Cultural differences

What’s this on your face?

12:50 PM

A question heard way too many times since in India, should I get a zit, a rash, a mosquito bite or a cold sore, you can bet there will be questions asked, and not just by friends and family that care, but total random strangers too.

I for myself find it a bit disturbing, because first that means the person has been staring at your face long enough to detect a “flaw’ and then they thought it would be good manner to ask about it, for what? No idea because other than satisfying their own curiosity, why should it matter that I have a zit or whatever other skin temporary issue I might be suffering. I won’t lie when I say on occasions I’ve even been tempted to just say it was a boil or a symptoms of a fatal and possibly highly contagious disease, but I’m not mean, I reply with the truth.

I come from a place where you DON’T ask such direct questions if you don’t know the person, and if you do, you will ask something like “What happened to you?” instead of asking directly about the origin of whatever “deformity” has afflicted you chin/lip/nose or cheek.
In India I had people desperate enough to try to sell me fairness cream (of all things) and in one case after I looked the brand promoter square in the eyes asking “Really, can’t you see I’m not going to need it” the lady to retort “You have a brown mark here, it’s not looking good, the cream will help” and me to say “Where I come from this brown spot in question is called a beauty mark” and stroll away. I had people point to every zit I ever had, and suggest I go see a dermatologist because it is “not looking nice” (I should give them that, they refrained themselves to say ugly), but really? Wouldn’t be better to just mind your own business people? I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, so leave my boils alone!

Of course while I apparently don’t look nice with a brown spot (debatable), and definitely not my best with a cold sore (I agree, but stop pointing), it seems I’m a downright criminal for actually having my daughter sport a mosquito bite! Back in Bangalore there were a few people in my building that just could not fathom how my daughter could get a mosquito bite despite the net on the window, the Odmos on her skin, and the “Good Knight” plug in device on. And let me tell you they were not concerned about the possible Dengue fever threat, nope, it was the fact that it was looking ugly on such a beautiful fair complexion (and yes while a cold sore on mama is not looking nice, a mosquito bite on a toddler is UGLY…their words).
This actually make me wonder what they would say if my daughter had one leg, 7 fingers on each hand, and a cleft palate…wait I just don’t want to know!

this whole thing just came back to my mind, because I just suffered through my practically annual cold sore break, I know it’s a virus, it keeps coming back, it hurts for a day, blister and ooze and disfigure me for a week, I made my peace with that, beside dabbing Listerine on the spot with a cotton pads proved to help a little.
I made my peace with the fact that when Herpes Simplex decide to peak it’s nasty head my lip will be unkissable, no biggie. But do I need to have people asking what’s on my face? Some thoughtful friends asked me “What happened to you, did you fell?” That I can understand, it’s at least thoughtful, and when I reply with the “It’s a cold sore” they usually just sympathise, while some aunties and stranger will assume it’s their birth right to tell me to do something about it because it’s not looking nice.
The one that cracked me up the most this time around though comes from my FIL who was there just for a night this Sunday who after having me explain that it was a cold sore, asked if I went to a Doctor for it, explained nicely that it comes about once a ear and it’s a dormant virus that pops every now and then and that it looks worse than it actually feel, and he wondered why there was no medicines to cure it. But coming from him it’s a genuine interest in a fact he didn’t previously know about, he doesn’t like when people around him are sick and in pain and wants to know if something can be done to feel better.

But even then, I don’t think I’ve been asked about what’s on my face as much in the first 24 years of my life as I’ve been asked in the past 8 years or so living in India, and don’t get me started about other body flaws due to weight fluctuation and bone structure!


  1. Hi Cyn, I totally know how you feel, I have also had sales assistants say similar stupid remarks. I also suffer from a cold sore around once a year, usually when I'm stressed out or run down. I have also noticed about the weight loss or gain remarks too!

    I really enjoyed your post, I think that most Gori's can relate very well to what you have said!

  2. Yup that's exactly how cold sores come for me, when I'm stressed out or just got floored by a big cold, this time around that was sleep deprived, PMS and constant change in temperature that lead to me catching a cold that did it :) The look ugly, they hurt a little, but the last thing I need is people to ask questions about them :)


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