Skin Deep

“Changes, like aging, are defined by the driver, the body just happens to be the vehicle. Over identifying with the vehicle, is like confusing the rind for the fruit.”

I have been steeped in beauty for the past twelve days.  From the shores of Lake Michigan to the Sleeping Bear Dunes to Grand Traverse Bay and finally, the topaz waters of Torch Lake.  Twelve glorious days of mostly sun, perfect temperatures and mostly well behaved children.  Warm sand, comfortable water, gentle breezes, and a few not so gentle breezes that made my sun tinted hair look wild. This all made me feel quite free and capable of anything but in a – I -think -I’ll -just -sit –here- and -do no-thing- way.   Two books later and the best tan I’ve had since high school (50 SPF with zinc no less), I am back home and flipping through photos (clicking really), clinging a bit to vacation Laura. I like her.  I’m still shaking sand out of my shoes and I even left a little pile on the floor at the dermatologist office this afternoon, courtesy of my external purse pocket.

I was thankful Ms. Lovely Porcelain Skinned Dermatologist wasn’t too judgmental about my tan, which happens to accentuate my mysteriously disappearing pigment (vitiligo) and my newly hyper-appearing pigment (melasma), which happens to accentuate nothing.  My sister in law diagnosed the latter under a fluorescent light last week in my mother’s vacation condo’s kitchen. I should have given her my $30 co- pay.  I thought she said my-asthma.  Another reason to trust an unarmed plastic surgeon holding a beer on these matters, she knows what she’s talking about.   I shrugged and went back out to my lawn chair.  It hadn’t hit me yet.

The cause of melasma you ask?  Hormones.  Geez.  The bubble over my head has an image of Joan Crawford yelling at her children and then quickly cuts to Shirley McLaine and Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment, which cuts to Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Seinfeld shoving Jason Alexander, “Get Out!” Thar’ it is folks.  The youngish gal with a blog about memory loss, aging and death is…an aging woman with hormones.  Thankfully, I know better than to get depressed or upset by this.  It’s just my face and my birthday suit after all, my outward billboard to the world.  Okay, for a select few only, with the exception of my face, arms and legs.  All of these body parts are perfect springboards however for self-criticism and invitations for unnecessary scrutiny, right ladies?  Don’t go there. I have been to that store.  It has bad lighting.

The voice in my head that disrupts any smaller whisperings of internal worry and harsh self-criticism from developing into sleeper cells of destruction is quite commanding thankfully, most of the time.  I have been schooled and ruled by the mighty elders of Ann Arbor, MI and “The Valley” in Southern California.  This, the face and body thing, is nothing to write home about. Childs play.  Never mind the billion-dollar industry that would like to convince you otherwise.  Melasma and my atypical case of vitiligo are wonderful reminders that Vanity is a b*tch.  Vanity says horrible things, embarrasses you at parties, and she has terrible judgment in friends:  Self Pity and the obnoxious sycophant twins, Self Absorbed and Envy. *

I have come to accept over the past four years that I look like a star map.  If I avoid black lights, it’s not so bad. So, fewer disco nights for me in a tank top and short shorts. As for my new hyper-pigmented cheekbones, all checked out ok, some new moles and nothing pre-cancerous. The last precancerous mole I had removed is surely a ridiculous cocktail party story for one unknown male doctor who happened to be a blushing resident at the time.  Wherever you are sir, you are welcome.  If only melasma was blush colored, I wouldn’t have to buy it anymore.  So, here we are.  My point.  My point is that change is lifespan friendly.  Yes, friendly.  It’s not trying to hurt us.  It just IS.

As a mother of young girls, with one fast approaching “tween”, my own case of fast track crazy hormones, and my lovely mother who has one replaced joint and partial hearing loss, I can tell you (as well as you can surely tell me), change is as change does.   Changes, like aging, are defined by the driver, the body just happens to be the vehicle.  Over identifying with the vehicle, is like confusing the rind for the fruit.  I think we name things because it makes us feel like we are making something to stand on or stand in.  If we name too much, we risk no longer recognizing where we really stand, or worse, who we really are.

So, I will not curse my spots, aloud or to myself, nor will I ignore them.  As weird as it felt at first, I will continue to say “hello” to them and kindly utter “welcome spot” before applying a sample of cream, which may or may not fade back to another blotchy shade.  No expectations should help.  I will stop short of naming them, except for the few I have already named, like “Orion” (as in belt – 3 spots) on my left shoulder and “Charro”….nevermind.

I may not have sent out the invitations but they are my guests nonetheless, and I suspect more will arrive at any time.  I shall treat them all as warmly as I can.  Best to keep the silver polished.

*Retinoid and gentle mineral make-up excluded.  Not vain.  Definitely not vain.

2 responses to “Skin Deep

  1. I love this column! So many wonderful nuggets of wisdom. One of my favorites is: “Changes, like aging, are defined by the driver, the body just happens to be the vehicle. Over identifying with the vehicle, is like confusing the rind for the fruit.”

  2. Thank you, Stephanie – for reading, commenting and making a suggestion. You have given me an idea! I should probably think about highlighting one quote per blog to post at the top – I shall figure out how to do that!

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