Sunday, September 19, 2010

Living life ugly in a beautiful world

Not too long ago, I was reading the Dear Abby column in my local paper. A letter in there was from a woman who was confused because her friend all of a sudden started to ignore her, give her the brush off and just not arrange to meet with her anymore. At one point, this woman tried to reach out to her friend via email, only to get a response from her along the lines of “leave me alone.” She wanted to know why her friend was all of a sudden shutting her out, since she couldn’t come up with an explanation herself.

This was something I could relate to. I know someone who has done this same exact thing – not just to me, but to us.

When Jennifer became friends with a girl at her school a couple years ago, her mom and I started to communicate via email. This particular friend was one Jennifer couldn’t stop gushing about! Every day, she had this or that to say about her friend. They also talked on the phone for hours. So it was arranged Jennifer could have a sleepover at the girl’s house. I met the parents and they seemed nice. The sleepovers happened, as did several playdates. The two of them were in BFF Heaven.

Then, something happened.

Jennifer would call her friend only to be told that her friend could not talk now. Whenever we asked about sleepovers, the friend said that her dad was sick – but I started to grow suspicious after the friend kept feeding her that line for several weeks.

I tried to reach out to the mother via email. She refused to reply, so I tried to communicate with both her and her husband. I kept the emails to every so often, NOT every day, just so it would not look like I was “hounding” them. I asked about what was going on and expressed my concerns for the friend’s dad being sick for so long. I apologized for every imagined crime under the sun. I gushed over what a “beautiful and smart” daughter they had (which is the truth, actually). Finally, out of frustration from not receiving an answer, I just came out and asked why they were not communicating with us anymore.

Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

I considered the possibility that they had changed email addresses. That they lost their Internet connection or that my messages just somehow ended up in their spam folder. However, I knew they still used that email address, because I later would occasionally see them as logged in.

It wasn’t any of that. They were just ignoring me. Yes, I KNOW this is rude, but I’m used to this. People HAVE ignored emails from me. Yes, it is rude, but they just don’t seem to care and decide to be rude anyway.

So I decided to just let it go. They didn’t want anything to do with us. Fine. It wasn’t like I was THAT desperate for this woman to be my friend, anyway.

But what pissed me off was how they were hurting Jennifer in all of us. They did not see the sad or hurt look on Jennifer’s face when she could no longer talk with her BFF on the phone, how there were no more playdates or sleepovers. The friend even started to ignore Jennifer at school. That was even MORE hurtful for her! I would even see that happen myself and just get so angry that this was likely the girl’s mother forbidding she interact with my daughter.

I mean, at this point, I was boiling!

It was just so wrong they were doing this to my daughter. Hurt me, I can just walk away. But hurt my kids, and I go on the warpath.

Then I read that letter in Dear Abby. Dear Abby (in title, not as a show of affection) threw around a bunch of possibilities why this friend was acting the way she did. Why she shut her BFF out and just stopped communicating. But, in the end, she suggested to the writer that she just give that friend her space and wait until she decides to come around again, if that ever happens, and until then, just be a friend.

Even as I related to that woman’s predicament and wanted to know what to do myself, the answer Dear Abby gave was useless. I had pretty much given up on that friend’s mother. I’d given up on the possibility that Jen’s BFF was even a friend anymore. I started to encourage Jennifer to find new friends, even a new best friend. I counseled her so many times on this and reminded her that sometimes, things like this happened.

As for me, I just washed my hands of those people. I just didn’t care anymore. They didn’t want communication. Fine. They didn’t want to explain themselves. Fine. Whatever! Life goes on.

Then the other night, after Jennifer had experienced all the excitement of entering third grade this year, I decided to ask her about how things were going at school. We three sat at the table, eating dinner, and I asked her about the new friends she was making. I also asked if she happened to see any of her old friends. Eventually, the former BFF came into the conversation. I was surprised yet VERY relieved to hear that the girls were playing at school again. This was a weight lifted off of me, especially since I could see how Jennifer’s eyes lit up as she talked about what they did. She had that BFF spark again!

But my happiness was shot when Jennifer grew sad then mentioned that her friend had explained why her parents didn’t want to see us anymore. I held my breath, unsure about whether or not I should allow this to continue. But I DID really want to know! So I asked her what her friend said.

Want to know their reason for shutting all of us out of their lives? It wasn’t for something like an unintentional faux pas or something we said.

It’s because we are ugly!

Or, so THEY think. Actually, they think hubby and I are ugly. So they’d rather avoid us like the plague. Ooh, beware! Don’t want to catch the Ugliness!

Good grief.

And all this time, I thought maybe they thought we were devil worshipers, or something. I never would have guessed it was because of something so petty and shallow.

When Jennifer told me this, I was shocked. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it! I know my burn scars make me unattractive. And, if it weren’t for them also thinking my husband is ugly, I would have pinned the blame on that. But, no. It’s not my burn scars. Or maybe it is. I don’t know.

