Today, while at the store with my kids, a lady worriedly asked me, "What's wrong with your face?!" I quickly replied that there was nothing 'wrong' and that I have a birthmark. She responded back with an, "Oh I'm sorry! It looked like a really bad bruise!" Why, thank you for that, stranger.
This is nothing new. I've heard this exact question along with several variations throughout my life. I tried to simply shake it off, as I have countless times before. After all, this woman meant no harm and I'm sure she was actually, legitimately concerned for my well being. Nevertheless, I was left feeling a little bit smaller than when I walked in.
As a child, I was asked on an almost daily basis: What was on my face? What happened to my face? What was wrong with my face? And, my favorite, Did I spill grape juice on my face?
I remember one day in the1st grade, our teacher lined up the girls in my class so a commercial producer could invite us to come to an audition. All the girls, except me, that is. He took one look at my mug and asked me to leave. Thankfully, I had an amazing mother who told me I was beautiful on a daily basis and I believed her. These kinds of comments, questions, and long glances rolled off my back and I never thought of myself as different or anything less than beautiful. As I approached my teenage years, however, I felt acutely aware. My Mom used to say my birthmark was a kiss from God, but like any good "Whoa is me!" teenager, I questioned why God would leave that particular mark on me.
Don't get me wrong, in many ways I'm grateful for my birthmark. For one, it has kept me (relatively) humble. My siblings might fight me on that one :-). It also etched in me a deep sense of empathy for those with any kind of dissimilarity. I realize a birthmark is a tiny problem in a world of gigantic trials but growing up with daily commentary regarding my unique appearance, a strong need to protect others from being teased or mistreated in any way was born.
When I was between the ages of 12-14, I went through several laser treatments with the intent of lightening my birthmark. These procedures made a marginal difference and between that and the discovery of makeup, the questions regarding my port wine stain dramatically decreased. I found that only on days when I was sans makeup, either too hot or cold, or exercising (temperature extremes and increased heart rate make my birthmark darker), I was rarely asked about it anymore.
Oddly enough, the longer I go without getting asked about my birthmark, the more difficult it is to swallow when a stranger brings it to light. Today the encounter left me feeling bothered and self conscious. That only leads to an irritation with myself for allowing something so trivial to gnaw at me. Why should it bother me if someone I will never see again has a problem with the pigmentation of my face? I wish I had an answer for that...
However, instead of figuring out my irrational annoyance to today's events, I think I'll opt for offering some free advice (to all 5 of you who read my blog):
If you happen to see a stranger, acquaintance or friend that may appear in any way different, either a) Say absolutely nothing b) Run away or c) Try not to phrase the question in an accusatory or negative tone, as if that person should be ashamed or concerned about whatever the anomaly is.
Because, at the end of the day, we're all human. In my experience, humans tend to get their feelings hurt when reminded of their imperfections. I for one, like to live blissfully unaware of the many, MANY ways perfection escapes me. Life is just more enjoyable that way. So, please pass me the chocolate and never, ever ask me what is wrong with my face. You might not like the answer.