Monday, July 25, 2011

The Skin I'm In

When I was wee, as the story goes, my mother was bathing me after a full sunny day in my sandbox.  She was scrubbing to the point of scouring and I was crying to the point of screaming.  Dad poked his head in the bathroom to see what all the fuss was about.  "I just can't get her clean", Mom said, unable to keep the frustration out of her voice.

As I've been told, what happened next was that Dad stepped in for a closer look and, upon assessing the situation, proclaimed, "She's not dirty.  She's tan."

Yep.  My mom was trying to scrub the tan off of me.

A few years later, at the height of my self-conscious, angsty adolescence, when the sweaters of winter gave way to the halters of summer, my mother said, "Your elbows are filthy!  You need to scrub them!"  Now elbows are one of those out of sight/out of mind body parts that do tend to go neglected.  You just don't see much of them.  You're trying to look at yours right now, aren't you?  Unless you are weirdly double jointed, it just ain't gonna happen.  At any rate.  I raised my elbows to the mirror and - sure enough - wildly discolored.  It was the beginning of a long crusade involving lotions and potions and loofahs and lemons.  I convinced myself that each new touted 'cure' was working, but none of them actually did.

Eventually, I gave up.  It was the unique way I was colored in and I could accept it or go nuts trying to change it.  I was never a huge fan of coloring within the lines.  Acceptance it was.

This went well - after all - I never really saw them, so they were easy to forget - until I joined a gym.  The mirrors were there, I knew, to remind me to watch my form, but I just couldn't take my eyes off of my elbows.  I didn't even really hate them anymore, I just sort of found them to be mesmerizing.  I did, however, begin to wonder if others judged me by them.  They DO look dirty to the unenlightened...

A few weeks ago I went to the dentist for a routine cleaning.  The tech scraped.  And she scraped.  She applied unnecessary pressure.  I winced.  She apologized.  She scraped some more.  Finally she paused.  She was sweating from the effort.  "What did you do to make your teeth so discolored?" she asked in frustration.

Are you kidding me?  This torture session was taking place because my pearly whites were neither?  "They are dark."  I said, trying to hide my annoyance.  "They have always been dark.  From the time I traded in my baby teeth they have been dark".  My dentist did some experimental whitening in the early 70's.  Session after session.  Nothing happened.  Techniques have almost certainly improved since then, but the point has always been moot for me because I had a cap (and now - soon - a crown) right in front.  Whitening doesn't have an effect on them - so even if I did manage to whiten the rest of my teeth, well..... "They are not discolored.  This IS their color."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, laughing a little bit in an ineffective attempt to conceal her embarrassment.

Is it any wonder that I laugh right out loud when I hear something described as flesh-colored?  You'd need the whole deluxe 64 pack of Crayolas to accurately color me!  Manatee and Purple Mountains Majesty might combine well to shade my elbows.  The veins that show in my legs and arms are Royal Purple and Mulberry and Jazzberry Jam.  The beds of my nails are Melon - or maybe Pink Sherbert.  I have freckles (NOT age spots.  BIG freckles.) that might be colored Raw Umber or Chestnut.  I have scars that are Cotton Candy and Silver.  All of these are much more interesting than the Peach or Apricot crayon most of us reach for when coloring in Caucasians, no?

I'm sure there are cosmetics available that would cover all of my 'imperfections'.  They'd probably have cool names, too.  But I've been there.  Done that.  I think it's time to start loving the colors that are me.

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