It's tragicomedy to see what some of the women do to their faces---white powder pasted on and crusty like they woke up in the morning and and the first thing they did was douse their faces in flour. You can just imagine the other silly Khmer women complimenting her beautiful complexion: she's like a silly, serious and entirely unfunny clown-lady. But that's reality and how is that relevant? You can see the lines underneath their chin where the black skin starts again and it's obvious that they've been powdering their face like this for their entire lives. Tracing the face just under the chin resides a permanent powder-ending line. The notion that this could be mistaken for natural must be one of the great follies of the 21st century. This smothers patently obvious, rips apart blatant and stifles appalling--meaning is inundating by such unholy behavior. You're possessed and unable to react, to laugh, smile, gawk; all you can hope to do is make a mental photo for processing at later date. A different time, a different place where you can safely decipher its meaning.

Those are the "affluent" women--i.e. the ones who's husbands work for the military or government. The average Khmer woman can't afford white powder and must rely on her natural skin tone and staying out of the sun to maintain that coveted whiteness.

Along with a cultural disdain for blackness there's a similar disdain for small noses with rounded nostrils. My rather fleshy pointy European nose has been a point of fascination for many a Khmer woman. Some of them want to touch it and run their hands from bridge to point as if a genie would come out and grant them one wish--the wish, of course, would be to have white skin.

When I've asked my students to compare themselves to their siblings in writing exercises, most of them mention skin color. I.E. "my brother is taller than me and darker. But I am more clever. Etc."