09/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Confessions of a Tanner

I tan easily. I'm sorry, I just do. Yes, I use sunscreen with high SPF, and I never sunbathe, but by this time every summer, just by living my life, my winter-white skin is the color of a hazelnut. This would be just fine if exposing one's skin to daylight hadn't become a social taboo, but it has, so when people tell me I'm "soo tan," I feel like an outlaw. And I don't like that feeling. (I shame easily, too.)

Let me be clear: I think the anti-sun movement is a wonderful thing. As hilarious as it is to see kids running around on the beach in 1920's-style, full-body bathing costumes, I shudder when I think back on all the hours -- years! -- I spent frolicking block-free in the sun. Skin cancer is no joke. And I'm in no rush to get wrinkly.

Still...I can't help but feel nostalgic for high school, when being told you were soo tan was about the nicest thing a person could say to you; when looking too pale in our prom dresses was a fate worse than death, and everyone agreed that we all looked better, healthier even, with "a little color."
Now, the very notion of a healthy tan is an oxymoron. So, when someone tells me I've gotten soo tan, I feel terribly guilty. Like I've been caught binge-eating or doing tequila shots while pregnant. No, I explain. It's not what you think!

As a result, these "you're soo tan" exchanges tend to last a lot longer than they should. The other night at a party, some kind person tried to ease my discomfort by insisting she meant it as a compliment. Sweet, but how dumb does she think I am?