The truth is, I don’t CARE.

Like I said, I washed my hands of those people. As shocked as I was that a supposedly MATURE and ADULT person would sink to something so low, I realized that there are just people like that in the world. There are people who think looks are EVERYTHING. They have this shallow idea of how people should always look BEAUTIFUL and PERFECT.

Well, guess what?


Deal with it.

Even so, I do not consider myself to be ugly. True, I’m not exactly a knockout. (And this particular mother is not a knockout, either. Neither is her husband. Actually, they are average.) But I know I’m not ugly.

And you know what? Neither does Jennifer. She kept insisting that I am not ugly and that her daddy is not ugly. She told me she told her friend, “They are wrong.” Her friend AGREED.

I told Jennifer if that is the kind of people that they are, then I didn’t want to be friends with them, anyway. Some people just can’t look past what they see on the outside of a person. They only focus on what they see, not on what they can find. They are a waste of my time and I don’t want friends like that. Phooey on them!

Still, I grabbed that window of opportunity and explained to Jennifer that it is what’s on the inside of a person that is important. People should NOT be judged by their appearances, by their scars or by their weight. They should be judged by how they are on the inside. We may live in a society that demands beauty and perfection and that takes everybody who is fat, scarred, short and disabled and labels them all as "ugly." But people who follow that religion are missing out on the important things in so-called "ugly" people that are more important than appearances. Things like honesty, helpfulness, selflessness, compassion and generosity.

And, best of all, we know what REAL beauty is. It's not what you see. It's what you feel.

Believe me, I have known “beautiful people” who were jaded, selfish, greedy and filled with some kind of “holier than thou” attitude. Some of them like to play head games with others, trick people and use them for their own sport. They are NOT pleasant people to be around!

And I have met people who society perceives to be “ugly” – the obese, the scarred, the physically disabled and the plain Janes – and these people have hearts of gold. They are so giving, so kind, patient and helpful. THEY are the people I would feel blessed to call my friends. THEY are the people I want to have in my circle.

That night, when I tucked Jennifer into bed, I kissed her and told her, “Goodnight, my beautiful daughter.”

She smiled and said, “Goodnight, my beautiful mom.” Later, she made me a card gushing about how “beautiful” she thinks I am. She made one for her daddy, too. In this card, she even pointed out some of his better qualities.

I can shake my head and roll my eyes over how petty some people can be. I guess age and life experiences just won’t decide on how mature a person can be. That’s life. What matters is that we are able to walk away from this confident in the fact that WE know what beauty really is, and that at least we can share that true inner beauty with each other.


Millie said...

Wow reading this made me sad but it is true. It's true that there are so many hateful & judgmental people in the world. I am sure they also looked down at the fact that you guys are deaf. People do that and it's only something that weakens them, they are the weaker people in the world who I find hard to believe that exist. When I think about people like that, it reminds me to only try harder. I get a lot of crap for being with a woman (you know) and it only makes me try harder to prove that we love each other just like anyone else, no matter how much someone can hate* us without knowing us. I think people like this exist only to make the stronger people who love & are intelligent to be stronger & always try their best. Everything happens for a reason, those people are ugly on the inside only to provide you a lesson to Jennifer about NOT being ugly on the inside. In the end it was a service to you. I am glad you rose above the situation. I never look at you & think about your scars and I've NEVER been embarrassed by you, I think you are beautiful and amazing on the inside. I am not saying that just to make you feel better though, you know I am a real person who tells you the truth. It's not like your scars are a disability such as a broken arm or leg or that you're in a wheel chair, it's just how your derma is, that's that.

Allison said...

Dawn, you and your family are amazing and beautiful. I am glad that you taught Jen right from wrong in this case. People can be so ridiculous and petty when it comes to appearances. I have to agree with Millie, your scars aren't a big deal to me. I don't notice them, I notice YOU! You are an amazing person. And I talk about you to my co-workers! I mention how accomplished you are, and how you're an author and an amazing mother. How you were like a mother to Millie and how you've been the only one in the family that has ALWAYS been there for her. The ONLY one. And THAT is what they know of you because that is how I see you. I just see an extremely RARE kind of person; a kind, compassionate, selfless, giving person that I am so very proud to know.

Much love to you and your family <3

Dawn Colclasure said...

Millie: You are SO correct! This WAS a service to me! I was able to take something negative and turn it into something positive: An important reminder to Jennifer about how a person should not be judged because of how they look. I am grateful that at least with her having a parent who is not "normal" in appearance, she grows up knowing that people who are different are just like everybody else and that they should not be judged based on appearance. And I totally understand about your "trying harder." I feel the same way. I have to try harder, too.

Allison: You brought tears to my eyes. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I am glad I can have that positive influence in a person's life. It is MUCH better than having a negative influence, I think. I think you are also a beautiful person inside and out and I feel so blessed you are a part of the family. We love you, too!!!!