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There. Look at that. Do you see it? It’s deodorant, antiperspirant. And it’s in whitening formula. Whitening. Why? Why on earth would anyone care about whitening her underarms?

It makes me crazy. I see all these products here and it reminds me Hong Kong, when I first ran into the “whitening” craze. Face masks, face wash, face lotion, hand and body lotion, powder, base makeup, it seems like every product available promises to lighten your skin.

But why?

I am pale. If anything, I have a pinkish undertone, all the better to sunburn. Ouch. So this whitening deodorant? You’ll be able to see my pits shining in the freaking dark, people. Not that I care. I just don’t really want to sweat and smell like a goat, and the brand is one I know won’t stain my clothing yellow. The shop girl told me that the ladies’ version only came in whitening. Sigh.

For years, I coveted the tanned look. Laid out. Fried my skin applying Ban de Soleil (for the St. Tropez taaaaaan!), coconut oil, baby oil, you name it. All it earned me was lobster red skin, blisters, and peeling. Sexy.

In high school, girls would have their mothers actually check them out of class a few hours early during the weeks before prom so that they could lay out during prime time rays and have a healthy golden glow in their prom photos. My mother didn’t buy that, which is good, because with my blond hair, and blue dress, I would have looked like an American flag instead of a teenager with a corsage.

Even a summer or two spent lifeguarding didn’t get me any darker. And four solid years in Africa didn’t tan me up either.

So it’s not going to happen. I will continue to glow in the freaking dark until the day I die.

But then here – everyone wants to be lighter, and while I guess I can see that it’s sort of a reverse desire for the tan we all chase in Europe and America, it seems more awful to me. Almost like self-loathing. Is that right? No, but that’s how I perceive it, and well, that’s that. It annoys me that all the beauty giants jump on the bandwagon and show light-skinned women in their ads and push what is essentially skin bleach. Can that possibly be good for you?

When I drive through Mumbai, I see the most beautiful rainbow of tans and browns. The little girl with the jet-black eyes and skin the color of molasses. The man with the skin the color of the chai he is pouring and foaming for the people lined up to buy it. The motorcycle dude with his girlfriend on back – she the color of light coffee and he just a few shades lighter. The elderly woman with the hennaed hair and skin the color of a chestnut.   They are beautiful. All of them.  Every single one.

In the sunshine, brown skin looks beautiful, all the better to wear the vibrant colors that convey the joy, exuberance, and heady excitement that is India – orange, saffron, sunshine yellow, lime green, turquoise. Gold bangles look that much more beautiful.

That “rainbow of browns and tans” is what India is, and who her beautiful people are. Not that photoshopped model with the superlight skin telling you she’s the ideal of beauty. So Indian ladies, take it from pale-pink me: you are gorgeous. I am in awe of how beautiful you are, in all your shades. Embrace it, and step back from the bleach.

In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on my glow-in-the-dark underarms.

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