Quiet Beauty (16/11/13 prompt)

Linking up with Amanda at Habit of Being – November prompt-a-day

“Hook nose!”

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.

confidants

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.

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Finding beauty where I least expect it. Or, another lesson from my children.
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16 thoughts on “Finding beauty where I least expect it. Or, another lesson from my children.

  • 16/11/2013 at 7:04 pm
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    Beautiful reflection. I needed this. It touched me. XO

    • 16/11/2013 at 7:09 pm
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      Thank you Angie. I’m loving these prompts and enjoying sharing our writing… seeing what each person does with the same prompt.
      Love,
      Lisa

  • 16/11/2013 at 7:05 pm
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    Hindsight is a funny thing isn’t it. I saw a photo of me as a young teen at school in the dorm that I had not seen before, and it portrayed me as I did not remember. I looked at it and saw a happy slim girl. But I never felt like that and never remember feeling ok about myself as I felt looking at that photo. I remember already having given up competing with the cool girls. As a mother of a girl I am so mindful to not let my insecurities be passed onto her. Looking at her now I can’t imagine her ever having the same issues as me but did my mother think that too? Who knows. The one change I can make is to improve my self image… hard but it makes sense. If I try to model a positive self image.. maybe.. Thank you Lisa for making me think about this ..very important.

    • 16/11/2013 at 7:08 pm
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      Thank you Charlotte for this comment. As you know, I write mostly for myself, to work through and process things for me. It’s helpful to know that someone else has had a similar experience– we were such beauties then, but we didn’t know it! What if the same is true NOW?
      Love,
      Lisa

  • 16/11/2013 at 11:51 pm
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    Just lovely, Lisa. Just like you.

    • 17/11/2013 at 10:11 am
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      Thank you so much Eryn.
      x

  • 17/11/2013 at 3:23 pm
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    I am sorry I didn’t know about this so we could have talked about it. Those things can hurt so much. I feel sorry for that girl who learned so much hatred at such a young age and wonder if racism is still a part of her life. I know we never see ourselves as we are but I can tell you now as I could have told you years ago, “you are beautiful.” On the outside, yes, but you have a radiance that shines from within. That is something not too many people have and is most likely something that girl envied and that led to her critical remark. Love, always.

    • 17/11/2013 at 8:53 pm
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      You are so sweet, mom. Thank you.
      Lisa

  • 17/11/2013 at 7:05 pm
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    this is just spot on. something i will make my 12yo daughter read as she has hit that age where she begins to doubt herself, her self worth, because she sees herself differently than she sees others. thanks for this bit of loveliness. i needed it.

    • 17/11/2013 at 8:52 pm
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      ‘that age where she begins to doubt herself, her self worth, because she sees herself differently than she sees others.’

      << YES. But how many of us ever outgrow that stage? Those insecurities can still be very real even in adulthood. The desire to fit in, to conform, can be so strong. Thank you for commenting. You've given me food for thought tonight. Lisa

  • 18/11/2013 at 6:05 am
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    A teary read – so much emotion wrapped up in these words, for our little selves, our journey, discoveries. Painful tears, joyful tears.
    I was *just* thinking about this the other day — particularly the piece about young girls seeing anything wrong with their appearance. The reality of it actually stunned me. And it became further proof that I have officially migrated to the other side! I see all females from this angle now — teens, women, myself. What a ride!
    Thank you for your story <3

    • 29/11/2013 at 10:17 pm
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      Thank you Jen. (Apologies it took me so long to reply to your comments) I know your daughter is the same age as mine. They are on a journey. We are their companions.

  • 19/11/2013 at 4:06 am
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    Please, never stop writing to us! Your writing reminds of those chicken soup for the soup books. But less cheesy and more poignant.

    • 29/11/2013 at 10:17 pm
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      What a sweet comment, KC. I’m only sorry it took me so darned long to reply! Life gets in the way 😉
      Lisa

  • 19/11/2013 at 11:49 pm
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    Hello again,

    I was reminded of something from ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’ when I read your piece. From: p. 199 Body Talk

    ‘A friend and I once performed a tandem storytelling called “Body Talk” about discovering the ancestral blessings of our kith and kin… …In this concurrent telling about body, we spoke of the slings and arrows we received throughout our lives because, according to the great “they” our bodies were too much of this and not enough of that. In our telling, we sang a mourning song for the bodies we were not allowed to enjoy. We rocked, we danced, we looked at each other. We were each thinking the other is so mysterious-looking in such a beautiful way, how could anyone have thought otherwise?’

    I like that you are telling your story now… and it’s likely that most of us are thinking ‘how can Lisa even begin to have doubts about her own beauty?’

    Most of us have doubts though, at some time or another, and especially in the teenage years, don’t we?

    I like how Clarissa Estes says though that when she understood her roots, her family history, her body and features made sense, but in the ‘American beauty’ context her Mexican-Spanish looks didn’t ‘fit’. I think it would be incredibly helpful if we could understand all the genetics/past family members who have helped to contribute to what we look like. Then perhaps our features, our bodies would make more sense…

    Estes goes on to write:

    ‘The pathologizing of variation in women’s bodies is a deep bias endorsed by many psychological theorists, most certainly by Freud…

    …A woman cannot make the culture more aware by saying “Change.” But she can change her own attitude toward herself thereby causing devaluing projections to glance off.’

    Anyway, I think that’s all I wanted to add. Estes has pretty much summarized everything as usual.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lisa 🙂

    • 29/11/2013 at 10:19 pm
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      You are so kind to say “how could Lisa even question her own beauty…” but don’t we all, in some way? I love the passage you shared from the lovely, lovely book you gave me. It’s got pride of place next to my bed for frequent and necessary dipping in and consideration.

      I am so sorry it took me forever to reply to your thoughtful reply.
      Lisa

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