|Joan Crawford's freckled skin.|
My grandmother always told me "a face without freckles is like a sky without stars." As a redhead herself, Grandma knew a lot about freckles. Her arms, her shoulders, her face, and most memorably her hands, were sprinkled with cinnamon colored flecks. I always thought freckles looked so becoming on her, delicate, ladylike, always wishing they would look like that on me. So far, they haven't, in fact I feel like they make my skin look dirty. Sigh.
As a little girl, each May Day my mother would send me out to distribute May baskets and every May Day, based on something I read in a book about fairies, I would wash my face in the morning dew repeating the old adage "Queen of May, Queen of May, come and take my freckles away." For the record, this never worked and I never really expected it to, for obvious reasons, but each year I tried and hoped that the Queen of May really existed and that for whatever reason, she wanted my freckles. No matter what Grandma told me, I was determined to get rid of my unsightly spots. As a teen I spent lots of time lightening my skin, avoiding the sun (and wearing lots of black) and that seemed to do the trick but it also wasn't much fun. Ah the things we do for beauty.
Until the middle of this past century, pale skin was valued. Those who could afford to be pale, were. It was a symbol of status and definition of beauty. Perhaps some of these old notions have embedded themselves in my mental perception of beauty.
From Queen E to Queen E, pale is the way to be.
Or perhaps I desire freckle-free skin because the ladies that I most idolize, the silent stars and golden era beauties, sport flawless, pale, luminous skin.....or did they?
Turns out, many of these ladies I so adore were adorned with freckles. Photographer George Hurrell's photographs attest to this. His un-retouched photographs reveal starlet's in their true state, only through intense darkroom work, Hurrell's preference, or heavy make up do they appear with that unblemished look I've so idolized.
These days I wear a lot of hats and am never without my sunscreen and not just in the name of beauty, but in order to keep my skin healthy. Despite my efforts, I am covered in freckles, my arms, my face my shoulders, my hands, just like Grandma. Every time I look into the mirror I fight the urge to think my skin looks dirty and encourage myself to think my complexion is beautiful. It helps to know that even the lovely Joan Crawford was fabulously freckled.