This is the second post in a 3-part weekly series called SKIN: Underneath the Layers Lies the Truth. Read the first post here.
Someday your face may launch a thousand ships. but your scars will tell the world who you are. Today your skin is smooth and rounded, and your cheeks are the rosiest of apples, brazen red delicious from sunburned days at the pool. You beam up at me, eyes squinted and I pray you will have your daddy’s skin always, nary a pimple nor flaw.
Ten is your age, the age of carefree and not caring a second what anyone wants you to look like. You’ve never cared for makeup except for purple eye shadow at 3 (an art project of epic proportions.) I pray you never do. You are slightly older than me when I got my first zit in the second grade. I learned to apply benzoyl peroxide and special green soaps at eight. It was a big deal.
It’s always been a big deal, the layers of makeup to cover up the red bumps. It was the initiation into shame—to hide my skin, to hide my face, to hide ME. Makeup could make me beautiful and desirable and people wouldn’t ask, “What’s wrong with your face?” Because they did.
The glasses and the awkward stages came and went. I was a shadow underneath an artful covering of perfectly blended concealers, base, and powder. I disappeared for a long time. When I think of time, it was just a blink ago when I was you. Of course, you laugh at this because it’s impossible to imagine when you’re in the fourth grade. The 80’s to you are like the 60’s were to me when my mother recounted her stories about pedal pushers and snug capris. I hold your precious face in my palms as a ritual to remind myself of the brevity of these layers we shed.
The people and books left behind, are the ones with scarred stories, stories to be read over and over—the ones from which you can really learn to live well.
All the 600,000 particles of skin you shed each second mean you are changing and you may well get the skin of a your acne-cursed mama. It’s too early to tell. Thank God it’s not the appearance of your face that defines your story. I pray, instead, you believe completely the healing story of the scars your skin and your heart will bear.
You looked at me once as I put on mascara, “Mom, there’s a commercial that has cream to get rid of your spots for only $19.95. I’ll buy it for you.” You saw how the scars tore me in two, the epic daily struggle to leave the house unmasked. Daily you watched how I shut the door when it was time to examined my face in the mirror. I didn’t want you to see the damage. You offered healing ointment so I would be free and see myself as you saw me, unscathed and young.
The scars have not subsided. Sometimes the acne still ravages my face. But you see it all. I let you see my naked skin now because your desire to heal me—it opened up a passion in my soul for showing scars.
It’s the whole book enchilada, the place where the writer and the reader connect through its pages that gives it value.
I guess it’s like when you and your friends gather in the driveway and out-brag each other’s bruises from cart wheels and scooter races. These are the scars you will get from words about what you look like, how your lips are too big, your legs too long, your walk too goofy, your chest too small, and the scars from the people who shun you because they envy you. It will all hurt like a knife in your heart.
I have been there and felt it before you. Know this: the world doesn’t want us to fit in. Not really. Yes, I know it looks exciting and welcoming and shiny. As you live out the pages of your big life novel, you will be bent and torn by the readers, ear-tagged for another day, or just dropped in a bin unfinished, never to be read again. Let me tell you, the forgotten ones, the people and books left behind, are the ones with scarred stories, stories to be read over and over—the ones from which you can really learn to live well.
You know this about me, I love old books, shops full of them, the worn leather bindings, the musty old smell of tomes waiting to be read and carefully fingered. I think you will like them too one day. For one of our dates I will take you to a used bookshop and I will show you the value of the old books under glass. These are the first editions, the rarest of the rare. They are under lock and key to preserve them, to be read with care by the most careful hands and appreciative eyes.
I hold your face in my hand and I see the purity of heart as your compassionate eyes squint above your goofy girl grin.
This is what I want for you. To be handled with love and valued for who you are and how you have lived your life, not by what you look like.
Remember, old is beautiful. Stories are beautiful. The tattered edges and funky smells—these are what make the books wanted. It’s not exactly what’s inside that’s beautiful—it’s the whole book enchilada, the place where the writer and the reader connect through its pages that gives it value. The binding fraying, the careful way you must hold it so it doesn’t splay in your hand. It is marred and well-read and the pages have been touched by many hands over many years. Every hand marks the book just as every word marks the girl.
You see the beauty of age in the ancient book and it tells a well-worn tale, just like me, and just like you, someday. When I starting celebrating my face in the mirror, you witnessed the Ta Da moment and I hope you saw the celebration of scars. This was the start of my growing up gracefully, of seeing my face as God sees me and not caring what anyone thinks.
I hold your face in my hand and I see the purity of heart as your compassionate eyes squint above your goofy girl grin. Oh, that I would only care what you see, dear sweet girl. I wish I could. I think you know where this is going—where the beauty story must always go—to the Face who reflects Light on both of us. It’s His face I see when I see my own in yours, ever pure, ever scarred, ever redeemed. He loves us madly. This is the reality we cling too, my sweet girl.