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a whiter shade of pale

To know Tom is to know that he is pale.  On the spectrum of skin colors, I’d put him somewhere between George Will and Anthony Michael Hall.  In addition to being very fair, he has the kind of skin that is impervious to tanning.  But that hasn’t stopped him from trying to harness his inner George Hamilton.

Ten years ago, when we were in the last crucial months of wedding planning, Tom devoted a fair amount of annoying mindspace to the concept of creating a “base tan” for our honeymoon to Bali.  Not having dated anyone that pale before, I assumed he knew what he was talking about and didn’t really think anything of his trip to the tanning salon.  Until he got back from the tanning salon, and was vermillion.  It looked like he had fallen asleep in the tanning bed for two hours.  Turns out he had been in it for six minutes.  I suspect he asked for more time, and that, like the barkeep who refuses to serve you that last drink, the tanning bed operator took one look at Tom and refused to let him go any longer.

On any beach vacation, I watch Tom’s tanning routine with equal parts amusement and alarm.  The first day always starts with him asking whether he should start with the SPF 8 or the SPF 12.  I don’t know why he even consults me.  I respond as I always do, that he might instead opt to begin with the SPF 45.  He waves me off and, having settled on the SPF 8, begins the careful process of application.  This part always takes a good 20 minutes.  He starts from the tops of his feet and works all the way up to the backs of his ears.  It’s all for naught, though, because as I said, it’s SPF 8, which is essentially Crisco.  So that first day of the vacation, he will fry to a crisp, and spend the rest of the vacation tossing and turning in his sleep and popping Advil like M&Ms.

The sad thing is, for all the trouble he goes through, after the initial burn, he still looks pretty damn pale.  The awkwardly cropped (Tom-mandated cropping) photo of us was taken on the fourth day of a trip to Cabo, the one directly above, on the seventh day of a trip to Maui.  SEVENTH DAY.  Take me out of the photo and you might believe that the photo was taken in Newfoundland.  Whatever tan/burn Tom has managed to work up by the end of the vacation will inevitably fade away during the flight home.  So I think he often returns to work and hears comments along the lines of “Hey man, didn’t you say you were going on vacation?”  And that’s gotta be frustrating.  So I sympathize with him, and try to be supportive of his struggle.

The skin color thing is funny.  My kids are starting to notice that all four of us are different colors.  Finn is almost as pale as Tom, although he does not burn.  Tate came out of the womb looking like he’d spent his third trimester in the Bahamas.  If we were L’eggs pantyhose colors, we’d be Alabaster (Tom), Ivory (Finn), Nude (me), and Suntan (Tate).  Soon, I’ll turn Tom’s color into a teaching moment.  I’ll explain to the boys that in spite of how he looks on the outside, their Dad, on the inside, is the same as the rest of us, and has the same worth.  Except that he’s paler.

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31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Angi #

    I love this as much,if not more than the first time. A) because I share Tom’s alabaster tone and B) this gives me hope for the world. Cheers to the rainbow!

    July 17, 2013
  2. I loved that you referenced Newfoundland because I’m from there. I can empathise with Tom’s tanning issues, for the most part. I do tan, but I have to burn a few times before that happens. My brother just thinks about the sun and turns a golden shade, it’s very unfair.

    July 3, 2012
    • vanessa it is very unfair. we are packing for a trip to california and you should see all the SPF we are packing for tom

      July 3, 2012
  3. Funny! i used to compare skin tones with my friends in terms of toast. I would be slightly toasted, and some of my friends were burnt or plain white. Probably not the most politically correct but we were teenagers!

    March 19, 2012
  4. Donna in Doha #

    I can so relate! My ex is from Deutschland and beyond pale. We lived in Rio, Brasil for most of 2001 and there is a remarkable absence of trees on near beaches. I only know this because my oh-so-white ex had no shade and bitched incessantly whenever I suggested hanging out on any of the gorgeous beaches there! I live/work in Doha as a single mum to a 7 yr old boy and he is also a whiter shade of pale:). Not fun in these 50C plus temps!

    March 19, 2012
    • the places you’ve been…i’m envious. how lucky for your son to be 7 and already a citizen of the world.

