On a recent trip out West I was asked on three different occasions which Northern European country I hailed from. Each person looked more baffled than the next as I replied in my flat-toned California accent, “I’m from here.”
In New York it’s typical to ask where a person comes from — it’s more or less assumed the majority of us are not indigenous to this island. When I go home to LA, however, I feel like I’m still a freshly-licensed high school sophomore living under my parent’s roof, so for a stranger to assume I’m from elsewhere feels borderline offensive.
It occurred to me, though, that maybe California has forgotten what pale looks like. I no longer sport a smattering of freckles across my nose and a sun-kissed glow that suggests “I live here!” I’m extremely fair — dare I say vampiric — seeing as I travel via underground transportation and sit in an office for the sunnier parts of the day. When I venture outdoors I fear burning and additionally, I am allergic to 95% of sunscreens.
I’m so unaccustomed to vitamin D that when I recently got burned for the first time in forever, I didn’t know what it was. My immediate conclusion was that I had contracted an allergic rash from sun exposure per an article I read in T Magazine. After frantically sending awkward selfies to my dermatologist-cousin with a detailed self-diagnosis, he responded, “That is a textbook sunburn.” Oh right.
Afterwards, I decided to opt out of the whole sun-thing for the rest of the summer.
I’ll never be able to fake Leandra’s Middle Eastern heritage like Amelia who tries by St. Tropez-ing her body. After an 8th grade spray tan incident (think Ross from Friends) I won’t be taking Mattie’s route, either. But summer is here, and though I can’t fully avoid the sun, I sure as hell can avoid the burn while embracing the reflective glow of my pale, pale skin. Are you with me?
A hat can do wonders to block sun rays from leaving splotchy red marks on the face, so throw some shade on yourself:
Additionally — and this sounds obvious by now — slather sunscreen on every surface of your epidermis. Think zinc-nosed lifeguards, Casper the friendly ghost, or a baby who can’t rub in his sunscreen yet. That is the kind of coverage I’m looking for.
If you are really committed, then in addition to the sunblock and hat, you will layer. I’ll never forget when an inhabitant of Colonial Williamsburg visited my 5th grade class on a 95 degree day to speak about life during the Revolutionary War. She was wearing long sleeves per her 18th century character and so naturally, I asked her if she was hot. “My dear,” she responded and yes I remembered her words verbatim, “long sleeves keep me cool in the sun! You are far hotter when the sun reflects off your skin than when it reflects off of fabric.” Game changer.
So don’t be surprised if you see me at the beach this weekend sitting under a parasol in my long sleeved turtleneck moo moo. I’m just doing what our foremothers did. And it’s helping me maintain my summer glow.
Image on the left shot by Charlie Engman for Jalouse, Image on the right shot by Sean Thomas for vogue.com