Quiet Beauty (16/11/13 prompt)
Linking up with Amanda at Habit of Being – November prompt-a-day
In sixth grade one of the cool girls nailed me with her withering stare and spat these words at me. Hook nose. I went home and checked myself out in profile, and yes I guess my nose did sort of make a hook shape. It certainly wasn’t the upturned pixie that Ms Cool had. An epithet that has stayed with me, I later came to understand it as having a racial element. But at the time it only confirmed what I had always felt about myself: that I was ugly.
Who grows up thinking they look fantastic? At my school there was an elite group of girls who had the best clothes, the best hair, the best of everything. I felt uncertain about myself in all respects except my brain, so that is what I focused on. I knew I wasn’t popular and I wondered what cast of the dice decided that. It must have been about my appearance, I concluded, because I knew that I didn’t have ‘the look.’
It seems so long ago, but the rejection is still as fresh as the tears that spring to my eyes as I slice onions here in my kitchen tonight. My children play in the other room as I ruminate over these memories and this stew. Each of them is a beautiful spring day. My youngest, free of angles, still all dimpled roundess… my middle child, her almond eyes and glowing skin… my eldest’s hair, a burst of radiant autumn colours on a sunny day…. There is nothing unattractive about these children.
And yet my eldest comes to me in her pre-teen uncertainty and asks whether she looks ‘alright.’ She’s not the same as the others, is that ok? I see before me this image of beauty, all pale cream skin and auburn hair and I wonder that she could ever consider herself to be anything other than a miracle. But of course what she sees when she looks in the mirror may not be what I see.
Therein springs the epiphany. Suddenly I wonder what other people see when they look at me. I still don’t have ‘the look.’ But have I missed something somewhere along the way? I try to see myself as those who love me see me. I spend a moment stepping back and taking a better look. I see crinkly caring eyes; I see arms that give gripping hugs; I see legs that skip along with little children’s feet; I see a lap that has comforted many grazed knees; I see shoulders that are willing to help a friend carry her load; I see a heart that has somehow expanded to love unconditionally.
The shape of my nose seems…irrelevant.
The greatest lessons I have learned in life I have learned from my children. Maybe I am not what I always thought I was. The mirror my children hold up to me reveals someone unfamiliar. Someone beautiful. Maybe not someone who’d make you do a double-take, but someone you’d remember for more than her nose.
These days I look around me and I can’t find any ugly pre-teens or teenagers. Their skin is vibrant, their hair is shiny, and they look, well, young. I think to myself, “Why didn’t I look like that when I was their age?” and a small voice inside me says, “You did.” I wish I had known. Oh, how I wish I had known.
©Lisa Hassan Scott 2013.
Many thanks to Amanda for providing short daily prompts for writing and sharing them on Twitter with #writealm and on her WriteAlm Facebook page.