The skin I’m in

~~ Originally printed in Carrboro (NC) Free Press, May 2009 ~~

I have spent far too much time hating my skin:

It’s translucent and shows everything. Sharp hipbone, clavicle, rib. Purple capillaries on my eyelids. Blue veins on my legs.

There were those red hemangiomas that appeared in childhood, and then again during three pregnancies. On my hands, my chest, my face.

The freckles that pop as soon as I venture into the sun. On my face, my shoulders, my chest.

Melasma. The brown patches of hyperpigmentation that horrified me by lingering on my cheeks even after my youngest child entered in grade school.

The stretch marks on my hips.

The bumps, like my grandmother’s, on the backs of my arms. The way my fingertips would split in the cold.

The scars. There was the time I tore up my knee while running to the ice cream truck one summer in Peekskill, New York. The time I fell off my bike on Lakeshore Lane and knocked myself out with a really good concussion. And the time my sister clawed my arm because I said she liked a boy in her fourth grade class at Carrboro Elementary.

Wrinkles. I remember the horror I felt when I first saw the hint of crows’ feet around my eyes. I think I was 21.

I spent far too long abusing my skin:

Slathering myself in baby oil instead of sunscreen on Sugar Lake outings.
Letting Jenny Bug double-pierce my ear with a needle.
Actively tanning in the summers instead of actively being active.
Remedying dryness solely with cocoa butter on the outside instead of hydrating from the inside.
Tanning beds. There’s nothing quite like the smell of flesh baking under glass.

I think now, in the second half of my life, is the time to finally honor the skin I’m in. It is, after all, the largest organ of my body:

I will drink more water than anything else. Six to eight pints a day.

I will use topical products like lotions only minimally, so my skin can properly exfoliate.

I will take my vitamins and eat the best foods I can.

I will be active and make sure I sweat.

I will use good sunscreen. I wear a hat in the most intense sun.

I will learn to accept the wrinkles and veins and shadows.

I will forgive myself for not being unblemished or cosmetically corrected.

I will grant myself permission to be comfortable in my own skin.

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