On a windy Wednesday evening, in another galaxy, on a planet called Triste, a little girl was born. She was the length of a human forearm, very plump, had green eyes and a huge smile. She was a healthy, happy girl named Olive. But there was something about her that drew the attention of media from all around Triste, something that made her parents gasp in horror the moment they saw her. She was born blue.
News article covering the story:
Word of her existence was carried by the wind, it swept in and out of homes and terrified the entirety of Triste, which is about 1/50 the size of Earth, to compare. Her parents were the most concerned, what went wrong? All the hopes they had for their expected daughter were suddenly questioned, they wanted a normal little girl, instead they didn’t think they’d ever see her get married because “who would want to marry a girl with blue skin?” After thinking about it, they decided they would keep her, but raise her with skin the color of theirs: pale white. Every morning they would paint over it, they would tell her that everyone has blue skin but covers theirs up, too. They’ll explain that hundreds of years ago, a genetic mutation happened where everyone with blue skin took over Triste, and to reverse this, people believe that if you don’t let anyone else see the blue, and most importantly never talk about it, evolution will work its wonders and the normal shades of human, black skin, brown skin, tan skin, pale skin, etc. will return.
Her parents sued the news stations that covered this story and were given full ownership to any footage or articles about their daughter, so everyone will forget about it or think it was a hoax. “No one will know she has blue skin except for us,” her father said the night they took her home, “it’s for her own good. She won’t get teased or bullied, she’ll live her whole life thinking she’s normal.”
And she did. When she was two, her younger sister Claire was born, and Olive assumed she had blue skin, too, so she asked if she could ever help paint Claire’s face. Her parents explained that it was something only a Mom and Dad can do, so Olive stopped questioning.
When Olive turned six, she wanted to take swimming lessons, which made her parents incredibly anxious. They told her that swimming was dangerous, and she was never allowed to do it. They covered up the walls of the house with posters like this:
While Olive complained at first, the posters scared her into silence, and she stopped asking to go swimming with her friends. Her parents knew they got away easy with that one, but there was a world of adolescence to come and they feared their strict strategies wouldn’t last much longer. And they were right.
When Olive was 12, she got off the bus with a group of friends to hang out every day after school. They were the first real friends Olive had ever had, and she felt that she trusted them enough that they could all talk about their blue in secret, since Olive’s curiosity about it only grew day by day. One day, one of the girls planned a sleepover, which was Olive’s first slumber party invitation. Knowing that Claire had been allowed to sleepover at her friends house (and she was only 10!) her parents would have to oblige. She prepared a speech, went to ask them, and they responded with a firm “no.” This is when she realized something was strange, and felt a need to fix it immediately.
She ran to her friends house despite her parents commands, and said she’d be allowed to sleepover. She was determined to still have fun, and wanted to use this opportunity to get even closer with them by talking about their skin and why it’s so shameful that they need to hide it. Everything changed the moment she began to talk to her friends about her skin, and they recoiled in fear. Olive was confused, she thought everyone had the same skin as her? In a sudden crisis, her heart was pounding, she was getting laughed at, her thoughts and environment sounded like this:
She ran home, and asked her parents if it was true, that she was the only one with blue skin. They responded with a sad yes, to which she screamed and felt humiliated and unaccepted. She’d lived her whole life according to their rules! Thinking that things were unsafe, and that they were trying to protect her, when all they were protecting was their own reputation. She was taught to feel ashamed of her body and to hide her skin rather than accept it and feel comfortable in it. Her whole life was based around hiding her skin, which she found so time-consuming, but she thought everyone put in the same amount of effort, when in reality she’d been fooled.
One of the friends from the sleepover contacted Olive, said she never laughed at her and wanted to know and understand what was going on. Olive’s friend, Sharon, came over and they spent a long time figuring it out. They eventually found the few news articles that had been hidden in Olive’s attic and tried to make sense of things. “People thought you were from another planet? But they didn’t even try to figure out why your skin was blue? What if you were sick?” Sharon questioned. Olive thought the same things, people immediately feared her because she was different, they didn’t try to understand me at all.
Rumors had spread around school about Olive’s blue skin, thanks to the girls at the slumber party. Olive neither confirmed nor denied their accuracy, but her and Sharon decided to use it as a chance to show them the truth in a fashionable way. They dropped a few hints here and there. One of their sneaky plans was conducted by playing this reversed version of the song “True Colors” at the school dance the day after the slumber party incident,
A few picked up on it, but no one made the connection of the message it was sending. After a few days of the girls bullying her, Olive had decided it was enough. She told her parents she was going to stop painting her skin. “What if there are other people out there like me? Or not fully blue, but they have something they’ve been taught to hide?” Olive exclaimed, “If I hide something so extreme like this, how is anyone ever going to think they’re okay the way they are? It’s not my fault I have blue skin, but I’ve learned now that it’s what separates me from the rest. I have something. That should be made special, not locked away.”
Her parents admired her courage, and though it was hard and scary to accept, they did. They talked with her for a long time and realized they were wrong. Had they raised her blue, she could have been a role model around the planet. Everyone would know her as the courageous blue girl who never tried to hide. “All you can do now is let me decide for myself,” Olive said.
After the encouraging talk with her parents, and some help from Sharon, Olive showed up to school in her normal clothes, and her normal skin. No one knew what to do at first, but then the bullying started. It amazed Olive how quickly people were to make fun of her than to try and understand why she was different. Olive and Sharon printed out posters of a relevant Shel Silverstein poem, and put them up all around the school:
The poem worked on a few people who gained some insight into Olive’s reason for speaking out, but others weren’t so easily convinced. Very quickly, a group formed together who had unanimously agreed that Olive was an alien, and needed to be sent back to her planet. After school that day, they waited outside to tell Olive what they thought, but Olive was inside talking with the principle on how to make the school a safer place for people with any sort of difference from the “norm”. They decided the first place they needed to start was with all the people who felt like there was something wrong with them that they needed to hide. “If we allow people to see there’s nothing wrong, they’re just different, then people other people will see that too and will be more accepting.” The principle said, and Olive agreed. Olive’s mission that evening was to make a social networking page of sorts dedicated to having confidence and feeling good about yourself. They would use this at their first meeting the following week with other academic leaders in the school. Olive chose to make a Pinterest board, since that would get most attention.
Eventually, weekly meetings took place where people got together to discuss why differences should be embraced, rather than covered up. “Don’t listen to what people say about your body, they don’t get to live in it, you do: listen to what you say to your body, and make sure it’s nice,” was Olive’s motto, and repeated it weekly. The society of Triste took a lot longer to accept the blue girl into the culture, but thankfully Olive had a safe space in home and in school to be herself. “There will always be people trying to make you feel inadequate,” Olive explained forty years later, at the school she once attended but is currently speaking as the principle of, “but the most important thing is that you surround yourself with people who don’t. If you can’t find someone, you’ve got me, but most importantly, you have yourself. Don’t hide your blue.”