When I was 6 years old I was so jealous of another girl’s beauty that first I cut off her hair and then I tried to kill her.
Yes, you read that right.
No, it is not an exaggeration.
Friends, this is why I was a
little scared terrified to start sharing the lies I’ve believed but whatever, i’m doing this because of a request from God, not to win your approval so let’s proceed. (Quick disclaimer: if you are jumping in on my blog for the very first time, you might want to head on back to this post to quickly bring yourself up to speed.)
PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE
Her name was Charlie. Her parents were going through a bit of a rough spot so my parents offered to let her stay at our house for a bit. I didn’t know Charlie very well but it didn’t take me long to decide that I didn’t like her. I don’t recall Charlie directly doing anything to make me not like her. What she did do was redirect my parents attention off of me and on to her. I stood back and saw my mom and dad fussing over her, attending to her needs, talking about how cute she was and all kinds of revolting things. I didn’t really get it because Charlie had just barely arrived and I’d be there like, forever, so what in the world would make my parents suddenly change sides like that?
Clearly, my perspective as an adult shines a laser beam of clarity on the situation. In an effort to make Charlie feel comfortable in what must have been a potentially sad or scary situation, my parents went above and beyond to shower her with welcome. My 6 year old self did not understand this. What I did know was that suddenly I was playing second fiddle to the new North Star. In my feeble attempt to rationalize their behavior I scrutinized the situation. What I saw was illuminating. Charlie was in fact very pretty and she possessed the most remarkable blond, curly hair that I’d ever seen. As I reflected on my own appearance, it was painfully clear that my straight brown hair could never compare. The lie stealthily slipped in: the pretty girls get all the attention.
BEAUTY SCHOOL DROPOUT
As I worked over this new realization, my youthful mind offered up a most obvious solution: I need to cut off all her curls.
Approaching Charlie with scissors in hand, I casually suggested that we play a game of beauty school. She happily agreed and as she sat down before me, I proceeded to cut off
With each snip of my scissors, Charlie’s bouncy Shirley Temple-ese appearance transformed before my eyes. Job complete, she ran off to showcase her new bob to my mom while I stared at the limp ringlets laying at my feet.
I don’t exactly know what I expected to transpire when my mother first saw what I had done, but it did not play out as I had hoped. Somehow, unbelievably, my parent’s attention was not remotely swayed by the removal of her curly locks. If anything, it increased. Incredulous, I dug down deeper. If removing her curls didn’t work, perhaps removing her would.
I don’t know any way to delicately proceed here. I want to tell you that I really was a sweet, tender-hearted girl. I want to assure you that I won’t try to hide behind the safety cloak of “innocent youth” because the truth is, I knew what I was doing. I may not have fully understood the immense and far-reaching implications of my actions. However, our family had slaughtered chickens for meat and killed wild game for dinner. I understood that dead things don’t come back. Therein lied it’s appeal.
Knowing what needed to be done was one thing.
Figuring out how to do it was another.
Trust me when I say that my weapon of choice has revisited me countless times since that day. I remember coaching my own young children on the danger of placing a plastic bag over their head and simultaneously feeling the stabbing remorse of my own depravity. In my youthful desperation, I reached for the one thing my own mother had warned me about: a plastic bag. I don’t know what lie I must have told to get poor Charlie to sit in front of me once again. I do remember placing the plastic bread bag over her head and gently holding the base around her neck.
I stood there watching her, calm and trusting. Her breath slowly inflating the bag to form a large bubble and then deflating, sucking tight against her small lips.
I’m not sure how long this went on or what made me stop. Did she start to complain? Did my conscience get the better of me? Thank the Lord of heaven above that some form of intervention occurred. However, the fact that I didn’t go through with it does not negate the fact that I tried. It was within both my power and my intention to end Charlie’s little life. And why? Because I saw her beauty as a threat to my parent’s love for me.
IT’S NOT OVER YET
I’d like to say it ended here. That my parents and I identified that lie, combatted it with God’s truth and my insecurities melted away as I rested in the assurance of being God’s special child. But I can’t.
An unobtainable ideal of beauty had been cleverly placed before me and I swallowed the lie.
I had brown hair, yet now I wished for blonde.
My hair was straight, I pined for curls.
Beauty it seemed was hopelessly outside of my grasp. Or was it?
