reverb10 Prompt: Beautifully Different

Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

Last weekend, we were having dinner with friends, and got on to the subject of how unattractive we all were as teenagers. It was almost a game of one-upping the other: “I had braces.” “Yeah, well I had braces and zits!”

I allowed as how I had been “tragic” and my friend turned to me and said, raising her glass, “Yeah, but the swan happened.”

I was nearly struck speechless. What a nice thing to say!

When I was younger, I was tragically unattractive. Skinny and flat-chested, with super pale skin covered in freckles, a high forehead and really bad teeth. All things that sorted themselves out and ended up being huge advantages – I’m naturally thin now, with the right amount of curve to my body to be exactly my husband’s ‘type.’ The forehead was balanced by my jaw later on, and I have a pretty, petite, but strong profile now. The freckles, well, I’ve made peace with them and I’ve learned that they are why people never forget my face. The swan did happen.

Oddly enough, this is my mother’s maiden name. She is a Swan. A Black Scot. That whole side of the family is tall, with jet black hair, light eyes and pale skin. As a teen, I was sure I had been given the short end of the stick by getting my father’s Red Scot coloring. And yet, when I look at black-and-white photos of her, I can start to see where I look like her. It’s nothing specific. It’s a silhouette, and a posture. If you put black-and-white photos of us at the same age up side by side, you’d see that we are mother and daughter – where as in color, we look too different. In that way, the Swan happened there too.

All in all, the fact that I spent so long as a completely unattractive girl has made me suspicious of beauty. I don’t fuss or primp. I’m very wash-and wear. I’m not sure how exactly things worked out like that – if you’d have asked me at 16 what I’d do if I woke up beautiful I would not have said “I’ll eschew makeup and hardly ever wear a bra.” I would have said “If you got it, flaunt it!” I would not have guessed that I’d end up a person who appreciates natural, accidental beauty and can’t stand the plastic-looking people in the magazines. You know, “as-is beauty.”

I like that phrase. As it so happens it came up on a blog I read the same day as this prompt. I think it’s my new favorite thing. I’ll let her do the talking…

hello friends! yesterday we stopped at Bad Lands National Park in south dakota which was too incredibly beautiful.. and after that, saw lots of natural woods driving. all the trees looked different than the city trees which i usually saw. here the natural ones are looking old, tired and some are totally dead. but beautiful i felt. i often think of “beauty”. i know there are many kinds of beauty in this world. in the fashion field there is cool-beauty, cute-beauty, sexy-beauty, avant-garde-beauty.. more more. and i often realize that i am attracted by “as-it-is-beauty”. have you ever felt this- if you keep wearing and washing your favorite t-shirt for years, the colors get discolored and the material gets old, but still you keep loving that change year by year. i like to keep the nice new dress as it is too, but sometimes love the change. i feel like clothes are living their own lives and getting old just like we humans. they are even changing to fit on you. everything in this world is mutable (sho-gyo-mu-jo in japanese). when some old people looked so beautiful to me, i felt it was impossible for me to get that beauty. because they have taken time to get it in their lives. i remember, my friend who passed away 1 year ago was so beautiful for several months at the end of her life. she had absolutely her own beauty and i was moved by its strength, which was of course her strength. i would like to respect the beauty as it is.

I wish I could go back to that freckle-and-braces faced teen and whisper in her ear: “Respect the as-is beauty.”

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