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Is Your Daughter Dark?

The way parents handle a dark-skinned daughter is crucial to the way their daughter perceives herself when she grows up. Read on.

Karuna was a pretty girl from the Sindhi community. She was intelligent, vivacious and talented. But she had one 'flaw' as her mother saw it. She wasn't fair. She had a 'wheatish' complexion.

When Karuna would go shopping with her mother and pick out a lemon blouse, her mother would stop her from buying it. "You look dark in this colour," she would say, and pick out another colour.

Since the age of 5, Karuna's mother was constantly trying to 'improve' her daughter's complexion by applying various lotions in an endeavour to make her fair. "Apply this cream to your face, it will make you fair," she would say.

When Karuna would be out in the sun playing with her friends, her mother would exclaim "Why did you go in the sun, you've become so dark!"

And then, when Karuna's friends would come over, her mother would pick out a really fair girl and say "Look at Lata, isn't she pretty! See how fair she is!"

Karuna soon started to dislike her skin colour, and started desiring fairer skin. In an endeavour to look fair, she started applying powder to her face. She would step out with her face chalky and powdery, and she looked fairly ridiculous. No one said anything to her - perhaps her friends had tried and she didn't believe them. Soon she was left with no friends. She married late, to a man much less financially able than her parents were, who is unaware of her true age and who, in all likelihood, married her for her money. Not much of a marriage, is it?

And no, this did not happen because her skin colour was wheatish. It happened because her preoccupation with her skin colour and finding a suitable groom was her focus, and she had done nothing to enrich her personality. This is a true story, and sadly, there is nothing out of the ordinary in this.

The way parents handle a dark-skinned daughter is crucial to the way their daughter perceives herself when she grows up. Here's what you should do:

1. Praise tanned complexions in front of your daughter. Say things like     "What a lovely tan." Let her appreciate that tanned, sun-kissed skin     looks healthy, and a pale complexion can look bland - which is why the    western world yearns for a darker complexion.

2. Most models nowadays are dark-skinned. Make sure your daughter sees    how dark is beautiful.

3. Bronzing products and fake-tan products are flooding international    stores. Let your daughter know this.

4. People in cultures around the world risk skin cancer in order to get a    tan. Make sure your daughter knows how the world loves dark skin.

5. Solicit the help of your friends, and ask them to comment on what a    lovely, glowing complexion your daughter has.

6. Avoid praising a fair complexion in front of yourdaughter. Yes, you can    praise a fair girl, but don't praise her becuase she is fair. Don't say "Oh    wow, she's so fair!" Instead, say "She is so pretty, look how lovely her    eyes are!"

7. Do not obsess over her looks, as the obsession will pass on to your    daughter. Instead, pay minimal attention to her looks and encourage her    in other pursuits like dance, theatre, music, sports. Remember that    when the time comes, your daughter will start getting conscious of her    appearance on her own, at which time you can come to her aid.

8. Concentrate on enriching her personality and ensuring she gets good    grades instead of trying to make her fair.

9. Because of the way our society is structured, your daughter may    express a desire to be fair. Remind her that even dark is beautiful, and    discourage use of fairness creams. You want her to accept the skin she    is in, and not be continually discouraged that she is not as fair as her    Parsi neighbour.

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