Sunday, October 22, 2006

in the eye of the beholder

White is the new tan, just check out my stylish leg!

After posting my last batch of photos, I got a message from one of my friends. He advised me to hit the tanning booths. I guess you could say, I'm looking a bit pastey these days. The truth is, I couldn't be happier about it. In a country where you can't find a single tanning bed and girls hide under umbrellas whenever the sun peeks out, you can say I am proud to look like Casper. . . for once in my life. Here, white is in. Tan is unmistakably out. In fact, it's a little difficult for me to find some decent lotion here because just about everyone of them contains a 'whitener.' I thought whitening was just for the teeth! Well, it's pretty clear that I'm in no desperate need for a skin whitener. Everywhere I go I get compliments on my pale complexion. One of my 4-year-old students has decided to nickname me "White Face Rose." I'm not offended.

The standard of beauty is definitely a bit different here. Too bad for me, thin is still in. If only I could find a country that appreciates a little love handle. The Chinese are pretty harsh when it comes to weight. No one is afraid to proclaim me as "fat." In America, that's rude and hurtful, but here it's just a statement, a fact. It's not meant to cause offense, it's the truth as they see it. Saying "You're fat" is no more different than saying "You're a brunette." But it still stings when I hear it. I miss words and phrases like "big boned," "queen size," "pleasantly plump," "chubby," and even "overweight." Here I am just "fat." I have even heard a couple of my little students whisper 'da pigu' (big butt) behind my back. The thing is, I really don't consider myself all that fat by American standards, but so many of the Chinese are blessed with good metabolism and have a diet lacking in trans and saturated fats. Plus they usually don't have cars. Where I come from we eat our Big Macs while driving our cars on the way to the job where we sit on our asses all day. And then we come home and watch TV.

Another aspect of beauty is eye shape and even more importantly, eyelid type. The Chinese generally like wide eyes. This is another thing I occassionally get complimented on. The other saught after characteristic is the "Double Eyelid." It took me awhile to understood what this means. I'll do what I can to explain it. . . .If you are of European decent, you have (as far as I know) a double eyelid. Some Chinese also have double eyelids. This doesn't have anything to do with the actual shape of the eye, but how the skin is above it. If one is lacking in the Double Eyelid department, this means the skin hangs all the way down from their brow to their eye and you can't really see their eye lashes. I recently read an article about the new plastic surgeory phenomenon now hitting China. Evidently there is a procedure that allows Asians without the double lid to get it. It's the hottest thing in Asian cosmetic surgery. One young Chinese man claimed he got it done because it will improve his job opportunities. Sounds a bit crazy to me, but plenty of American girls get boob jobs for this reason. In a country with 1.3 billion people, I suppose a boy's gotta do what a boy's gotta do to outshine the competition.

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