Monday, May 30, 2011

Epidermis

We have three layers of skin.

These lie sequentially beneath each other, and collectively they shelter us from the outside world, and keep us from oozing ourselves out.

You can tell someone's age by the state of their skin, especially on the hands and the neck. About a year ago I noticed that my hands were getting a little crepe-y. My neck likewise, at certain angles. Unless it was being held out by fat layers when I pulled my chin inwards while laughing. Or breathing. Or living life. It was surprisingly easy to capture me with a round face and double chins. Did you notice I mentioned that as if it was the past tense? Snort! well, I have lost a bit of weight but there is no danger of my face falling into sheets of wrinkles any time soon, I promise you.

My hands display the scars of careless usage, of play-fights with friends in a high school yard, or at the weekends - turns out her nails were sharper than mine! I bit my nails until I was 12, quite deeply, into the quick, down to about a third shorter than their length now. I stopped through an act of great determination, and with the assistance of a classmate, who was invited to poke me and remove my hands if she saw them stray to my mouth. Bless her. I think it was Mandy Johnson. I can't bear to have rough nails now, I have an emery board in every handbag, my purse, my cars, behind the mirror, in most rooms of the house. I hate to wear rubber gloves, and somehow I am continually surprised that my manicures won't last beyond 2 days, some less than 24 hrs!

The first touch of ungloved hand on intimate flesh is a threshold I never thought I would cross, but I have - willingly. There is an immediacy, a truth in the connection between the parties involved that stretches back through time. Receiving a warm slippery life from the depths of a woman's body, after watching a head emerge and pause, blinking and blowing bubbles, poised between worlds. A final impetus and the baby emerges to claim their own place in the world. My skin sings with the memory of such things.

My skin has known feast and famine. Stretch marks and blows. Massage and sunburn. Kisses and fibreglass rods. Sequins and blisters. Cotton and raindrops. Passion and cold shoulders. Yet it survives.

When I look around at my peers my facial skin is quite supple, aided no doubt by the, um, cushioning beneath. Not dry, still relatively oily really. Some crowsfeet, a few shallow wrinkles, that neck tendon separation thing in the front. Quite a few freckles. Lots of moles (note to self). Laugh lines are visible. Grey hairs too, faster than I can get to a bottle sometimes. I wonder when I will be ready to go grey? I don't think it will be this month.

In terms of thickness of skin, I think mine is pretty tough. I have had a few slings and arrows aimed at me lately, and seem to be doing ok. The odd glancing blow, a bruise here or there, but nothing I need to really worry about. Self-inflicted injuries. . . .well, not too many, on the whole. Skin needs to be thinner in places, its natural, especially around the eyes, otherwise how would tears escape (for escape they must). However I wouldn't like to be thin-skinned all over. Such a raw ended life must be intolerable.

Skin comes in so many shapes and colours. The contrasts are astounding. The deepest blue-black hues, pink bits, creamy cafe-au-lait, lobster red, sallowed and ivory and porcelain. Blue-tipped fingers in the cold, flushing with vigour or first breaths. It is all such a miraculous rainbow, yet skin all feels the same to a blind man.

How is it that we are judged by the state or colour of our skin? By the lines or wrinkles? By the colour expressed by genetic pre-destiny? By the masks we wear? The amount of skin we show the world? The money we spend to tan it, cover it up, rub it back, tattoo it, shade it, repair it or remove it? The scars and marks accumulated by wear and tear, choices and no-choices. It all tells a tale.

I will be happy to drag my carcass of skin around with me for a lot longer. It has given me good service so far. I wonder how many marks it has yet to accumulate?

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Thank you.
For sharing your thoughts, your reflections, your skin.