Yeah, words do hurt
In the 7th grade I used to do a lot of charity work as part of my Catholic school’s after school club. One particular Tuesday (always on Tuesdays), we went to a church across town to help out in a soup kitchen. It was something I had done many times before with my friends and had either positive or neutral experiences with. Sometimes the people we fed were very gracious and talkative; other times they just took their food and went on their way, which was also fine. We were there to provide a humble service, not receive praise. However, this one particular Tuesday stuck out as the most negative experience I’ve ever had in my charity work, and it has followed me to this day…
So it’s after school and my friends (all girls) and I are serving food. We’re halfway done with our two-hour shift and for the most part it’s been fairly normal: some conversation, middle school girl laugh sessions, serious reflection during prayer…the usual. I’m serving food to this one guy in particular and, before he walks away, I smile at him and he responds, “wow, you’ve got terrible skin! You’re gonna hafta wear a lot of makeup when you get older!”
Two things: first, yes, I come from a family where bad skin is hereditary. My father struggled with acne, his sister (my aunt) struggled, and so on. It’s a part of my life that I was more or less blessed with. So I was well aware of my skin issues. Second, did I mention I was a middle school girl at this point? Could there be anything more damaging to a middle school girl struggling with puberty run rampant than having a grown man tell her how hideous she looks? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My friends, of course, told me to ignore him and somehow I managed to get through the rest of the service, while silently cursing him (inside the church no less).
If my luck with dating and my 12 year relationship with Halbastram is any indication, I’ve done fairly well in the face department (not a supermodel but not whatever gross abomination that dude thought I was going to turn into). However, like most people, I do have my self-conscious moments. Even though it took me a long time to (sort of) force that guy’s hateful assessment out of my mind, I still found myself remembering his words whenever I was having particularly bad breakouts or scarring. But I was never big on going the full-face makeup route, so I just learned to deal with it. A little mascara here, a touch of lipstick there & I’m out the door. When I’m away from a mirror, I can forget him.
Which brings me to today. I was tooling around on BuzzFeed and found an article about women who give tutorials on using makeup to cover-up bad acne and scarring. The women all suffered from bad skin problems like myself and had clearly found ways to make the best of it. I found one video in particular especially helpful, as the presenter had the same skin tone and scarring problem as myself and saved the link to watch the whole video later. And as I was writing down the products she uses and the cost (SO MUCH $$$$), I found myself stopping and realizing that I was wanting to do exactly what that jerkstore predicted all those years ago: I was planning on spending a mint to use no less than seven different products on my face to cover up a lifetime of acne scars. Then I started to feel self conscious again: did I really have that much of a problem with my face? No, it’s not even about that. As much as I want to try these new techniques, I am struggling with not wanting to play into his awful prediction. I could try to convince myself that I’m doing this for me and my happiness, but truthfully his words will always be in the back of my mind.
It’s upsetting that a stranger’s word have impacted my life this much, but you know what? I’ve had this face for twenty additional years since he came along. I can choose to go bare (as I’ve done for the better part of twenty years), or I can choose to go full-face glam. I’m not trying to win any beauty pageants and I’m sure as shit not trying to appease some dude from the soup kitchen. I’ll deal, whatever my choice may be. Because my life will go on, as it always has.
Bottom line: watch what the fuck you say to people, yeah? Even the most cynical of us have fucking feelings. I couldn’t say this in the 7th grade, but it feels good now: hey, fuck you guy.
(I know this probably goes against everything I ever learned about forgiveness and turn the other cheek and whatever, but, you know…hurt feelings.)