This feel-good advertisement-slash-documentary recently released by Dove came my way today. Here’s the synopsis from YouTube:
“In partnership with the Sundance Institute, directed by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Cynthia Wade and produced by Sharon Liese, Selfie reveals how we have the power to redefine what is beautiful in all of us. Selfie captures the digital journey of a group of high school girls and their mothers, as they create a new type of selfie – one that celebrates their unique beauty.”
The very first lines of dialogue hit me like a ton of bricks. “My mom wants me to wear make-up because she says it enhances my features.” But, the girl goes on, “I don’t want to wear makeup.”
Sweetheart, I hear you!
Suddenly there I was, reliving my own incredibly sensitive, and incredibly unremarkable adolescence. Like every other teenager before and since, I was self-conscious about my looks. I identified with the plain Janes of story books, with Betty, not Veronica. Mom did not help matters by constantly picking at me. Literally. From the time I was able to produce pimples and blackheads, she was there to eliminate them. Resistance was futile.
Jean worked as the office administrator at my high school. One of the other gals in the office also had a daughter in the same grade as I. Gorgeous, blond, tall, the whole nine yards, including the linebacker for a boyfriend. I, on the other hand, was unattached. Moreover, I had yet to go on a date and the one or two attempts at courtship were brutal for their brevity, awkwardness and shame that lingers still. Ick.
Jean took my single state personally. It was a slam against her abilities as a mom that I was not out there rounding up a mate and moving out of house. This is not idle conjecture. The gorgeous tall blond dating the football player told me so. She had overheard our mothers talking. You can imagine the mortification.
In the spring of the year that I was 17, I was holidaying with a bunch of classmates on a trip to the Canary Islands. One evening we were on the balcony of the hotel suite enjoying the free sangria. One of the bunch wanted to smoke, but needed an ashtray. I offered to get it for her. Up I stood, whirled around and kaBOOM bounced off the plate-glass window of the patio door.
It wasn’t until I was back home and after the swelling went away that I realized that my nose was broken.
Jean was beside herself. Mom wanted me to get my nose fixed. After that, she wanted me to get a boyfriend, get a job, get married and after that… fine, whatever. But first, take care of that nose! She lobbied hard and long and finally prevailed. She scheduled the appointment for day surgery, which was a quick readjustment of the cartilage. She accompanied me to the doctor’s office. On the way, she surprised me with an uncharacteristic moment of sharing. Even though we were alone, she leaned over and whispered, “Don’t tell your father, but I had a nose job before I met him.”
There were no knives, only brute force and considerable grunting and wheezing on the part of the nose-guy, and more mortification for me. The doctor did his best, and whether or not he was qualified we will never know. I went in with a deviated septum and it remains deviant still!
As is the case with so many of the stories of my childhood, it is only now, decades later that I understand. As I was sorting through the photo albums a few years ago, I came across a picture of mom and her siblings. She’s the one with the schnoz.