I have always marveled at people who are disfigured or disabled and are able to mingle among the rest of society. Even as a six year old child I wondered about one girl at my elementary school who looked and acted differently than the majority of kids. Her name was Millie; she was tall and lanky and ran sort of funny. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Millie was mildly retarded. I remember fuming with anger when kids would taunt her, call her “cooty-bug”, and run away from her during recess. Millie left my school after her first year there.
As a nurse, I’ve seen hundreds of people who do not fit the definition of classic beauty: people with limbs lost or that are paralyzed, people with burn scars, or born with genetic syndromes, even people who develop abnormalities like tremors or shifted teeth due to the side effects of medications they take to survive.
What I believe is that imperfections create the uniqueness that defines our individual beauty. I have come to abhor the commercials for anti-aging injections and creams that are pushed on women, even in their 30’s. The rubber-stamped look of “perfection” and symmetry makes me shiver.
I especially esteem people with who, despite being unable to walk, see, or speak, work and live among us and actually often smile during the day.
One woman I know named Teresa was struck by a drunk driver when she was 10 years old, leaving her with brain damage and permanent disabilities, including the loss of speech. Teresa gets the sweetest look on her face and smiles at me whenever I see her. There is no beauty beyond a smile like hers.
Another woman, named Maurin, can’t see me, but she too, smiles whenever she hears my voice or feels my hand holding hers. My heart wants to burst sometimes at the joy I feel when I look at her beautiful smile.
I believe that many of us, especially American women, waste a lot of emotions, time, and money feeling we are not “enough”: not pretty enough or thin enough or stylish enough. If the time, money and energy spent on trying to be more beautiful was shared with others around us who would benefit, what a wonderful movement that would be. Remember that old saying? “Beauty is as beauty does”.
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