Blooming Without Color

I am colorless. My pale skin has virtually no pigment. I was born with white hair, and some in school used to ask if I was an albino. I would respond that I don’t have red eyes—my eyes are translucent blue. Still, my optometrist diagnosed me with ocular albinism, so I’m not sure that I am totally correct in that statement.

Both strangers and friends teased me about my fair skin. They gave me nicknames like Glowworm and Casper. Some just called me “Whitie.” One teenage boy commented on my worth by saying things like, “If you would just get a tan, then you’d have guys all over you.”

Those statements certainly brought color to my skin; I blushed with embarrassment. Or, I burned myself blistery red trying too hard to achieve what would make me more acceptable.

As a teenager, I took on their nicknames and grew used to the negative attention, thinking it was probably better than no attention at all.

As an adult, my pale complexion still produces false assumptions that I’m not healthy or that I’m tired, contributing to the perception that I am also colorless on the inside.

Reactions to my appearance color my identity. I know I don’t have a monochromatic personality, but I often feel pressure to prove that to other people. For many years, I either hid within myself or tried to be what other people expected. Neither approach developed self-confidence; I only became more self-conscious.

Surprisingly, motherhood freed me of the sting. Self-sacrifice has a way of putting our personal interests in perspective. Nurturing another life does not diminish my need; it satisfies it.

My adolescent children are growing into their own awkward bodies, and their peers poke at their weaknesses, too. Intuitively, I want to protect them with sensitivity to their pain. While my husband recognizes the need for mother love, he helps them “thicken their skin” for the inevitable return of such remarks.

His approach reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, “The sturdiest plants are not grown under glass,” by Ruth May Fox, as quoted by Julie B. Beck. If my delicate skin can adjust to the elements of this life, then I trust theirs will, too.

Our colorful experiences highlight the variety of learning opportunities ahead.  And when those come, I hope my fair countenance blooms with the color I hold in my heart.

This is an entry in Scribbit’s September Write Away Contest. The topic is “Colors” and entries are being accepted through Wednesday September 17.

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6 Comments

  1. Minna Dyer
    Sep 8, 2008

    Great post!
    I’m sure some of those people (girls) were quite envious of your features, especially your hair. You have rare qualities and they’re lovely.

  2. Michelle at Scribbit
    Sep 8, 2008

    Oh gosh this is wonderful! I’d hand you the winner’s award right now if I could–and as one pale face to another I feel your pain. That “why are you so pale?” thing was never fun–though if it makes you feel any better my mom is pale as well and when she travels places like California people will comment on how young she looks (no tan, no skin damage!)

    I don’t think I’m as pale as you but I’m hoping to someday appreciate the fair skin–maybe I’ll be saved some wrinkles.

  3. Michelle at Scribbit
    Sep 8, 2008

    DId I say this is wonderful?

  4. Rachel
    Sep 8, 2008

    What a great post! I hope you win the write away contest! I’m pretty fair skinned also. I’ve always said, I’m not white, I’m translucent! Do you mind if I put this post in my Friday link round-up?

  5. An Ordinary Mom
    Sep 11, 2008

    Wow! What a beautiful and inspiring post! This is the perfect entry for Scribbit’s contest. I love your take on the topic.

    Good luck!

  6. jubilee
    Sep 19, 2008

    Beautifully poignant.

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