photo from a business trip to Punta Cana in 2010, my hair pulled back.
Currently, I'm taking a Literature class and writing all of these essays and saving them in Word, never to be read again. Just this once, however, I am going to share the last half of my assignment today. I was asked to analyze the identity of a character from Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Birthmark" and then write about my own similar experiences with identity. I'll leave out the analysis portion, but here is something you might not know about me...
I have felt the sharp sting of a young man’s critique several times in my life. I often wonder why it is that I can remember the words of nitpicky judgments more than I can remember a compliment and why I had to let the negativity shape my identity, even making me ashamed of certain aspects of myself. The first of these critical observations came from a boy at church of whom I had a crush in middle school. He told me I looked funny with my hair pulled back in a ponytail. I blew it off, of course. I might have slapped him on the arm (I hope it was a good, hard slap). However small the remark seemed at the time, it has managed to weave itself permanently into my being. For many years, I avoided pulling my hair back unless absolutely necessary and I had many inner conversations, doing my best to convince myself that that dumb boy was absolutely clueless and he had no room to talk because he was not perfect either. Twenty-five years later, I confidently don a ponytail, but his words are still a soft whisper and maybe even the reason I pull a few wisps of hair out to soften around my face (although I hate to admit it).
Fortunately for me, I was not raised with the intention of becoming an ideal wife, like Hawthorne’s character, Georgiana, or if my parents did have that intention, I was certainly too stubborn to fit the bill. Unlike Georgiana, I did not allow myself to obsess with my imperfections, at least for very long, and any man who was happy enough to point out my flaws was soon shown to the door. One lesson learned in Hawthorne’s story is that sometimes our imperfections are really what make us beautiful and unique. It’s hard sometimes, to see my wrinkles, the mole behind my knee, my perfectly round head, and my crooked tooth as beautiful imperfections, especially these days when technology allows us to change whatever we don’t like about ourselves, but for the most part I do feel beautiful. My definition of beauty has changed over the years and has become more encompassing and accepting. It is more inner than outer. In spite of those harsh judgments in my life, I learned to love myself, even in a ponytail. And I married a man who loves my hair pulled away from my face.