So this post is going to be a weird post. I’m very rarely struck dumb by people, but today I was, and I’m compelled to write something about it.
Earlier this morning, I was in a clothing store looking for a hat since it was so cold and I’d forgotten mine at home. I found one in the children’s section that was on sale (yes I know, I have a small head). Waiting on line, I noticed some weird looks being exchanged by people in front of me. They were staring at the check-out girl. She appeared to be a frail young woman in her late teens or early twenties. I couldn’t see her clearly enough to be sure because her shoulder-length hair was combed straight down across her entire face.
If you’re imagining Cousin It, you’re on the right track. In fact, one woman in front of me hummed the Addam’s Family tune under her breath to her friend. I don’t think they were being malicious–who has any idea these days why young people do certain things or choose to wear their hair a certain way? Another older woman behind me nodded toward the check-out girl and remarked that a day doesn’t go by when she sees something utterly bizarre, and why do young people have to be so strange? A second woman commented that the girl was slow and holding up the line because she couldn’t see what she was doing under all that hair. I shrugged casually and replied that maybe the girl wore her hair that way because she was insecure about a facial disfigurement or maybe she had scars, instead of it being some teenage fad or fashion statement. I don’t know why I said that, I just did.
When it was my turn to check-out, I walked up to the register and said hello even though I couldn’t see the girl’s face or eyes, other than a minute sliver of nose. She said “hi” back. I then joked that I was lucky I had such a small head to be able to shop in the toddler department for hats. She laughed quietly at my self-deprecation and placed my tiny hat into a bag. While I was waiting, I noticed that she had several inch-long white scars on each arm, which appeared to be short, precise cuts lying diagonally on her skin. I recognized the scars because I have some myself on my forearms (to read more on my personal experience, click here). When she handed my my receipt, I said I hope you have a wonderful day. She replied, “you too, miss,” in the sweetest, tiniest voice I’ve ever heard. I can’t even describe to you what I felt in that moment, but it was such a tide of emotion that I was rendered speechless. I also realized in that moment that what that poor, courageous girl was covering under all that hair wasn’t a fad or a fashion statement … she was hiding what she didn’t want seen. I understood it just from the tenor of her voice. And whether those scars on her forearms were self-inflicted or not, all I could think about was how freaking BRAVE this girl was.
I wanted more than anything to hug her and tell her that she was beautiful and that I admired her so much, but I didn’t. Instead I walked out to my car and sobbed my eyes out. It took me thirty minutes just to pull myself together to drive out of that parking lot. And I’m still thinking about her. It’s moments like this one that make you realize what true courage is … that this amazing young girl would brave ridicule with her hairstyle and the marks on her arms, and yet still choose to put herself out there. I was floored.
And so I write this post for the things I wanted to say but didn’t feel I could at the time for whatever reason–maybe I wasn’t brave enough, or maybe I felt it wasn’t the right place or time, or maybe I thought it would have embarrassed her, or maybe I was wrong. Who knows? But I want to say it now. I need to say it now.
So to the young girl I saw briefly yesterday (and to all people who show up each day even though life may not be easy because of some disability or handicap or perceived imperfection): YOU are beautiful. YOU matter. YOU are perfect. And YOU inspire me.