Beauty Unraveled, Part 1
Updated: Feb 16, 2019
“She never seemed shattered; to me, she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battles she’s won.” -Matt Baker
The elements of a thing aren’t what make it beautiful. Rather, the lack of all the elements one considers ugly.
The first time I can remember my dad telling me I was beautiful was when I was 16 years old. I remember the day because it was like all the things I had been hoping for had come together in such a nightmarish way, that I was still reeling from it all. I smelled bacon. To this day, my dad is known for huge breakfast feasts with pancakes AND waffles, bacon AND sausage AND potatoes AND eggs. The slide lock at the top of the French doors to my bedroom rattled and the door squeaked as he slowly turned the knob and whispered “Wake up sleeping beauty!”
I’m sure he’d called me beautiful dozens of times before. I just can’t remember them. Maybe because so many of the words that surrounded his endearments up to that day rang of inconvenience and obligation. I don’t know. Either way, I floated from my bed on a cloud of favor and significance. Never mind the fact that my parents (my dad and step-mom) had separated days before, my brother and sister had gone to live with her. My dad’s broken spirit was palpable, not to mention how the emptiness of our house personified all that I was feeling. I was finally living the life I had wanted. It was just me and my daddy. All of the loneliness, the open wounds left from not being protected, the fear of never being understood, the dull ache of rejection… things could be different. When I think back on it now, the unfairness of that joy, intertwined with the situation, threatens to reopen that wound. I feel robbed of that moment because it couldn't have happened any other way. I feel guilty for loving it so much.
I wanted it all. I wanted parents who enjoyed spending time with me. I wanted to be more than a built in babysitter. I wanted to be celebrated for who I was, not some unreachable ideal of a child. I wanted them to hug me when I came home crying from a rough day at school, not tell me to get thicker skin. I wanted to feel like I was a part of the family, not the only child left over from a failed marriage. I wanted to know my value and be able to hold onto it even when everything else was being pawned. I wanted those things, plus the things I didn't even know I could want. Things no one taught me to want. I believed at my core, that if I could wash away all of my imperfections (all of the ugly) that I’d be easier to love. If I could be lovable, I could finally feel important.
Isn’t that what beauty comes down to? Value? Importance? Flawless diamonds are expensive. It’s their lack of impurity that we consider beautiful. My desire to captivate others with my beauty went so much deeper than being noticed, but I didn’t recognize it then. What I felt was worthless. I believed the labels that were assigned to me and they added to the contamination of my self-worth. I wanted to be beautiful because beauty causes people to pause in wonder. They stop to think about the creator of it -- of how that thing came to be. People weren’t stopping to wonder anything about me. If they didn’t know me, they assumed. And if they did know me, their interpretation of who I was, was based on a comparison to themselves. Plus, I didn’t know who I was. So I read the script they wrote. I lured spectators by becoming their definitions of beauty. I became so many people that I never knew... (to be continued, NEXT WEEK)