Her lips are full and slightly parted, not in a perpetually startled pout as carefully practiced by pretty starlets whose pictures she’s studied, but from the placement of her teeth which protrude just enough to prevent them from closing.
She lines them carefully in red, shadowing and highlighting until they mask the fault.
Her eyes are wide behind the wavy hair she pushes back from her face with manicured nails painted a soft blush to match her cheeks.
On paper she sounds lovely, all glossy adjectives like in a magazine.
In the mirror she swipes on another layer of bronzer, emphasizing what little she likes and painting a portrait to cover the canvas she finds lacking.
In pictures she’s laughing, spinning with her unruly hair flying out behind and her arms outstretched. Posing for the camera, hand on hip and one leg stuck out, eyes sparkling behind oversized glasses in an oversized tee shirt and oversized teeth prominently displayed in a wide smile.
And then she’s not, arms drawn tight around her chest. Hiding behind hair, shying from the camera. They stand out in the family album, the lost years, the ones in which the sadness is spotted amid a sea of smiling face, not one of them hers.
She’s thirty but she remembers the day they said it in front of her.
Too young for makeup her pale cheeks blushed crimson as the commentary continued on around her, about her, and embedded itself deep in her heart where she married herself to it and allowed it to govern her self esteem from that day forward.
She collected comments of like kind, gathering them until they forced her wide eyes permanently downcast.
“It’s a good thing you’re smart because you sure aren’t pretty.”
“Ever heard of a hairbrush, Frizzy?”
She snuck a compact out of the house and into the dimly lit girls bathroom on the grade six wing and she began to cover up.
Middle school is mean and memories are haunting.
In her twenties her belly bumped against the bathroom counter, full of child. A daughter, who kicked her tiny feet back in protest and caused her hand to falter, drawing the dark pencil away from her eyelids in a jagged line across her temple.
She reflected on the reflection, dipped her hands in the water and wiped away the broken.
Hands on her belly she prayed.
That this daughter would see in her mother a radiance of beauty that came from love instead of lipstick.
That this daughter would not watch her mother hesitate at the door because she didn’t want to walk through it in an uncomfortable skin.
That when this daughter stood on a step stool next to her and pretended to swirl on blusher in imitation it would not be a reflection of shame.
When she was a teenager she dabbed on foundation to walk to the mailbox in case someone happened to be driving by, a camouflage of face and heart.
When she was a mother she sat bare-faced in the floor of the library and reveled in the tiny hands she held up to do all of the motions for story-time and the freedom that came with embracing a faith that declares that every part of her is worth more than rubies.
Now she swipes on the mascara or she doesn’t but she carries with her a confidence that she is beautiful because she was created that way, by a Creator who does not make mistakes.
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. – Song of Solomon 4:7
I originally wrote this for another site because funnily enough, it feels more vulnerable to share this sort of thing on your own site, where people know you, than it does to send it out onto the screens of strangers. In the end I decided to give them something else and put these words here because it is such a personal part of my story that I felt this should be it’s home.
As a note to the sweet teenage girls who read here: I still love to experiment with makeup and you can typically find an assortment of lipglosses tossed in my bag at any given time. So I’m not against a good set of sparkly eyeshadow. (Personally, I’m quite partial to Sonia Kashuk’s.) The difference between then and now is that I am no longer dependent on a small glass bottle to cover up what I perceived to be ugliness in order to feel acceptable.
Someone said it to me once and I took it for truth. People will say many things to you over the course of your life but the words that you can count on are the ones that have real truth behind them. And the real truth is that God says that you are flawless, you are beautiful, you have worth.