Why this?

I can understand why R’s Mom’s asked, ‘Why This?‘ 


We have had various versions of this conversation, many times.

Brat Three: “I am so black!!!!” (with a look of disgust at her own reflection in the mirror)

IHM: (Pretending to have missed her disgust) “Yes 🙂 Not black though, you are dark brown I think. Nice colour.”

She was shocked when she heard this the first time.

Brat Three: “It’s ugly. I like white.”

IHM: “White is nice too, but why don’t you like dark brown?”

brat three

Brat Three: “See? My arms, legs, face are all black… darkbrown. I am so ugly.”

IHM: “You are not ugly! You look nice. You have lovely dark brown skin…”

Brat Three: “If you like darkbrown so much, you take it.”

I tried telling her:  

“We are all various shades of brown, whatever colour we are born with, we live with that. Some people like their own colour, some don’t but it can’t be changed. Hair colour can be changed, and even eye colour can be changed. Why don’t you like dark brown? It’s a pretty colour.”

Or something like this:

“Some people like pink, some blue, some green, right? Some people like ice cream, some like pani poori, same way some people like dark brown, some black, some golden, some white.”

Also showed her pictures of good looking, dark skinned women, not always pointing out the skin colour, just letting her see for herself.

Then last week: 

Brat Three: “My face looks ‘lighter’ in hot sun, then I look nice.” (Looking very happy about this)

IHM: “Even if you play in very hot sun, you won’t get a sun burn, because dark brown skin has lots of melanin. Dark skin is made for playing in the sun 🙂 :)”

Brat Three: “Sun burn….? What is melanin?”  (Surprised but, surprisingly, delighted.)

She delighted me too with her surprise. Finally I knew what to say.

IHM: “The more the melanin, the darker the skin. Those who live in cold places don’t need melanin, because they don’t have strong sun. Those who need to face strong sun need more melanin in their skin, or else the sun can cause sun burn. You can generally play in the sun without fearing sun burn. Most probably you won’t get wrinkles till you are really old, maybe fewer spots too!” [link]

And for the first time she didn’t look disgusted 🙂

This delight was different from when she woke up one morning to find that Tooth Fairy had taken away her tooth and left her a blue pony she had asked for…

SherKhan loves Brat Three

When she had said in astonishment, “Tooth Fairy likes darkbrown!”

moon follows me, dark brown

Still earlier, sometime around October last year when she first noticed that the moon was ‘following her’ during our evening walks and said in astonishment, Moon follows me! Moon likes me…….   Dark Brown.” 

What would you do?

Related Posts:

Why This? – R’s Mom

Fat is Beautiful, Short is Sweet – Rekha

I am dark, hear me roar! – Sangitha

You don’t owe prettiness to anyone.

Introducing a new family member.

Two conversations with Brat Three

Learning with Brat Three.

Who likes mangoes?

Brat Three learns to argue, insist and convince.


60 thoughts on “Why this?

  1. I can relate to this so much! Went through the same thing when I was a kid. I was scolded a lot more by relatives and everyone around me because my dark complexion came from playing in the sun all day, it wasn’t always so. Everyone used to go on and on about how ‘fair’ and ‘cute’ I was as a baby and that I carelessly ruined any good looks I had just because I wouldn’t sit at home like good girls are supposed to. It was only when I was slightly older and I saw that some of the most popular girls in my school (read: all the guys fancied them :P) were dark complexioned as well. That reasoning seems so pathetic now 🙂

    Now when I look back and think of all those days as kid spent playing cricket, climbing trees, trekking, snorkeling, swimming, and having loads of fun; I know I wouldn’t exchange any of those days for all the beauty in the world 🙂


    • Here’s what I’d like to tell Brat 3 (as someone fair-skinned):

      You see, Brat 3, being fair or dark doesn’t change anything. It’s like wearing a green T-Shirt one day and a Blue T-Shirt the next day. If people say you’re beautiful on the first day but not on the second day, then they’re only looking at your T Shirt. They’re not looking at your pretty smile or your beautiful eyes or your silky hair. They’re saying that you’re only as beautiful as your T-Shirt. Do you think that’s right? What if someone didn’t have the money to buy nice clothes? Are they ugly?

      Our skin is also like clothes except that we don’t buy it. Mother Nature gives it to us. It’s a special kind of dress because it grows with you when you grow up, it will protect you from dust and dirt. It will protect all your precious internal organs every second of the day. If you have a favourite frock that Mama gave you but your friend doesn’t like it, would you stop wearing it? Wouldn’t you be happy that Mama gave it to you? Just the same way, don’t dislike your skin because it’s your very special gift from another mama we all have – Nature. Just like your mama thinks about what kind of frock you need and buys the right size and material, mother nature also thinks about what we really need and gives that to us. She selects the colour, the texture, and everything else about our skin to keep us safe.

