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…