I’m not a fan of classics like Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat, as even as a child I was irritated by the self-indulgent rhyming taking precedence over the story. However, I do enjoy a handful of the Dr's other children's books. My favourite is one I recently discovered when a child at my school asked me to read it to him: The Sneetches.
Here’s a quick rundown: some of the sneetches have stars on their bellies; some don’t. The ones who do won’t let the ones without on the beaches (the self-indulgence is, of course, present, but I’m able to ignore it). Luckily, Sylvester McMonkey McBean arrives, with an affordably-priced star-painting machine!
Of course, once he’s done that, he then goes to the other group and offers them the service – again for a low price – of star removal. And so on and so forth, until nobody knows who they are anymore and everyone can live in perfect harmony.
Achieving this is made more difficult by the fact that most of
Vietnamese women definitely have a healthier goal, but I don’t think the motivations have anything to do with health. Rather, just like their Western counterparts, they’re trying to achieve something that is, much to my surprise (although it shouldn’t have been), completely arbitrary: beauty.
At first, I thought it was just a masochistic desire on both groups’ parts to fight an uphill battle, but recently someone spelled out the real reason for me when she said, in shocked response to my enquiry as to why she wanted such light skin “I don’t want to look like a farmer!”
Because that’s it. Even though we don’t say it in the West, it’s still at the forefront: nobody wants to look poor. It’s acceptable – indeed, even par for the course in the West – to actually be poor, with debts, loans, and overdrafts all over the place but looking poor is unacceptable.
In temperate North America,
So of course it’s the opposite here, in a country in a region where the well-off sit at desks and the poor toil the fields and sell trinkets on the streets. Here, light skin is a sign that you don’t have to work outside, that you can afford air conditioning, that you can stay inside during the hottest part of the day.
It’s all an effort to separate ourselves from the working classes. In the industrialized West, a working man or woman spends his or her days in an office, under a car, in a factory; here, the working people farm.
Of course, there are significantly more people who look middle class than actually are middle class. Thankfully, credit cards have yet to arrive here, so unskilled labourers with $20,000 cars, $2,000 televisions and assorted overly expensive clothing are not yet on the scene.But the appearances of the middle class are available to those who have to work outside. It’s in every pharmacy and supermarket, prominently displayed and constantly being re-stocked. Made by L’Oreal, probably in the same factory as the tanning cream by pasty assembly line workers, it comes in a bottle of the same colour it promises to make your skin: milky, glowing white.