Be different and be happy!
Having grown up with one right smack on my face was never easy. I was never really teased much but I did get the occasional taunt of “balat” (birthmark in our language) from the school bully. I was on one occasion told that I would be a natural for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (an 80’s wrestling show featuring women) because I would not have to wear a mask or copious amounts of make-up to make myself look scary in a clownish way. It hurt to hear those things.
I quickly moved on though, knowing, even at an early age, that it was people who would accept me, birthmark and all, who would matter.
Then came puberty.
Puberty was never kind to the ugly so it was a struggle for me. To me it always seemed that the pretty girls always had it easier. I felt that the rules would be different for me and in some ways I was right.
I dealt with it in different ways. In my early teens, I wore a one-length bob that would easily fall over the left side of my face. Later on, a teacher encouraged me to come out of my shell after a particularly embarrassing situation. The vice-principal for our very strict Catholic school sometimes made rounds and she entered our classroom. She found me with my hair in the said style and while she made no mention of my birthmark, she asked me to be a prim and proper young lady and wear a headband. I was burning all throughout but I quickly complied by tying my hair. I was seething, afterwards, because I couldn’t believe she couldn’t understand. My Maths teacher came up to me after class and told me that there really was no point in covering it up. People saw it and knew it was there. She told me kindly that I had no reason to feel embarrassed. Her kindness and understanding was a great motivation. Ever since then I have been trying not to cover my face. It has been a long time since I covered half my face with my hair. But some days, I still resist the urge to cover my forehead with bangs or even just bits of hair. It has been a constant struggle and sometimes paranoia still rules.
At 26, I’m not afraid to admit that some days it still bothers me but not in the same way it did when I was younger. I still think about how I would feel about myself without it. I still think about what people who stare at me think about me. And sometimes I still find myself staring at a mirror, looking closely at my birthmark. But the basic needs in life have taught me that I can’t hide away. Not in my home, not behind my hair, not behind anything…
In spite of the days when I wish to hide away, I am happy to say that I do more than live with myself. I love who I am and what I have become. I work as a freelance writer and people remember me because of my work and the way I work. I have come to find value in myself that is more than skin-deep. And everyday I go out with my head held high. With my hair tied back.
These days, I am also glad to say that I can accept compliments easily. There was a point in time when I felt “guilty” and uncomfortable about compliments and I realized it was because I didn’t feel that they were true because I didn’t feel that I was pretty or cute or whatever even when I have come to love who I was. After much ado, I began to understand that I can only accept what I felt was real. But over the years I have come to realize that real beauty is not about how people see you but about how you see yourself. And now I feel joy when people compliment me and I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude. I also find that receiving them graciously has added to my sense of well-being.
I felt especially happy because when I first submitted this article to this site, Bev, (the wonderful lady who thought of putting up this site) sent me an email some weeks after saying that a lot of her friends thought me – pretty. I have to say that it made my day, my whole week even.
On that note, though many may never see, I would like to thank the teachers who continually encouraged me, the people who have thought me beautiful, and friends who have accepted every bit of me, and my family, who loves me unconditionally. And to the people behind this site and to those who have read it – my deepest thanks.