Do you feel your face is imperfect? Are you intimately familiar
with every little problem that lies on that mask that lies behind
your eyes? Or is it something you do not think about much?
Even when people say they don’t care about how they look,
they’re lying. Our self esteem is based on how we look, because
it affects how people make us feel.
His thumb softly rubbed the twisted flesh on my cheek. The
plastic surgeon, a good fifteen years my senior, was a very
attractive man. His masculinity and the intensity of his gaze
seemed almost overpowering.
“Hmmmm,” he said quietly. “Are you a model?”
Is this a joke? Is he kidding? I asked myself, and I searched
his handsome face for signs of mockery. No way would
anyone ever confuse me with a fashion model. I was ugly.
My mother casually referred to my sister as her pretty child.
Anyone could see I was homely. After all, I had the scar to
prove it.
The accident happened in the fourth grade, when a neighbor
boy picked up a hunk of concrete and heaved the mass
through the side of my face. An emergency room doctor
stitched together the shreds of skin, pulling catgut through
the tattered outside of my face and then suturing the shards
of flesh inside my mouth. For the rest of the year, a huge
bandage from cheekbone to jaw covered the raised angry
A few weeks after the accident, an eye exam revealed I was
nearsighted. Above the ungainly bandage sat a big, thick
pair of glasses. Around my head, a short fuzzy glob of curls
stood out like mold growing on old bread. To save money,
Mom had taken me to a beauty school where a student cut
my hair. The overzealous girl hacked away cheerfully. Globs
of hair piled up on the floor. By the time her instructor
wandered over, the damage was done. A quick conference
followed, and we were given a coupon for a free styling on
our next visit.
“Well,” sighed my father that evening, “you’ll always be
pretty to me,” and he hesitated, “even if you aren’t to the rest
of the world.”
Right. Thanks. As if I couldn’t hear the taunts of the other
kids at school. As if I couldn’t see how different I looked
from the little girls whom the teachers fawned over. As if I
didn’t occasionally catch a glimpse of myself in the
bathroom mirror. In a culture that values beauty, an ugly girl
is an outcast. My looks caused me no end of pain. I sat in
my room and sobbed every time my family watched a
beauty pageant or a “talent” search show.
Eventually I decided that if I couldn’t be pretty, I would at
least be well-groomed. Over the course of years, I learned to
style my hair, wear contact lenses and apply make-up.
Watching what worked for other women, I learned to dress
myself to best advantage. And now, I was engaged to be
married. The scar, shrunken and faded with age, stood
between me and a new life.
“Of course, I’m not a model,” I replied with a small amount
of indignation.
The plastic surgeon crossed his arms over his chest and
looked at me appraisingly. “Then why are you concerned
about this scar? If there is no professional reason to have it
removed, what brought you here today?”
Suddenly he represented all the men I’d ever known. The
eight boys who turned me down when I invited them to the
girls-ask-boys dance. The sporadic dates I’d had in college.
The parade of men who had ignored me since then. The
man whose ring I wore on my left hand. My hand rose to my
face. The scar confirmed it; I was ugly. The room swam
before me as my eyes filled with tears.
The doctor pulled a rolling stool up next to me and sat
down. His knees almost touched mine. His voice was low
and soft.
“Let me tell you what I see. I see a beautiful woman. Not a
perfect woman, but a beautiful woman. Lauren Hutton has
a gap between her front teeth. Elizabeth Taylor has a tiny,
tiny scar on her forehead,” he almost whispered. Then he
paused and handed me a mirror. “I think to myself how
every remarkable woman has an imperfection, and I believe
that imperfection makes her beauty more remarkable
because it assures us she is human.”
He pushed back the stool and stood up. “I won’t touch it.
Don’t let anyone fool with your face. You are delightful just
the way you are. Beauty really does come from within a
woman. Believe me. It is my business to know.”
Then he left.
I turned to the face in the mirror. He was right. Somehow
over the years, that ugly child had become a beautiful
woman. Since that day in his office, as a woman who
makes her living speaking before hundreds of people, I have
been told many times by people of both sexes that I am
beautiful. And, I know I am.
When I changed how I saw myself, others were forced to
change how they saw me. The doctor didn’t remove the scar
on my face; he removed the scar on my heart.
By Joanna Slan
beauty is more than skin-deep.
Beauty is unique grace and confidence, a shining light that
sparkles through the eyes and smile. It’s not what you look
like; it’s what you project.
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