      Look, I’m fair-skinned! But did you know that it doesn’t really have any advantages? Did it help me with my studies? Nopes. I still had to do my homework just like you. Did it help me play basketball? No way! I am quite terrible at sports. Did it make me a better singer or painter? No again, you need to have creativity and practice for those. Does it help me at office now? Still no. I have to slog like everyone else to prove myself.

      It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your clothes or your skin or your hair or anything else about your looks because it doesn’t help you or anyone else in any way. What’s more important is being kind, brave, and generous. If you are those things, you can change the world.

      Sorry about the super-long essay, IHM but I really wish more little girls would understand that being fair-skinned really does nothing of value for anyone…


      • Deep seated bias/beliefs won’t go away with a single lecture. Un-preachy, short, to-the-point answers work better on kids (or on anyone who isn’t closed-minded).
        For many, this is a post on skin color. I see it as a more general lesson on how to approach such beliefs/complexes. I am sure IHM will keep at it till such beliefs are erased squeaky clean.


        • It wasn’t intended as a lecture to be delivered in a single sitting as much as a collection of all my thoughts over the years. I have seen a lot of little girls feel pressured about this and I’ve discussed this issue with friends who have daughters. What I posted is a gist of all of our discussions. If an 8 year old listens through one paragraph, I’d be amazed 🙂


      • “If you have a favourite frock that Mama gave you but your friend doesn’t like it, would you stop wearing it? ” Well, I can picture the answer being “yes”. The core message of this response is “Mama says so” but kids growing up means that they don’t always do what Mama says but become receptive to other influences. We need to give them a rationale more than ‘because I say so’ or ‘choose me and my view because I love you so much’ to be convincing.

        “I really wish more little girls would understand that being fair-skinned really does nothing of value for anyone…” The problem is that it does have advantages…people who conform to what society believes is beautiful actually gain material advantages. And kids pick up on this, so you can tell them that it doesn’t make a difference but they know otherwise because that is their lived reality even in the playground.

        I think explaining the material advantages of darker skin like more melanin and less susceptibility to diseases like cancer, and also showing darker skinned attractive women would be more effective. However, even the latter is problematic, because I would assume those role models would also conform to other beauty standards like thinness, so then is one endorsing those standards?


        • I think of skin colour similarly to partriarchy. Yes, it’s easier being a man than a woman in a patriarchal society but it’s still not a pleasant life for anyone. Perhaps I do get some advantages if I’m fair, but overall we are all worse off because of the prejudice. I would rather have a child realize that any advantages she sees are completely superficial.

          Sure, I could make a point about melanin. But to me, that undermines the issue because I’m just trying to show through it that dark skin has advantages too. But I don’t want her thinking about the advantages of skin colour at all! Melanin only comes into the picture if a child wants to know why there are so many hues of people. Or what its function is. If she or he thinks that skin colour can give an advantage, I would want to say that a) There are no real advantages b) The kind of advantages you see are not important and the people who give that sort of importance to it are being shallow.


        • I’m also really fair fair and it does have advantages.

          I have cousin who is dark skined and famliy members will compare us or say really hurtful things about her skin colour. I will tell her that it doesnt matter and that dark skin can be beautiful. One day she snapped and said yeah well that’s easy for you to say.

          I dont really say anything anymore because she’s right, I dont know what its like having dark skin in an indian family. People have alway told me I’m beautiful and I’ve had all the priviledges and advantages that come with that.


  2. Excellent approach IHM. Wish my mother had told me such things when I was a kid instead of trying umpteen number of skin products/herbal solution on my skin to make it lighter. Although all those herbal stuff did give me a better skin so not complaining too much.


  3. Aww!! Hugs to Brat three!!
    I know how she must be feeling!!! As a kid, I was constantly compared to my much fairer cousin and even when I got married, people said its good she is marrying a fairer guy!!

    I learnt, like how she is learning from my mum that beauty is only skin deep and that true beauty is what comes from within. A good and kind heart, compassionate nature, empathy are the true marks of beauty!
    Brat Three has a fabulous mom, so she’ll get there too.. understand why skin colour doesn’t matter.
    Hugs IHM!! 🙂


  4. Son’s being majorly bullied near home, IHM – exact same thing. He came in after some heated exchanges where he was told that he is dirty because his skin is, that he’s black all over, inside because outside is black, et al. We used the melanin thing, that his skin is strong for climates like ours, showed him a map where people of different shades exist, darker closer to the equator and lighter farther away, linking the whole human adaptation thing. He wants to believe it but can’t always in the face of such blatant bullying. Trying now with Osain Bolt, a major hero, basketball stars (the well behaved ones…because I don’t want to stop one issue and start another one!).

