She had purple skin

My last post Fran The Fat Lady, has generated quite a bit of discussion, so we are going to keep rolling on this topic;

Obesity. Morbid Obesity. Fat. Overweight. Whateveryouwanttocallit.

While writing about Franny on Saturday afternoon, my husband walked in the room as asked what I was up to.

"I am writing about Fran." I said. We both smiled.

My daughter Grace was sitting beside me absorbed in her book, until she heard us talking.

"I remember her!" Grace said.

"You do?" I replied, a bit surprised because Grace was like 5-6 when she did her ballerina routine for Fran a few years back at the hospice.

"What do you remember babe?"

"She had purple skin."

She had purple skin.

Grace didn't see a 400+ pound woman stuffed in her death bed, her tired lungs struggling with each breath. She didn't think about how Fran looked different than most people she knew. She just saw Fran.

Fran, the nice lady that was always happy, smiling, bringing over little, fun gifts an oxygen tank trailing behind her.

Fran, the one our neighbor helped out of her Black Chevy pickup, so she could deliver to us a box of Krispie Cremes (one missing).

Fran, the lady mama always sat by at holiday parties, and spent time engrossed in conversation or laughing her ass off at some crazy joke that was told.


This reminded me of a related experience we had at the grocery store when Grace was only a toddler, and my son Sid was just an infant, cozy in his little carrier hooked on top of our steel cart. I had bought this huge load of stuff.

"Is there a bagger that can help me out to the car?" I said to the elderly cashier.

"Sure," she said flipping on her lighted, blinking sign to signal the bagger he had a customer.

Suddenly, she switched the light off, and looked to me with a serious face.

"Actually, the only bagger we have today has a birthmark on his face…it might scare your kids," she whispered, nervously glancing back over her shoulder to see if he, monster boy, was coming.

"We're good" I said with out hesitating.

Out came a nice young man, obviously self conscience as hell, covered with a large purple birthmark on his face and neck.

I didn't even blink. I slid over and let him push the cart. My little Siddy kicked his feet, happy as a clam in his baby seat facing the monster boy. I reached for Gracie's hand and started walking beside him, trying not to glare back at every person in the store who was at the poor kid.

We chit-chatted our way to the car, monster boy unloaded, and I got the kids tucked in their car seats.

"He had a different face," said my girl.

"Yep, everyone is different, that's what is cool about the world."

A different face.

Purple skin.

What a testament to the fact that we teach our children acceptance. We somewhere, somehow learned from someone to be discriminating and intolerant. Then we learned to like it.

I vote that we reprogram our prejudice, mean spirited, self righteous minds back to childhood.


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9 Responses to She had purple skin

  1. Melissa says:

    What an awesome, inspiring post, MamaV! Your children have a great role model to look up to and it sounds like they’ve truly learned tolerance. And by the way, your friend Fran sounds awesome and greatly-missed.

  2. FreeEternally says:

    I have to agree with the roots of hateful behavior being in childhood. Until I was probably 11 years old I was never exposed to the idea that people get treated different because of their skin color. In fact I was very used to being the only white girl in the neighborhoods and the only American when my family was living overseas.
    So when my family settled down in a small midwestern town, my first experience where I witnessed racism was confusing. I did not understand the concept of racism because I had never been exposed to it. The idea that skin color mattered for something other then how much sunscreen was needed was a foriegn concept (sidenote: me being the white girl meant I always needed way more sunscreen and had to stop playing more often).
    I think it is because my parents never made a fuss about race and I come from such a multi-racial family. I can seriously claim just about any racial nationality depending on what mood I am in because my family is literally a little bit of everything.

  3. Sheena says:

    This really does show great perspective, and I actually think a lot of young kids would see the same things — they don’t see “fat” or “monster”. Unfortunately, even with a familial upbringing that teaches acceptance, society has an incredible influence on us. What we see on TV, in magazines, what’s described in books as pretty, even the princesses in fairy tales teaches us over time what appearances are “acceptable” in society. And I think this societal influence is very difficult, if not imopssible, to escape completely.

