“How much does this whitening cream cost?”
“Can I have this foundation lighter/darker than my actual skin color?”
“This foundation in the shade ivory seems about right for you, miss.” A saleswoman told me when I went shopping with my friend. We both gave each other funny looks because no way in hell I am “ivory” or even close. For those who don’t know, I am a brown Pakistani woman. Simply put. Desi as can be and I’m not ashamed of it. Being half-pathan (pashtuns from the northern areas of Pakistan with considerably pale skin tones) doesn’t necessarily “improve” my skin tone because the gene responsible for the milky pathani skin tone got lost among my mother’s brown Punjabi genes. As if genes have different colors. But don’t worry we’ll soon find a way to discriminate against them too, even if they do. This is 2017 and racism isn’t going anywhere ladies and gentlemen. Consistency at its best.
I see some painstakingly sunbathing and burning to a crisp in the process to get the coveted “tan” that most South Asian women try so hard to get rid of.
The trouble is not with those tanning gels or whitening creams, the companies behind them are simply exploiting the ideals of beauty which people base their sole existence on. You see, the problem lies not in the availability of these items but the ideals that sustain them. Our so called “standards” of beauty. More suitably, the standards of ugly which we try to avoid. For example if we associate dark skin with ugliness, we’re setting that as a standard to avoid and hence we’ll end up using tubfuls of whatever cheap whitening cream we can get out hands on. It’s funny how something as versatile as beauty can be forcibly allowed to conform to a certain standard. It’s like wearing uniforms, but not that flattering.
For those of you wondering if I’ll quote something cute like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or something along those lines then don’t worry, I won’t. Because thin noses, plenty of lid space, almond shaped eyes are just some standards of beauty that we’ve conjured based on the “eye of the beholder” type sayings. There are about 7 billion people in the world, all with different likes, dislikes, ideals of beauty. So why do you want to seem beautiful to some beholder? Why can’t you perceive the beauty within you without needing admirers? I get it, it’s hard but not impossible. After all you’re doing this for yourself and these “standards” are just mere intangible ideals, nothing more.
Some people resort to cosmetic surgery to be perceived beautiful because even if we don’t admit it, we’re all superficial. Some like me, have accepted the fact that they don’t fit in the standards of beauty and will remain ugly trolls forever. Just kidding. Truth is, you shouldn’t be able to fit in a standard to consider yourself to be “pretty”. What does that word even mean? I think lizards are pretty and you think there’s nothing uglier than them. What you or I think of them won’t necessarily contribute to their existence in any way.
Get up and look at yourself in the mirror. You can hate yourself for what you have or you can learn to love yourself. Notice how I used the word “learn” when I mentioned the part about loving yourself, because I know it’s hard after all the self-critique we put ourselves through. But that’s okay, the best things in life don’t come easy. There is a reason you have what you have, it’s not just coincidence. Come to think, all those complex genes aligned themselves precisely, the sperm meeting the egg in the exact fraction of a second which ultimately resulted in your existence. As Gary Vee said, “You won the lottery.” But here you are wondering why you don’t look like Bella Hadid. Truth is, you won’t look like her and you don’t need to. The presence of her beauty does not signify the absence of your own, and whoever said that was absolutely right. You are beautiful, birthmark, crooked nose and all. Why do you think a wonderful, complex creature like you should belittle herself/himself for the sake of mere “standards”?
Another amusing thing about these standards is that they’re not constant. They vary from time to time with every region. The things viewed as attractive in Pakistan won’t be be viewed the same way in Korea or Japan or the United States. Because at the end of the day they are just standards and they won’t mean anything if you don’t allow them to. It’s all based on perception.
Here’s what you can do, you can either wish that you were a chameleon so you can fit in the beauty standards of the world and be considered “beautiful” or you can alter your perception and appreciate what you have because your unique self is beautiful whether you choose to believe it or not. Just because you like chocolate cake, that doesn’t mean that vanilla isn’t delicious. At the end of the day, all you have is yourself. You are your own rescuer. If you can’t learn to love yourself then how can you expect the world to do the same?