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A Shout-out to Pasty Girls

Ignoring the warnings

As a kid, I never wanted to wear sunscreen. I hated the smell, and the greasy feel it gave to my skin. Unfortunately, it was a necessary step before any family trip to the beach. My mom would take a palm-full of Banana Boat and smear it across my cheeks and nose. "Make sure you get each other's backs," she would say to me and my siblings. We are Irish. Very Irish. Which translates to very pale, and very vulnerable to the sun's rays. And though I hated walking around like a sand-magnet grease monster, now I look back, and appreciate the effort she made. She most likely prevented us from a great deal of irreversible sun damage, something that she, personally, would deal with later on.

During my junior year, she had a slice of skin carved out of her back. My father, too — a man who spent most of his time with his hands in garden soil—over the years has had skin lasered off, chemically burned away, and cut off his body. He's collecting scars for every hat he forgot to wear, or, each time he forgot to reapply. Seeing these serious effects, I should have known the importance of sunscreen. But as a teenage girl, something else took precedence: the desire to be liked.

Wanting to fit in

I was a cheerleader. A family tradition that I was kind of vortexed into, but regardless, I was on the varsity squad, and among twenty-or-so beautiful, fit, and TAN girls. Lots of them had moms that paid for memberships to tanning salons. I heard that one girl even had a tanning bed in her house, though maybe it was just a rumor. Needless to say, I stuck out from the crowd like a sore, pasty, thumb. Girls would make comments here and there, and even my coach would join in on poking fun at the pale girl. It was always jokey, never mean, but still, like any teenage girl, I wanted to fit in. So when the tanning salon in town had free tanning day, I got curious. I also got sunburn on my butt and vowed never to go back. Doing back handsprings with a burnt butt is not an experience I would like to ever relive.

Making a change

Over the past few years I've begun to take my skin care more seriously. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, and am starting to see smile lines. Or maybe it's because I no longer view my parents as indestructible, impermanent beings, and am realizing that I, too, will one day be middle-aged and have doctor appointments that end in bad news. In either case, I am focused on my skin now more than ever, and am sure to dress with the sun in mind, and of course SPF up on sunny days before leaving the house.

Beauty standards are weird, and always changing. Don't put your health at risk because being tan was cool for a few decades of human existence. Embrace the pale! Be proud to be pasty! Now that I think of it, I kind of like the smell of sunscreen after all.

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