    Our society is pretty screwed up. Today on the way to school, we were talking about daughter’s face where there’s a spot from something that I think needs to be medically checked out. And he goes, ‘but my skin is strong, it is chocolate brown, see?’ Temporary victory, I think, the battle’s far from won. Can’t exult – the viciousness of it is disgusting and I am sure what we’ve seen isn’t even the worst case.


    • Dear Rekha,
      My daughter takes after my husband in her weight and bone structure and she often comes home with some nasty comment or the other about her weight or boy-like body language.
      She is just 4,imagine what kind of precedents we are setting for our kids when her classmates from the same age-group have already started discriminating on the basis of appearance.I was once teaching an international group of students and all of them coming from Elite and educated families in India and a few other neighboring countries,none of them made friends with Laila because she was from Africa and when they made a class skit about Ramayana Laila was made Shrupnakhha-the evil sister of the demon Ravana,despite the fact that she was a much better actor than a lot of fair girls.This is when I intervened and a long discussion happened about prejudices due to appearances and finally she played Urmila,Laxman’s wife.


  5. This is so sad to hear, that we judge a child on something useless and someting he/she has no control about. Why this obsessionw ith fair skin? i mean healthy beautiful skin ok, but why does that translate to fair.
    I too tell my daughter no one cares about her color, and if someone does care she should stay far far away from that person. Protect skin from harmful elements and that’s that, go out and play , enjoy and have a healthy fit body and thats that.
    but why do we even have to explain this? I can understand when my daughter looks and says she’s diff than me ( she has eyes and can see) and one can explain that, dna, genes blah blah blah, but do we as a society somehow imply superiority based on colour and how do we stop that.. lots of questions no answers..


  6. Though I am not married and I don’t have kids 😛 , I like to say something.

    Generally, these kind of comparisions starts in teanage where opposite sex attracts a lot, this kind of comparision of skin color and beauty hurts lot in teanage and causes major inferiority complex in them and makes many of them not to socialise with others. It takes long time to understand that skin color, though has some advantage, but not all they need, If they don’t have proper guidence from the people who loves them lot like parents. And this kind of problems are more in kids who are staying far away from their parents for studies. Generally, they face some kind of color criticism from many people, may be from friends or from movies or from our great fairness cream ads.

    But it is very important for them to remember some important things..
    1. No matter how their looks are or what their color is, they are important, just like the people who have them. So, No to any kind of discrimination or humiliation based on that or even a single comment that affect their self esteem is not allowed. They need not to fight like salman khan fought with goons in dabaang, but a simple warnng or friendly suggestion is enough to others who do all these nonsense based on the color or looks.

    2. A man/woman’s valuse don’t depend solely on the looks or color. Many things comes into picture when someone evaluate them. Like their social status to how they baheve in the public their study, their position in the class or the workplace, their intelligence and many things. All these thing combined make a person, looks are just a part. What if some people have little bit poor in one area? they can concentrate on the remaining areas, so that their so-called weakness can’t dominate them.

    3. And must say, good looking means not being white. Color and good looks both are different. Good looks depend on lot of factors. Like hair, nose, eyes, height and weight and health. Actually, people look beautiful if they have symmerty among all these.

    Facial symmetry

    And the way we dress also plays an important role. That’s why many people look really good even they are black or brown. There are many models and actress who are black but praised for their beauty.

    4. There is a study that tells that opposite person only bother or recognise our looks only for some small amount of time (like 5 or 7 minutes) after that everything depends on our personality and the way we behave. So, no matter how the looks are, people with good and strong personality attract many. Isn’t it so many successful people are poor in looks?

    5. And for those who belive in god, remember god loves us all. God don’t descriminate us. If god created us like this, that means he compensated us in some other area. So, be happy. So you can reach your destination and achieve your goals and get all that you need. God gave that capabiliteis to all. So, be happy.
    If you feel I am sermoning, sorry, but this what I actually feel about this.


  7. Such a wonderful way to make her like her skin….i am dark and i was constantly told by kids and elders that i am dark when i was a kid…my mom used to say that Lord Balaji( Venkateswara swamy of Tirupati) is dark and everyone loves him…You are loved for your dark skin…don’t bother what other say…..

    Husband hates to buy white colour barbie…he prefers brown colour barbie for the kids…

    Tell brat three that here people die to have brown skin and they sit in the sun to get their colour changed into caramel and brown colour…..they wait for 2 months of summer so that their colour changes, they just don’t want only face colour, they want full body to be brown colour…..


