I have given in. I've been in the UK for two and a half years now, and I have finally succumbed to the pressure. I'm not proud. In fact, I kind of hate myself. But I couldn't take the pressure anymore.
I have purchased self tanner.
I am extremely pale by nature. I have translucently pale skin, with freckles on any part of my body that gets regular sun. This has never really bothered me. I mean, I can't help my skin tone, can I? So I lack appropriate pigmentation? So my melanin floats a bit? As long as I used sun screen and avoided extended periods in the beating hot sun it all seemed fine.
I took my share of ribbing, of course. My freshman year of college, I was wearing a lovely pink floral skirt on one of the first warm days of the spring, and my friend Mark asked me if I was wearing nurses tights. I wasn't. More than one person has claimed to be momentarily blinded by the glare from my legs. In my youth, I'd try to correct this by sunbathing, but I'd end up lobster red and vomiting and eventually decided that pale was the way to go, vanity be damned. Plus my friend Darlene is always more pale than me, so I just stand next to her. And my careful sun policy has helped keep me looking far younger than I am, which is fine by me.
The English, some of whom make me look positively swarthy, long for a luscious tan. When you travel with them, they are sun whores...the minute they're off the plane they're disrobing and heading for the nearest sunbed, willing to go any shade of purple in the hope that it will fade to a nice bronze. (Frankly, it can be rather frightening after a few days...you begin to worry that you'll be witnessing third degree burns.) Here at home, most women use self tanner to add some light bronzing whenever there is an occasion to show skin. It can make for some interesting streaking on their legs if they perspire, and I've begun to think orangey brown is a natural tone, but at least they aren't looking all milky like I do. (I've tried to play the classist card and convince them that pale is posh, but I haven't gotten far with this. Apparently that's SO 18Th century.)
So on Monday I was at Boots the Chemist picking up some necessaries and I wandered into the body lotion aisle. In addition to the many self-tanners available for a tan in two hours, there are now many body moisturizers that build a gradual "tan", giving you a "natural glow" within five days. I couldn't help myself. In went the bottle of Dove Summer Glow.
I've been using it for two days now, and I hate to admit it, but legs no longer blend into my white cotton sheets. And they don't look orange, either. In fact, they're about the color of my arms, so they are consistent with the parts of me that do get sun now and again. Who knew I could look like a normal human being?
I'll keep you posted on the progress. If it continues to look like skin and not a cheap handbag and does not go some dark shade that makes me worry about it ever coming off, I will be a proponent of this stuff forever. I mean, pale may be posh, but it'll be nice not to have to listen to the albino jokes anymore. But if I end up the color of an Ikea bookcase there will be hell to pay.