Goodbye, Bonnebell

Lela - Greenwood Springs, Mississippi
Entered on September 16, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Goodbye, Bonnebell

As I was thumbing through old elementary school pictures, I realized something I never had before: not until the past two or so years had I learned to smile. Now, I know that this sounds utterly ridiculous; after all, smiling is an in-born trait.

I remember being in elementary, and most especially middle school, on picture day, trying to doll myself up, trying to dazzle! I had a haughty attitude, but underneath this conceited façade, I was terribly self-conscious. I was a touch overweight; I had large caterpillarish eyebrows that I wanted so badly to wax and a million other imperfections which chipped away at my confidence daily. So what did I do? How did I deal with this complex? It’s simple: Bonnebell lip gloss, lots of it and the sparklier the better. Take that, low self-esteem! But try as I did (oh, so hard) I never could measure up to my own standards when those fateful envelopes were delivered, or any other time, really. I was never satisfied with my looks or myself as a whole, and it really showed. My portraits always had me looking drugged, always with a lazy eye, and always with a forced smile. I never did understand why it happened, this total facial misrepresentation. I mean I practiced smiling in line. I had it down pat, or so I thought.

Junior High came and went, and maybe it was the eyebrow wax, or maybe just a confidence boost that comes with turning teenage, but I began to be more comfortable in my own skin, and the more comfortable I became, the better the school pictures began to look. Curious. Also, I began developing myself as my own person, and I started realizing who I was and what I liked, what I believed in. Sometime or another, I had started taking pictures for myself, not for the photographer or for the student body. I had become real. No more false persona or haughty personality or forced smile, or even (dare I say it?) Bonnebell lip gloss. I don’t smile to impress anymore; it’s just who I am.

I believe that learning how to smile, really smile—not for the camera—is a critical step in one’s life, right up there with learning to drive or learning the alphabet. I believe I took that critical step when I forgot the camera, forgot trying to impress others, and said goodbye to Bonnebell.