  8. i shld meet brat 3. 🙂 there is some conversation that i cannot have here.

    i’d just ask “why is it bad to be dark brown? or black?”

    we take the onus of explanation too easily on ourselves. let the brat do some explaining 🙂 and we may all be surprised.


  9. And products like Fair and Lovely make it worse!
    My cousin’s little son is a lot darker than most Indians, and when he went to playschool, with mostly white caucasian kids, his teacher teacher put sunblock on everyone except him. She said he didn’t need it, he is so dark. The kid was soooo sad. My cousin gently explained things to him, and then had a chat with his teacher too that she could not single her kid out.


    • Hahaha, I get this a lot too. But sunblock is important for EVERYONE, regardless of skin tone. Skin disease doesn’t discriminate. Rates may be lower for South Asians, but everyone should still stay careful and apply sunblock when possible.


  10. My 9 yr old off late had started saying this, It started worrying me too, my son has a very light complexion like his father, my daughter is like me, she has a light brown complexion. I sat her down one day and told her that god made lots of beautiful things, but, he loves them all equally. I also told her that she is very beautiful and fair people in western countries love to have a tanned look like hers, they pay top dollars to get that look. Now, that discussion has died down.


  11. I want to start off my 3 year old with swimming classes. 1st comment I hear from well wishers – she will become dark. Ditto for playing outside in the sun and getting tanned. I ask them what they prefer – getting tanned or skin cancer? That seems to quieten them for the moment. And there is no way I am going to let my daughter miss out on her childhood because she has to maintain some arbitrary skin color.

    Currently my daughter is obsessed with the golden hair of her Caucasian friends. She wants to have long golden hair like Rapunzel. I don’t show too much reaction when she says so – just a ‘hmmm’ and she carries on and finds something else to bug me about within the next 5 mins 🙂

    It does help that her class has a good mix of Indian, Asian, Caucasian and African American kids.


  12. My cousin had this issue of being dark and ugly when growing up. She was very intelligent and did very well in studies. Recognising her athletic capabilities, my aunt encouraged her to join basket ball. That probably made her taller than her classmates. She learnt dance and that made her aware and confident of her body.

    My aunt used to praise her at times in front of everybody that God gave her daughter looks, brains and strength. If as a mother she gives her a good heart, she’d be the happiest mother in the whole world. Somehow, eventually, with other accomplishments, the skin colour mattered less and less to my cousin.


    • Her looks will matter to her in the coming years, she will want to know if she is attractive – I would like her to feel good about the way she looks, without worrying about fitting into conventional ideas of what is seen as beautiful, to just ‘like’ herself. Also see her limbs (and body in general) as efficient tools that can take her anywhere, and need maintenance (exercise)… am just rambling.


      • Sports/dance/swimming does make you feel good about your body. About attractiveness, yes she is going to go through that insecurity phase like many of us did. Knowing you, she’ll be fine 🙂

        How about stories? Stories that cause positive reinforcement of body image, stories that make you feel good about yourself? I am not sure exactly which books would help, but I’ll be glad to look around.


  13. Don’t worry IHM, with you as a parent she will overcome all of this. The world is often cruel, if not skin color .. there are a million other things that are used to pick on someone. When someone is jealous, they will find some reason to try and show you down. My mother sometimes called me ‘meri kallo’ (translation : my darkie?) with a lot of love which made me aware of my dark skin tone as a child but it did not affect me negatively. That was because I was loved so much at home for exactly what I was, that what outsiders said didn’t dent me! I was extremely confident as a kid, much more than my brother who was of much fairer complexion.


    • I agree. This way she knows she is dark skinned and she has straight hair and she talks a lot and she loves mangoes and she runs very fast and draws beautifully – and all this makes her her. Thank you.


  14. 1. It’s healthy skin that is important. Not fair skin. And keeping the skin healthy is something we have some control over. Color we are born with. Bipasha Basu is famous for her healthy, spotless skin(despite being dark).. Tammanna is also famous for her healthy, spotless skin(despite being milky white)..

    2. There is no meaning to fair skin until there is dark skin and vice versa… skin colors are complimentary.

    3. Make up sits well with dark skin. Deepika Padukone looks so gorgeous on screen because she is dark.

    4. All said and done, dark or fair, it’s the talent, character and the confidence that matters. You don’t make friends because they look good, you make friends because they are good 🙂 Indra Nooyi, Sudha Murthy are famous irrespective of their complexion. Diana, was famous more as people’s princess than for her beauty.


