Now maybe you’d never know it, because of the swan I am now, but I was kind of an awkward kid. Lots of skinny arms and legs (well, the standard number, but long and gangly) and stick-straight hair and slightly prominent ears. The ears, along with the pointed chin and small eyes earned me the nickname “Mouse” as a kid. Between that and the total lack of athletic skill and surplus of geeky child braininess, sometimes I think it’s surprising I’m not more screwed up.
“You will get more beautiful,” my mom would assure me. “You’re going to be one of those exotic beauties.” I’m still waiting on that whole thing. She’s supposedly prophetic, my mama. Anyway, I never wanted to be exotic, I lived in a smallish town in Texas. Exotic was looked upon with a degree of suspicion. I just wanted to have a tan and big hair and I wanted blue eyes. I wanted to look like one of those kids on Toddlers & Tiaras, that’s what I wanted.
(Sidenote: I recently googled “How to tan a ginger” and discovered that freckly folks like myself actually have 500 times the melanin of you olive-types. Scientists are working on a cure to our pasty whiteness. So get ready, I’mma be a 90 year old bronze woman someday)
Being a kid is hard. I mean, on one hand, you’ve got somebody washing all your clothes and making you sandwiches, giving you aspirin, buying all your possessions and groceries. (also see: being a man) On the other hand, you have to live everything for the first time, and while there’s a lot of fun to be had, there’s also so many painful experiences, so much growing into your skin.
Painful experiences and onions give you character, which nobody wants. Eventually, though, you figure out that character is more important than happiness, which you get, anyway. I mean, happiness is a byproduct of a meaningful life. So now I’ve got these kids and I know all this stuff is going to come up. And now that I have all this perspective, I’ll probably do like my parents and say, “Well…. life isn’t fair.”
And even while I’m saying it, I’ll know it grates on them, it doesn’t ease the pain, it doesn’t make looking like a mouse any easier. Yet. But someday, it will make more sense.