Thursday, February 27, 2014

Notes on finally liking my face

Last night, I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw.

I don't mean that I mean experienced a profound satisfaction regarding the character of the man I was viewing.

I mean that I liked my face.

I make note of that because I developed the belief early in life that I was ugly. In elementary school, when I read Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Ducking," I identified totally with it, and dreamed of the day when my swan-ness would become evident, when I would turn out to be handsome and strong and smart. Maybe even rich. But definitely handsome and strong and smart. And it would happen naturally, effortlessly.

Meanwhile, I put up with being ugly. Oh, and short and skinny (I skipped first grade, and was a year younger than my classmates, during a time when a year's growth makes a huge size difference). And my classmates affirmed the non-value of being ugly and short and skinny, while acknowledging that I was smart. And when I learned about romantic love, I hoped to have a blind girl fall for me, because who else would? And I hoped not to have kids, although I wanted them, for fear that they might look like me.

(BTW, I don't recall that this was related to race, as I lived in an overwhelmingly Black neighborhood, and attended an overwhelmingly Black elementary school.)

And the moral of the story is - parents, guard your children's self-esteem regarding their very physical being. Other children may be cruel to your children all day long, and you might never know if you don't pay close attention. Help them, not just to love the person they see in the mirror, but to appreciate the package that that person is wrapped in.

And if your daughter's package includes Down Syndrome, and she says that she wants to become a model, say, "Why not?" Because as Karrie Brown and her mom, Sue Brown, can tell never know:

I eventually concluded that I couldn't really do much about my face, except try to make it pleasant by being a pleasant person. And I eventually got married, which helped a lot. And I've grown accustomed to my face, and have had moments prior to last night when I found myself liking it.

But last night felt different. I don't remember exactly what provoked the moment, but there I was, looking in the mirror, and I thought, "That's an interesting face." Not necessarily handsome, but interesting. Expressive. There's a man behind it who has done things that few people ever do, like writing sonnets and managing a commodities trading limited partnership, who has learned a thing or two, who is still learning, and who is still engaged in the hard work of growing his character (not having it develop "naturally, effortlessly"). And I think my face shows that now, more than it did when I was younger.

And I like that, and expect to continue liking it.

That's the difference - the sense that this matter has finally been decided. Which is a good thing, since I still can't exchange this face for another.

So, time to begin the modeling/acting career?
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