  15. I still remember that terrible inferiority complex i developed as a child when everyone (neighborhood, school, family) used to pass sympathetic remarks on my complexion and looks. This was often triggered by a comparison of my fair, tall and beautiful sister with me. They used to exclaim how 2 siblings can look so different. Every time someone teased me on my dark complexion, i used to cry. My parents tried so hard to convince me that there was nothing to be ashamed of being dark (or being the only dark girl in the family). As i grew up i convinced myself that my complexion or looks will be never the deciding factor of anything in my life. Even then, when i hear some of my friends commenting on my complexion or how they don’t like dark people normally, somehow it hits a nerve.
    IHM please make sure that Brat 3 shares all such conversations with you. I am sure you will not let any such conversations affect her 🙂


    • I will. It didn’t occur to me that her friends’ or anybody else could have ever said something, though I was sure she would share if somebody says something… now wondering. Thanks hurricane.


      • One fine day my 4 years old comes home and asks me why Ella( her European friend) has blonde hair and hazel eyes? She goes further and ask me is she exactly like what I had ordered(she meant wanted) from God?
        because as she was narrating her conversations with friends she mentioned that they thought all mommies order thin,fair ,blonde little girls.
        you can imagine the endless reasoning and counter questioning which followed.


  16. I think you used the right approach with her – telling her her chocolate skin is beautiful. The wrong approach would be saying “It’s okay to not have fair skin, to not be beautiful, you are so good at ….. (something else).” thereby implying that fair skin is beautiful. On what basis do we judge beauty? Based on what the popular culture throws at us. During Rubenesque times, full figured women were considered beautiful. Now we have the Vogue look – tall, gaunt, hauntingly elegant – in most Western societies, this is called beautiful. In Bollywood, slim is now in but women wear such long hair. In Europe, short hair can be very feminine and sexy, revealing a beautiful neck and shoulders. Beauty is what we are mostly brainwashed into believing by mass media and popular culture. The best thing to teach a child is to feel good about who she is. And you’ve done it well – kept it short and simple for her, without getting overly reassuring.

    Here’s another thing I do with my kids – in their presence, I always notice beauty that is unique to someone. I say things like, “She has such a lovely smile!” or “His eyes are so expressive.” or “I love her long, artistic fingers.”

    I also make it a point to emphasize that differences make life richer and more interesting. When my kids were little, we would make up stories together for fun. I would ask my son things like, “Does she have dark curly hair and beautiful purple lips?”
    He would reply, “Yes, and she could play the flute beautifully with her purple lips.”
    Another character would have red hair, freckles, and loved to take risks. Yet another would be short, stocky, and full of mirth.
    Thereby emphasizing that having different people makes life more interesting. Also that looks are only a part of the equation.


  17. Here’s what I would tell my future/potential daughter, if I ever have one. Or a simpler version of this until she’s grown up enough to get the message.

    Our idea of what’s beautiful isn’t something we are born with. It is a function of what we see the society around us appreciate as beautiful, as well as the images popular media feeds us all the time. Notice how most of the women on TV (in India) are fair. And innocent looking. Ditto for actresses. Runway models who are dark get no commercial work cos they’re not fair enough. They’re accepted on the runway cos they’re “exotic” looking. Yes, brown skin is considered exotic in a country of brown people, because that’s how messed up we all are.

    In the West, similarly, there are lots of people who don’t like the color of their skin because they’re “too pale” or because they “look like a ghost” or “washed out.” Even though most of the women in popular media are Caucasian they ALL use bronzer to get that “warm glow” or get tanned. People pay good money to use tanning beds in order to look tanned. A “healthy” tan is a commonly used expression, because they find pale, untanned skin unhealthy looking.

    This goes far deeper than skin color. The entire construct of beauty is socially defined and fed to us, not something we define for ourselves while sitting on an island. For example, when I was a kid, a lot of actresses (Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Urmila Matondkar) had curly hair. Curls were considered pretty. I was told by one and all that my curls were beautiful. The next generation of actresses had straight hair. Suddenly everyone is using a straightener every day because it’s straight hair that looks good to people now. People walk up to me and ask – You do know, don’t you, that you can straighten your hair? As if curly hair was the WRONG kind of hair.

    As a kid looking at pictures of my parents from their college going days, I found their bell bottoms very funny looking. I remember looking at Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor wearing them in movies from the 70’s and thinking they looked like clueless buffoons. Fast forward to when I was in college, and I was willing to part with good money for jeans with huge bell bottoms. Suddenly skinny jeans looked so dated and……UGLY. So unfashionable. Uncool. Trashy. Unflattering.

    Fast forward to the present. All the “cool” people wear skinny jeans. Curvy jeans / bell bottoms look so sloppy and frumpy. Dated. Uncool. Tacky. They “make you look short and fat.”

