As I was staring at the screen of my computer, writing for my blog, I overheard a conversation between my daughter and my husband. I didn’t know the context of this conversation, but from what I could understand, he was trying to tell her that dark skinned people are nice people too, and that she shouldn’t dislike them just because they are dark.
He tried hard to advocate his point, but I could smell the disagreement from five feet across.
This is not even a teen I am talking about. My daughter is about to turn five this month. And yet the seeds of discrimination are already sown. Only a few days ago, I was shocked and disgruntled when she told me that she exercises a lot but still this boy from school calls her fat. I asked her what’s wrong with being called fat? “I don’t like fat people”, came the prompt reply.
This shook me to the core. Not only because I am pretty much overweight myself, but also because she is hardly the age to be judging people based on their appearance alone. In her tiny little mind there is a clear distinction – fair and thin are in, dark and fat are not. It disturbs me because we have never consciously taught her to discriminate thus. We might have, on occasion, been a little callous. My husband sometimes teases me about being plump. (There’s more of you to love! We have all heard that one!)
I am dark skinned as well. So somewhere on a very personal level, her remark hurt. But more than that, I was alarmed. I don’t want my daughter to grow up with such rigid notions of beauty. I know I might be getting paranoid about this, but I can’t help it. I am the definition of paranoia when it comes to parenting.
We see these things on television all around us. Fairness products companies extol their products’ virtues and unabashedly sell their products, as being a necessity to increase a woman’s beauty. Really? If only fair and thin was beautiful, how the hell did someone like Queen Latifah make it big in Hollywood? (pun intended)
If you ask me, honestly I am still clueless. I have no idea how to change her notions or if I should even try. Should I leave it at that and wait it out? Maybe she will grow out of it naturally as she understands the world better. Maybe she won’t. But I don’t want her to be in a situation like mine, where it took me years to understand that external beauty is really a mirage. I have grappled with diets, exercises only to yo-yo between overweight and just a little overweight. I was never thin, not in my farthest memory.
I am in a peaceful state with myself now. But it took me years, a whole truckload of taunts and jests, and failed weight-loss routines to get here. As far as fairness was concerned, it was never an issue to begin with. Yet I now realise how insidious remarks made by total strangers can leave a lasting impression on forming minds. A friend of mine gave birth to her second daughter. Her mother-in-law kept repeating every fifteen minutes how this child was fair and how the older daughter is dark. Oh puhlease!
An honest request, if you guys know how I should deal with this, please… please help me out here.
Dr. Gauri Kekre is a clueless, 30-year-old woman, who still has to find her calling in life. A dental surgeon by education, she has almost given it up to be a mommy to her two beautiful girls. She loves to be a ‘jack of all trades’ and dabbles some in writing, cooking and her latest fad, sewing. She writes off and on for her blog Mind Brew and you can find her as @drgaurikekre on twitter (although she seldom uses it). Amongst the things she loves are her mom, her husband, her daughters and people in general.