When I was a young girl I was often made fun of for the same things. My skinny “spaghetti” legs was one that stayed for years. The one that stuck with me until now was my face. I had “N” lips, “N” hair, “N” nose. The “N” stands for a word that I refuse to say. As if having that kind of hair, lips, or nose, was something to be ashamed of. I was not raised racist or even to think that a different color, race, or religion was anything to even differentiate between people. Somehow though, having these lips, nose, and hair made me look like someone other than who I should look like, thought this one kid, and he made me aware of it every chance he got. That “N” word too. So ugly. So vile. That was the first time I had heard it. One of my friend’s said it a few years ago. It made her look very ugly to me when she did. Somehow she was elite as she called someone else this. Really…it made her ugly.
I thought about who my father’s parents were and who they looked like. Since he was adopted, I had no idea what race his parents were. I figured it was possible that I did have a different race or ethnicity in my background and wondered why my facial features were something to be made fun of because of this.
After college my roommate was a black man. The color of his skin, and mine, never mattered to us. I never even thought about it. We met a friend of mine out once and I remember her saying, “You didn’t tell me you were living with a black man.” I didn’t think it was relevant! We were just two people who were room mates. Infact, we called each other “room mate”. “Hey room mate, how was your day?” We went to all black bars. I was the only white girl. And when I say black or white I mean no disrespect to caucasian or african american. Hopefully no one will rip me apart and be offended by it. I never even thought to myself while out at those bars, “I’m the only white girl here.” Because we were dancing and having fun. The attention was typically brought to the fact that my room mate had no legs. I recently ran into him at the mall and still addressed him as room mate. We had parties with different races, differing abilities (some in wheelchairs and some not), and it didn’t matter. We were simply friends. Once when we were out eating dinner we noticed people talking all hushed about us. We couldn’t tell if it was because he had no legs or the fact that I was younger than him and they thought we were a couple. The hushed talkers were not happy and we assumed finally it was because he was black and I was white by the few words we could overhear. So we pretended to be a couple to piss them off. I still remember thinking, but we are just two people out having dinner! Why on earth does it matter what he or I look like.
But looks matter, a lot, to some people. Color of skin matters, a lot, to some people. I thought tonight about my room mate and how wonderful all of his friends and he and his family were and became furious at that kid in school that thought he was insulting me by saying I may look like the race of my room mate. How that kid made it seem I was ugly because of it. How deeply racist and bigoted that comment was, and how so many people focus strictly on how you look.
I posted a picture on facebook yesterday. It was of my daughter and me. My hair was strategically placed out of the picture in a pony tail and cropped out. It is in most pictures now because my hair has broken off and fallen out all over my head. My doctors speculate on that being a result of low iron, muscle or bone disease, or maybe even lyme disease with my low immune system. Either way my hair looks pretty awful. But I looked at this picture I posted for a long time last night:
I looked at my face, minus the hair. I looked at my nose and my lips and I liked them. They are part of me. But this is not the total truth. The truth is my hair is not in the picture because I was embarrassed by the way it looked. Over the years I have embraced my nose and my lips. I posted this because it did not show my hair. I feel the same way about my hair right now as I did when that kid made fun of my lips and nose, but I am doing it all to myself. I am judging myself. Social media has created a perfect picture. Pictures speak a thousand words right? But they don’t. They more speak a thousand secrets.
Here is this secret:
My very thin and broken off stringy hair. I didn’t post this one on facebook because only the perfect pictures get posted there right. So we can all think that everyone has perfect lives and look pretty and perfect all the time. When really deeply imbedded in those perfect pictures are broken off and stringy things that we just don’t want others to see. Because not only do others judge us but we judge ourselves. Maybe those kids plant the ugly seeds when we are young and they bully us and pick us a part.
A number of years back I found my father’s biological family. I sent my cousin Randy my picture and he said, ” You have our nose! and eye color! and lips! and hair!” Then he said, ” You do know we are Jewish right?” Nope I did not know! I was thrilled that my nose, that was so ridiculed, made me part of a family. That nose made me fit in! That one part of me that someone tried to make me feel embarrassed about made me connected to other people. I LOVE that my nose looks like Randy’s. I learned a lot from Randy about being Jewish, and being unconditional, and accepting myself.
That kid planted a seed of ugliness in me and I let that grow and believed it to be true.
The truth is that HE was the one that had the ugliness. His intention was ugly. His words were ugly. He made me feel ugly when below the skin, he was. He was racist. He was a bully. I let him affect me until my cousin Randy told me otherwise. But Randy is gone now. If he were here I am sure he would tell me that my inner beauty is what people see and that my hair didn’t matter at all. He wouldn’t want that seed of embarrassment over my hair to grow. So I put this picture here to make my pictures not worth a thousand secrets. But just about the truth.
The truth about me is that the color of your skin, your religion, your political views, don’t matter to me at all. I care more about the wounded parts that I want to help you heal. I think about the secrets that you are afraid to tell and want to be the person to hear you. Those people who would choose to insult a feature of you, by further insulting an entire race…they are the ugly ones. They strive and thrive on persecuting others and crushing their spirits.Social media is now a great platform for them. Between the ugly seed planters and the perfect picture posters we can get lost. We can start judging ourselves even more so than they do and by doing that we let the ugly win. Really…we cannot let that ugliness win.
I told husband about how upset I was over my hair. He looked at my hair, ran his fingers through it, and said that my hair, and I were both beautiful. He knows the nose story and the spaghetti legs story. He has always loved every part of me. I just need to work on doing the same thing, loving every part of myself too. This is my start.