As I Was Saying…

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On the Whiteness of My Legs

April 2, 2008

A foot of snow still blankets most of our back yard, but I find myself already thinking about the spring ritual of opening the pool. I knew nothing about swimming pools when we moved into this house in 1996, but I had to learn fast. Here is the most accurate definition I know:

swimming pool n., a hole in the ground which you must repeatedly fill with money.

You can take a lot of that money out of the equation by doing your own pool work, and that is what I have learned to do. The summer sun is very, very bright in our back yard. And it’s hot out there. As the weather warms, I will probably find myself whining repeatedly about what a pain in the backside the pool is.

Our back yard is a great place to have a pool, however, and that’s probably why we’ve kept it going through the years. Without the pool, that back yard would be pretty much useless. And so I have learned the job of pool boy.

Yet the law of unintended consequences has dogged my pool maintenance efforts from the start. It’s my legs, you see, and the tiresome remarks about their color I am called upon to endure. It’s hot in the back yard. I wear shorts when I’m working on the pool and a bathing suit on those rare occasions when I actually step into the pool. When I’m in the back yard in the summer, people can see my legs.

Yeah, my legs are white. What do you want from me, people? I’m a white dude, OK? I talk like a white dude, I dress like a white dude, I look like a white dude. White man has white legs! Who knew? Hold page one above the fold!

The bleached and bloodless hue of my legs nonetheless draws repeated comment. And it’s not just family members and close friends. Several summers ago, I caught an African-American woman of my acquaintance staring at my poor, pallid limbs. Like a fool, I felt the need to confront her about it.

“Georgia,” I said, “why are you staring at my legs?”

“Don’t seem like even a white man need to be that white!” she replied, placidly.

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