My skin is quite an astonishing organ performing a wide variety of services for me. Among them are serving as a selectively permeable sheaf for the body, protecting me from certain attacks, regulating my body temperature, relaying my sensory experiences including touch, and serving as a doorman letting in some things and keeping others out.

According to the social scientist Ashley Montague, the skin provides millions of cells of different kinds, some 350 different varieties per square centimeter, 2 to 5 million sweat glands, and about 2 million pores. My skin and I could never under any circumstances be called "slackers." We're both busy, busy, busy.


Although there is very little poetry about the skin and its amazing capacities, there are plenty of references to this large organ in jargon.
We speak of some people as "thick-skinned" and able to take criticism
whereas others are "thin-skinned" and overly reactive to what people think or say. When a person is insensitive to human feeling, s/he is called "callused." And there is a world of difference between someone who is a "soft touch" versus someone who has a "magic touch."

Over the years I have been aware of my skin and its messages about me that it conveys to the world. In my youth, it seemed to dictate my persona as a lonely teenager when I tried to cover up the acne on my face, when I dabbed away the oil from my forehead before appearing in public, and when I turned red with embarrassment if singled out by my peers for criticism.

As an adult, I tuned in to my skin when I carelessly burned my feet in the Caribbean sun on our honeymoon and when I later slathered my body with orange suntan lotion in quest of the perfect bronze tan. My skin produced plenty of good sweat when I regularly worked out on a treadmill. My skin conveyed health and vitality. And then when I moved into middle age, I discovered it too had changed; I had dry skin.

Recently I've discovered new things in my skin. I've found lines and wrinkles and brown spots; I now regularly cover my head when I am outdoors. I have realized how much I love revving up my brain every time I get the shivers or "goose bumps" while watching a movie. And when I see my face in the mirror and the sagging flesh in my neck and abdomen, it doesn't bother me one bit that my skin's message to others is that I, Fred, have "come of age" in my seventieth year.

I thank you skin for all the marvels and wonders you perform for my benefit and well-being. May I never be indifferent to you. I am so grateful that you have taken such good care of me.

Next Post: My Shoulders: Issues in the Tissues?