A few days ago I was plucking my eyebrows, and my daughter M came in, stared at me for a moment, and said, “What’re you doing?”
“Plucking my eyebrows.”
Why? Well, because a group of people decided, at some point, that the eyebrows I have aren’t good enough, despite the fact that they are perfectly functional eyebrows. I know I shouldn’t care, but I spend a ridiculous amount of time grooming them, and they still look awful. I only like them when someone else waxes them, but I can’t afford that. “But Kathryn,” you might say, “You could do it yourself!” No, no I can’t. I have little in the way of depth perception or keeping things level, and if I still want to have eyebrows, I need to stay away from anything that would remove them completely. Thus, I pluck, and it hurts like hell. I hate it, yet I do it.
Why do I put myself through this? Why do I do something that I hate, that hurts? I mean, it’s not like when I walk outside, people scream, “Dear god, that woman is being attacked by millipedes!” Yet, when I do go out, there’s this little voice in the back of my mind saying, Everyone’s looking at me. They’re thinking, she’s too fat, too pale, her hair could be better, and she has fuzzy eyebrows.
I know this isn’t true, really. Everyone else is so busy with their own lives and insecurities, I’m sure they’re not looking at me at all. However, I just can’t help it. Too many years of being inundated with media and taunting leave that little voice stuck there. I’d give anything to be rid of it, and to just like what I am, but instead, I’m back in the bathroom with tweezers.
M asked if she’d have to do that, and I told her she should do whatever she pleases. I know she’s watching me, learning that that’s not really true, because after all, I do it.
Today, we were driving through the neighborhood, and stopped to let a woman cross. She was quite a large woman, with hair pulled messily into a ponytail, ill-fitting sweats and huge glasses. The kind of woman people make fun of, I know. The kind people snicker at in cars as she walks by.
M, in the backseat, smiled and waved, then said, “Oh, Mama! Did you see that lady just now? She’s so beautiful!”
I was startled. “Why do you think so?”
“Well, look at her. She has beautiful dark hair and such a big smile. I’m sure she’s nice. And she looks like she’s enjoying her walk. I bet she’d be fun to walk with.”
I had to let that sink in. Leave it M to see beauty everywhere. Leave it to her to see what really mattered–her beautiful smile and how kind she looked. I sat there, humbled, thinking about how little I saw. Thinking about how I should look for other things.
Once, one of my first graders told me I was pretty, and when I thanked her, she added, “You’re beautiful because whenever you smile, I know you love me.”
Sometimes I just need to stop and remember that, and to remember that maybe more people see the world the way M does, in shades of beauty and kindness.