I’m a white guy. More specifically, I’m of Scotch Irish descent, with just a scoop of German and Dutch. But, basically I’m a white guy. I know that even using the term ‘white guy’ will conjure up images of bad dancing and poor social skills–perhaps pocket protectors and thick eyeglasses. The term ‘vanilla’ may come to mind, too. Several dictionaries have described ‘vanilla’ as meaning regular, ordinary, with no special features. But, no matter what stereotype you throw at me, one fact remains: I am a white guy. My skin is so white, in fact, that I have occasionally been labeled ‘albino,’ or even called ‘powder’ (from the movie Powder; about an albino, of course). I’m not sure why people have found it necessary to point out my whiteness to me, as if I’ve never owned a mirror. But, today I am here to clear the air. I’m white, and I know it.
I burn really fast, too. It’s a problem, always having to avoid the sun. But, I’ve been this way all my life. As a child, I had white blond hair to go with my abnormally pale hue. My best friend growing up was a dark-haired Italian kid named Danny. He was as dark as I was light. More than one person made note of our ebony and ivory-like pairing. Many summer days we would spend an afternoon at the pool, only to come out darker (Danny) and redder (Moi), sort of like a strawberry and chocolate concoction.
In high school, I decided to take the universal advice I had received (and still do) from so many people: you just need more sun. Right, as if spending hours and hours in the sun without sunscreen would make me look like Danny–never mind the risk of skin cancer. But, nonetheless, I decided that’s exactly what I needed. So one very hot and very sunny day, Danny and I, with no sunscreen, went to a water park. This is when I discovered a very hard and necessary truth…
Sun + Tyler = >:-(
I had second-degree burns all over my back, shoulders, and chest. Despite having to sleep sitting up for a week, and blistering several times, when all was said and done, I was just as white as before. And, that was almost the last time I would try to tan.
I did have several other minor run-ins with a tanning bed and self-tanning lotion. But, for the most part, I realized I was going to have to be happy with the way I was. This didn’t mean, however, that people would leave me alone about my skin color. Just recently, I was sitting on the jump-seat with a co-worker who happened to be Mexican and very tan. He looked at me and then at himself and started laughing. Then he said, “Dude, you are so white.” Followed by, “Seriously, you need to get some sun.” Then, “Are you an albino?” He used just about every line I had ever heard in my life in the space of about two minutes.
Now, I’ve learned that the best way for me to deal this was just to ignore it and redirect the conversation. But, it wasn’t working. For two days he picked apart every part of my whiteness. And when he was done with my skin color, he decided to start dissecting why white people have no personality, no flavor… It was all way too much. This type of joking would have torn me apart in high school. I would have ended up in a corner rocking myself back and forth.* Luckily, it was just a two day trip. It would all end soon enough.
Later, I was talking to my friend Donna, who I was also working with, and decided to pull up my pant leg to show her just how white I was. And here is how Donna made my day: “Oh my God, boy, you have some serious calves. Can I touch them? I’ve wanted calves like that my whole life!” Of course, I immediately forgot how white my calves were and focused on their nice muscular shape. Then, I just simply hiked my pant leg up further to give her a better view. I replied, “…you like?”
*On a side note, there was one topic that did distract him for a short while–gay sex–I’m not sure why, since he is a straight man, but that seemed to captivate his attention. Actually, I have found that many ‘straight’ guys are rather interested in various matters of gay life.
Oh yeah, and here’s a little treat (or proof) for of all you who think white guys can’t dance…