    Every time I look at pictures of myself from ~5 years ago I “wonder what possessed me to wear those clothes”…..I remember having conversations with people about how terrible 80’s fashion was not too long ago. And suddenly (as of last year) the retro 80’s look is in and THEREFORE looks good to me. Because the media is constantly feeding me images of pretty people in 80’s clothing. All the people I’ve so far considered good looking or stylish or put together are wearing 80’s clothing when they go out. So it starts looking good to me. My brain by now has associated enough good looking, happy people and pleasant words with those clothes that they’ve started looking good to me.

    I remember carrying handbags with short straps (the kind of bags that barely managed to reach my boobs) not too long ago and telling my mom her long strapped bags were “so aunty”. Now I have a hard time even FINDING short strapped bags if I want to buy them cos long straps are all the rage. Suddenly they’re “sleek” and have “clean lines” and present a very “modern” look. Notice all the pleasant words.

    There are people in the world who find your daughter’s skin warm or glowing or honey colored or sweet like caramel or a shot of espresso. There are others to whom it’s “too dark” or kaali/black which by itself is not a negative word but is often spoken with a negative tone in India. Who knows what problems these people have and what the popular media that they’re exposed to has fed them.

    At 30+ I’m still trying to figure out what “loving myself” means. As a child the idea would have certainly been lost on me. But once I figured out how popular media has played a number on me, I stopped paying attention. I can’t spend time or energy thinking about how good looking I am (or am not) when I clearly have little control over my own idea of good looking, let alone other people’s. I wish someone else had figured all of this out for me when I was a teenager and told me.


      • Came back to say that I would refrain from going the compensatory route. By all means, lets teach our kids to be kind, empathetic, intelligent, socially conscious model citizens or whatever else. Because those are good and desirable qualities on their own. But let’s not tell them that they need to aspire to those qualities by way of making up for their dark skin. Lets not tell them that they will be loved and appreciated and thought of as beautiful IN SPITE OF their dark skin. They ARE beautiful, regardless of the color of their skin. They just are.

        Lets not tell them that fat people can also look good! Short people can also look good! Dark people can also look good! Bald people can also look good! Because that’s like telling them that looking good doesn’t normally mean short or dark or fat or bald, but if you’re smart about it, you can game the system and trick people into thinking you’re better looking than you ACTUALLY are.

        I can appreciate the benefits of high melanin, sure, but a kid who’s got the dark = ugly equation running brought her mind won’t. But LOOK!!!! Dark also = side benefits yay!!! Won’t do it for her.

        How about we forget about the beautiful/ ugly concern and focus on other things instead? I highly doubt that other thing will be more than a temporary distraction. Because media and society will throw beautiful = physically beautiful, and beautiful = better at her every step of the way. I’ve spent most of my life thinking I was the smart girl, so what if I wasn’t the beautiful/pretty girl? And I now realize at some level I’d internalized that I was never going to be beautiful, so being smart was my consolation prize / all I had. That people were telling me to “focus on my strengths” instead, the way you do in a job interview. I’d been told to define my self worth by my accomplishments instead of my physical beauty. Sure, it’s the better one of the two alternatives. But there are times I don’t feel particularly accomplished either. And then I have to remember that I have some worth because I AM. Every person does. I can choose to not be an accomplished person. I can choose to not let my accomplishments define me. I don’t have to constantly be hard on myself because I’m compensating.

        Lets address the beauty concern head on instead of brushing it off or telling kids it’s not important. They’ll figure out that it IS important when it refuses to go away. It’s important to other people if not to their family and friends. They have to learn to not care. And to know that it says something about the beholder and what they’ve been exposed to. There is no such thing as an objective standard of beauty. So they shouldn’t aspire to one cos it doesn’t exist.


  18. Pingback: “Here’s what I would tell my future/potential daughter, if I ever have one.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  19. I don’t think lectures work. I also don’t think talking up is a great idea. “oh but I think you are beautiful”, “Who cares what others think, I love you”. they won’t believe it when they are bombarded with Fair and lovely-type ads everywhere, when all heriounes they see getting the best of guys are fair, pretty, sexy. And research has proved it time and again that when it comes to making money, salary, promotions, looks, image, and impression matter. So, sadly, such an issue must be tackled on multiple levels. Parents must find better things to compliment their kids on: no difference between girls and boys. If a boy is complimented for being and looking smart, ditto for the girl. Don’t hand out, “You look so good today”, or “you are a beautiful young lady now”… Young ladies don’t do cartwheels or not whine away in girls’ toilet, so that’s what you’ll get. Boys will also learn that girls can be smart too. Family members need to be checked as diplomatic as you can make it, through an open discussion, even with the kid around at times. Families must focus on appearance not from the viewpoint of “beauty” but from that of “appropriate dressing”, “grace”, “comfort”. Don’t think that this process has a shelf-life. having been 25 just 5 years ago, I know from experience that our insecurity pretty much plays hide and seek with us all our life until we learn to not give it a damn. Compliments IHM, for handling it so beautifully. it’s why i follow your blog.


