Eight Pounds, Twenty-Two Feet
Feature by Norman Levine

That’s how much skin we have. How would they know this? Somebody must have weighed themselves and subtracted their bones, cartilage and other organs. Now that I think of it, skin is my favorite organ. Of course, I’ve never met my spleen, pancreas or kidneys (and I hope never to have that pleasure), but my skin has endured the slings and arrows of eighty-nine years with hardly a register of complaint. That’s a lot to ask from a pile of protein and minerals.

Skin starts out soft as a marshmallow meringue and ends up as flaky as apple strudel. Bags and jowls, flab and scowls it has put up with me. We’ve grown emotionally attached. I’d know it anywhere. It may be a mess but it’s my mess. When it is exhausted it has enough good sense to slough off and grow its replacement. I have to love it for that alone. Skin is a map of my journey. While our innards, even our eyes, stop growing around age twenty, skin manages to elasticize and wrap itself around my entire body, creases and folds, twists and bends on demand, far beyond its infantile imaginings. True it is only skin deep but that’s deep enough.

I should apologize to my skin before it’s too late. It has endured those childhood eruptions from mumps to pox to say nothing of adolescent zits. It doesn’t seem fair that skin had to receive the insults of errant diaper pins and scraped knees which I wore emblematic of athletic glory. Along with this were the occasional slaps and whacks. Skin also had to wear the inner abuse of nasty organisms, raging hormones and ultimately a network of varicosity. And then there was my ignorant solar-worship when we didn’t know what evil lurks in the heart of the sun.
My only incisions occurred on my left arm resulting in a twelve-inch scar from a knife-happy surgeon looking for a pinched nerve that never existed but probably paid off his Lexus. Sorry skin. I’ll try to make it up to you but I can’t imagine how.

When skin has something to say it itches and waits for an answering scratch. Fair enough. If certain areas on my back call out for obliging finger nails it could cause trouble. Considering my back as a map of the United States, Missouri and Oklahoma (red states) are nearly unreachable unlike Maine and Washington (Blue states). I’m just saying.

Skin also lets itself be heard with pins and needles or goose-bumps. When it throws a hissy-fit we call it a rash. Go ahead skin you’re entitled to your platform for all you’ve had to put up with.

I try not to abuse my skin. I’m not a hand-wringer. I don’t crack my knuckles or furrow my brow as far as I’m aware. I can only hope smiles and wonderment are less taxing that frowns and sneers, snarks or smirks. Just to demonstrate that I have my skin in the game I promise never to enter a monastery and self-flagellate. Nor will I tattoo myself into a billboard however noble or endearing the message, not to an inch of my twenty-two feet.