I think I'm turning Japanese
I really think so Turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese
I really think so…
--The Vapors, 1980
When I was in First Grade in the late 1960s we had a crayon color called “flesh.” It was quite horrible, and not, as far as I could tell, the color of anyone’s flesh. It was gross, pinky-peach. Over-ripe fruit gone bad.
African Americans where the first to protest, and about the same time the first black Barbie’s came out, the flesh crayon disappeared from history. Or so I thought until last week.
I was telling all of you about the visual aids for the school program recently, remember? I have a little 16” anatomical figure in my office called Madeline. She’s there partly so can show people where their pancreases are, but mainly to make my office look more medical and to make me look more smart and better trained than I actually am.
All of that said, kids of patients coming in for diabetes education just love to take Madeline apart and put her back together again. A couple of weeks ago a first-grader pulled out her lungs, heart, liver, stomach, and intestines and then peered into her abdominal cavity. “Are these the kidneys?” she asked.
“What are these things on top of the kidneys?”
Sharp kid. Those are your adrenal glands.
“What are they for?”
They are for when you are being chased by a tiger.
Hey, it could happen. It was right there and then I decided our school health ed program needed a life-sized anatomical figure. So I went to the internet on a mission.
Well, I’m here to tell you there are quite a variety in terms of size, detail, number of parts, and cost. I’m a big believer in if you’re going to do it, do it right. Top of the line are the models by Denoyer-Geppert. They are truly works of art, in fact, each is signed by the artist who details it. They are also priced like works of art. Works of art at really trendy galleries. 6K is more than my whole budget for several years. So that was out.
I surfed the web for several weeks, comparing offerings from a dozen makers before settling on a dual sex unit from Lippincott-Williams. I ordered it from the eBay re-seller with the lowest price. It came promptly, having been dropped shipped from the maker.
I struggled to get the large box through my front door, stepping on the cat, tripping over Rio’s toys, banging my elbow and pulling out my back. I eagerly opened the box and was instantly disappointed.
It was flesh colored. Yeah. Like the crayon. Revenge of the flesh.
It also didn’t look anything like the photos online. Clearly they had made one real good one for the photo shoot then had Chinese political prisoners paint the rest of the inventory. In haste.
I was totally bummed. Even at the lower end of the spectrum of anatomic figures this had set us back three-hundred bucks, the single largest budget item. And it was the color of the flesh crayon.
After a couple or three stiff drinks, because everyone knows that when you are depressed the best thing you can do is drink more depressants, I started studying the pieces. The lungs looked so great in the online photos, but in person where flat and boring. I turned the two lungs over and over in my hands. Hmmmmmmm….so why does the left lung have three lobes, and the right lung have two? What was God thinking with this design? Sure, you need room for the heart, but still, that doesn’t explain it…
The Italian-tile pattern of the surface of the lungs was actually molded in superior detail, there was just nothing done to make it pop. Maybe I could wipe some black paint into the cracks? I picked up a ball point pen and started filling in the cracks with black ink. Deb came by half-way through the job. “Hey, that looks great!”
With a critical eye we began to dissect Justin/Justine as we named our hermaphrodite anatomical. The detail in the molding was really quite outstanding, only the paint job was pathetic. Debbie sat down with a set of colored markers and began to work on the intestines.
As the internal organs shaped up, the integumentary system (skin) bothered me more and more. It was about this time that my cultural sensitivity training kicked in. Eighty percent of our kids are Hispanic. Even if the figure was the proper color for Caucasian skin, they wouldn’t relate. I decided to give Justin/Justine an ethnicity overhaul.
So in the dark of the night my mate and I began our program of evil ethnicity transformation. We mixed assorted brown and tan paints left over from various home improvement projects until we had a pigment that looked like a cross between my chili-growing neighbor and Debbie’s uncle. Or so we thought.
In the morning it was clear we had transformed Justin/Justine not into a Hispanic, as planned; but into a Pilipino. With malaria.
Back to the drawing board.
We actually got it right the second time. If our alchemy had been able to bring him/her to life and add legs and arms he/she’d blend right in walking down the dirt-main street of any northern New Mexico small town.
So internally perfect. Externally appropriate, all we were missing was some humanity. A spare temporary tattoo from Rio and a pair of sunglasses and we were good to go!