Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why is your face all red?

I get this question a lot. When I was a kid, I'd get it in exactly those words from other kids. Now I still get it in those words from kids, but I also get it in other words from adults. Usually it sounds like, "Wow! Looks like you got some sun!" Or "Did you forget to wear sunscreen?" Or "Ouch! That sunburn looks really painful." But my personal favorite is when someone thinks I'm blushing, which actually does make me blush sometimes and then it's like a whole chain reaction thing. So awkward.

When I get this question or something like it, I usually laugh it off and change the subject. Because it's hard to explain to people who don't know me that my face is red because that's just how my face is. It's like you might as well ask me why I have five fingers on each hand or why my eyes are blue. It's just part of me.

I really don't know what else to say. It's genetic and it's environmental. That means it's partially because all of my ancestors are from Great Britain where rosy cheeks is a thing and it's partially caused by the sun I get from living in California. Occasionally my face looks extra red because my skin is sensitive so it gets flushed when it's reacting to something like temperature changes or make up. It's also partially because I have super dry skin. Which means that I've never had a pimple in my entire life. Not one. But I do have dandruff. Because my scalp is not immune to the general dryness of my skin. Dandruff vs. pimples. I'll let you decide which is worse because I honestly don't know.

It's not like I haven't asked a dermatologist about it. Apparently there's some sort of laser treatments they could do to try to lessen the redness, but it would be expensive and I'd have to keep doing them periodically, which doesn't appeal to me.

At this point, on the list of things I'd like to change about myself, this one isn't even close to the top. In fact, I kind of like my face the way it is. People seem to remember me more often because it's harder to forget a unique, distinguishing feature. And I could think of a lot worse unique features I could've had.

But it definitely has had an effect on my psyche. I've always known I was different. When I was in elementary school I used to dream about what it would be like if I were normal. This was even before I was overweight, which is another post entirely, and one I do plan to write someday.

I imagined that if I looked like the other kids I'd be more popular or I'd have more friends. But the truth is, I was really happy with the small group of girls from my class who played make-believe games with me during recess or made intricate objects of marginal usefulness out of grass and sticks and whatever else we could find. Plus, I kind of was popular in my own way. I was a good leader. Maybe a little bossy sometimes, but being the oldest of five or six or seven will do that to you. I was elected president of my fifth grade classroom if that counts for anything. And I was very smart. Still am. Humble too. :)

Anyway, my point is, I actually was a normal kid. But because I had something different about me, I didn't see myself as normal. I think that kind of thinking is more common than we realize. Especially for girls.

If I had stuck with my psych major in college, I'd give you lots of evidence and articles to support my argument, but since I switched to English, all I can offer are some literary tropes.

There's the one about the girl who wants to fit in, but doesn't. Although it turns out that's a good thing because she's actually way more awesome than everyone around her.

Then there's the one about how beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Or the one about how we're all flawed in one way or another.

I guess that last one best fits the point I'm trying to make. Some people have obvious differences. Some people look normal but really aren't. Like serial killers. And some people are so normal they bore the pants off of everyone around them. But normal isn't all it's cracked up to be. Because as a wise old twenty-nine-year-old, I have learned what I could not grasp as a child: variety really is the spice of life.

So yes, I may look different. But I like my kind of different because I like me, red face and all.

And now for one more little burst of childhood nostalgia...


  1. Heidi-
    This is amazing! Pretty sure I'll be sharing this with my YW and nieces! (That's okay right? )

    I love your honest and humble words!

    1. Yeah, you're welcome to share it. Thanks!