I am slowly turning white.
Yesterday, I looked down at my belly while sitting on the toilet and there was a patch of white, roughly 1 cm squared, to the left of my navel. I scrubbed at it. It peeled away like old paint.
“Must have been toothpaste,” I thought. “Will be more careful in future.”
Throughout yesterday, I found patches of white all over me. Some of it was on my clothes, but most of it was on my orange-toned skin. I was perplexed. When I do my teeth of a morning, I can be vigorous. I am often running late for walking to work. But I certainly was not wantonly flicking toothpaste all over the bathroom and myself. Especially as I was dressed and ready for work (sort of).
Today, I was more careful in the bathroom. As I sat at work – reading, typing and surfing the net (I mean researching) – I notice a streak of white on my left forearm. As I turn my arm around, I see little spots of white. Whatever I have done now, I can’t scrape these off so easily.
There are the tiniest spots on my right arm, too. I wonder if it’s permanent, if it will spread.
People have described my skin tone as ‘olive’ and I cannot see how this is correct. No olive I have ever seen has been a kinda browny orange, with streaks of blue and some blotches of red. Olives are either green or a purple-tinted black.
Some have described me as yellow, but I am sure that my skin colour looks nothing like a banana, or the sun as drawn and coloured by children. And I don’t think they were referring to my courage (or its lack).
I think that I am definitely orange(ish). Or brown. Or brown with an orange base. Or orangey brown. Anyway, my skin is definitely dark(ish) South East Asian coloured. I am not fair like most of my sisters. I am of fishing stock, and my colour pigment is there to protect me so that I can spend most days sorting through the fish that my father, brothers and cousins have hauled in. I was obviously meant to remain in Viet Nam, and live the fishing life. Or failing that, perhaps the farming life. My fairer sisters were destined for distant shores, less physical labour type lives. Oddly enough, my parents took all of us over with nary a thought for what our skin colour indicated we were fated to become.
These days, of course, I sit inside an office for much of the sunlight hours. The sun slants in through my office window (yes, I’ve got the window seat) but it is barely enough to warm me, let alone to justify my skin colour. Its greatest effect is in the afternoon, when it glares so horridly from the reflection of the other huge glass covered buildings that I am forced to close my blinds.
My mother wastes precious breaths telling me to stay out of the sun. I do not waste any breath telling her that I don’t actually spend much time in the sun anymore. As a child I was often out in the yard, climbing trees and chasing after frogs (in winter) and lizards (in summer). I was a dark brown back then, and I would get darker as the days got warmer. Um often stuck her head out the back door and hollered for me to come inside. I always pretended not to hear her.
When I was in school and playing sport, Um always berated me for the colour my skin would become, darker and darker as the netball season drew to its exciting conclusion (we were never in the finals, but always made it to at least the quarter finals).
I tried to tell my mother that my skin tone was not my fault! I had no conscious control over what colour my skin was. If I was feeling especially rebellious I would tell her that it was HER fault, or perhaps my father’s, if I was not beautiful rich-person white but dirty peasant brown. She would retort with the example of my sisters, very few of whom played sport or chased lizards and frogs. I would scowl.
Years inside an office and I might, after all, be turning white. My skin tone is still orangey-brown, brownish, orange-based etc. But I keep discovering these patches of flaky white.
My mother would be so pleased.