04 January 2008

The state of AK based on my legs

The other night I was at a small dinner party at a dear friend's house. She and I have known each other literally our whole lives. Out friendship has waxed and waned but since college our friendship has only gotten stronger. It's great to have a friend who knows you so well and who you know so well. We don't see eye to eye on everything but we have the kind of friendship that has been around so long that it would take an awful lot to break it.

So we were having this dinner that she made in honor of her younger brother who was off to new adventures and several of his friends were in attendance. Now I haven't seen her brother in ages although I usually am kept up to date with his goings-ons through her and in some ways he and I have a lot in common - the constantly traveling all over to weird places to do work for one. Still, it came as a surprise when his friend's reacted to meeting me by saying "Not the Fairbanks, WS, is it?" and then proceeded to announce that they wanted stories. I have plenty of stories but I always find it hard to start when someone just asks for one, kind of like when someone asks me to say something in another language I know (I finally solved the latter one by always saying "I don't know what to say"). I need a little warm up and to get a flavor for the people I'm with before I launch into any.

Needless to say when we were all sitting down for a fabulous meal one of them started asking real questions about Alaska. It's always interesting to me what people ask about it because it reveals a lot of the mythology that is out there about the state. I don't remember what the guy asked though because Longest Friend burst in with "I would never live in Alaska. Have you ever seen WS's legs? I mean they're white! So white, you wouldn't even believe it! I mean first it's so damn cold they have to wear all these layers and then they have maybe a week where they can wear shorts and then the mosquitoes come out and you have to cover up! I mean, her legs are practically see through!". The poor fellow who started the question said meekly "But they don't have skin cancer." And she fired right back at him "No they just freeze to death." At this point I was laughing so hard I was overcome with a coughing fit (that pesky Thanksgiving crud still hanging in tough) that lasted the better bit of a half an hour and couldn't defend my poor state or my legs. Although she's right about the cold and the mosquitoes (and probably my legs but last I looked I can still see a distinct tan line from my time in Morocco - I should have just pulled up my pant legs and let the company judge for themselves. Granted, one winter I visited my parents after having not left AK for an entire year and I was so pale people kept asking me very pointed, concerned questions about my health).


  1. Those are the best kind of friendship, aren't they? By the way, I'm totally going to steal your idea of saying "I don't know what to say." Hope you don't mind! :-)

  2. he he

    and you know, pale skin used be considered a sign of wealth and high social class.

    And yes, coming up with stories on demand is really difficult for me, too.

  3. The question of white legs is an interesting one. In Australia we copped the enormous hole in the ozone layer each summer, so that our already existent problem of skin cancer (might be the highest rate in the world I think but I'm not sure) skyrocketed. So we cover up a lot. My legs haven't see the sun for years. (But I'm sixty so I'm an invisible woman fashion-wise anyway).

    Yet it's not fashionable to have white legs.

    Some people go to tanning salons. Recently a beautiful young woman went public in the last stages of skin cancer from a tanning salon. She was brave enough to be still on the publicity trail one or two days before she died.

    So now we know that you will likely get skin cancer from a tanning salon. But white legs are still unfashionable.
    Quite a conundrum.

  4. i think i'd give up tanning for some time in Alaska. how many of us get that? we're all living vicariously through you....

  5. it's funny how things often are dictated by what we can see...white legs. snow.

    and not how the cold air makes your lungs feel like you are giving birth (dude, i am making that up as an example b/c i have no idea about it, but i'll trust you see what i mean)

  6. you truly are a Wayfarer. You know, if you carried apple seeds with you, you could be Wayfarer Appleseed! ...think of the orchards!

  7. I am so stealing the "I don't know what to say" - because it IS the truth, after all.

    That is funny about the legs. I am pretty sure jen's feet have a permanent flip-flop tan...

  8. good luck trying to convince people in sunny colorado that white legs aren't at least a little strange, but white legs still take you skiing, dancing, running, walking, biking, and munro scaling so i see no reason not to be proud of the pale. nonetheless, it might be wise to make up a story about how you got your pale skin in the course of rescuing christmas for the islanders, or something, just to have one in your back pocket.

  9. I too have startlingly white legs due to my Celtic ancestry and reluctance to burn in the sun. AKA the Scottish tan - in the summer, you go from blue to white.

    Is bottled fake tan any good?

  10. We have family that lives in Alaska. Once when we were living in Hawaii, they came to visit us in January. They were so white they frightened fish off the coral reefs....but we love them anyway.

  11. mad hatter & qt, steal away! It's is the best response and then when they ask you what you said it always gets a laugh.

    Jen, I will have to write about the effects on the lungs sometimes...and the nostril hair :)

    parlance, it's so true. Luckily I don't mind my white legs, I'm not ever the one who has to look at them! The only people I know who go to tanning saloons do so to help with seasonal affectiveness disorder and they aren't there long enough to get a tan.

    maypole, kind of dries up the story doesn't it?

    jodi, awww...yeah, I don't mind the trade off really.

    doris rose, do you know that the highest north apple tree is in Haines, AK (on the west side anyway)? I think it gets too cold any farther north.

    matte, indeed!

    cae, I never tried the stuff & honestly don't give a damn about the color of my legs. I was kind of surprised my friend was so vehement (I think she's just trying to get me to move further south).

    mary alice, we Alaskans do seem to have an affinity for Hawaii in the winter...and we do frighten all of the poor fish off the coral reefs. Both before and after we burn :)

  12. So speaking on behalf of your people...that is the white legged people AK is...

  13. ah, well, ms chica, I guess I'll have to write a post on it!

  14. Better a white leg than a boot-to-shorts tan.

    I took a field break in Sydney last year, and only had field clothes with me- It was shocking just how out of place a person who dresses to ward off the elements is in a modern subtropical city.

  15. chuck, LOL! I've been there too... believe me. I just never would have believed leg tans would have been involved in whether or not a place was worth moving to!


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