I have always wanted to be tan. Not just tan, but a perfect bronze color with a splash of pink on my cheeks.
Fresh and sun kissed.
Skin tinted just the right color that radiated health and beauty.
Because that is what being tan does right? Makes you look healthy and beautiful.
I would drag my lawn chair to the back deck and sprawl my young skinny self on the rubbery and super collapsible blue chair, taking special care not to sit up the wrong way or the chair would fold in on me. Carefully I would place the large foam headphones of my yellow walkman on my wet hair blaring Howard Jones into my ears.
I would reach for my magical lotion, a shiny slippery bottle of baby oil. On my paper white skin I would coat every inch with a slick layer of the oil, lie my head back making sure to have my hair fanned out behind me to allow the Sun-In I sprayed earlier to lighten every strand to the color of a Q-tip.
I had no idea what I was doing, except I wanted to be tan. I wanted to look beautiful.
I have never thought of myself as vain. Never been one to chase after beauty or trends as I radically accepted very long ago that people refer to me as “cute”.
Yesterday, the bandage on my face fell off earlier than it was supposed to be removed. I stood in front of the mirror in utter horror as I gazed at the ugly protruding scar forming on my face.
I have never felt uglier. I have never felt more vain as my thoughts turned to plastic surgery and my looks and how would I live with a massive scar down my face? The shock of seeing my face took me to my couch where I sat and cried like a baby.
And I remembered, all the hours spent in that lawn chair covered in baby oil. All the times I checked into the tanning booth. All the sunburns and Solarcaine and the wish for a color that my skin was never capable of producing.
As I write this, I realize not only how vain it sounds, but how untimely it is in a world where the color of your skin can get you shot. And it makes me even more ashamed that this matters to me. It makes me embarrassed that I care so much. But I do.
And I guess you might too.
You might want to feel beautiful too.
Maybe it isn’t being tan like I have always wanted and by the way… never succeeded at.
Maybe you want to be thin, or have certain hair, or a certain amount of money or even a certain look?
Maybe it is the boobs you want? Maybe you want the scars to be hidden and the stretch marks to disappear? Maybe you aren’t vain, but secretly wish for these things.
I think deep down we all do a little bit. At least when you live in America. How can you not?
I took a picture of my mangled face. The place where my skin cancer was removed. The cancer that continuously invades spots all over my body. The result of a body that was never meant to be tan, one that I forced over and over again to be something it isn’t.
I sent the picture to my sister and another friend as I continued to cry. My sweet sister told me to write about it. To tell you, dear friends and to share it with others. To not hide behind the scar.
She is so right.
Whatever beauty mirage you are chasing that is stealing away your time, your thoughts, your passions…let it go!
And let my scar and your scars be a reminder to you, that when we try to be something we are not…it will hurt us.
And then my other friend texted me this: “Your scar is a reminder that you can do hard things.”
Yes. I am not there yet, but she is right.
So instead of worrying about if you are staring at it, or how it looks, or what I will look like now. I am going to see it as a badge. A badge of honor that says I choose to fight. I choose to live in this world where things can hurt me and harm me and they will, but with God’s help, what is more important than my skin or my how I look, is my heart. Is my soul.
And then I invited two dear friends over and we sat on the deck and talked and laughed into the evening. My relationships mean more to me than any pretty look ever will.
Who I am in this world and who I am to God, is worth more than any magazine or beauty cream can offer me. Scars and all.
Won’t you join me instead of searching for beauty like the Holy Grail, let’s celebrate our scars and focus instead on loving each other and ourselves for who we are. I am trying, won’t you join me?
Oh and p.s. for the love of everything that is holy…see my face as a reminder to wear sunscreen! Always!!!