One of the best things about making new friends is that these new people are in the process of getting to know you better, and in their process of studying you, you learn something new about yourself too.
Upon having breakfast with a few new friends, one of them pointed out that I have a really nice complexion, “It’s so different”, she says. I smile and I’m thankful. Just then the steward arrives with my salted caramel milkshake, “Ah yes” she goes, “Your skin is like salted caramel!”
That’s when I started to take her compliment seriously. I was beaming! Like a 7 year old child whose teacher just gave her a big sticker in her notebook!
Growing up in an Indian community the only similes or comparisons that I have been used to when it comes to beauty and/or skin tone were: “Oh that girl is so pretty, her skin is as white as snow!” or “Oh that young man is so handsome, his skin is as white as milk!”
But this was a first, “Her skin is so nice, it is as brown as salted caramel!?!” Who would not want to be compared to something as beautiful as caramel? It’s my favorite flavour to have on dessert! Milkshakes, ice creams, popcorn, cupcakes, candy, pies and almost anything actually.
I for one have always loved my complexion but often doubted if it was actually meant to be loved. With constant conditioning from the media and society that beauty is equal to fair skin I also believed my complexion should be “worked” on. India has had this unhealthy obsession with fairness for the longest time, with women’s marital prospects and careers depending on it despite the fact that a majority of Indian women’s skin tones actually range from dusky to dark.
Ideal beauty always meant and largely still does mean: Fair skin, long hair, a slim body and a tall figure but not taller than the man since a man’s authority should always be evident even in his physicality, which is also another saddening issue plaguing society with the many conditions men are expected to meet in order to protect their “masculinity”.
On a more personal note, if we were allowed to pick our skin tones and how we look I would want to look like a Caribbean island girl. Skin as golden as an immaculately baked cookie, wavy curls that you could easily mistake for the ebb and flow of the sea and eyes as deep and dark as a black hole that one would be slightly afraid to trot around them.
Then again, in the above paragraph I just created a new standard. I just defined beauty which essentially should never be “defined” because it can be anything. If we could all pick and choose how we wanted to look we would be living in a black and white monotone world.
I am proud of my skin and all its little imperfections. The spot above my lip, the acne marks and the scars on my chest. I am not a blank canvas. We never are.
In the plethora of the world’s palette I was given this colour. A colour which reminds people of melting sugar and how bright the sun can shine. A colour that will always struggle to find its way in mainstream beauty, a colour that you will find millions of girls adorning in our country but secretly wishing they were fairer not knowing that “fairness” is just another construct construed by our society.
I am a dusky brown girl and my skin will never be as white as snow.
It is as brown as toasted peanuts,
It is as brown as morning toast,
It is as brown as salted caramel.