An open letter to all pale girls

Kathleen Keaveny






Dear pale girl,

“Pale”, “blinding”, “translucent”, “albino”, “freckled”, “ghostly”, “washed out” and “pasty”. All words that people have used to describe my skin tone, including myself.

I inherited my dad’s fair Irish skin and freckles instead of my mom’s smooth, golden skin tone from her Hungarian/German heritage. I am proud to carry a likeness to my father. Therefore, I am ashamed to be ashamed of my fair skin tone.

As every spring and summer approaches, so does the anxiety and self-consciousness of unveiling my skin that has been sheltered from the sun for four months. Cyclists will shield their eyes when they pass me on campus as I dawn shorts for the first time in spring. Pool-goers everywhere will be blinded as I shed my coverup. Concerned mothers will inquire about my health, claiming that I look pale and pasty. Alright, these may be slightly drastic. After all, there are alternative, more beneficial thoughts that could be utilizing the brain power it takes to obsess over my appearance. Unfortunately, we live in a superficial world where body image issues afflict many women and men. I cannot deny that I have not fallen victim to it.

Lotions, tanning beds, bronzers and more, I have tried it all. I would look in envy toward my peers who could be bronzed after only 30 minutes in the sun while I was left burnt to a crisp. In an effort to “correct” my skin tone, I resorted to the many options listed above. However, I found that as I tried to “fix” myself, additional self-criticisms concerning my appearance amassed.

More and more freckles surfaced in my attempts for a slight tan, and I disliked my skin even more. I was displeased with my freckles, and I was displeased with  my pale skin. They were a package deal.

My mom has listened to me mope about my fair skin tone and freckles for far too long. She continued to tell me that I was born with fair skin because it is the way I was meant to be. Stressing the value of my health, she impressed upon me the importance of protecting my skin with sunscreen, hats and more. Worries of skin cancer began to loom with the abuse I had put my body through, and I finally began to consider the advice my mom had been presenting to me for years.

I would like to pass her advice along to my fellow pale girls, as well as anyone with body image issues:


Hating your appearance and trying to “correct” it results in more self-criticism. Instead, do the best you can to take care of your body. Protect it, put good things in it and accept it.  You were born to be you. So, keep being you.


A perfectly pale girl