  20. I remember when I was a kid when I would compare skin tones with my sister. My sister is lighter than I am, and I would feel very sad afterwards because my parents would comment about how light she is and how dark I am (in a teasing way, but it still hurt). Let me also add that by Indian standards, I’m pretty average in skin tone. And I still get the comments.

    My parents and grandmother still hold this precedent pretty tightly. It irks me to no end, and it’s very exasperating trying to explain to them. I’ve tried about a thousand variations of, “How does skin colour play any part in a person’s character/intellect/sincerity.” etc, and they nod their heads like dummies and say, “You’re right, it doesn’t but it’s still better to be fair rather than dark.”

    So, I changed tactics. We’re all rather religious folks, myself included (I try to be sensible about it). Whenever the topic of skin colour came up, I told them that, “Well, Krishna was dark. He seems like a generally nice character, don’t you think?”

    At first, they attempted to dispute this (“Krishna wasn’t dark! He’s…he was…he is…”), but then after I pointed out that his name itself means “black”, they FINALLY admitted the truth. They’re doing much better now. I just wish I didn’t have to drag religion into it, but what works works.

    So, this is what I would say to Brat #3:

    Brat 3, there will be some people in this world who think you are pretty, and some people who don’t. I am one of the people who think you are very pretty. Some people will disagree with me. The important thing to remember is that you cannot let those people who don’t think you are very pretty affect how you, as Brat #3, think about yourself as a person.

    Because you see, even if you were fair-skinned, and other people thought you were beautiful, if you yourself do not see that beauty in yourself, then you will still feel very badly about things. In the same way, even if you are dark-skinned, and other people don’t think you’re very beautiful, if you yourself realize that you are the bomb-diggity, you will feel MUCH happier about yourself and other things. You will feel happier about yourself than you would even if other people thought you were good looking, because you yourself realize it.

    Brat 3, there are lots of dark-skinned people in the world. There are lots of people in this world who, in terms of looks, would not be considered typically beautiful. But people still consider such dark-skinned, atypical looking people gorgeous. This is because those people love themselves. When you love yourself and are confident about who you are, those things will radiate outwards in such a way that when people look at you, they will consider you beautiful no matter what. And it won’t be because of how you look, but because of who you are.


  21. 🙂 I remember asking my mom the same questions… and I also felt bad that my mom was so fair and beautiful and I was all dark ! Now, it all seems funny, but I am pretty sure amma had a tough time explaining it out to me. I remember my mother showing images of a beautiful krishna, with dark skin.. and a handsome Rama, with dark skin etc… I do not remember all that she told me, but by the time I was ten or eleven, I was quite comfortable with my looks 🙂

    In the last one year after my pregnancy, I had to face questions on my daughter’s skin tone… It is frustrating to explain to grownups that I am happy with my daughter’s skin tone and feel no need to “improve” it.Then came a series of forum posts on the internet from pregnant ladies, all wondering how they can improve their future child’s skin tone… Here is a post I wrote in desperation after all this…

    This post of yours means a lot to me, also the post after this and all the replies here… This is why I love your blog.. Makes me confident that I live in a world of sensible people who always think rationally.


  22. You handled brat three’s concern about her skin colour very well. Playful, light hearted yet informative.
    It’s so true that our idea of what is beautiful, or even ‘normal’ is guided by the images that are flashed at us on TV, magazines or the internet.
    Very thoughtful post.


  23. Well honestly IHM, now RD has come up with this idea of telling her that her skin is like nice brown chocolate…

    Toh baki sab vanilla hai? She asked RD

    Yes said RD, some are vanilla and some are chocolate..

    Mereko chocolate acha lagta hai..toh main chocolate hoon..yay!

    Of course, brat 3 Is a lot older, so telling her the chocolate thing may not really work..its working for R though!


  24. My friend once told me that her son once came home fuming and asked for Fair&Lovely because he wanted fair skin overnight. Why are we so obsessed with fair skin? “whiter skin 5 days, natural whitening cream” etc etc – we have facial creams promising ‘gorapan’ within 15 days or 20 days. Dark skin is seen as a bane, specially for girls. I am fair skinned and friends and well wishers would say “you will not have a problem getting married, you are fair”, as if the sole purpose of me being fair skinned is to get married. There are so many other things in life that are much more important than having fair skin. Being brave, honest, sincere, having moral and ethical values, being strong, happy and contented are so much important. I am going to tell my daughter to not to worry about complexion. It is very important that she grows into a confident, caring, courageous and a strong individual.

