It’s An Inside Job

It’s an inside job…

I like that expression, Anne Lamott uses it a lot. It means you have to love yourself from the inside out, not the other way around.

I was sitting at a cafe in the village reading when a young girl sat at the next table. She couldn’t have been more than 20 with piercings all through her incredibly beautiful face.

She looked like a human pin cushion, I’m not exaggerating.

I found it so disturbing that I couldn’t read.

She saw me staring at her and said with just the right amount of sass, “Sumthin wrong?”

I apologized then pretended to get back to my book, but of course a post on self-esteem was gestating because who in their right mind maims their face? This was way beyond an East Village fashion statement.

I can only describe her as a public cutter.

A cutter is someone who cuts themselves out of self-loathing but usually more covertly. This girl basted her face like a Cornish Hen for all the world to see and unless it was my imagination, she was thrilled that I was so taken aback by her artwork.

Figuring I was busted anyway, when I got up to leave I stopped at her table.

“I’m really sorry for staring at you that way,” I said kindly, “but if you don’t mind me saying, you are such a gorgeous gal, why did you pierce your face that many times?”

If she had let me have it I would have deserved it, even though I’m a master at being diplomatically nosy. The writer in me couldn’t help herself, I really wanted to know.

She looked down at her latte as if it were a crystal ball then looked back up at me with eyes the color of twilight.

“I wanna be looked at, same as anybody.”

“Yeah, but you are such a beautiful girl, don’t you think they’d look at you anyway?”

“You gay or sumthin?” (here we go)

“No, I’m merely curious that’s all,” I said as I started to leave.

“I want people to see me the way I see me,” she called after me, “ugly. I hate myself and the pain feels good, especially when I sleep. You get what I mean?”

Boy did I, but never in all my years of having self-worth issues would I even have thought of mauling myself with a sewing kit.

My heart strings went, she was such a kid. What could have happened to make her devalue herself so? I knew enough to quit while ahead so I didn’t pursue the matter further, but I’ve been thinking about her.

I actually lit a candle for her this morning to the Gods of self-esteem. I then gave myself a quick refresher course.

We have to start each day with a clean self-image.

My mother used to hose down the sidewalks on either side of our house. She’d scrub them first (so Italian) with soap and water until the quartz crystals in the cement glistened as if they were brand new.

That’s we we need to do, but rather than pavement, scrub our thoughts clean before we face a frightening world.

When I was her age I didn’t like myself much either. My parents didn’t participate in positive child rearing. They were too busy tending bar if you know what I mean?

I think I was 35 before it dawned on me I was a worthwhile human being.

It’s funny to see how you used to be in the reflection of another. It’s downright scary not to  mention humbling.

I didn’t have the visuals she chose for herself but the tools were certainly there.

Grace, on my behalf, once again stepped in and had her say.

Wish she’d make a house call to that sad soul on 8th Street; treat her to a latte, turn those tormented thoughts around.

If I see her again I’ll talk to her more openly this time…I’ll share rather than stare.

It’s possible, I could run into her, this is New York after all…


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to It’s An Inside Job

  1. So true and so sad to know she felt more comfortable revealing that pain to you than anyone in her daily life. She most likely surrounds herself with people who don’t recognize the pain, only the hard shell. I hope you do see her again.


    • It’s funny how people pop up in other places. This city has a Mayberry quality all its own. I always feel sad when I see someone that young already wrecked. It’s tragic because you have to wonder what’s going to happen to her?


  2. Rob says:

    She sounds seriously messed up. Not many folk would have taken the time to speak to her. Your great heart shines through once more.


    • Kids. You have to wonder where that pain stems from. She was so pretty, you can’t imagine.


      • Rob says:

        It’s probably best not to speculate: it’s so easy to get these things very wrong. There are so many examples of beautiful people who think they’re ugly, thin people who think they need to diet, accomplished people riddled with self-doubt, loved people who feel lonely, the list is seemingly endless.
        I recall a quote from Bill Clinton: “life is like a game of golf: you get more breaks than you deserve but your biggest opponent is yourself”.


      • What a great quote, never heard it before. Thanks.


  3. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Her friends, if she has any, are probably the same (like attracts like, after all), all hurting, all alone, battered and bruised by life. You can imagine the kind of home life most of those kids have. They just need someone to love them. I think it was wonderful that you took the time to talk to her, and the way she opened up to you so quickly makes it seem like she desperately needs someone to talk to. There’s a sweet, loving soul in that girl that’s been kicked to the curb one too many times.


  4. rheath40 says:

    Honey I love that you talked to her. That she responded. We can’t fix everyone, but you never know, your questions may have made her want to fix herself. You gave her positivity. You gave her an affirmation. Maybe that’s all that she needed. I hope you see her again. I do. I hope you see her again, and you don’t recognize her. Because she’s pulled all of those damn piercings out of her face. I hope!


  5. Vasca says:

    Eerie looking in the mirror at ourselves…what do we really look like…externally speaking. I see myself and wonder what I look like to others! God only knows!
    I adore Audrey Hepburn and she said “people, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”
    You did that girl a favor by taking some time to show interest in her…you may never know if that had any effect but I’m thinkin’ in time it’ll sink in.
    Lots of us need what that ultimate Hollywood beauty advised…help build each other up so no one will be thrown out.


  6. Vasca says:

    Nice to be missed…we were in Vicksburg MS for a week w/11 vets, (their wives and families) of the Korean Conflict…they were together 1950-1953. They hail from Brooklyn, New Jersey, Wyoming, Minnisota, Mississippi, Maryland, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Maine. A Tank Co Reunion…we meet each year in a different state for the MOST awesome four days. These guys are extremely special and we have the most fun/touching time…laughing, crying…oh wow!


    • Ever see the first season of The West Wing, their Christmas episode? A homeless Korean vet is found dead in one of the parks with Toby Zigler’s, the White House Communication Director’s business card in his coat pocket. The story unfolds from there. If you and your Mister haven’t seen it, rent season one on Netflix. It’s wonderful.


  7. Vasca says:



  8. Not everyone with body modifications are miserable. People get modified for all kinds of reasons. It’s true that sometimes that stems from hurt, but some people think it’s beautiful. Beauty is subjective.

    I have a facial piercing and I’m certainly not miserable. The modification studio I go to has some of the nicest people I know in it. They’ve accepted my since my first piercing. I also have people outside of the modification community that support and encourage me.


    • I wish you could speak to this young lady. I’m happy to hear your point of view. Thank you.


      • I wish I could talk to her too, maybe I could reach her.

        I did an ethnography on modification culture and I found in an article that people with a history of being abused tend to modify themselves. Some, like me, find it empowering. Some people, it seems, use it to distance themselves from others.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.