www.whyville.net Jan 30, 2011 Weekly Issue

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Hello, I'm Gracie, and I am a recovering tanning addict.

I have always been one to have very, very light skin. Ever since I was a baby, I have been about three shades down from the color of paper (well, maybe not literally). When I was very young, I was fine with this! Snow White was my home girl - I dressed up as her just about every year for Halloween. In elementary school, nobody really minded; in fact, I might have even been complimented for it once or twice. But as soon as I entered middle school, all of that changed.

Swing the doors open, cue wind machine - I felt like hot stuff in the sixth grade. I had just made that step up from childhood to my preteen years, and boy, did I feel good! I wore short sleeved shirts and booty shorts, and I whipped my hair back and forth (just whip it, whip it real good) until it had almost fallen out. Waiting for bikini season was torture- I HATED wearing long sleeved shirts.

The summer of after sixth grade, however, was life changing. It was at that very point in time when I actually started caring (gasp!) about what I looked like. I wore makeup out everyday, otherwise I felt insecure, but it hadn't really escalated yet. Until - dun, dun, dun - that fateful day when I went to my friend's pool party. She had invited tons of friends from her new school, and they were fabulous with a capital F. They had dark tans, chocolate brown hair, and looked flawless, even without makeup. Here I was, standing by the edge of the pool, scrawny and white as snow. In one corner we had the beautiful girls, rocking those bikinis and looking tan as ever . . . and in another corner, we had Grace, thin as a stick and looking one shade darker than albino.

At first, I had no problem with it! I still walked with my head held high, and flirted with the guys at the party. But then, it happened. I was chilling in the pool, minding my own business, when I heard a voice yell, "Hey Grace! Are you a skeleton? You're soooo pale and skinny! Bad combination!" Immediately I blushed, trying to pretend that insult was not directed towards me. It could NOT have been directed towards me. Come on! There are so many pale and skinny girls named Gr- oh wait. "Yeah, seriously! Go get a tan, that's disgusting." That was my breaking point. I ran towards the bathroom and as soon as I knew I was alone, I burst into tears. Why couldn't I be like those girls?

But then, I realized. I COULD be like those girls. I could go to Florida or Cali and show those girls that I could be just as beautiful. I could be just as tan. The only problem was I cannot tan to save my life. I don't exactly burn or turn red as a tomato, I simply remain pale. So I ran to the glorious Internet full of possibilities and Googled "How to get a fake tan". And before my very eyes, I could see all of the opportunities! It was perfect! Immediately, I begged for a bottle of Jergen's tanning lotion. And so my addiction was born.

It was the beginning of seventh grade. I strutted in my homeroom confidently, swinging my hips to draw attention to my fake tanned legs. Work it girl, work it! I was complimented so many times on my tan, ranging from, "Wow! You don't look sick!" to "Ooh, Grace got a tan." I had never, ever felt so good before in my life! I wanted to feel like that all of the time. Whenever we went shopping, I would dash for the self tanner. My mom would turn it down sometimes, but I didn't care. I would beg, and beg, and beg. And she would finally give in - mwahahahaha.

By around the middle of seventh grade, I was honestly obsessed with Jergen's (the self tanner I held up on a pedestal). Even though I had such a dark tan - especially for a girl who was originally the palest of them all - I still wanted more. It needed to be darker! More tropical and exotic! So I continued to tan, until finally, my mom cut off my supply of tanning lotion.

I felt like killing myself. Honestly. Everyone else looked like tropical babes compared me, a sickly pale thing. Every day I would beg my mom over and over again to buy me more self tanner, but she claimed I had gone too far and that she didn't want to spend anymore money. This sounded so selfish to me! The humanity! I would cry so much that I threw up, beating up my pillow in a fit of rage. It wasn't fair that everyone got to be tan and beautiful! Why did God have to pick favorites?

After a while, however, my crave for self tanner slowed down to a stop. I got more comfortable in my own skin - ha - and I gradually stopped the tanning. But to this day, I still am insecure about my skin tone. I refuse to wear shorts and short sleeves out in public, and I'm very offended when it comes to jokes at my personal expense. Even though I will probably never be completely happy with my pastiness, I'm starting to appreciate it more. And boy, does it feel good.


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