This past Memorial Day, I opened the medicine cabinet at my aunt’s house looking for toothpaste only to find a tube of Fair & Lovely staring back at me. My heart sank. I yelled for my 10-year old cousin. “What is THIS?” I asked her, holding the tube gingerly.
“What?” she said innocently, “It’s just suntan lotion so I don’t get dark.” I looked at the ingredient list. Indeed, among the ingredients was “sunscreen.” I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was the same girl who had teased her seven-year old darker-skinned cousin so much that a year later, the poor kid still adamantly states “I’m not pretty.” Little wonder given that our mothers come from a country where bridal makeup still means you pancake the woman in white foundation from the neck-up and then hide her hands under her dupatta so the color disparity doesn’t show.
I remember being amused by photographs of various brides and grooms in Pakistani magazines. The grooms came in all colors. The brides, however, had the same tinge: vampire-white.