Beautiful Malady

entry_213My friend returned from her vacation with skin the color of apricot honey. “Wow,” I said, and proceeded to ignore her recounting of exotic locales and leisure pursuits. The change in her complexion was profound, but more than that, her countenance glowed with a vitality that made her seem more real. She was transformed, and I couldn’t help but to comment again. “I can’t get over how healthy you look. I guess that’s it.”

She said, “You’re talking about my skin, aren’t you?”

“Hard not to notice,” I said. “I’d gotten used to you being a pasty pale thing, and even though I’ve never been one to equate tans with health–I’m proud of my ghost-flesh–I can’t deny that… it complements you. If I may be so bold.”

She laughed, “You are the saucy one. But in my case it actually isn’t healthy. When I’m in the sun too long–on those rare occasions–I get these really weird blotches. You can’t normally see them, but my face is actually one big blotch. I swear, it ends around my neck.”

Was this modesty? I wasn’t sure.

“Really,” she said, and leaned forward, tugging her collar down so I could see her right shoulder. “See there, where it ends? It’s red where my shoulder meets my neck, and there’s this ragged intersection that goes all the way down my back.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Well then, it’s true.” The red of her burn wasn’t nearly as impressive as the other shade she wore. “But actually, it’s kind of cool too,” I said. “I’ve always thought there should be more people with spots. Stripes too.”

“And people compliment me when I have a tan, but they don’t know that they’re only seeing the brown patch.”

“Right,” I said. “If it were just a single spot on your forehead then the compliments might not flow as easily.”

“My affliction is convenient,” she said.

I wondered if there were other traits people exhibited that were accepted as fashionable while actually belying illness. An obvious example might be steroid users, who looked good up to a certain point. But what if beauty were itself a malady, nothing more than a pleasing mutation that tricked us into acceptance, and even attraction?

Intelligence and creativity might be two particularly desirable forms of insanity. Certainly these things are advantageous to us as a species, but only by sheer chance. Skin blotches might be the next step forward, natural camouflage that might benefit us in the contexts of our modern existence. Imagine being able to disappear among the cubicles in order to evade a pesky supervisor. A heady thought, to be sure.

My friend poked me in the shoulder.

“Hey!” I threatened her back with my own poking-finger.

“Sorry,” she said, “you had that look you get. Dead air.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “It’s the ADD.”

“Zat so?” she said.

I nodded. “It’s my super power.”

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