The Color of My Skin

The majority of my lineage is English/Scottish/Irish (68%). Therefore, I have a very fair complexion dotted with thousands upon thousands of freckles. This is not something I have ever looked in the mirror and been proud of.

I grew up in the South during a time when the entirety of a my summer days were spent barefoot and outside (or, at the very most, in dirt-worn, tattered Keds), or playing in a swimming pool while the blazing hot sun cast diamond sparkles upon ripples of cool water, or languishing as a teenager along the shoreline of the Atlantic, waves crashing to a tempo only God could create. Not once did I "get a tan," in spite of the baby oil and iodine combo I slathered all over myself. Or the Coppertone, the one advertised by the adorable little blonde with her swimming bottoms pulled down enough to see how richly golden she'd become after a day at the beach. Nope. Not me. I simply freckled. And burned. And burned. And freckled.

I used to pray that all those blasted freckles would somehow grow together and give me something that might slightly resemble a tan.

But, no matter what I did, the end result was blinding lily white skin dotted by reddish-brown freckles. And no one--but no one--ever complimented that once-coveted complexion of mine (for I had read that, once upon a time, women actually bleached their skin for that Scarlet O'Hara peaches and cream appearance). But not in the 60s and certainly not in the 70s. Was I teased a lot as a child? Oh, yes. Mercilessly, at times. Didn't help that my baby brother had a gorgeous olive-toned complexion that went very well with his towhead and large brown eyes. When puberty hit and my body betrayed me in oh, so many ways, things went from bad to worse. How well I remember (after all these years it haunts me) the day I went to the pool at the Marine base in Albany (I was dating a soldier). I walked out of the girls' locker/shower room in my skimpy bikini, showing off a curvaceous body that weighed all of 105 pounds. Imagine my horror when one of the soldiers said to my beau, "Who are you dating? Casper?"

That may have been our final date.

My husband and I had been married a few years before, one day, he turned to me and said, "You have freckles!" (Uh, yeah. Like, nearly all over my body. Where have you been?) This type of thing happened again when, while standing outside with my mother-in-law, she declared, "I didn't know you had freckles!" (To which the hubs replied, "Nearly all over her body!")

These are the things I'll never forget.

I also won't forget yesterday. I made an appointment with my favorite nail tech at my favorite nail salon (Winter Springs Nails) for a pedicure (a necessity, not a pleasure ... to be sure). After an hour of foot soaking, dead heel skin removal, chipped polish removal, oiling and then having new polish applied (all which includes a lovely massage and a hot towel), Wendy (said favorite nail tech) slid my sandals onto my feet, patted my snow-white, freckled, 63-year-old bare calf, and said, "You have such beautiful skin."

I had to rewind the words in my head. (Do you mean this lily-white (really, really white) skin dotted with freckles and (now) age spots??) Then I laughed. "No one has ever said that before," I told her.

Because they hadn't.

What was it Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman? "The bad stuff is easier to believe." But I think I'll hold on to what Wendy said.

Because I can.

(Image: Reflections - by portrait artist Morgan Weistling)

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