Wednesday, November 28, 2012: The Elf on the Shelf With a Tan

Dear Babies,

It was the glance of his eyes that gave him away.

A slight dart up diverting attention.

“Are you…what are you looking at?”

Your father was in the middle of a story about him at the dermatologist when he suddenly stopped. I turned to see what he was looking at. He was gazing up…

“Are you looking at the Elf on the Shelf?”

He was frozen, eyes glued to this miniature doll perched on top of the television that under any other circumstance would 100% creep me out, likening it to a ventriloquist doll, but in the name of Christmas I let slide. (Elves=cute. Ventriloquist dolls=nightmare inducing. See? It’s all about marketing.)

“He has blue eyes…” he stammered.

“Yes,” thinking oh god, this is when he’s finally lost it.

“Light skin…”

Oh no. “Did you go to one of those long lunches where you drink a lot during the day?”

“I’m not drunk, but I was at a lunch…” his words were a hush, as if he still couldn’t believe the sight that was before him, as if he was seeing this doll that’s been the focal point of our living room for the past ten days for the very first time.

“The client I was with…he was talking about his daughter…she’s three…it’s so fun this year!…she’s so into Santa!…”

“Uh-huh,” I said with caution, wondering where this could be going.

“I said, do you have Elf on the Shelf? He said, no. After lunch I ran to Toys R Us and bought him one, sent it over to his office…” after which there was a long pause. Tired of waiting for a punchline that wasn’t coming while your dad still gazed at our elf, I said, “that’s great, babe. That’s very nice.” Was he fishing for a compliment? 

Then, the words flew out of his mouth, “I bought him a black elf!” He looked relieved, like he’d finally gotten a weight off his chest.

I paused.



“I think I bought him a black Elf on the Shelf.”

“What do you mean, a black Elf on the Shelf?”

He was wide-eyed, examining ours with its milk-skin, “I just a grabbed a box and bought it…it had brown hair, I thought it was a little tan…”

“A little tan? Like, how tan is the doll in comparison?”

He squinted at our doll. Shook his head yes. “It’s pretty tan.”

I paused. Blinked. I know it’s not a big deal, but I also don’t know how this business-relationship stuff works. Schmoozing is not my thing. When I was at Seventeen I was out to lunch once with a top book publisher and kept commenting on her accent. I couldn’t get over it! Where on earth was she from?! Are you from South Africa? I’d asked, real close: New York City. Born and raised. This was your father’s concern as he shook his head and mumbled to himself, “is this weird? How did I not notice?”

…Just prior to this conversation, we’d been having a riveting conversation about your dad’s visit to the dermatologist. (The Berenstain Bear’s Go {Get a Skin Check!})

He was telling me how the doctor said he was doing very good, for someone with such light skin.

“Can you believe it?”


“That she said that?”

“That what? You have good skin?”

“No, that I have light skin.”

“You do have light skin.”

“What?!” He held out his forearms, proud. “Babe, look at me! I have dark skin!”

“You need to look in the mirror, Denby. You’re pretty pale right now. You have light skin.”

“You’re crazy.”

“You are hairy.”

“You are hairy.”


…And we were right about there when he noticed our Elf on the Shelf…

Be like your father, babies.

He didn’t notice the doll’s darker skin tone because he doesn’t notice skin tone, period.

And that’s the way to be.



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