And then the Walk of Hope happened – walking under the sun for hours at a time was challenging enough as it was – and also uncovered one of many secrets about my body – my skin loves to tan more than any other skin I know. My theory (whatever the real scientific cause may be) is that my fat cells feel the heat of the sun and say, “Yay, bubbly time!” - after all isn’t that what fat does – bubbles and parties in the heat. Especially towards the end of the Walk when we were at higher altitudes and the sun was uninhibitedly fierce my fat cells just said, “Oooooh crispy time!” and went right ahead and sizzled and caramelised like good quality bacon.
Initially I slathered myself with sunscreen yet my skin would still darken but in a very pasty – grey sort of way and I definitely didn’t enjoy the zombie effect – after all walking 20 kilometres was making me feel more alive than I had ever felt before so why look dead. Luckily I realised quick enough that the chemicals were the cause and equally quickly did away with them.
And so I would acquire this butterscotch honey look within a couple of days of walking and quite frankly I loved the colour on my skin. What riled me were unsolicited disapproving reactions on how dark I had “let” my skin become as well as urgent advice on how I needed to remedy it and the precautions to be taken in the future. Some even asked me how I could enjoy the Walk enough to allow this impact my looks. Not everyone’s comments on my tan were disapproving off course, some were compliments that I enjoyed, however there were enough comments to bring forward certain questions in my mind. Questions I don’t have answers to but continue to bother me.
Walking in support for peace and harmony, walking to encourage an inclusive, accepting society is not as important as keeping my skin an acceptable colour – surely there is something wrong here?
The fact that my body was covering 25 kilometres, something everyone told me was an outrageously dangerous undertaking for me was insignificant, and all that mattered was the colour of my skin being a few shades darker – what “healthy” perspective does this come from?
A question I have been asking for a long time and have no answer to – How does one justify giving unsolicited negative comments and advise on the way someone looks? If I asked you how I looked by all means give me an honest response – but I am not even in the vicinity of wanting to know your opinion about my skin colour – so why would I need to hear instructions about marinating myself like a bit of food – waiting for it to dry and then washing it off to reveal glowing skin?
Further when challenged, how does one get away with justifying this as concern or care? Have you considered whether I am secure enough to deal with such a comment or would it further shatter an already shaky confidence?
It is a rare woman that I have met who is not uncomfortable about something about her looks and inhibited in either the way she dresses or the confidence she feels. For years I have tortured myself about my body and the way it looks. The Walk of Hope was to sow the seeds of acceptance – and given our obsession with external appearances this is an area where acceptance is crucial. With younger and more vulnerable minds being exposed to media I believe it is imperative that the messages sent out are about accepting each other’s differences I believe this begins with each one of us.
Since change begins with oneself I choose to find the beauty in every person I meet and compliment them for that – or else not bring it up at all.