Friday, 26 February 2010

A Pale Tale of Southern Gothic 
Outstanding Beauty Skool exchange student ready for the sun

"You look pale."
Why thank you.
"You look mighty pale."
You flatterer, you.
"You're as white as a ghost."
Careful-- you're making me blush.
"Well, you could use a little colour."
I'll just pop on my favourite pink sweater.
"You look like you're about to faint."
Will the compliments never stop? 

"You should get some sun."

WHOA! What the heck-- that came straight out of left field! One minute they're showering Miss Brown with compliments, the next, they're trying to destroy her skin. Clearly, people have forgotten the tale of gothic horror that lies behind this bloodless complexion.

Miss Brown has long been drawn to the music, literature and landscape of the Deep South. This may be an inherited trait, for her father settled in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the 1980s. He drove down there with his country band, met a wonderful woman, and stayed. Miss Brown's first trip to Shreveport at age 16 coincided happily with the "cowpunk" trend: suddenly punk rockers aplenty were trading in their skinny ties for bolos and their Doc Martens for cowboy boots. Miss Brown had a white pair, and favoured fringed suede jackets and coonskin hats. 

The fur hat never made it out of her suitcase, however, for upon arriving in Louisiana she got a blast of the fiery, sweaty reality that is the Deep South in August. The house was well air-conditioned, so Miss Brown spent the month hanging upside down in the batcave of her room, nose in a book. And so the South of her dreams-- a jumble of swamp moss, mouldering and abandoned plantations, honky-tonks and residents haunted by nameless regrets--remained firmly imaginary.
A 19th Century poster depicting the folkloric Bell Witch

On the last day of her vacation, they brought out the wide-brimmed hat and bundled her into a camper van. The plane was leaving from Texas, so the Brown clan spent a the day on a lake somewhere between Austin and Dallas-- a cool, inviting lake which promised respite from the furious heat. Or so it seemed. Miss Brown spent hours in that lake, splashing around 'till the sun went down.

As the night wore on, Miss Brown was troubled by a mounting sense of impending doom.  Her legs were burning; her shoulders were frying. Her face was sizzling. In the dawn light, she picked up a mirror. HORRORS! Some kind of red-faced swamp thing had stolen her face. Its forehead was riddled with sores. Its swollen eyes glinted miserably. Miss Brown now knew for the first time what kind of havoc the sun could wreak. The one saving grace in this frightening tale: long, dense bangs to conceal the face. Reader, whatever your age, never underestimate the power of bangs in an emergency.

The aftermath was ugly; avert your eyes. It wouldn't do to tell you about, for example, the water blisters, or how the burnt skin shed itself in bits. Miss Brown was pretty sure she had done herself permanent damage. Eventually, though, the Swamp Creature receded and Miss Brown's face reappeared more or less intact. 

Soon after that, it so happened that the beauty experts began emphasizing the importance of sunscreen--we are even told that sun protection can reverse, not merely prevent, sun damage.The still-traumatized Miss Brown jumped on the bandwagon and tried to grab the reins from the driver. To this day she seldom tires of button-holing people and holding forth on the dangers of tanning. She can't say enough about the importance of wearing sunscreen every day of the year.  

Nowadays, virtually every day cream on the market comes complete with it, but Neutrogena was one of the first companies to come out with an effective cream for everyday use. Choose a moisturizer with a minimum of SPF 15, such as Olay Complete Care Daily UV Fluid. Add a hat whenever possible. A parasol. Or a roof. In summertime, ratchet the UV factor up to 30 or more (Olay has a good, though pricey, one in its anti-aging Pro-X line.) And consider using a physical barrier, such as titanium oxide, as your sunscreen.
the parasol: desert island beauty basic

Miss Brown returned to Shreveport in winter, and this time she ventured out often and encountered the captivating Deep South for real. More recently she went down to New Orleans, perhaps the ultimate Southern Gothic city and one that deserves its very own post. As for her skin, Miss Brown often opines that the punk rock/goth look saved her skin at a time when tanning was considered healthy and beyond glamorous. But in the wee hours, the phantom voices of killjoy dermatologists who say that even one serious sunburn can put us at risk for all sorts of nastiness further down the line echo round Miss Brown's chamber. Will the Swamp Creature rematerialize in some ghastly new form? Watch this space...


No comments:

Post a Comment