The summer before sixth grade, my family moved to a new town. Looking back, I now realize that this was a tough time for any girl on the cusp of adolescence to move and start over, especially when the previous year had been the happiest of her girlhood.
I clearly remember the morning of my first day of school.
Dressed in my best jeans and my cutest shirt, I stood in front of the mirror satisfied. I pranced around, practicing smiles and introductions, and felt a great surge of confidence in knowing that I could take on this new school.
Little did I know that it would be the last time I would see my reflection and be naturally, innocently satisfied. I think this is why the memory stands out so clearly in my mind.
I liked myself. I liked my scabbed knees, my tom-boy haircut, my scraggly teeth. Actually, I thought I was pretty cool. Nothing and No One had ever caused me to think differently.
Upon my return home that day, I had learned two important facts about myself of which I had formerly been ignorant: I had “pasty-white” skin & “wolfy” eyebrows. My nicknames were Casper & Wolfy for the next three years. And thus began my obsession with plucking and waxing and self-tanners.
Now, I don’t want to overdramatize the experience. I won’t pretend that I was bullied in any serious way; this was common, school-yard teasing, albeit incessant. But at the same time, it was mean-spirited, and it came when I was most vulnerable, thus shaping my adolescent self image.
That same year, I read Anne of Green Gables; Anne too was eleven, new to town, and unique in appearance. She too was teased. Yet I remember wishing that my teasing had been something more light-hearted, something a bit cute, something more like “carrots.”
Just last weekend, a new acquaintance approached me and, out of the blue, declared, “You have gorgeous eyebrows! I’ve always loved the contrast of fair skin and dark hair.”
I’ve received similar complements many times throughout my adult life, especially since the Twilight series popularized my coloring.
But this issue extends far beyond thick eyebrows and freckled skin.
We live in a flaw-pointing culture; we are trained to never be satisfied. Maybe it’s not golden skin that I now long for, but there will always be something out of my reach.
I will never be that airbrushed model or the ideal wife or the perfect mom or the successful woman. This is the scarcity culture taunt, the incessant name calling.
And like the school-boys’ teasing, this harsher taunt stings because it speaks a half-truth.
I will never be perfect; I will never be ideal.
But I can be authentic, and I can be kind.
Kindness is always a choice.
And hopefully, as I learn to silence my own personal criticism, I can move beyond myself and better view others through this same lens of grace and compassion.
And years down the road, when blue veins show through my pale thin skin and my life spreads out behind me—I pray that I can again stand before the mirror and be satisfied.