I Am What I Am

RDP# Tuesday prompt: Fair

Too many definitions to mention 🙂


We had some rather strange ideas about skin tone when I was a kid.  I happened to tan quite easily, so everyone said, “Oh, she’s dark-complected.”  Complected?  Yes, it’s a word.  It means “having a certain complexion.”

Those who burned easily and didn’t get the much-coveted tan (we didn’t use sunscreen because we didn’t make a cancer connection with the sun yet) were considered “light-complected.”

Image result for suntanned v. sunburned

Those who were “light-complected” were thought to have fair skin.  If  you tanned easily, you had darker skin.

Then I started buying makeup, looking for a foundation shade that matched my so-called dark-complected skin. There wasn’t as much of a range to choose from then as there is now.   Ivory, natural, beige, tan.  That was about it.  Today, I would fall into the ivory nude or ecru range. Definitely not dark-complected, but actually very fair-skinned.  Not pure white, but very light, very fair.

Image result for range of makeup foundation from ivory to beige

The truth is that it’s the melanin in the skin that determines how tan a person becomes.  Darker skin tends to have more melanin than lighter skin, but  in fact what we used to consider a beautiful tan is actually just skin damage.

There was a time when very fair skin was considered a mark of gentility, and no lady would expose her delicate skin to the sun.  Hence, hats with very broad brims, and parasols to protect the skin from the sun.  Only girls who had to work in the fields had dark skin, and freckles were definitely not “in.”

Image result for Victorian broad-brimmed hats and parasols

Women actually used to consume tiny amounts of arsenic to whiten their skin. They often died young, but boy, their skin was white!

Ideals of beauty come and go.  Used to be, the only truly beautiful girl had golden locks, limpid blue eyes, rosy cheeks and lips, and pure white skin.  Everyone else could just go fish, I guess, because brunettes and redheads were simply de trop. Unattractive, unwanted, and unloved, poor things.

Well, fair skin or not, today I have the dreaded age spots on my hands and arms.  Not so much on my face, although I’m not sure why.  But  you know what?  It just doesn’t matter. As Popeye would say, “Iyam whut Iyam, an’ dat’s all whut Iyam.”





14 thoughts on “I Am What I Am

  1. I guess we’re much the same age, and I too am naturally dark skinned. And I longer to be even darker. I spent as much time as possible out doors – no sun screen then of course. I still seek out the sun – once a sun-worshipper, always a sun worshipper in my case!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ronnie

    Ahhhh, the things we do for beauty! I remember idiotically laying out covered in baby oil as a teen trying desperately to get the coveted tan (I never could tan to save my life.) So, essentially roasting myself like a Thanksgiving turkey!. Those years are loooong gone! It’s been years since I’ve been willing to set foot in the sun without being slathered in sunscreen, especially on my face – vanity against wrinkles has won out over my need for a tan! haha! If it’s not one thing it’s another!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, the smell of baby oil permeated the air back then 🙂 I got the tan, my sister got the burn. No justice. Today, she has LOTS more of those dreaded age spots because she’s such a sun-worshiper. Not me. I don’t like being hot and sweaty.


  3. Hani Hashmi

    Though we live a world apart both in terms of both distance and culture but I can still relate to what you wrote. We are all victims of stereotypes on the basis of which we judge ourselves. A great write up indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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