Posts Tagged ‘Tiger Woods’

28. Rich kids pretending to be poor

Friday, December 4th, 2009

As I mentioned a couple posts ago (see 27. The Light Skin Paradox), human beings long for what they don’t have. Undiscovered people want to become famous. Famous people want privacy. Poor people want to be rich. Rich people want to, well, blend in.

Sure, there are wealthy people who are more than happy to floss on the regular, but backpacking is the antithesis of flossing. Makes sense because just like hot women, rich people don’t usually backpack anyway — they stay in 5-star accomodations, not 16-bunk dorm rooms.

A small minority of affluent travelers, however, are willing to slum it on the backpacking scene. These people are invariably young, adventurous types from good families, with good educations. Bursting with idealism and a desire to “see the world,” these rich kids quickly adopt the typical backpacker affections for leftist politics, environmentalism, spontanaeity and frugality.

Obviously, it’s the frugality part that is unconvincing. I’d compare it to how rich kids shop at thrift stores to find grungy retro duds, while poor people are there out of necessity. Backpacking is about survival, about scraping by on nickels and dimes, eating sparingly and sleeping on trains to avoid paying for a night’s stay in a hostel. Most backpackers would rather stay in nice hotels, but they can’t afford to, so they go backpacking and in doing so, learn to appreciate the minimalist charms of traveling on the cheap. Indeed, rich kids learn to appreciate them too (maybe mom and dad only give them cash in certain increments, I don’t know), but they occasionally slip up.

Common slip-ups include:

  • Getting drunk and buying the entire bar a round of drinks.
  • Staying in a hotel after scouring the city for two whole hours and discovering all the hostels are full. Meanwhile, your friends opt to sleep in the train station, but you insist they should stay with you. But they get denied in the lobby as the hotel is hip to your game and they end up sleeping in the train station after all.
  • Missing your flight, but miraculously arriving at your destination on the next possible one.
  • Buying lavish souvenirs and shipping them home immediately.
  • Consistenly buying expensive meals and playing it down as taking advantage of a favorable currency exchange rate.
  • Calling home all the time, on mom and dad’s calling card.
  • Enduring what normally would be a trip-ending calamity and not having to go home at all.
  • Telling everybody back home you’re going to said country to work for six months to a year and spending six months to a year traveling and not working at all.

Why have I paid such close attention to the mundane tendencies of rich-kid backpackers? I’m just jealous… and poor. And poor people want to be rich.

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26. The Light Skin Paradox

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

india06nw1When you visit a country of colored people colonized by Europeans (i.e. any country outside of Europe, North America and in most cases, Russia), you quickly realize that locals do not want to look like locals. They want to look like their former masters, their former invaders and slave masters: white people.

A recent Globe and Mail article about this desire among Indian men should be poignant to backpackers, who flock by the millions to developing-world countries.

In these dark-skinned countries, where people’s skin is dark because of a genetic adaptation to increased exposure to sunlight, backpackers (most often white) notice that the predominant image of beauty is a colonial one.

It’s a lot like Chris Rock’s recent movie, Good Hair, which explores the head-scratching (pun intended) phenomenon in which African American women prefer having white women’s hair: The grass is always greener. It’s human nature to want what you can’t have. Curly-haired people women want straight hair, and vice-versa. Big titted-women want smaller tits, and vice-versa. Fair-skinned people want to be tanned.

The post-colonial ideal of a light-skinned, European-looking halfbreed exists all over the world. Television ads, fashion mags and billboards  promote uncommon specimens of beauty, unrepresentative of the greater population. Consider models in Brazil, Bollywood stars in India or celebrities in West Africa, Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean (Sosa, see below, is Dominican), Colombia or the Philippines. Whether these countries were colonized by Spain, Portugal, France, Britain, Holland — whomever, the mulatto or mestizo is on TV. 

The paradoxical desire for dark-skinned people to have fair skin, while white people fry themselves in tanning beds, is something that I — as a Filipino-Canadian — am all too familiar with. Like many Asian women, my mom carries an umbrella on sunny days, so not to get a tan and, God forbid, be mistaken for the poorer, more indigenous classes of Filipinos who slave away in the rice paddies and plantations all fucking day. My mom has a bottle of Eskinol in the medicine cabinet. Granted, I’ve never seen her use it, but she has it.

Skin lighteners and bleaches are commonly used by females in places like the Philippines and India, but the Globe and Mail‘s Diana Coulter reports that a growing number of Indian men, both urban and rural, have recently adopted the practice “in the belief that a pale complexion brings sucess in life, love and business.”

This isn’t some either-Michael-Jackson-bleaches-his-skin-or-he’s-got-vitiligo type bullshit. This is real. (Nov. 12, 11:00 p.m: My ESP is kickin’ in again. As my buddy Rhett just informed me, Sammy Sosa is apparently the new King of Pop.)

My brother has lighter skin than I do. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a local Canadian newspaper about my brother’s mercurial rise to stardom in Southeast Asia. He was first discovered as a model in the Philippines and eventually became a VJ on an international music station. When I asked one of his producers what about his audition convinced her that he would make a good VJ, she listed his bubbly personality, his genuine demeanor and his “pan Asian look.” As the music station’s lineup of VJs indicates, “pan Asian” can be translated as “half Asian.”

So to be or look half Asian is to be better looking, right? Apparently not in South Korea. Two days ago, I came across a NY Times article about how Hines Ward was reaching out to fellow point-five Korean kids who’d been bullied or discriminated against by their full-blooded Korean counterparts. I guess the Tiger Woods look doesn’t fly over there. (My buddy Mike points out, though, Ward and Woods are half black and darker. Big difference.) Then you come to North America where biracial, dark-skinned models are sought after, sometimes to the point where being weird-looking or “exotic” is celebrated. Like I said, the whole light skin/dark skin thing is a perplexing phenomenon.

Nov. 28 – Here’s another NY Times article, about the integration of point-five children in South Korea.

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