There’s white and then there’s WHITE and I mean White. Pasty white. I am pasty white. I have blonde hair, blue eyes and am very, very fair. I am so fair-skinned, in fact, that I endured a myriad of names such as Casper, Ghost, Albino, Mummy and Liquid Paper to name a few. In fact, I remember kids in school holding paper up to my skin and claiming that I was whiter than the paper. Other things I have been compared to: Elmer’s glue, flour, sugar, snow, clouds, marshmallow fluff, cotton balls, polar bears, baby seals, piano keys (the white ones), Kleenex, Ivory soap, toilet paper, porcelain and the list goes on. When Die Hard came out, I was compared to that really white guy who John McClane (Bruce Willis) calls an Albino at one point. I was also compared to the children in the film Children of the Corn (Christopher Reeve version.) One of my friends said she hoped I would marry and have children with a similarly pale skinned, blonde guy so she could call our children “corn niblets.”
One time I remember being at a Diversity workshop and a colleague asked, “Well, how can you say Black people are discriminated against when white people are always tanning to try to get dark skin?” (I know, right? And they say there are no stupid questions. White people, ugh.) The presenter pointed out that there is a huge difference between having dark skin all the time, and having the option to have dark skin. Well, I have never had the option. I have never had a tan. When I go out in the sun, I burn. I burn so badly I turn red, red, red. My summer nickname was “Lobster.”
I have tried all of the tricks to get a tan. In high school, I used this product called “QT.” It was made by Coppertone and stood for “Quick Tan.” It had to be applied evenly or streaks would appear and it had to be washed off your hands immediately or your hands would change color. For some reason, when I used it, my skin would emit this rancid smell even though the lotion itself didn’t smell bad. And in the end, I never got a tan. Instead, I turned Donald Trump orange. I bet Trump bought up all the QT and still uses it, because his skin looks identical to a QT “tan.”
I tried tanning beds, being told that I would get a tan in them because they are not the same as the sun, you don’t stay in for very long, and it targets the pigments in the skin that create tanned skin. Well, apparently I do not have any pigments in my skin that create a tanned look because I turned pink. I have tried those newer self-tanning lotions, but the problem is that if I put those on, I can’t also use my sunscreen. That may not make so much sense; you may be thinking, “Why don’t you just put it on later after the tanning lotion sets in?” The thing is I burn so easily and quickly that during the summer months I have to apply 60 SPF sunscreen as soon as I get out of the shower. 60 SPF sunscreen is hard to get, and it is generally quite expensive, so I buy the Coppertone for Kids Spray-on stuff. That way, I can get those hard to reach places on my back. If I miss even one spot, I’ll get a really bad burn that could be just one tiny line or blot. The first time I bought the Coppertone Kids Spray, my mother was with me and she said, “You can’t buy that. You’re not a kid.” And I replied, “Why can’t I? I’m buying it.” I firmly believe that the packaging should be changed from “Coppertone for Kids” to “Coppertone for Kids and Extremely Pale, Ghostly, Casper-like People.”
Another problem I run into being such a fair and blonde person is the fact that my eyebrows and eyelashes are also blonde. When I was in elementary school, I remember drawing pictures with my friend and he put eyebrows and eyelashes on his picture of a person. I asked him, “Why did you put those lines around their eyes?” I wasn’t even aware that people even had eyebrows and eyelashes. In the 1980s and 1990s, the look was always blonde with dark, black eyebrows and, of course, eyelashes. I never saw any blondes in the media who looked like me. I always thought I was ugly. Many of the other kids even said as much. When I became old enough to wear make-up, it was a wonderful thing because of mascara and eyebrow liner. Without these two magical make-up products, I look like I have no eyebrows or eyelashes. The biggest problem with using make-up to create eyebrows and eyelashes is when it’s time to go swimming. In my younger years, I avoided swimming altogether as much as I could, and if I absolutely had to go, I wouldn’t put my head under the water. It’s sad, because I loved swimming and I was a very good swimmer.
I don’t mean to complain about being a White person. I know there is privilege that comes along with being White and I know there are some things I will never have to worry about. The cops are not likely to pull over Casper the Friendly Ghost unless they have a legitimate reason, like Casper is speeding or has expired license plates. Casper will never have to worry about being followed around Walmart because employees think he’s going to steal, especially in the paper aisle because he blends right in. Casper will never have to question did I or didn’t I get the job because I’m pasty. But, and this cannot be disputed, Casper will never have a tan.
Jennie Garth. Pinterest. <https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/799037158860161748/> December 1, 2017.
Karl from Die Hard. Internet, Movies, Firearms Data Base. <http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Die_Hard> December 1, 2017.
Madonna. Metro. <http://metro.co.uk/2015/02/25/madonna-to-appear-at-the-brits-18-things-every-80s-girl-learnt-from-the-material-girl-5053907/> December 1, 2017
QT. kookykitsch.com. <https://kookykitsch.com/index.php/beauty-cosmetics/vintage-coppertone-qt-quick-tanning-sun-tan-lotion-spf-2-1992-paba-free-kitschy-detail>December 1, 2017.