We get a lot of comments from total strangers with regard to Livvy’s appearance, I thought that over the past few years I’d heard all possible comments and I could no longer be silenced. I’m usually, if in the right mood, very quick to come back with a reply to a comment which normally stuns the said stranger into silence or if they feel the need to argue back with me about my response they soon realise they made a mistake to argue with a mother protecting her child, like any lioness protecting her young, my bite can be sharp and fatal.
However, over the weekend a comment from a stranger did silence me. It shocked me and left me unsure how to respond, it was very unexpected and came from no where. We were in a safe environment ordering drinks and looking at a food menu deciding what to have for our evening meal. Phil and Eddie had gone to the bar to place our order when Livvy decided she needed the toilet, as we walked by them Livvy stopped to check that her hot chocolate had been ordered. The man behind the bar, possibly the landlord, looked down at Livvy and asked if she had face paint on? I honestly was not expecting any comment, Livvy had no protection on, no gloves, no mask, as it was safe where we had chosen to eat, to me she was as normal as a normal 7 year old girl can be.
I guess this is why I wasn’t expecting any comments, it’s normally Livvy’s level of protection from UV light that draws in comments from strangers, but in the UV safe environment I had let my guard down thinking we were also safe from comments, everlasting comments that can eat away at a persons soul weeks and months after they’ve been said.
I’m not sure what made him think Livvy had face paint on, I looked down at her and placed my hand on her cheek. I didn’t want to draw attention to her scars by explaining that she has had many surgical procedures on her face due to skin cancer, I wasn’t even sure if he would have been able to see her scars from across the bar and in the dull but safe light. I held my breath turning my thoughts over in my head searching around for a response but I couldn’t find one. The silence was evident as Phil also stood in silence looking at Livvy searching for a response, it’s rare that we are both left with no words. I think the man could feel the tension growing although it had only been a matter of seconds since his question, I guess he felt the need to expand on his query and fill the silence ‘she looks so pale, is she ok? She is so pale!’ He sounded concerned for our daughters appearance clearly shocked by how she looks.
If I wasn’t shocked before I sure was now, in that moment I was left stunned unable to speak unable to breath, Livvy still stood next to me gripping my hand not knowing what to do as she listened to the adult above her talk about her like she wasn’t there. Phil quite simply said ‘she’s ill’, I don’t think he knew what to say, and in hindsight maybe wasn’t the best answer but it was all he could find in a moment where we were both sinking and unable to comprehend our thoughts or feelings. ‘Yeah, she looks it, hope she’s ok?’ Was the mans response (does this guy know when to quit?). The thing is she’s not ill, it was all Phil could find to say in that moment that would explain why someone maybe pale looking.
Livvy isn’t pale but if she is I guess it’s a result of not being exposed to UV light, she will never tan like the majority of the population, that’s not a bad thing it means we are protecting her well from the fatal UV light that is all around us everyday. I have noticed for the first time that my foundation is too dark for my skin type, I’ve always had tanned skin, not because I like sun bathing and strive for a sun kissed look, it’s just the way I’ve always been until now, I guess as I stay indoors with Livvy during the summer months my skin is becoming paler. I’ve not over analysed it I just simply found a new foundation that suits my paler skin. It’s only when a stranger throws it in your face that you stop and think about things.
Livvy may be paler than most 7 year olds, but I don’t think she’s that pale that it would stop someone in their tracks and feel the need to comment on it, is she? I also don’t think she looks ill. Am I being naive? I don’t think I am but one comment from a stranger makes you think about things in a way that you didn’t before. Maybe to others Livvy does look pale, maybe she does look ill. All I see is my daughter, my daughter fighting to be normal in a world where to be different is to be questioned, a world where there is no perfect, a world where there is no normal.