      March 19, 2012
  5. I was married to a man the color of a Safeway chicken for many years. Then he discovered tennis. He played lots and lots of tennis and he finally, mercifully, got a pretty decent tan. For the first time in our relationship, I got turned on by seeing him in shorts. There’s only one problem with a tennis tan: the transplanted feet effect. Once he took off his shoes and I spotted his white, wrinkled feet, well, let’s just say no more sexy.

    March 13, 2012
    • i find feet, regardless of color or gender, pretty uniformly unattractive. but i guess i’d prefer a tan pair over a white wrinkly pair. need to think on it.

      March 13, 2012
  6. Rachel #

    Please give special thanks to Tom for letting you post those great pictures. You’ve made my bus commute hilarious once again.

    March 13, 2012
  7. At least he’s not splattered with freckles. They’re just a tan tease. They make it clear that you have pigment in your skin, but it’s in little irregular clumps and will always make you look splotchy in pictures. You guys with your ethnically-enhanced skin have it made!

    March 13, 2012
    • oh i love freckles. no joke. i once tried to pencil some on the bridge of my nose because i wanted them so bad. and he has lots of freckles. they are TOTALLY a tan tease–that’s probably why he thinks he can tan. brilliant.

      March 13, 2012
  8. Yoona, I get as dark as you when left in the sun. I think it’s my Asian peasant ancestry. My husband Andy is more Ivory than Alabaster. He slathers on SPF 75 the minute the sun comes out. Our daughter is the lovely one with skin color somewhere between Europe and Asia. I love having a happa haoele kid!

    March 13, 2012
    • happa haoele! gotta work that into my conversation more. here’s to the melting pot…

      March 13, 2012
  9. Brad M #

    If I remember correctly, when Tom and I were roommates freshman year at Michigan we once didn’t even notice that all of the fluorescent lights in our room had burned out until like six weeks later because we both glow through our clothing. I can also relate to the hassle of caking the SPF 256 on, only I just accept it rather than going through the same pains of trying to make a base first just so I can be a slight shade more pinkish for a few days. People like us were made for ski vacations.

    March 13, 2012
    • oh i chuckle. i like to imagine the two of you as freshmen. and ski vacations can be dangerous too. all the reflected glare.

      March 13, 2012
      • Brad M #

        They sure can be. I’m among the proud group of people who can say they have gotten a sunburn in Vermont in February.

        March 13, 2012
  10. Michelle Haase #

    Yoona,

    I can’t tell you how many times I have laughed out loud when reading your blogs. Thank you for reminding everyone we are only human…..”L’eggs” and all.

    Michelle

    March 13, 2012
    • hey thanks michelle…it makes my day to hear that i’ve made someone laugh.

      March 13, 2012
  11. Fia #

    Haha! Exactly like Henke. So pale and he never gets a tan. SPF 50 for kids is what he uses. I’m also quite pale during the winter but at least I have some pigment (brown eyes, dark hair) resulting in a tan if I give it a try. 🙂

    http://bitterfia.wordpress.com

    March 13, 2012
    • pale is chic! i think it’s just another example of the grass being greener on the other side…

      March 13, 2012
  12. Hilarious teaching moment “and has the same worth. Except that he’s paler.”

    March 13, 2012
    • important to affirm that mom is in all ways superior

      March 13, 2012
  13. Kaula #

    I have the exact same problem as Tom. I used to get sunburn during gym class in high school. I feel his pain.

    March 13, 2012
    • back when they had P.E.! now i’m all nostalgic…

      March 13, 2012
  14. Jessa #

    Bahahahaha! This was an amazing way to start my day! Tom rocks.

    March 13, 2012
  15. Great blog post ; another reason why all people are beautiful – no matter what color they are;) Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:)

    March 13, 2012
    • hey jon, and thanks. excited to read what you say about martial arts in particular over on your blog…

      March 13, 2012
  16. Meredith J #

    Yoona, I’m holding my sides again, and yes, I live this too. Terra tans like me and Alexa is an interesting shade of blue with pink overtones after a week in Hawaii. Thanks for being such a great sport, Tom!

    March 13, 2012
    • the crazy one is tate. like, how does that happen? i feel bad for tom because i think people think he kidnapped tate whenever he’s with him. here’s to the rainbow of fruit flavors…

      March 13, 2012

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