I have a cousin whose beauty is legendary. Her looks depict the ‘typical Arab woman.’
Why, you may ask, am I saying this?
Because said cousin was harrassed merciliessly by our ignorant society to the extent that she can no longer eat or talk in public without bursting into tears and having something akin to a nervous breakdown.
Easily. Because Syrian society works like this:
Beautiful = Fair skinned, blonde, light colored eyes, stick thin.
Black hair, tanned skin (God forbid!), brown eyes??
Don’t let the images of tanned, sultry, black-eyed Arabian beauties fool you. Society demands the above definition of beauty and anything lacking is, well, ugly. But the worst by far is being tanned. Brown eyes contacts can fix. A full figure anorexia will take care of. And black hair can be easily died. But being tanned?! I swear, I’ve been bombarded by so many whitening creams (Fair & Lovely, who?) since I’ve come to Syria. No one understands my need to tan!!
So for as long as I can remember, I’d hear complaints about said cousin. I vividly remember after her birth her two grandmothers arguing about who’s side of the family she had gotten her horrendous looks from. “Not mines!” they’d say. “My son/daughter is white! His/her eyes green!” The worst part? This all occurred in the presence of my cousin. Visitors would exclaim over her dark coloration and attribute it the family that wasn’t around. ‘Till this day.
And the comparisons with her older sister didn’t help. It didn’t occur to them that the love and acclaim they lavished on her older sister partially attributed to her very dynamic and outgoing personality. That one, who I love too btw, is fought over, each taking credit for her looks. This other daughter’s dull and withdrawn personality was attributed to her lacking looks and the other side of the family, rather than their own harassment.
Now I have a cousin who is stunning on the outside, but dead on the inside. Her self-worth and confidence have been shattered. She trembles when she opens her mouth in public, her tongue ties and her frustration leads her to tears. She can’t eat in public. She has a fear of strangers.
In my eyes, I have yet to see anyone more beautiful than she is. With me, she is a different person. Joking, opinionated, witty, and charming. The real her, what little remained after she was verbally bashed for 15 years, shines through.
And this is no isolated occurrence. I’ve seen too many children unknowingly abused to this day. So what hope for a society that refuses to accept God’s creation?