Fluorescent Lighting


Hibah Ahmed '24


Fluorescent lighting is abominable. Absolutely, no doubt, it has the worst effect on my skin. I hate looking washed out, I hate seeing my concealer uneven, and it’s not even so much that others would judge, but to myself, I become absolutely undesirable.

It all began on a ride to school, my mom pulling into the parking lot. I had my phone, set and secured, the touch of sunlight on my face enabling its use. I already knew which angle to turn my head, which height to move the camera. I watched the shadow of my lashes paint across my face, my dark hair contrasting with gorgeous depth. My mom stopped the car, I crawled out for school, walking through the door, searching my images for any trace of imperfection. Only after this circumstance did I take the time to ask, “Why?”

Why was I so keen about my lighting? Why did I reject those who volunteered to take my picture? Why was I so tedious, in particular, with how my skirts fit and flared as I strode? I found myself obsessed with the feeling of flawlessness at all moments of the day. Denying myself compliments, adjusting my hair constantly; I’ve desperately attempted to look straight out of a magazine with the loss of photoshop and wind.

Sure, others inner beauty could radiate, but if there was any chance that mine didn’t, then I felt expected to at least make up for it somehow. If the day called for sweats, there was no way I would let them mismatch. My sweatpants must be stark white, my hair “toppled” in a bun secured with multiple pins. Even as I walked, I had to match the “laid-back” style of my clothing. I couldn’t walk around in a casual outfit with a preppy step, it simply would not work.

And now I laugh at myself. These toxic mindsets, the ones I let so easily into my life, they’ve devoured me, held me, made me feel as if it were wrong of me to believe in grace. The threat of authenticity motivating these impossible standards, for cookie-cutter Barbie dolls is what I should aspire to, no?

But what if I could? What if I could, say, step away? What if I didn’t have to try on three outfits per night, what if my makeup looked textured and heavy, not light. What if my hair, as much as I hate it straight, was just worn in its tangles all day. One day out of my self expectations, one day without hating fluorescents. One moment, just one, where I would flip the camera, and capture beauty that lies on the other side.

Those glances of sunlight cascading through branches and leaves, I believe that is the beauty I will aspire to be. Effortless, comfortable, and secure no matter the circumstance. I wish to be organic, stretching my arms, not to angle a camera, but to genuinely stretch.

I’m not saying I’ll change; I guess, I’m hoping I might. I’m not sure what I want from this, perhaps a little room to mess up. And who knows, maybe when I do hypothetically “mess up”, the lighting will be okay.