Total Pageviews

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One month bald: The walls outside & the light within

“People are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.”
–  Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Many years ago, my brother asked me to picture a mutual friend of ours.

After I had her image firmly in mind, David asked, “Do you see her scars?”

I did not. Her face had seemed perfectly reconstructed in my mind before he asked; in light of his question, I felt ashamed, as if I’d been caught in the act of surreptitiously editing a work not my own.

My brother’s take was different. “You don’t picture it for the same reason you don’t really see it when you’re with her. It’s irrelevant. Her beauty shines from within, not from the specific arrangement of features on her face.”

The conversation was much more extensive than this, and my brother’s overall approach much more nuanced, but this is the part that has stuck with me. It was the part on my mind after I shaved my head for St. Baldrick’s last month.

I expected to be a wreck during the actual shaving. I also expected to be mildly chagrined by how baldness emphasized my already prominent forehead. What I didn’t expect was that I’d feel more beautiful than I ever had before.

I also didn’t expect the staring.

[ Read more ]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Our baby is going to experience racism someday."

There weren’t many white kids in my first grade class in a California military school.

My first crush (if I may use so strong a word for the affections of a first grader) was on a black boy who was so sweet, he immediately forgave me demonstrating the mad karate skills I’d just learned from The Karate Kid . . . even though I’d demonstrated on his groin.

His sweetness went only so far. He lost my favor before the school year was done. A year is, after all, an eternity to a first grader.

My second crush was on another boy, who—like the first—I didn’t think of as “black” at the time. Just cute.

Returning to my Oregon hometown for second grade was a little jarring. To my young eyes, almost everyone’s skin was colored minor variations of the same tone.

When I was old enough to start questioning things, like whether I was really a Republican like my parents, I remember catching sight of a banner flying throughout downtown Eugene and laughing.

The banner proclaimed we ought: “CELEBRATE DIVERSITY!”

“What, as long as it’s somewhere else?!” I remember thinking with equal mirth and incredulity.

I’d rant about these things to Ba.D. only to find myself flummoxed by his calm. It took me a little while and lots of patient explanation on his part to understand this was borne of decades of personal experience. What was new and pressing to me was something he’d already lived for 3.5 decades.

[ read more ]