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The Metafizzical Essays
of Nicholas Hancock

The Poet of Despair

Published by The British Hancock Society
with the permission of the author.


                                 IN SKIN DID MY MOTHER CONCEIVE ME

Skin’s all right so far as it goes: its function after all is to wrap vulnerable organs and weeping flesh in an envelope of dead cells, and this it does admirably. But we shouldn’t wax eloquent over it. Aesthetically it’s generally overrated, particularly white skin – and that is the object of this particular epidermal polemic.
       One Caucasian out of several hundred may have flawless skin, but the rest of us are wildly flawed. Even if our skin isn’t corrugated yet with swarms of minute warts and other excrescences, few of us are exempt from a stippling of strange brown blotches.
      Whether there is any evolutionary point to moles, they are unquestionably distracting – if not outright hideous. The curious eighteenth century predilection for removable beauty patches may have been motivated by the wish to conceal smallpox craters, but that’s one fashion that’s unlikely to come back. For myself I believe moles are pigmented vestiges of our origins on the continent of Africa – as if our DNA carried faint memories of our former blackness.
      Now it is not that that causes me to dislike moles. It is simply their sharp punctuation of our skin that I find so unsettling.
     But there is more: the backs of our forearms tend to be another imperfection: hairs – specially if they are black – wind themselves disconcertingly round the outer arm from radius to ulna like leafless vines.
      And this is to say nothing of rosacea, acne, birthmarks or blackheads: hairs and moles are in themselves quite sufficient to moderate our artistic appreciation of skin.