From as early as I can remember, my mother would say to me, “You’re not just a pretty face, Chicken Lips.”
I was always utterly heartbroken to hear this. “But I am a pretty face,” I’d whimper back, my bottom lip aquiver. Being only three, I didn’t understand the whole ‘not just’ part of the sentence, and therefore believed my mother was repeatedly telling me that I had a three year old mug that not even a mother could love—with Chicken Lips to boot.
Well into my self-loathing teens, it dawned on me that Mum had been saying I was both smart and pretty. Isn’t that sweet? However, by then the damage had been done: I’d already decided to polish my intelligence rather than cash in on my good looks. Which is why, when I was approached by a high-profile model management company in the street one day, I had to tell them “Thanks, but no thanks.” The primary reason for my decision to turn them down was that this incident never actually happened in real life. (It was my face, wasn’t it?)
There must’ve been such freedom in parenting before human psychology was a widely understood concept. Nowadays, parents tiptoe around their children’s’ self esteem, cheer on every bodily secretion with unbridled encouragement and frankly, don’t smack the bastards upside the head when they need it. What does the future hold for these generations of children with untainted, psychologically immaculate childhoods?
The same as always, I say. Because no matter how protected a person is, it only takes one silly misunderstanding to create a lifetime of ugly. Personality quirks and self esteem issues can be formed by the most mundane events: a laughing friend in the schoolyard (it wasn’t at you), a parent crying (it wasn’t your fault), a teacher’s abrasive criticism (her early onset of menopause had nothing to do with your macaroni artwork.)
So the next time somebody hurts your feelings, try not to take it to heart. It’s probably just a misunderstanding.
For instance, I recently saw a family ‘friend’ at a party and he told me that my hair appears to be thinning. Bless him. No, it isn’t thinning hair (I hope!) but I did attempt to tame my unruly hair texture with $300 worth of permanent straightening. I limped away from the conversation feeling pretty damn fugly, before realizing he was actually complimenting me!
… I mean … I’m certain he was, it’s just a cryptic compliment, right? “Your hair seems to be thinning.” With my polished intelligence, I’m sure I’ll soon figure it out.