda gets old! LOl
    :)

  36. on 26 Oct 2006 at 10:02 am Deb R

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    Oh dear…corpse-like! :-D
    I feel your pain, Amber. :-)

  37. on 26 Oct 2006 at 11:41 am Uber Mer

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    I can relate. I have a bad habit of walking in to tables, so I have perpetually bruised hips.

  38. on 27 Oct 2006 at 9:21 pm melba

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    My sister and I always tease each other for being so white. I am kind of white and red because my skin is blotchy.

    Thanks for making me Laugh!