I am not beautiful.
My sister is a beauty—small-boned, porcelain-complected, silk-haired. Then my sister and I joke that it’s my brother who got all the pretty. He’s taller and has that spark. The three of us do come from two fetching people.
I am not beautiful. (And don’t tell me I am—my dimples and lack of height get me by.)
I am not old, either, but lately age pops up—with no soft grace. It’s a single rod of steely gray in a sea of my brown (it’s still brown!) hair, a new spot, a tweaking hip.
Age defies gravity, time and all the products that promise “firmer, younger, better.” Sometimes it’s alarming. Sometimes it’s sneaky. This week, it was clear and black and white.
Tucker was drawing and asked me to pose for him. “Look up and smile,” he said.
And he drew my face, with an unforgiving black marker. If it were a tube of mascara, it would be the “very black” black. He gave me big eyes, an even bigger nose and really great hair. He even got the flippant pieces that fly every which way just right. And then his honest hand drew three thick, parallel lines across my forehead. Crap, I thought.
“Whoa,” I said.
“What?” he said.
“Those lines are that big, huh?”
He felt guilty and launched into other try. This time, my forehead was line-free, but he drew in two deep lines from the outside of my nose down to the edge of my mouth. My hand went to that spot and traced the reality.
“Let me do another one,” he said, feeling awful.
“I love what you drew,” I lied. “You drew it right. Mommy earned those lines.”
I have. Emotion is physical. I feel with my face. I listen with my forehead. I think with my bottom lip in my teeth. I rub worry into my cheeks.
They say the eyes are the soul’s port of entry, but I say story is in the skin.
I didn’t use sunscreen as a sun-worshipping teen. I went too long without glasses. I go to bed late and wake up early. I frown a little and laugh a lot. I have proof.
I also have Case.
Case tells me every single day, sometimes several times a day, that I’m beautiful. Sometimes he’ll tell me in the morning, when I’m still in my pajamas, without a stitch on my face. Sometimes he’ll tell me when I’m fussing over a skillet and he’s scooching his stool into the kitchen to help me with dinner. Sometimes he’ll tell me when we’re singing or arguing in the car and we meet eyes in the mirror. He always tells me when I need to hear it. It’s another way he says “I love you.”
And I’m realizing that being beautiful is nothing about being beautiful.
It does not mean that I’ll quit clipping coupons for anti-aging serums or stop obsessing about my eyebrows. It doesn’t mean that I won’t be trying to squash dessert calories with push-ups or skimp on eating the super fruits that promise mini miracles.
It just means that this skin I’m in, the one I’ve never loved and occasionally regretted, is more lovely than ever. This same skin with age spots and history and purpose. Because it’s beautiful to someone.