Well (I’m sure it’s bad practice to start a written paragraph with ‘well’ but it is very conversational isn’t it?), the weather has turned.  Naturally this happened the week the children all went back to school but we did manage to have a beautiful sunny Bank Holiday Monday which is something of a miracle.  Now of course we’re all complaining about the heat and ruined school holidays.  Hey, at least it was warm pretty much most days and it only rained consecutively for one week instead of the whole six.

Good weather of course brings its own particular challenges.  In cold weather of course you’re never going to look good wrapped up in enough layers to pass for a human/woollen snowball but that doesn’t really matter when no-one can see you underneath them all.  They can criticise your fashion sense (apparently it is very unfashionable to dress warmly and sensibly when the outside temperatures are plunging to an unprecedented minus ten much less wear practical footwear) but they can’t criticise you as a person for your looks.

Good weather changes that.  Good weather means that hems have to rise.  (Although I am one of the few people it seems who thinks that wearing loose floaty long natural fibre clothing is a far more comfortable solution than wearing clingy latex filled synthetics.)  Hems rising means that you have to show skin.

Skin presents so many hurdles to fail at in our current culture.  We don’t expect to see or show skin in its natural state.  I am one of those unfortunates who happens to come in a luminescent shade of milk white with the odd blue or purple patch to make it even worse.  This is wrong.  I am apparently meant to be a natural shade of brown.  Tango-ed is not an acceptable look, well I don’t think it is.  There are several problems with this skin colour presumption.

Firstly, we live in a climate where there is often very little opportunity to expose one’s skin to the sun.  That’s even before you decide to analyse the health risks associated with deep frying your unprotected exposed self for hours at a time, turning yourself at predetermined intervals to make sure you cook evenly.  I have considered the health risks and own a bottle of sun cream which when I remember to use it or can find it from wherever it got stashed after the previous sunny episode naturally restricts the ease with which I will brown in the limited exposure period.  I also find sunbathing deeply boring, I can’t imagine anything worse then lying still in a prone attitude for hours at a time doing absolutely nothing, it’s a complete waste of time.  I also wilt in the heat, especially if my head is exposed.

Second are the problems with ‘faking it’.  The desire to attain the perfect socially acceptable skin colour drives millions every year to buy a bottle (or several) of something that I can only best describe as body paint.  Again I do not have the patience to stand around trying to evenly apply a cream that runs every risk of staining everything in the house and producing a sunburnt zebra effect on my legs.  That’s if the cream even takes, experiments in my embarassed and will-desperately-trying-anything-to-look-‘normal’ teenage years have proven that these products do not work at all on me.  At best I will have orange stripes around my knees and white legs everywhere else.  A complete waste of time and money.

Third is that I do not tan easily.  In fact ‘easily’ can usually be read as ‘at all’.  If it’s sunny over a lengthy period of time (rare in this climate) I can produce a mild brown hint on my arms and face that most people would consider their usual skin colour rather than a tan.  My legs even when stuck out in the sun’s rays with nothing to protect them in an attempt to sunbathe will stay persistently white.  If exposed to fierce sunlight or if I’m pathetic enough to try sunbathing the result is a brilliant lobster red colour.  (Embarassing enough but you should see the painful colour it becomes under fluorescent light!)  The next morning I awake with white skin.  What’s the point in trying?!

Finally, I have to point out that I inherited my skin colour.  It wasn’t something I chose, no-one asked me at conception or birth whether I wanted to be this colour or another one which would prove to be more ‘socially acceptable’.  I got stuck with it.  There is a certain irony in the skin colour that I have inherited too.  I take after my English father in many ways, including looks and colour.  He had that amazing skin that goes deep dirty brown in the shade and never burnt.  My Italian mother has dark colouring and that milk white skin I was telling you about which never tans and burns easily.  Guess which one I inherited?!  Crazy isn’t it?!

It’s funny though how we still discrimanate against people with darker skin tones to our own whilst our own culture is trapped in a headlong pursuit of darker skin, regardless of the risks and costs.  Is it ironic or twisted that half of us are trying to darken our skin whilst the other half are trying to lighten it?  And all in the name of being ‘fashionable’ or ‘socially acceptable’ or worst yet, ‘normal’.

I learnt a very long time ago that I was not normal.  I learnt a long time ago that in fact most people aren’t as we’re all different.  I learnt too that ‘normal’ may not necessarily be a good or healthy or beneficial thing.  It’s one thing learning something but it’s quite another accepting it.  Have I accepted these lessons?  Sometimes, maybe.  It’s just pretty hard when everyone is looking at you like you’re some kind of freak.  It’s also pretty hard when the sun comes around and you have to come out of hiding.


4 thoughts on “Exposure

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  1. I hear you! I also have a difficult time when the seasons change from cold to warm weather. When I start wearing warm weather clothing, I always feel like I’m naked because my arms and neck are showing! With our long winters in Minnesota, we are bundled up most of the time. I have been lucky because I seem to tan very nicely, but now the wrinkles are arriving, and that is not so nice. No more short shorts for me:) Nice observations.

  2. I totally hear you. My legs shine almost as if illuminated from within by white light.

    I started running a couple of years ago and even though I spend a lot more time in the sun because of that, I’m not really any darker. And I don’t see why I should care.

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