|photo via photobucket (krashcdm)|
So I suppose it's a good thing to be part Irish. Except for the times when it isn't--like those summer days when I would lay out on our asphalted driveway with the neighbor girl, desperately hoping to get a tan and ending up looking like a lobster. Or when the movie Casper came out and suddenly all my middle school classmates found it hilarious to nickname me after a ghost. Yes, I have very, very white skin and I always hated it, until I came to China.
The Chinese, and I suppose Asians in general, have a thing for white skin. They use lotion with whiteners and spend the entire summer hiding under a parasol. In Asia, I have often been complimented on my skin tone, which has been an adjustment after it having it been under constant scrutiny growing up. In recent years, I've come to embrace my paleness and no long hide my frighteningly white legs in summer. I wear shorts, almost with pride.
While I'm not longer ashamed of my fairness, I have become somewhat shy about something else--my freckles. As a kid, I never minded them. I was told they were cute. But the Chinese don't seem to agree. I remember once watching an episode of the TV show Lost with Ming. One of the characters, Kate, was given the pet name of "Freckles" by another character that seemed to have the hots for her. Ming looked at me confused.
"Why's he calling her that? I thought he liked her." In his mind, it was like calling your crush a fatso. It made no sense and would totally ruin a dude's game.
"He does like her. He calls her that because he thinks her freckles are cute. They are cute," I assured him.
"Hmm," he mulled it over for a bit, "I guess they could be. . . "
"What? You don't think my freckles are cute?" I teased.
"Well, I guess now I do!"
Thank heavens for Lost, it allowed Ming to see my freckles in a whole new light! Unfortunately, he's probably the only one out of a population of 1.3 billion. I was reminded of this not once, but twice, this past week. . . .
It starts with a concerned look at my arm and then an obvious attempt to grasp at the appropriate words in English, words that won't be too insulting. The conversation goes something like this:
"What are those on your arm?" asks Concerned Chinese Person (CCP).
"Freckles," I answer, knowing damn well CCP hasn't the slightest idea what that means. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but I can never remember the word in Chinese.
Curiosity tends to override manners now, so goes the follow-up question, "I'm sorry. What's wrong with your skin?"
"Nothing is wrong. They are called freckles. Many foreigners have them," I explain.
I see the suspicion in CCP's eyes and maybe even a little pity. CCP fears I have cancer or some other disease.
"It's because I'm part Irish. Irish people often have these. I'm not sick," I reassure CCP. This generally seems to satisfy the questioner on the topic of freckles even if my arm is still looked at with distaste.
My freckles are out in full blaze now that it's summer but I try not to be too self-conscious. While sometimes I wish people wouldn't look at my freckles like they are the sign of some underlying illness, I know that beauty standards are different everywhere. I can think freckles are cute even if they don't.
What about you? Is there a feature you have that you've been teased about? Have you ever found that beauty standards are different when you've lived or traveled in places far from where you grew up?