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3/19/09 My Berber Tan

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't tan. I'm ridiculously fair-skinned, and the best I can do is freckle. I have a lot of freckles. One summer when I was around 13, I tried to count them all.

I started at my fingernails and counted down the backs of my hands. I lost count around 200, and I'd only done the fingers.

But no matter how many freckles you have, it's not a tan.

Or so I thought.

Throughout this cold high-mountain winter, I've taken refuge in the mid-afternoon sun, either hanging out on my roof or going out for a walk. Then I took a trip to Merzouga, and spent a few days in the Sahara. In the summer, it'll get up to 130 or 140 at noon, but in February, it's the perfect temperature for being out all day. :)

When I got back to Berberville, I stopped in to see my host family. Between work and that vacation, I hadn't seen them in a week or two. Ama took one look at me and said, "You look Berber!" She continued, "When you first got here, you were all white and red." (That's a side-effect of tanless skin: frequent sunburns.) "Remember how Rebha used to call you a tomato?" Oh, yes, I remember it well. It made her laugh, every time. "But now your skin is brown, like mine. You look Berber! You really are Ait Hadidu now. You're not a tomato anymore. You have good color now."

I have good color now. :)

Color is an interesting thing in Morocco. The full human color palate is represented here, from ivory-skinned expats and blue-eyed Berbers through the golden-colored Arabs and Berbers all the way to mahogany-brown descendants of sub-Saharan Africans. Racism, or more accurately color-ism, is depressingly common. Many share the wide-spread belief that paler is better; some women therefore use products like "Fair & Lovely", a skin-bleaching cream (that actually turns skin chalky and, when abused, almost corpse-like). Dark-skinned Moroccans and PCVs are routinely called ugly names.

So the fact that my implausibly tanned skin was seen as an just one on a long list of reasons why I love my host mom. :D

And yeah, I'm noticeably tan. Every square millimeter of my face has at least one freckle, so if you look closely, you can see that some are light and some are dark, but from a few feet away, it just looks tan. My hair shades my hairline just enough that there's a line of pale skin at the edge of my forehead, giving me the look of an unskilled sunless-tanner. Plus, my Moroccan-style modesty (which keeps me covered from neck to wrist to ankle) means that my feet have a Teva-tan while my legs remain blindingly white, and my hands are much darker than my arms.

But whatever. I have good color. :)

1 comment:

  1. The people demand pictures ;-)

    -Your musketeer


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