“She is so comfortable in her own skin.” It is an idiom used to describe persons who are confident and have a clear understanding of self and abilities, especially when interacting with other persons. They are comfortable with being who they are. While it is a familiar expression, I find it a strange one. It suggests that we be comfortable in some one else’s, that it is possible to have an out of body experience. Using someone else’s body is an option.
It’s just a figure of speech but what does it figure about us? Why skin? What does this expression suggest about human being? With America’s long obsession with skin, it warrants a closer look.
If there is one place persons should feel comfortable and at home is in their own bodies. But so often, we are not? Not limited to the social construct of race and the desired or undesired features associated with it, we are often ill- at- ease with our own eyes, nose, lips, legs, feet, height and weight. But, why? Why do we so often want to change who we are before we have even discovered who she is? Before we have the answer, we are already questioning ourselves down to our hair follicles.
No matter the source for our angst or uncertainty, it must be said that these feelings are not a measure of self- awareness but come by way of comparison. We are comfortable with ourselves based on the other bodies around us and if we deem ourselves their equal or better. It is not as if we get to choose the skin we are in. Consequently, we must reconsider this notion of belonging.
Because belonging in your skin should be a given. Where else will your bones go? What else will hold up your frame? We cannot peel it off or try on another, despite our attempts at skin lightening treatments. And belonging is not found on this layer or level.
We are not a member of our epidermis. It is merely a covering and it is more than a cover up when we begin to reject our own skin. It is skin, protecting us from the elements and should not be the basis of a social experiment. It is skin, regulating our body temperature and not a determinant for our treatment of our selves or someone else. It is skin that ages, wrinkles, cracks and needs to be washed. And identity based on it is all washed up.
Our skin belongs to us but not in the way that race would have it. Race says our sense of belonging, whether we are in or out, accepted or rejected is based on our flesh. Instead, our skin belongs to us in the way that our body cannot live without it. It is the means by which we survive physically– not socially.
These racialized identities, these skin identities are non- God- given ones. Though a social reality, as Christians, our belief in race makes no theological sense. Race continues to thrive in our minds despite its ability to be lived out honestly in our bodies. Why are we so comfortable with that?