Tag Archives: people

What Colour is Skin Colour?

New Crayons

There are certain questions that our children ask that we’re ready for. And then there’s the other 99%.

That’s not to say these questions are entirely unexpected. Just that they’re unexpected in the moment.

And so you um and er and babble a bit while you desperately try to figure out the right thing to say. Because, above all, you don’t want to say the wrong thing and horribly scar your child for life, dooming him to a sad and degenerate life of poverty and drug-use.

Because one not-quite-perfect answer is bound to do that. Right?

Anyway, I had one of those questions the other day.

One of those questions that means nothing to the child, but hits a social or political nerve with the adults around him.

“Mummy?” Big Brother asked, not even looking up from the picture he was colouring in. “What colour is skin colour?”

“Um,” I answered eloquently. “It’s… um…”

My impressive non-answer got his attention and he looked up at me, all big blue eyes and trusting expression. Because Mummy knows everything, right?

Yeah. Right.

“Well…” I said, my brain running on overdrive. “What colour do you think it is?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s why I asked you.”

Mutter mutter smarty pants mutter mutter.

“Well…” I said again. Then a moment of inspiration. “What colour skin do your friends at school have?”

He thought for a few seconds. “All different colours,” he said. “Some have blonde skin like me. And some have brown skin. And all sorts of different colours.”

He went quiet, and then looked at me with the intensity that says he’s just made some kind of intuitive leap of logic. “Can I look at your arm?”

I nodded and moved closer.

He put his arm next to mine. “Mmmm…” he said. “Your skin and my skin are a bit different.”

Then his little face lit up. He knew the answer. “Everyone’s skin colour is different!” he announced.

I smiled and nodded. I wouldn’t have thought of that answer myself, but it’s true. And you can always rely on a five-year-old to see what’s in front of him.

“Why did you ask?” I said.

He picked up a crayon and looked back at his picture. The conversation was done. “I just wanted to know which crayon to use for the boy’s skin.”

“Well, I guess you can use any colour you’d like,” I said.

And that’s why we have a picture of a blue-skinned boy on the wall.

Have you ever felt put on the spot by a child’s question?

 

 

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The Inanity of Youth

Birthday

One of the perks of being a writer is the joy of guilt-free eavesdropping in public places. I love being able to listen to the conversations of strangers and justify it to myself as “research”.

Because it is.

Really.

So today I found myself in a coffee shop. I’m on a tight deadline for a short story I’m writing, so took advantage of my husband having a day off work to try to do some writing. Sadly, I’d forgotten that I don’t write particularly well in coffee shops.

There’s too much “research” to be done.

Shortly after I arrived, a couple of people sat down at the table next to mine. A male and a female, cousins I think, about nineteen years old.

“Did you know that all Americans hate avocados?” the girl said. 

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Americans just don’t like healthy food.”

Yep. There’s nothing like a gross generalisation to get the conversation rolling.

After about fifteen minutes of “research”, I’d learned that said girl, let’s call her Nicole, had just returned from a six month working holiday at Disneyworld in Orlando and was quite eager to show off her knowledge of all things American.

“In America, everyone always complains,” Nicole said. “About everything.”

“That sucks. So are you going back?” asked her cousin. (Let’s call him Fred.)

“Yeah! I can’t wait!”

Seems reasonable. I like to go back to places where “everyone” spends all their time complaining, too.

“To Orlando?” asked Fred.

“No. Before I left I figured I wouldn’t be back, so I just didn’t bother doing anything at work, and I stole a heap of stuff. They probably won’t give me my job back.”

Y’think? Also, it occurs to me to wonder if perhaps this is what “everyone” was complaining about.

The conversation moved on from Nicole’s exciting life and over to Fred’s.

“I really miss Ben,” he said.

“Why?”

“I just haven’t seen him in a while. Like, not since my birthday last week.”

You know what I really miss? Interesting conversations.

Anyway, Nicole and Fred blathered on for a bit longer about inane topics like which one of their mutual friends was the most logical, whether the rain today was heavier than the rain last night, and which English accent is the coolest.

Eventually they left. I gave a sigh of relief, commented on Facebook that the kids of today are dumb, and went back to work.

Ten minutes later, a group of women sat down at the same table. There were five of them, all in their mid-thirties or forties. 

“All the mothers from that other school are so snobby,” said Mum 1.

“I know!” said Mum 2. “What’s with that?”

After half an hour of talk about bikini waxing, “hilarious” stories of people injuring their middle fingers, and arguments over which one of their mutual friends was the most emotional, I’d had enough.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it’s not young people who are inane.

Maybe it’s just people.

Have you overheard any interesting conversations recently while you were “researching”?

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