I Can’t See You… 

 Purple flower with a smart phone. 

I first realized I was ugly in fourth grade. 

Our class pictures had been sent home. 

My parents rarely, if ever, bought any photos through the school but for some reason they had decided on the class photo that year. For once I had not been singled out as the only kid who did not receive an envelope. I eagerly tore it open so I could get a good look at myself. There were no pictures of me up around the house. No photo albums. I had no idea how I looked on film.

My fantasy was that I was graceful and dainty and beautiful. My face would glow angelicly from the photo paper, offset perfectly by the golden shimmer of my hair. Parents would ask their daughters to tell them who this stunning vision was exactly and demand that they befriend me. My lonely days would soon be over.

That was not my reality.

In fact, I was standing in the back. Tall compared to the other girls, my head and shoulders stuck up awkwardly, towering over the stylish haircuts and ribbon tied pony tales and swirly, lacy dresses. 

My hair was stringy and mousy, in need of a wash. My hair was long, to my waist because I was not allowed to cut it. My smile looked goofy, lopsided and self concious. I was in jeans, wearing a boxy light sea foam green shirt with a white snap front. It had been my favorite at the time. Comfortable. Never mind the fact that it had come from the second hand store like the rest of my wardrobe. I had loved that shirt.

I never wore it again.

My cheeks flushed and eyes stung with shame. The familiar lump caught in my throat.

I wanted to rip up that godawful ugly photo. I wanted to erase myself from everyone else’s pictures. I never wanted to go back to that stupid private school again. 

Everyone had surely seen it.

My mother saw that I was upset. When I told her how embarrassed I was, she shrugged and laughed. “You are just being silly. You are very…” She paused searching for the right adjective, “You are very pretty.” 

What? How could she say that? Pretty? I looked downright mangey. She was certifiably insane. Clearly, I could not trust her.

That was the day that I learned not to believe complements from her or from anyone else. They were meaningless. 

Maybe this happens to us all? There is that moment when the world loses credibility? I felt myself shrink up as I retreated further inside my shell. It would be years before I ever tried to come out again…


181 thoughts on “I Can’t See You… 

  1. What a beauty you turned out to be, Victo Dolore, and I don’t even need a photograph. I never liked the way I looked in any picture, school-taken or otherwise. Parent-directed crewcut, eyeglasses because of my lazy eye that turned in when I was tired and really couldn’t see much, strain on my face from carrying the worry of that around with me. The operation at age 9 strengthened the muscles, but the resulting mandator eye patch every few hours every day didn’t work getting any sight back in that “bad eye.” Finally at age 13 or so I talked the eye doc into giving up the glasses and I thought my photos looked better. I wonder now how the kids who always loved the way they looked in their photos always turned out. Wait. I wonder now if there were any kids who always loved the way they looked in their photos, Doc.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Those gawd awful pictures!!!! I can still see the one when I wore a weird plaid yellow vest~~~jumpsuit~~~? Whatever it was, it was hideous and guess what? The following year *the same suit but in purple*!!! What were people thinking? And the quality of the photographer? Are you kidding me? Can you say “lackluster”? Now my kids can take their own photo with their iPhone, doctor it up (pun just for you), and be happy. In this situation, our culture is sooooo much more merciful ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I would have been standing right beside you with my mousey brown hair. I was tall and awkward and plain. In grade 3 I started wearing glasses, a not-so-stylish pair of beauty enhancing cat-eyes. It has taken me a long time, and a 15-year battle with mental illness, to finally love myself. Thank God I have a sense of humour!

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  4. Most class photos for kids grade 4-6 are not good! It’s an awkward age, losing random teeth, growing in awkward increments! Not good. I would bet many other kids also were less than impressed with their photos.

    Reading people’s comments on Facebook, telling other’s how fantastic they look when it is an obviously mediocre photo of that person makes me doubt any compliments!

    That being said, I do now appreciate me and my looks for what they are, better or worse. There is a certain power in being over 40 and even more in being over 50! At some point we all have to accept that we are basically given a certain body & face and all we can do is take the best care of it we can, be fit, be healthy, be groomed, be yourself and try to appreciate and embrace what your body does well.

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  5. This post made me so sad! 😦 I wanted to reach right through the computer and give you a great big hug. I hope you know now that you are beautiful, and that beauty starts from the soul and emits outward. And you, my doctorly friend, have one of the most beautiful souls I have the pleasure of knowing. *HUG* xoxo ❤

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  6. Pingback: Ugliness | Behind the White Coat

      • Yes as children we don’t really analyze, we just react. I remember a cousin of mine remembered something negative his father had said for a long, long time. And his father had not even known that his son had remembered his words, in fact I think he did not even realize his statement had a negative effect.

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  7. My partner’s an amateur photographer, and we’ve noticed that men, in general, are comfortable having their picture taken, and women tend to worry about how they look. Because women have been taught that it matters almost above everything else, and men haven’t. Looking at a picture of myself, I pick it apart, as you describe doing, element-of-self by element-of-self. I’m teaching myself to ask not How do I look? but If it were of someone else, would I like it?

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  8. School pictures are notorious for being awful. I think it’s a test for parents… do you love your kid enough to pay money for that hideous photo? 🙂 So don’t beat yourself up too much for being critical of your look then. And by now I’m sure you’ve learned so much more matters in life than what appears to the eye. I can see from your photos you understand true beauty.

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  9. It really is so hard being a kid. I remember me and my best friend were the tallest kids in our 6th grade class, but she was cute, and had a brilliant personality and everyone adored her. Me, I had long red curly hair, couldn’t have any of the cute wedge haircuts, because as my mother put it, I looked like an “upside down Aster”. I had paper-white skin, a faint Australian accent, freckles and people thought I was aloof, stand-offish and had big feet (could only wear men’ shoes). Awful – now that I think about it. Thanks for jostling those memories awake, my blogging friend!!!!!!

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      • Don’t worry, they weren’t that bad, I just hadn’t thought about it in such a long time. I wanted to be one of those girls with the blue eyes and the golden tans and the blonde hair – but it was not to be. I had a lovely childhood despite the curly red hair and freckles.
        PS. I thoroughly enjoy your blog!!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Are you crazy???? Red hair, freckles and fair skin is a curse I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Getting called Carrot top, Red, Freckle face. I had a kid ask me one time if I had a skin disease because of all the freckles. Still have freckles, but now I like them, of course my hair for some strange reason has turned platinum blonde (my grandmother’s did the same). I think I will start wearing purple (from the book/poem When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple) and grow my hair really long, and if I become wealthy (which is highly unlikely), people will think I am eccentric.

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      • How funny – we both went the other direction – bet it looks great!!!!!! Funny thing is, I tried to dye my hair back to red, but the dye wouldn’t stick, so I am stuck with blond. I guess everything cycles around and if you wait long enough you will get what you want. Strange how things work that way!!!!!

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