Monday, March 10, 2014

Beautiful Skin (StoredStory # 4)

The metallic tray gave me a cold, shiny stare as I surveyed its contents: long-handled swabs, alcohol pads, bandaids, measuring instruments, and a thirty-two ounce jar of Vaseline. "Style your Smile," the poster to the left of me said. Before and after pictures of wrinkle lines around a woman's mouth promised wrinkle erasure. On the wall directly across from this poster was a poster warning about sun damage. It showed pictures of four different skin cancers along with artistic renderings of what happens at the cellular level. Directly across from me hung a two-dimensional peacock with various curvy patterns reminding me of a busy wall-paper. One blue-green feather broke away from the flat pea-fowl surface at the bird's head, hinting that this thing might just tear itself away from the frame and enter into real life. Waiting in only a thin gown for my dermatologist, I had too much time to think about skin. "You have beautiful skin," a guy in a bar once told me. He had done Tori Amos' makeup, or so he said. Hmm, maybe my milky pale tones are pretty? It had to be true since since it was coming from a make-up artist, right? Who am I kidding, he was probably just being flirtatious and lying about Tori Amos'. Still, I took the compliment (and kept it); I think I needed it. This is the only time anyone has said this. Usually it's, "Look at THOSE white legs!"

I looked over at the woman styling her smile and felt bad that she couldn't just accept those wrinkles. I think smile lines are beautiful. Mart, a friend of the family who laughed all the time,  once declared proudly that she liked the lines around her eyes. It meant she had had a happy life full of laughter! Laugh lines, she called them.  I kept looking back and forth between the posters like I was at a tennis match: wrinkle erasure, skin cancer. Skin cancer, wrinkle erasure.  Commercial advertisement, medical information. Medical information, commercial advertisement. Society's  pressure to be "young and pretty"and to defy the beauty of aging had entered the sacred space of the doctor's office. I stared ahead at that pea-cock and hoped he'd peal the rest of his body off and get away. I was ready to help him and get the hell out of there.

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