Sure, I may have been born with brown hair but that was merely a complication, I was not without resources. I’d gathered information here and there in snippets of conversations. From what I had ascertained, bleach was the answer to my hair color problem. Lucky enough, we even had some in the bathroom.
It didn’t take long to find the bottle of Clorox next to the bathroom towels. With the door closed I diluted the beach with some water in a squirt bottle and applied it to my hair.
Oh glorious disappointment.
My beautiful golden hair did not appear.
Bleach had done nothing for me. I’d have to set that aspiration aside for the time being. Perhaps focusing on improving a different part of my appearance would suffice. My teeth perhaps?
A friend of mine had recently gotten a retainer to help correct her crooked teeth. As soon as I heard the news I wanted one. Never mind that she said her mouth was sore and she hated it, I wanted a retainer something fierce. Unfortunately, my teeth are very, very straight. No matter. That was only a minor complication.
After spending some investigative time in my loft bedroom, I unearthed just the solution—a small rubber bracelet. Carefully folding the lavender bracelet in half, I placed the upper portion behind my top lip and the lower portion behind my bottom lip. The result was quite stunning. Provided conversation was not necessary, my homemade retainer was both pain-free and attractive. It was not however, permanent.
This got my mind to churning. Perhaps there could be a way to offer my smile a more lasting pop of color. Something eye catching that wouldn’t need to be removed for things like eating, talking and brushing my teeth. And then I had it. The solution was in fact, ridiculously obvious—nail polish!
Returning to the bathroom and closing the door I hoisted myself up to examine myself in the mirror. This was going look amazing. The pink that I chose was perfect. Not too dark as to draw unnecessary attention but shimmery enough to add that little special something when I flashed you a big toothy grin. I may not have had prior experience in painting teeth but it didn’t take a fool to realize that you need to start with a dry surface. With one hand I suspended my upper lip and with the other I dried my palate throughly. Applying the polish was quick and easy and the effect on my smile was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I could’t believe it was so simple.
Taking care to keep my upper lip tucked high so as to allow full drying time, I casually made my way into the kitchen. My mom was going to be so surprised!
I would pay money to witness this event unfold before my eyes. Time has unfairly stripped the details I’d be so interested to know. In a recent conversation with my mom I asked her what she remembered. She said, “I was totally shocked when you walked out of the bathroom with pink teeth!” When I asked how we removed it she said, “I think we just scrapped it off with our fingernails.“
By now, I’d failed to make any significant changes to my appearances and my hair and teeth were woefully average. I was running out of options. Fortunately, I started getting headaches which lead my mom to the best suggestion yet, “Heather, maybe you need glasses.”
Yes. Yes I did.
Glasses were exactly what I needed.
I was filled with a blessed assurance of my optical needs well before I ever sat down behind the strange vision testing machine. My only concern was if the eye doctor understood the situation fully. In order to help him do his job with increased confidence I played a little game.
Whenever it was asked me to choose between two lens strengths, I went with the blurrier option.
“Option 1 or 2?” He would ask.
“Option A or B?”
This game continued for quite some time until finally the doctor announced with confidence, “I think I know exactly what you need.” He brought out a case filled with little round lenses and proceeded to select two from the upper corner of the box. Affixing the lenses inside a pair of temporary frames, he placed them on my face.
When he then asked me to repeat the previous “1, 2, A, B” options, I was remarkably surprised how well I could see through these glasses and I was only too happy to comply. When we’d run through the battery of questions the doctor invited my mother into the room.
“Well?” she inquired, “Does she need glasses?”
“Ma’am, I’m happy to report that your daughter has excellent vision and does not in fact need glasses!” he responded.
What I was only too horrified to discover was that he had tricked me by placing clear, ordinary, nothing-special, lenses on my face! What a disappointment.
EMBRACING THE LIE
As I got older my options for comparison broadened. There was the Sweet Valley High book series which featured—are you ready for this—twin girls with long curly blond hair. I devoured this series dreaming not only of the sisterhood which they shared and I lacked as an only girl, but also the physical beauty which they enjoyed. Seventeen magazine arrived once a month showing me of how I could be more stylish, more attractive, more, oh I don’t know, like someone else?
It would be quite some time before I was able to recognize that I was embracing a lie that sought to destroy me.
My story continues next week. Until then, have you ever swallowed a self destructive lie? I’d love for you to share with me.