  4. sannanina says:

    Concerning the boy with the birthmark on his face two experiences come to my mind. One happened when I went to the local market on a Saturday about one and a half years back. One of the salesman there had skin that I had never seen before. He looked like he was of Maroccan or otherwise North-African descent (a lot of people here in Amsterdam have a Maroccan background), but his facial skin had patches of both, the slightly brownish color of many North Africans as well as the lighter color most Europeans have. I don’t know what caused this (it could have been a disease it also could have been a benign though unusual variation), but after I got over the initial surprise I actually thought that it looked kind of good.
    I had the second experience about three or four years back when I was in college in Germany. Somebody sent a link to an article about a malformed baby which had died shortly after birth to the students email list. The article had a picture of the baby (something that is unnecessary in articles like that). It sounds terrible to say that, but the baby’s face did not look human on first view. The head was far too small, the eyes were huge in comparison to the rest of the head, and all the other features were different from what a baby usually looks like as well. What shocked me, however, were the comments of my fellow students. They said things like “I wish I wouldn’t have clicked that link, now I will have nightmares” or commented on how disgusting the baby looked liked. Basically it sounded as if they were talking about something out of horror movie, not about and actual human baby. I couldn’t stop thinking how sad that was and that this baby was human and as a human, even a dead human (and in fact as a once living being) it deserved some respect. Also, I imagined how hard the death of this baby must have been for its parents.
    I think it is normal for humans to need some time to adjust if someone looks very differnt from what we are used to. And maybe it is even natural that some marks of disease or what could be marks of disease are at first experienced as disgusting. But even if it is normal or natural it does not make it good or okay. There are a lot of natural behaviors that we are taught to control in childhood, and I think modifying our initial reaction to another human by reminding oneself that it is actually a human just as oneself is one of the things that we should have learned to do. Thankfully we also have the mental capacity to reflect on our initial reactions and to some degree change them. Also, I guess it is good to remember that even someone that fits the beauty ideal at some point will physically change – sometimes through accidents or disease, but always through ageing.

  5. missA says:

    I love this post mamaV! It reminds me of the time I was grocery shopping with my youngest son when he was about four years old. We saw a man at the store with a purple birth mark covering more than half his face. I waited for my son to say something, but he just smiled and went on as if nothing was different. Even when we left the store he didn’t say a word about the man.
    My dad had one of his legs amputated before either of my children were born. They have been around him since the day they were born and think nothing of it. It is normal to them. Even when we see another person who has an amputated limb they just think “that person is like grandpa.”
    I try to teach my children that we are all people. No matter what our size, color, religion, disability, we are all the same and deserve the same respect. I second the vote that we return to the innocence of childhood.

  6. Ashley says:

    It just goes to show you, it’s the adults that teach the kids to be afraid!
    Kids don’t care how we look. I remember having a really bad haircut senior year, and the little girl who I taught in my child development class still thought I was super cool. It didn’t matter what I wore or that I was kind of nerdy. All that mattered was I played with her.
    She was always the highlight of my day :)

  7. I love both of those stories, Fran and this post. :)

  8. Robyn says:

    I’ve never commented on here before, although I’ve been reading for a long time. I do want to say that you rock, MamaV.
    But I have a question about this post. You say your daughter didn’t remember the fat, she remembered the purple skin. Isn’t that basically the same? She remembered the way in which the woman was different from the others.
    I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just wondering why it’s different/better.

  9. My sister and I took our kids to get their photo taken at one of those photo studios in a big discount store. The kids were pretty young. The photographer had severely crooked and protruding teeth, unfortunately it was apparent that she did not have the money to pay for orthodontia. My sister’s kids were very uncomfortable getting their photos taken and my sister said it was because they were afraid of the “ugly” photographer. In front of her kids, she complained to the management – how dare they have someone with crooked teeth interacting with children? I was appalled. There is something seriously wrong with society when people are so unaccepting of differences.

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