I have a wheatish complexion and my mother’s side of the family is very fair. Growing up, there was plenty of advice from neighbours and relatives about not playing in the sun or dirt or my skin would tan. There were also plenty of ‘aunties’ who had their own tips on how to get fairer skin. My parents, on the other hand, were not fazed about skin colour at all and told us that as long as we were honest, hard-working and had the right attitude towards life.
When I was getting married, there was a party at home the day before the wedding. I went to the beauty salon to get my make-up for the party done. Upon reaching there, my friend and I realized that the make-up artist who we had thought would be doing my make-up wasn’t there that day. The salon offered us the services of another one of their make-up artists and I didn’t have a problem with it so we went ahead. Since all the details of the make-up had been discussed beforehand, I decided to relax and let this lady begin her work. I closed my eyes, lay back and let them get to work.
About an hour later, my friend got angry and started telling off the make-up artist, “What have you done? You need to fix this!” So, I opened my eyes to see what all the fuss was about. I took one look in the mirror and froze in horror. The artist had made my face white! She had used a foundation that was much lighter than my complexion. Now, when you put a lighter foundation on someone who is darker, the resultant colour isn’t like any human colour at all. I looked gray!
After I got over the first shock, I wanted to understand her rationale so I asked her why she had done it. I pointed out that I’d been very specific about the shade of foundation I wanted and had even done a skin test to determine the colour code of the foundation. What she said to me made me feel really bad for her.
She told me that it was my wedding and if the guests saw my dark complexion, they would say all sorts of things. I’m a Bengali and we don’t worry so much about skin colour or looking fairer; it’s just not part of our culture. However, since the wedding was happening in UP, I knew that fairness would be highlighted and was willing to work with the make-up artists – within reason. This, however, was too much. I told her that what they said didn’t matter to me and she should change what she had done.
By this time, I was getting calls from home telling me to get back since it was getting late and the party was going to start. I was so horrified and my face looked so ugly that I just couldn’t leave the parlour without getting it fixed.
That’s when she also said, “If you don’t look fair enough, your fiancé will leave you. I’ve seen many brides and they all want to look fairer. You don’t understand how important this is. Marriages break up over this.” This made me feel even worse. However, I stuck to my stance and eventually some repairs were made. Even today, though, when I look back at the photos of that day, I really don’t think I look good at all.
I have never considered my complexion a handicap. However, this incident highlighted to me how other well-meaning people might perceive it as a handicap for me and might try to do something nice for me as a result of this weird logic.
Physicist & Data Scientist