I'm not talking about light versus dark skin here, but about pale versus tanned skin. This post was inspired by the following article, which was picked up by Fox News dot com after appearing in the Adelaide Now paper under the title Fair go for beauty. Apparently - and I can't help laughing about this - the Twilight phenomenon has made pale skin trendy again.
Sun exposure hasn't always had the same value. I've read plenty of stories taking place in historical England (at varying time periods from Victorian to medieval) where young girls were striving not to have any freckles at all. I personally have been subjected to all kinds of teasing about my pale-to-freckly skin because of the value placed on "a healthy tan." I imagine the skin cancer researchers might have their own issues with that phrase! I remember saying when people commented, "My skin comes in three colors: white, pink, and red. Of those three, I prefer white." I have known at least two women who took tanning to an unbelievable (to me) extreme. I have also witnessed the French tendency to engage in tanning, which can take place anywhere from the mountains to the sea (no discrimination as to where the sun rays should come from!). I have had the distinctly uncomfortable experience of seeing a tourist in France who had decided for what appeared to be the first time in her life to tan wearing a "monokini" instead of a "bikini." I don't even want to imagine the pain that followed.
This is one of the details of appearance that might slip notice in the process of building a very different world - but it's something worth thinking about.