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A Change in Perspective

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I bought a pair of shorts today. They are khaki, and they pretty much blend in with my legs because they are the same color. I said to the hubs, “I need a tan.”

We began talking about how it wasn’t always the case that tanner was better. He said he remembers that when he was about six years old, a girl at the beach was talking about his younger sister and how beautifully brown she was. And Stephan looked at the un-tanned girl and thought, “But your white skin is so beautiful, too.”

I remember reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books and how it was very desirable to keep the skin white. Laura’s mother always told her to wear her sunbonnet so that she wouldn’t turn brown.

But now, we talk about white skin being “pasty” and we think that having a tan makes you look healthy. Why the change?

I suspect that it’s because in pioneer times, if you were tanned, it meant that you worked hard to earn a living. Hard work was always done outside in those times. Those who were tanned were manual laborers or farmers. The wealthy were able to work inside as storekeepers or bankers. Tanned skin, at that time, was an indicator of lower class.

But now, tanned skin indicates a life of leisure. Instead of sitting indoors staring at a computer screen all day, some people get to lie out by the pool, soaking up the sun. Or they play golf or tennis. They aren’t working hard. They are enjoying life outdoors.

A similar change seems to have occurred in how we view people’s weight. Remember how painters used to portray beautiful women with round bellies and lots of curves? I think it’s because in those times, being heavy indicated that you were wealthy and could afford plenty to eat. But now, being thin shows that you have time in your day to work out, or that you have the money to be able to buy healthier food or pay a personal trainer. Cheap food is junk food, so being overweight is seen as an indicator of lack of wealth.

And we all want to appear wealthy. These days, being tan and thin is the way to do that

At least, that’s how I see it.


About Karen Koch

I like the old-fashioned lifestyle. All this new-fangled stuff baffles me sometimes. I cherish living out in the country, raising chickens and rabbits, planting fruit trees, and enjoying a slow life filled with beautiful words and ideas. I don't always achieve a slow life. I teach middle school English and manage a little burgeoning farm with my husband, and somewhere in the midst of that, I try to find time for writing, running, knitting, reading, and playing the ukulele. And sometimes, I actually succeed.

One response »

  1. Not tan, not thin & not wealthy – I think you’re onto something!


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