I seem to be bombarded by advertisements that insist there is still time to get my body “bikini ready”. If I can’t sculpt, shape or melt away areas of my body, I can visit one of the many tanning salons that seem to be popping up on every corner. Or I could take a safer route and get a spray tan. Safer, yes. But it is not for me.
I admit that in my early twenties, I gave in to the modern belief that for caucasian females, tan skin is pretty skin. Bake yourself and get that glow. We seem to live in fear of being pasty. Pale skin is seen as unhealthy, which is odd since the darkening or reddening of my fair skin is literally a sign of damage. Now in my late thirties, I have grown to love my natural skin. I use sunscreen even in winter to protect it. I don’t understand why this strikes people as odd. Yet it must, judging by how often well-meaning acquaintances comment on it. “Don’t you like the sun?” “Don’t you want a beautiful tan?” Once, at an event with my husband, a man we knew made a comment that suggested my husband probably wanted me to get a tan. “No,” my husband protested. “She looks beautiful!” I will never forget how that guy’s face stretched into this strange sneer, implying disgust. Ouch. Why are we so close minded? Why can’t people be open to the idea that this notion of tan skin being prettier is nothing more than societal conditioning?
This is nothing new. We know tanning is dangerous. Were the Victorians any safer in their pursuit of beauty because they prized pale skin? Quite the opposite, given some of the dangerous methods they chose. Belladonna to brighten the eyes is just one of many examples of the risky methods they used in order to enhance their looks. So, while I don’t want to completely glamorize the Victorian sense of beauty and imply that they didn’t have their own forms of societal conditioning, I would like to say that the Victorian aesthetic (minus corsets) appeals to me far more than a modern one. And that’s ok. A totally different style may appeal to you. My ultimate point is that I wish that we would take a less conformist approach to beauty and that each individual can embrace what works for them without fear of ridicule. You may not like my pale skin, but your bad manners in pointing it out is something I consider to be quite ugly. Let’s not shame each other into mainstream ideas of perfection.
Forget bikini bodies. Forget tans. Here’s my version of summer beauty: