I had a great conversation with my 17-year-old daughter last night. I’d picked her up from youth group, and we were just talking and laughing about whatever came up. Eventually the conversation turned to the way we see and feel about ourselves. It was nice to have an opportunity to tell my girl how beautiful she is, both inside and out. Opportunities like that don’t come up as often as I’d like.
But then she turned the tables on me.
I was sharing with her how I was in my early 20s before I could accept what until then I’d considered a flaw in my appearance: my lips. I’d been teased from 3rd grade to 10th (“bubba-lips”), and I’d sworn I would get them surgically reduced as soon as I was old enough. But then somewhere along the way, my feelings began to change. For one thing, I started getting compliments. And I particularly remember seeing a woman on the cover of Essence Magazine with lips as full as mine–and she was a model! Eventually, a wary truce with my appearance matured into acceptance. But, I told my daughter, unlike me she didn’t have to wait until her 20s to accept and even love everything about herself.
My daughter responded by telling me she’d always thought her own lips were too thin. (Gasp! How I’d longed to have lips like hers at that age!) But then she took it a step further: She said she’d even spent years wishing her lips were just like mine.
In 10 seconds she challenged what I’d thought was already settled. I did accept my lips, but I saw them as something unique to me. In other words, something that was acceptable, then beautiful, and then even lovable to me–despite what anyone else might think–because of the simple truth that they’re mine. Perhaps I saw it like one of those ashtrays kindergartners make for their moms in art class. To anyone else it’s a lopsided mess. But mom can see beyond the mess; to her it’s a beautiful treasure.
It had never occurred to me that anyone would actually wish to have lips like mine. It feels like a strange … redemption of sorts.