Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dappled Ones

I have freckles.

They’re not something to be proud of judging from all the freckle-concealing and freckle-removing creams and potions on the market. You rarely see freckled fashion models, but that’s only because someone has covered the freckles with cosmetics or Photoshopped them away.

I’ve never felt embarrassed or ashamed of my freckles (though I’ve had plenty of other body-image issues—don’t get me started!). I suspect this is because my father made a big deal about how wonderful it was to have freckles. They were special, he said, and he liked them. (Hmm. This may have been the genesis of my own fondness for all spotted animals.)

I bring up this odd topic because photographer Reto Caduff has a new book out called Freckles. Caduff thought it a shame that the lovely women he worked with for fashion shoots were expected to hide a part of themselves. So he aimed to show them in a new light. Freckles is a collection of freckled fashion models’ headshots with freckles illuminated front and center.

Years ago I noticed some large freckles on the back of my grandmother’s hand. They fascinated me. If freckles were special, as my father had declared, then these supersized spots must be extraordinary.

“What ARE those?” I asked my grandmother.

She drew her hands away from my obsessive stare. “Yelch. They’re nothing.” And she tried to change the subject.

“But what are they CALLED? Are they freckles?”

“No, they’re age spots.”

“Oh. They’re beautiful!”

“No, they’re not. They’re AGE spots!”

It was a revelation for me and an uncomfortable moment for my grandmother: the recognition of passing youth.

Glory be to God for dappled things…
—opening line of “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I’m now of an age where my freckles have been joined by larger spots, probably about the same age my grandmother was when hers first appeared, and I thoroughly understand her revulsion to these odd blemishes. She was right: They’re NOT freckles. But I feel strangely compelled to uphold my fidelity to the little girl I used to be—the one who LIKED age spots. So you’ll not hear me complain about them. Nope, not one word. I’m dappled and I’m proud.

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