I did not have flawless skin in my teens and early twenties. Who am I kidding? Some days, I still don't have clear skin in my forties. In the years when I was under the care of a dermatologist, it seemed bad skin swallowed my entire identity. It didn't matter that I was funny or kind or smart. I was invisible behind the blemishes. Once in high school, my wanting to avoid dealing with the issue caused a really big fight in my home. My need to be seen for more than my blemishes outweighed my desire to find a prescriptive solution to the bad skin. This upset the order of things within the family. The offended parties left the house, took a walk, and subjected me to the silent treatment. This was a reminder that I was on the wrong side of the issue. It also underscored that my feelings were valid only when they aligned with the others'.
Another time, in my early twenties, I was on a long car ride to my cousin's wedding where I was going to be a candle lighter. I was asked if I'd been to the dermatologist lately. When I sheepishly answered no, I was reminded that "no 25-year-old man would want to date a girl with bad skin."
These were the days when a date was hard to come by. When my younger cousin was getting married, and my younger sister was engaged. These words cut more than skin deep.
These days, I take a gentler approach at how I characterize my appearance. I look in the mirror, and notice the high points. My light blue eyes, my gently sloped brows. I appreciate the lines around my eyes and mouth—the ones carved in by a lot of laughter. I see my imperfections too. The bridge of the family nose that others have suspected was once broken. The faint spots and scars leftover from hormonal surges of the past. I tell myself that I am more than my shortcomings.
I worry less about the opinions of others, particularly those who think it's acceptable to say unkind things. Who deliver opinions as facts.
I mother myself by accepting the light and dark that make up who I am.