Thursday, October 23, 2008

skin-deep

Have you ever wished you could shed your exterior and hop inside someone else’s skin, to literally walk in their shoes, even just for day? By altering every aspect of your physical being, morphing ones self into another race or gender you would be allowed a secret passage into the world from their eyes. Now I’m not speaking about an upgrade to your fantasy look, a supermodel body, fix your nose, younger looking skin. No, I’m talking about taking on the exterior of someone from a complete alternate walk of life to oneself. To experience how the world responds, if only your physical being was transformed, the different limitations, the expectations, the remunerations a person from another sector of society encounters.

When I purchase a train ticket here in Cape Town, the conductor will always issue me a first class pass, (which is more expensive and allows you to travel in a separate more quiet metro-plus carriage), even though I have not requested one.

One day the woman beside me on the train looked over at my ticket, and questioned as to why I was paying for first class and riding on third class. I always travel third-class, and being a naive foreigner, previous to this incident I had not realised they had been over charging me. I was not happy. “Why?”, I exclaimed. The woman, went on to explain that they would look at me (being a small, white, blonde haired female), and assume I would want first class, “the white South African girls would never travel third class, if on the train at all” she explained, matter-of-factly. I’m sure I could here the ‘duh’ resounding in the tone of her voice.

In this moment I was struck more-so than ever before, by the emphasis placed on our physical appearance, the very things we have no control over. And it got me thinking, if only I could experience another side, a world with a different response, to hop inside a different skin.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Yes. I experience this almost daily. I live in the outskirts of Chicago and often wonder what it would be like to be someone else, even momentarily. And I mean it in the most humbling way.

But, I've been observing people and their lifestyles for as long as I can remember. People are intriguing, it's as simple as that.