Have you seen Lindsey Lohan lately?
I don’t have much of a chance to consume American media these days, but I was shocked to see a picture of her recently.
She was born in 1986! She’s younger than me!
There’s a great deal to be said about genetics, lifestyle choices, drug use, etc, and the correlation to premature aging.
In this case, sun exposure on a girl with a delicate complexion.
So…. Here in Japanland…
Now that summer has rolled in, my female Japanese co-workers have redoubled their efforts to guard themselves from sun exposure. Any sun exposure.
It’s almost silly, the extreme measure that they take.
UV umbrellas, UV arm covers, UV t-shirts, UV hats, UV visors, etc.
(Nao-chan wrote about this UV stuff a while ago!)
The above picture is not extreme. It’s normal, everyday behavior. I’m really not joking!
Some of my female co-workers constantly praise my ‘beautiful white’ skin. It’s gotten to the point that it makes me uncomfortable.
Last week, a younger female co-worker started petting my bare arm suddenly. “It’s sooo milky and nice. Hoshii, hoshii! (I want, I want!)“
She asked me *how* I’m so white, even in summer. (So awkward!)
She seemed to be shocked that it’s not a deliberate effort on my part to stay pale.
I put on sunscreen to go the beach or outdoor events, but that’s it. My makeup has a SPF protection, but only noticed after I checked the bottle today!
I’m sure that all my sun-avoiding co-workers will age much better than me thanks to all their effort.
Avoiding the sun to such an extreme has it’s own hazards.
A lack of sun exposure is one of contributing factors of vitamin D deficiency in Japan’s population. Osteoporosis, rickets (called o-legs in Japan), and cancer can result from a chronic lack of vitamin D.
On top of avoiding the sun, woman (not just in Japan, but all across Asia) use creams, soaps, and pills to lighten or bleach their skin. These creams and pills can be extremely harmful, sometimes containing deadly ingredients.
In a strange way, it echoes the history of African-Americans and dangerous skin bleaching practices of the 20th century. All of the ‘white, beautiful’ skin comments make me uncomfortable because overt endorsement of lighter skin is no longer socially acceptable North American! Ever!
My own experience;
Back home in the rural USA, a tan is considered best!
Pale skin is seen as unhealthy and sickly-looking. There’s an expression that “tan fat looks better than white fat.” that being overweight is forgivable if you have golden skin.
I was teased mercilessly in junior high school because I can’t tan. (I just get pink and sweaty!)
The favorite names that the other girls would call me included ‘Ghost’, ‘Sicky’, and ‘Wednesday Addams‘.
I really tried to tan, but I gave up after I realized it was just impossible for my skin. After a time, I grew to appreciate, cultivate, and preserve what nature has given me.
(I also hate the look of self-tanners. It looks horribly orange, and fake.)
There were no option for me, so I just continued to be teased about my skin.
I’m a firm believer in ‘everything in moderation‘.
At the same time, because of my own cultural bias, I see a warm youthful face as better than an ashen face that has never seen sunlight (or a chemically whitened face) .
A little sun is health, but too much is not.
You don’t want to look like Lindsey Lohan, but you also don’t want to have brittle bones.
In either direction, this UV trend is absurd!