I was born this way and have tried everything under the sun to deal with it.
When I was younger, adult women used to encourage me to get outside more, skip the sunscreen, use a tanning bed. I was often told, "it's OK, that burn will fade to tan".
(Mine doesn't by the way. It goes from lobster-burnt to bubbled blisters to peeling skin right back to pale).
By the time I was in high school, the girls around me were already talking about how "disgusting" they felt when they weren't tan, making me even more self aware. Of course I was less tan than anyone of them.
Women are great at this - tearing themselves down around each other, inadvertently making every other woman in the room feel self conscious and applying pressure for every other woman to also publicly confess her own shortcomings. We do it with weight, we do it with hair, we do it mothering ability, we do it with skin color.
So back in high school, I started using my lunch breaks to visit the tanning beds but to little avail. I could tan every day for a week to build up a barely noticeable bronze, and it would be gone the day I didn't use the tanning bed.
I remember friends encouraging me to get memberships at multiple tanning salons so I could tan more than once a day. Luckily, I lived in Illinois, a state that regulated the frequency a person could use the tanning beds or its hard telling what permanent damage I may have done.
Of course this was before we knew the real dangers.
Five years ago, my mom, dad and I were all in the truck with my brand new baby boy heading to meet with the lactation consultant. Mace was 4 days old.
My mom's phone rang, it was her doctor. She was quiet, then I heard her voice, shaky and barely able to talk, ask, "But will I be alright?"
The spots they had removed from her skin a week ago had tested positive for melanoma.
She would indeed be alright. She would get by far better than many of the 76,000+ people diagnosed with melanoma each year - 10,000 of whom will die from the cancer.
Another 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer will be treated each year.
But it would not be easy. For the last five years I have watched her continuously nurse wounds on her legs, face, neck and back as they cut chunks of cancerous skin away from her body.
I have watched her change dressings on open wounds from chemo cream she had to apply to nearly her entire body.
She's offered little complaint about it, silently dealing with the aftermath of trying to achieve society's idea of "healthy skin" for decades.
So that of course changed her mind, our minds, about tanning and sunscreen. So we switched course to the "healthier" alternatives of sunless tanning - from lotions to spray.
A few weekends ago at a family wedding, a friend made a comment on my tanned skin. I heard myself replying, "Oh I have to get a spray tan if I am going to wear a dress or its gross!" And then I grabbed my youngest child off the door he was trying to climb up.
And when I looked at him, my stomach knotted. Both my boys seem to have inherited my pale skin.
And I just told someone the skin I was born with was "gross" if I didn't do something to fix it. The skin they were born with.
Granted, the stigma for boys to be tan isn't nearly comparable to that of girls. But I've already heard people comment to them things like, "Boy, you need to get some sun on those legs!"
Additionally, the reality that I am raising someone's boyfriend, someone's husband, someone's father, never leaves me.
Do I want my boys growing up thinking a woman must hide her skin color? That the only way for a woman to feel or be beautiful is to get a coat of stain applied before a night out? That in order for a women to wear a bikini or a dress she must find a way, regardless of long term impact, to get tan?
Do I want my boys skipping out on sunscreen to try and achieve a more "acceptable" skin tone for themselves?
Of course not. No mother wants that.
I'm not really sure why I find myself - my body- so much more acceptable if I have tan skin. It's a fleeting thing for me. Regardless of how I achieve it, it never lasts more than a day or two. So a majority of my life I have spent ghostly pale, and here I am almost 30 and still struggling with that?
When I look at my boys I think they are perfect just the way they are.
When I see another woman with pale skin I'm jealous at how well she wears it, how comfortable she looks.
I'm not really sure why I feel like I can't be happy in my own skin, or why I feel the need to change it in order to wear a dress to a wedding or a swimsuit to the beach.
I imagine it's from years of having it engrained that "tan is beautiful". And even though most days I probably appear more concerned with my boys, my livestock, and my job - I'm still a woman. I still want to feel beautiful.
What I'm recognizing now, is that I don't want that insecurity, regardless of where it came from, to shape my boys view on themselves, or on women. Specifically on their girlfriend or their wife.
So I'm going to try one final thing to deal with my pale skin. The only thing I haven't tried yet.
I'm going to try just leaving it be. I'm going to try not just living in, but embracing, the pale skin that God gave me.
Wish me luck!