Fall 2014

Colors / Flesh

So alone

Corina Copp

“Colors” is a column in which a writer responds to a specific color assigned by the editors of Cabinet.

Brain is made of desirous flesh waves, close to what would be crimson incarnate (but won’t be). When flesh waves use their desire-current to move from brainsphere to Magic Wand, sundered from the realm of real flesh and spirit, from presence itself, they shrink into small white beads and tumble around (with battery in “On” position) in a muted-rain-sky-colored, soft orb for the pleasure of the flesh. This is plasticity—a radiant vibration from subject to object, with flesh on the mind, controlled by the hand.

He had angel dust and a gun and he asked her to remove her flesh-colored underwear. “Never, never,” she objected. “I thought you were different.”

Cookie Mueller had already written, in this story, “I Hear America Sinking: Or a Suburban Girl Who Is Naïve and Stupid Finds Her Reward,” that Gena’s skin is “dish-water-colored.”[1] So it stands to reason that her underwear, too, is the color of dishwater. I imagine the fabric, bearing this logic, is a murky light tan, floated in opaque cheap satin. Or does the underwear, meant to be matte and fast to the white girl’s shape, flash a singular flesh color, as in Crayola crayon–flesh, no matter the subject? Is there a color actually locked in our minds’ eye? Is it faux naïve to even ask?

Luckily she escaped.

Crayola’s peach-colored crayon, actually Flesh, reinforced one-note Caucasian identity for children everywhere (at least those who read and followed the rules) until 1962, when the company changed the crayon’s name to a non-person, pigment-devoted “peach.” It had never been called “skin,” at least. The choice of “flesh” over “skin” likely has to do with the embodied sense of the word itself: flesh is meatier, unceremoniously fatter, and slightly less racialized in its connotation. Skin feels ever on the precipice of being pan-fried. Anyhow, in 1992, Crayola went one further in its self-conscious, socially conscious marketing, gathering its neutrals—black, sepia, peach, apricot, white, tan, mahogany, and burnt sienna—under the “ethnically sensitive” tagline “Multicultural.” “Crayola Multicultural Crayons are expressive crayon colors specially designed for hands-on learning about self, family, and community.” Annoyed parents wrote in to complain that their kids, when coloring in a person, might just be smart enough to pick out the needed tones from the regular sixty-four-color, hinge-top box themselves. Crayola can’t give up the flesh ghost.

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