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5/24/09 The Berber "Farmer Tan"

As most of you know, a "farmer tan" or "farmer's tan" or "farmers' tan" is the look achieved by people actually spending time outside, and not in a tanning bed or at the beach: tanned hands and arms up to a sharp cut-off where the shirt begins, and then a pale white upper arm and torso. You can also use it to point out abrupt tan lines from shorts or socks.

Here in Morocco, I dress modestly, but still in Western-style clothing. My clothes always cover me from neck to wrist to ankle, and I consider it a little risque even to show my forearms (though I admit that I sometimes push my sleeves up on super-hot days).

One of the thousands of ways that the chic European cities are different from my Berber bled is that the modesty standards are relaxed. As long as you're mostly covered, a little skin is permissible.

So I celebrated by wearing a sundress. A cute little dress that still had a fairly high neckline, but left my arms and shoulders bare. OK, I admit it, there were spaghetti straps. Spaghetti straps! Unthinkable! I know, I know... But the sun was so warm, and the harassment so ... nonexistent ... and besides, nobody there knew that I'm a respectable Peace Corps Volunteer, and not just a random European or American tourist... So I surrendered to the seduction of the sundress.

Of course, I can't shake my bled ways entirely, so I wore jeans under it. (The skirt only comes down to the knee, after all, I can't be completely inappropriate and actually show half of my legs! Hshuma!)

A newbie PCV took one look at me and said, "So this is the Berber Farmer Tan I have to look forward to? A tanned face and white body?" I laughed and said, "Yup!" My face and hands have never been browner, but the rest of me hasn't seen sunlight in over a year.

Apparently I'm now two-toned. Go figure. =/

PS: A funny side-effect of the sundress: I was wearing the handwoven wool satchel that I've worn every day for months, and I noticed that it was chafing against the base of my neck. (The strap is so long that I always wear it slung across my body, messenger-bag style.) I couldn't figure out why it was so irritating today, when it has never bothered me before. And then I realized that this is the very first time the woolen strap has ever actually touched my skin! I've worn the bag over teeshirts, turtlenecks, sweaters, jackets, and parkas, but never once against bare skin. Ahhh, city life...

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