We aren’t known by our skin. We aren’t recognised by our achievements. We aren’t celebrated for our successes. We’re known as the fair skinned beauties or the darked skinned disappointments.
After perhaps one of the most exhilarating and eye opening experiences of my life, I returned from Europe on a high. Tanned, high on French brioche buns and the centuries of history I was able to walk through. And the very first thing that broke my bubble was the offhand comment “Simran, you’ve gotten so dark. Didn’t you take care of yourself in Europe?”
The superficiality of the comment was so off-putting. Out of everything that could have been said, a pass at my temporary tan from being in the European sun all day was the thing that sprung to mind.
We’re told to chase after these dreams of fairness. To be fair because fair is beautiful. We’re slathered in creams and face-packs and body packs to reduce tanning from the day we’re born. Who is going to marry us if we’re dark? Who’s going to want us if we’re dark? Will we be desirable if we’re dark?
In retaliation to this bullshit, I’m going to impart my own secret to enjoying skin that’s golden and warm and bronzed. A skin tone that my Chinese and Caucasian friends tell me they can only dream of attaining after countless tanning creams and spray tans. A colour that’s natural to me, and only to me.
This secret is an answer to who’s going to marry me. The man who will marry me isn’t going to look at the colour of my skin, and judge that my warm gold-caramel isn’t fair enough for him. He’s going to look at me and see someone who he wants to spend the rest of his life with, colour be damned. He’s going to see the young woman for whom he fell for in the first place.
After all, I’m not a paint selection for a wall. I’m a human.
No on chooses to like or dislike me based on what colour my skin is and whether I’m too dark or too fair.
I love my skin tone. I love that my skin is warm and golden. After years of coming to terms with the fact that my time in the sun playing sport and running around being a healthy child should impact very little on my self-confidence, I’ve come to love how gold compliments my skin tone, and how deep blues bring out the warmth of my skin. I’ve come to love how royal deep reds and magentas and vibrant oranges look against my skin when I wear traditional Indian clothes.
My skin tone isn’t a determinant of wealth, class or status. Being fair does not make one superior, and being dark doesn’t make one inferior. This backward way of thinking has plagued Indian society for generations. It’s heartbreaking to think that marriages are torn apart because the bride is too dark. It’s horrific to see capable young men curl into themselves and hide behind layers of sunscreen and anti-tanning packs because being dark is a crime, but showing insecurities and weaknesses is frowned upon.
My secret is that I had and continue to have a wonderful support system, where my parents don’t really give a damn about what society thinks about beauty. They never stopped me from going and enjoying myself. Yes, taking a hat and cover up, maybe an umbrella was always advised. But not for fear of my getting “darker”, but to protect me against the harshness of the Australian sun given I’m allergic to sunscreen. The first thought that should actually come to all Indian parents’ minds instead of “let me give my daughter all this sun protection so she doesn’t get dark and she can get married when she’s 21”.
It is so institutionalised in global culture, that women should feel guilty for how they look. Whether it’s the plethora of fairness and anti-tanning creams flooding the domestic Indian market, or the countless anti-aging, nose slimming, face compressing products we see everywhere; we can’t catch a break.
Our skin isn’t good enough. Our colours aren’t right enough.
But who are you to judge?
Maybe you were forced to stay inside so you wouldn’t be dark. Yes, that is horrible. But that in no way should give you the right to limit my freedom, impede my happiness and step on my dreams.
What really boosted my confidence and love for my skin tone was my love for photography. Playing around with photos in different light settings showed me just how versatile my skin tone is, and how accommodating it is to the different lights, shadows and environments I take photos in. Yes, I am camera shy. I prefer being behind the lens. I love taking photos of my friends, family and loved ones. But even through that experience, I could understand how well my skin captures light, tone and depth.
In today’s society, driven by social media campaigns, ideals of beauty and perfection, and the continuous challenge to find perfection, which really doesn’t exist; we’ve become addicted to attaining a standard of beauty that’s impossible.
I’m never going to be fairer then I already am. It’s impossible unless I subject my skin to the stress and harm of bleach and chemicals.
I love my skin. I love that applying rose water and sugar to my skin twice a week gives it a healthy and fresh glow. I love how deep vibrant colours intertwine themselves with the golden hues of my skin. I love that I am naturally tanned and bronzed and don’t need to subject my bank account to the horrors of tanning products.
Isn’t it time we stopped institutionalising the bullshit about the desirability of fairness? Shouldn’t we look beyond the colour of skin and admire how capable, talented and unique we are? As Indians, we should feel ashamed of our actions. The racism we face from outsiders on a daily basis is frowned upon. Yet the internal hatred against those who are dark or dusky reigns supreme.
Instead of classing us by the colour of our skin, why don’t you appreciate who we are based on our achievements and our strive for success?