what i want you to know about being a fair-skinned redhead

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Lindsay Thomas.


I've got very fair skin, red hair, freckles, and blue eyes. When I go out in the sun, I wear SPF 45 (at least) to avoid bursting into flames, and at the makeup counter, I always know I'll match with the lightest shade.

As a kid I was teased by my peers, and doted on by old ladies in the grocery store. I've heard it all "carrot-top, Pippi Longstocking, fire-head, etc." In elementary school, I longed for shiny blonde hair, and golden skin. I remember a girl across the street saying my mom wasn't pretty because she didn't have blonde hair and a tan either (I get my complexion and hair from her). I strongly defended her by saying "She is SO!" and stomped home, but I've never forgotten that moment. It was in that moment that I realized we didn't meet the world's standard of beauty, and I began thinking maybe that girl was right.

But now, as an adult, I've realized that little girl was so wrong, and I'm glad to be different.

What I want you to know is just because I'm not sporting tan "sun-kissed" skin, doesn't mean I want to. I don't avoid the sun, I just protect my skin (lobster red clashes with my hair). Comments like "you're SO white!" hurt my feelings, not because the statement itself, but because the way you say it implies that something is wrong with me.

A while ago my sweet hubby agreed to let me get a pedicure for Mother's Day, I was so excited to have some time to myself. I was looking forward to soaking my tired feet in the warm water and getting pampered. Everything was going fine until the nail technician exclaimed "Wow! You are so white. What do you do? Hide from the sun or something?"

After that, I gave a short reply of "No, I don't" and let her go about the rest of the session, but I was so bothered by the tone she used.

What I want you to know is I'm okay. I like my red hair, and freckles, and fair-skin. I don't need to spend hours in the tanning bed, or to slather myself with a bottle of self-tanner. In fact, I think I'd look ridiculous if I did those things.

I don't really know when ultra-tan became the standard. I think all shades of skin are beautiful, and I'm okay with the one I've got.

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