Though I’m no paler than the average freakishly pale person, I’ve always been self-conscious about my complexion, or lack thereof. The insecurity stems from years of good-natured (I think) teasing in school about how much embalming fluid I drank. Well-meaning (I think) people have given me tanning tips throughout the years, refusing to believe that I come in two shades: radioactive white and fire-engine red.
So before heading to LA, I dug out the tube of fake tanning goop I’d bought in a moment of weakness last year, when my beach volleyball team began to describe my legs as our secret weapon to blind the opposing teams, and were skeptical that I’d really missed a game to go to Mexico for a friend’s wedding. (“It was an indoor wedding,” I protested.)
I dug out the tube, put it on my bathroom counter, and stared at it for the week leading up to my departure, remembering the disastrously streaky orangeness of my legs — and palms — after I tentatively tested the stuff out the first time. I’m sure I could do better the second time around. I mean, I think I could. But did I want to bother? I’m hardly body-image-neuroses-free, but I have come to accept that whatever I think of my body’s inherent qualities, I might as well decide to be OK with them rather than constantly fight nature.
But I was going to LA — land of The Beautiful People — and suddenly all my neuroses were fixed on this one irrational thing. It was silly to worry about my lack of colour, when there’s so much else I could be insecure about. I suppose it was the one thing I could fix. I wasn’t going to turn into a size 0, but by god, I could be orange.
I also knew it was silly to be fixated on the thought of LA as the land of the perfect. I was passing through for a few days, to be with friends who not only couldn’t care less if I was white or orange or purple, but whose complexions are not entirely uncorpse-like themselves. It’s not like I was trying to land a spot on The OC. I’d never been to LA before, but I was fairly certain they didn’t drive all the normal-looking people out of town. Who else would admire the famous people?
So it tempted me for a while, but the tube of goop remains untouched on my bathroom counter. Some day maybe I’ll take that final step towards acceptance and move it to the garbage can.