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  • My neighbour Nigel loves taking photographs.

    Nigel sometimes put my images on the websites he design for the council. Sometimes he uses my image in the church's magazines.

    One reason must be that I'm an ethnic minority in this white county. I reflect cultural diversity, you see.

    Being an ethnic minority does have its advantages.

    I told Nigel, please don't do close up -- my face is covered with freckles. Please get rid of my freckles with Photoshop, or anything.

    Freckles? Where? They don't matter, said Nigel.

    My husband Hugh said the same thing. “Freckles are LOVELY! They are cute!” Hugh would say reassuringly.

    It's however difficult for me to associate freckles with loveliness.

    In Chinese, we called freckles 雀斑 - què bān, literally Sparrow's Speckles. If you've seen sparrow's egg before, you'll see it covered with dark spots and specks. To an oriental person, these are surely not signs of attractiveness.

    In my mum's mother tongue, Hokkien, freckles are literally called “the poo of a fly.” It was hardly a compliment, was it?

    When I was growing up in Malaysia, I was a dark-skinned, freckles--covered girl. The heat in Malaysia didn't help. I was an ugly duckling, as I was even told so.

    As a girl, I heard a saying like this: “If you're too dark, with so many freckles, NO MAN will want to marry you!” In hindsight, it was a threat.

    Girls used whitening products. I remembered using some cream called Snowflake religiously, as it was supposed to cover up my freckles.

    It was a cultural shock, years later, in England that I realised freckles are actually ok in this country.

    Freckles are beautiful, at least to westerners. Hugh's just reassured me again across the room, “I'm not pro or against freckles. They are just there; they are part of you! ”

    Perhaps it was how I ended up marrying to an Englishman. Should I thank my freckles for that?
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