My mom called it an angel kiss.
When you were in my belly, the angels loved you so much, they kissed you and left a mark, so that you would remember how special you are.
My Uncle Scott called it part of my oodles of cuteness.
But then there was a classmate of mine in the first grade who called it a purple dinosaur, and somehow, that’s what stuck.
I have a port wine birthmark on my nose.
I’ve had it for my entire life. I used to have one on the side of my cheek, too, but that has since disappeared because my parents, ever the champions for their children, were told by doctors to take me for laser surgery so they could get rid of my birthmark.
At the time, they said the birthmark made me have a higher risk for skin cancer.
Whether that’s true or not anymore, I’m honestly not quite sure. That was never the focus of my surgeries for me – after all, I was five.
I just knew that these surgeries hurt and that they were scary. I would have to lie on the operating table and wear goggles that they stuffed with gauze so that I couldn’t see.
I would hold my dad’s hand real tight and dig my nails into his skin so that I wouldn’t cry.
I wanted to be brave.
I wanted to be like everyone else.
I wanted to be beautiful, like all of my friends.
My birthmark made me different. And after I underwent surgery, it made me even more unusual – my skin would scab, it was raw, and an angry reddish, purple color. Hence the phrase, purple dinosaur.
But I kept going because the promise of beauty and similarity was on the other side of that laser. And I wanted to be beautiful like everyone else.
As I grew older, my “skin” sort of thickened to any of the mean comments that would be hurled my way in the aftermath of surgeries. But just because your skin thickens to hurtful works, doesn’t mean that they don’t sting. You just learn how to navigate through the pain – and I learned how to hide my scars.
Dermablend was my best friend – at the time it was like the mother of all concealers – thick as spackle, and completely covered my birthmark.
And yet, even with the makeup, I never felt beautiful. I always, always, always felt inadequate. People always used to tell me, what do you mean you have a birthmark? I can’t even really see it.
And yet, I always saw it.
I still see it.
My one year wedding anniversary is at the end of the month, and one of the ways I knew my fiancé was the one had to do with my birthmark.
I remember telling my mom, “he looks at me like I’m the most beautiful woman in the room, even when my birthmark isn’t covered.”
Maybe it sounds cheesy to you, but there’s something quite special about being able to feel fully loved and seen, just as you are, without hiding your skin, without wearing a stitch of makeup.
For those of us who try to hide our marks, there’s a certain kind of intimacy in that.
Last year, my husband (fiancé at the time) and I went to see Ready Player One when it came to theaters. Now, I’m a sucker for a love story, 80s and 90s pop culture references, and the magical storytelling powers of Steven Spielberg – that’s a given.
But what stuck with me was that the leading female character, Art3mis/Samantha, had a birthmark.
That’s right – a birthmark! A big, beautiful, unusual birthmark. And it wasn’t scary. And it wasn’t ugly. And it wasn’t raw and angry looking. And it wasn’t on her leg or her ankle, or someplace they could hide it with clothing.
She had a birthmark on her face.
On. Her. Face.
And it made my heart happier than I had ever expected, for I had never seen that before – a leading lady and love interest with a birthmark that was “pretty,” or “beautiful.”
I’m a grown woman, and yet, in that movie theatre, I was in first grade again. But this time, I felt beautiful. This time, I felt powerful. This time, I didn’t care that my classmate called me a purple dinosaur – because, for the first time, it didn’t feel like it was something to hide.
I still tend to wear some make up every day.
Now, it’s BB cream. Or foundation. Or concealer. Or even a little bit of spackle if my undereye circles are particularly dark. Sometimes it’s all of the above. But now, it’s fun. And that’s the difference. Now, I do it for me, because I want to, not because I want to hide my mark.
It’s not always easy to love the skin that you’re in – we can make putting ourselves down, or envying others a sport if we’re not careful.
But that won’t fuel you.
It won’t make you feel better.
It’s not a sport you can win, either.
The older I get, the more I realize that self-love is a journey.
Sometimes it’s a smooth road, and we can see all of the beauty that surrounds us.
Sometimes we have to be patient, and give ourselves the grace to stand in front of a mirror, and tell ourselves that there is beauty staring back.
Sometimes we have to be open and allow ourselves to see the beauty that’s within us reflected in other people – like when you’re watching a movie on the big screen.
But no matter where you are, or who you’re looking at, it’s imperative to remember that beauty looks different in each of us. There is nothing to cover, only uniqueness to celebrate.