    Brat Three: You are doing well and will do very well in life. Do not bother about the colour of your skin. Don’t let others tell you that being dark-skinned is a bane and dont be affected by it at all.

    And IHM see this link on TOI. Was this needed at all?


      • I wonder what made the writer or writers comment about the looks of the little children. They must be happy kids, growing well and have loving parents. But the writers chose to focus on the looks of the tiny tots. Disgusting!!!!


    • Fair and Lovely has mercury (and likely other poisons) in it. A long time ago, women used Arsenic for pale, “beautiful” skin.

      And that link made me nauseous.


  25. Hmm, this is a difficult thing and even if you work on it, it can easily be undone by societal/cultural influences. I am not very good at dealing with kids or having conversations at their level. But Ido have some ideas:

    When i was at school/young, teachers and adults berated girls for thinking about how you look because we are supposed to be concentrating on studies. That, I think is bullshit. Let’s be fair. Everybody is bothered by their look. There is no necessity to bullshit girls that they should focus only on their studies and not looks. I know what that implies. Do not love. Have crushes. Just be a good girl/boy and focus on studies. Then be interested in marrying the guy we tell you to.

    People can harp all they want on beauty being skin deep, its inside that matters blah blah, but what we show in our societies is the opposite.

    Everybody is different. It is our differences that make us beautiful. Everybody likes different things. Is your best friend your best friend because they are beautiful? Do you not like dark things? Bikes? Cars? Toys? Black dresses?

    Imagine if sher khan feels sad because he is not white? That he is not tall and walking on 2 legs like humans? Do you love sher khan or oyu want him to fit into your standard of beauty?

    I would emphasize that beauty is important but whats more important is being happy. Yes, groom yourself, do things that make you feel good but do not torture yourself to fit certain standards of beauty. I like blue, you like red, everybody cannot like a certain colour, there will be some who will always not like you. So, its okay. We are taught as kids to win the approval of everybody. Nobody tells you you cannot be liked by all.

    The most beautiful person is somebody who is happy and loves themselves. Even then, miserable people would not consider them beautiful because they are miserable.


  26. I have a lot of people telling me that my daughter doesn’t look like me, which is fine with me. And then they add that she could have atleast got my color (I am a few shades ‘fairer’ than her). This is what annoys me the most. And also puts fear in me that one day she would feel the difference in color of our skin, and would be made to go through torturous self hate phases.
    This post is good. Helpful actually. I can use these experiences to be prepared for her queries later!
    Thank You 🙂


  27. As I have no experience in raising kids, I won’t comment on method adapted by you and on the ones suggested by others to deal with this sticky situation.

    But I do want to tell you something.

    IHM, almost 2 years back I had stumbled upon Tejaswee’s blog. She was a complete stranger to me yet her words moved me so much that I spent hours well past midnight reading each of her blog and your blogs about her and crying all along. I was so impressed by her personality and her thinking…that I felt lucky are those who got an opportunity to be around her, to know her and to share their life with her.

    Although Tejaswee was her own person (came to this conclusion based on her writing), I believe that the environment that she grew up in and the set of parents she was blessed to have, largely contributed in her development as a strong-headed, sensitive, considerate, reasonable and strong willed person.

    Now the best part is, Brat three is going to grow up in the same family environment and will experience similar upbringing. So I am sure she will grow up to become an independent and intelligent person as Tejaswee was, if not better and will laugh on fact that she ever cared about her skin colour. 🙂


  28. I suppose she actual truth behind our prejudices is tricky for her at her current age. Mostly, we tend to consider it ideal to in a blunt sense, look wealthy.

    A look at beauty-ideals across time and space make this abundantly clear. For example, here in Europe, historically peasants used to work the fields while the upper-classes spent time indoor. As a result poor people where pretty brown while wealthy people where pale, so paleness was considered beautiful.

    Then times changed, and the poor got jobs in factories, indoor all day while the rich started going on vacation to tropical places with lots of sun. Color changed. Now the rich became tan, while the poor became pale. The beauty-ideals changed too: Now being tan was considered beautiful.

    The same is true for weight. When food was scarce and the upper-classes where the only ones with enough to eat, being fat was considered attractive while being thin was considered ugly. Look at the women Rubens painted in the 16th century, compare them to the western beauty-ideals today.


  29. Pingback: Brat Three – Questions about death. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  30. Pingback: This is what makes Brat Three happy :) | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  31. Pingback: Brat Three loves to Paint. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  32. Pingback: Penile whitening cream launched for men | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s