Skin. At roughly 20 pounds and 16% of your body weight it is the largest organ in the human body. It grows with us, stretching and expanding to cover the vast crevices and sinews within. It clings to our mass and stays with us, it adapts with our losses, our extensions, our embellishments. It is our ‘forever piece’, like that trusty pair of leather boots or favourite pair of jeans. It rarely gives way and it remains, embracing our bodies until the very end. The skin is a moving instrument, vital to everyday life and vitality. It is fragile – the cracks in the parched, overworked hands, the flush from the heat, the pallor of an ailment, all visible on the skin.
‘Vitiligo is a long-term condition where pale white patches develop on the skin. It’s caused by the lack of melanin, a pigment in the skin.’
I myself ‘suffer’ from the condition, ‘fortunately’ in rather hidden places on my chest and legs. Long waits at the dermatologist’s office and trips to the Chinese herbal medicine clinic still burn brightly in my mind. It isn’t painful, contagious or fatal, the most harm it can do is cause sunburn, but it can be seen as unsightly. Covering myself in thick ointments and necking back pungent herbal teas never cured me of it, ‘it’s caused by stress’ they said, but how much stress can an otherwise happy, healthy child be capable of? From the age of five to my early teens a remedy was often sought but never found, now as an adult I’m so used to my patches of pale that I often forget they’re there. In some ways I find vitiligo rather beautiful, the peculiar tie-dye affect of melanin and not is captivating. The model Winnie Harlow proudly displays her vitiligo, the symmetrical patterns on her face resembling a Rorschach test. I cannot imagine life without my vitiligo. I’ve lived more of my life with than without it and it is so deeply ingrained in my sense of self that in its absence I would feel lost.
‘The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this’
– Mark Twain