Thursday, October 3, 2013

Beauty Mark

Don't I look mysterious

 That right there is a lady with a secret. And it's not that she hasn't washed her hair in three days, that's obvious. Joining Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday: Secret. 

Here's the truth, which you know if you've known me for more than three years:

I used to have a mole, then I had it removed. 

The End. 

But of course that isn't the whole story. The first time I knew about my mole I was about this age:


You can see it there in the original, just at the place where the stray curl is touching my cheek. I was standing in line with my dad at a grocery store, looking, lingering intently at the models on the glamour mags. I asked my dad, "Why do pretty ladies always have a spot on their face?"

And he said, "That's called a beauty mark, just like yours." And he touched the little dot right on my own fresh cheek. 

I never, ever was self conscious about that mole. I didn't grow up thinking I was a beauty queen, and I never wanted to be. But I think I had a fairly accurate perception of my looks, passably cute, enough so. And I knew it didn't really matter, too. At least to me and those that loved me.

girl with the mole teenage years

I credit that two line conversation with enduring the endless anxiety over appearances most of my friends faced. It was enough for me. And enough for me not to hate, and even like, the quirky little spot on my cheek that meant me. Even when kids teased me, I think I felt like their teasing made me superior somehow, like the mole was a little secret of sophistication I had, and they weren't cultured enough to understand me. Really.

girl with the mole has a baby

And then one day, about three years ago, I was sitting in the dermatologist's office and I asked him if it looked troublesome. Honestly, it has been growing since it appeared, and would continue to do so, including changing its shape. Inevitably, it would have to go, and if not, would cease to resemble the innocent beauty mark I've always had. 

...a whole lot of babies

He said it would do less damage scar-wise the sooner I had it removed, and, he added, "Whatever it leaves behind, it will look better than it does now."  

That was the first time a comment ever bothered me. My eyes teared up and I told him to go ahead and take it off. 35 years old, and finally self-conscious?  And then it was gone.

AnneMarie cried and cried. She loved that mole, said I wasn't me anymore, and that I wasn't beautiful without it. I never knew...I would look in the mirror and not see myself, have to look twice.

AnneMarie and the mole in happier times

But the challenge came, the sadness and anxiety, planted like a seed of discontent from that first comment the dermatologist made, when so many people I knew noticed the missing mole and gushed over its final disappearance. Like it was this hideous burden of imperfection I was forced to carry and modern surgery saved me from, just in time to let the wrinkles and age spots take over. 

I would love to say I had this brilliant epiphany. You know, about inner beauty and what not. Life isn't always like that. I did realize that something I thought was a non-issue, this sweet little beauty mark on my cheek, really did bother people. And that bothered me. I was simply surprised to find that little vulnerable spot, maybe I embraced it a little, too, like some sort of sophisticated beauty mark of the psyche, to be perfectly corny. To think I lived all those years in pe  rfect moled-bliss, unaware of its obvious offense!

To find that I had this kind of sensitivity to something so trivial, and at such an ancient age and state in life, you know, it made me all the more thankful for that mole. For the conversation with my dad, especially. Thankful for kids' teasing and for my preeminent ability to embrace it. 

By the time the mole was no more than a little freckle, a little dent of its former self, I had already lived a happy girl's life of non-hate-of-what-I-see. Few these days are given that gift.

Thanks, mole.

Nyah-nyah-nyah mole haters!


  1. You're beautiful with or without!
    My older, more beautiful, always mysterious sister had a beauty mark mole on her cheek, and we thought it made her look like a movie star. She had it removed as an adult, and it wasn't "the end" either. But life goes on and all kinds of scars build up which only make each of us more interesting, mysterious and beautiful.
    I love your honesty.

  2. You know, I'm always amazed that you're able to take a thing, some perfectly common thing, then unpack all the secrets inside it, then connect those secrets of other secrets, and get very, very deep in the process, then pull it all out at the end with something that lightens the mood without diminishing the thoughts.

    See, here's where my trademark comment would get embarrassed about the above Deep Thought, and try to cover up with something flippant to distance me from it. But I won't (instead I'll distance myself with a metanalysis).

  3. My second son had a mole right smack dab in the middle of his face. The spot between your nose and your upper lip. Center. We just had it removed this past year. it is what it is. Funny thing is that we didnt really tell anybody and nobody has said anything.

    Great post!

  4. Yay for your dad and you realizing something is only a problem if you let it be. Boo on the doctor for lack of tact, glad the changes were innocent and not a sign of badness developing. Great post!!

  5. I second Cari's first paragraph. I am crying right now (you know this is my weakness when I visit your blog) for two reasons:

    One: just how insensitive people can be, the dermatologist and all the rest. I've been on the receiving end of that kind of "support" several different times and it always knocks me down flat.

    And two: my mom cut her waist-length hair to a bob when I was 5 and I had the same reaction Annemarie had. I remember her walking through the door like it was this morning and I remember the shock that reverberated through my whole being. Took me a long time to get over that.

    Oh, how I can sympathize with both of you so much. I think you are beautiful now and you were beautiful then, and I love your dad so much for that little conversation. Seriously, I would hug him now if I could.

  6. You are such a beautiful writer and person. And, you were beautiful with the mole and without. I love this post.

    And I'm really glad you just had it removed as a precautionary thing and not because it was turning cancerous...because I was totally afraid that's where this story was going. .

  7. Wow, what a great story. I had psoriasis pretty bad as a kid, but it didn't really bother me until a doctor said (while treating my hands) "it's not that bad, but you'll never be a hand model". I was so self conscious of my hands after that, and I know he was saying it to be funny and help my fears, but instead it did the opposite.

  8. Oh wow, I loved this Rebecca and it really touched something. With our without the mole you are gorgeous. I'm so glad to know you really didn't think too much of it until it was a concern for your health, then without obsessing - it was gone. It was in the reaction of others that you somehow became self-conscience but it was gone so easy to dismiss again.

  9. Well... that is a good secret. It's funny I also have a beauty mark and I've never given it a second thought. Though I have a mole on my collarbone that never bothered me until C started grabbing at it while I was holding him. I haven't been to the dermatologist since I've been married but I should probably make an appointment. Oh and it sounds like your dad is a gem.

  10. That's the first time I've ever been emotional over a mole. PM

  11. How do you take something so simple and make it into something so beautiful and moving. You have such a talent, beautiful girl.

  12. This is so beautiful. I'm so sorry you had such callous remarks. You are beautiful either way!

  13. I just love all these pictures!! You're right that few these days are given the gift of being happy with what God has given them...and the gift of just "not knowing what they look like" at least for the girlhood years. So important and so lost in this age of digital everything. I'm just repeating what everyone else says, which is your gorgeousity, mole or no mole!

  14. I just loved this post. I am going to repeat what others have said--but you are just the most amazing writer. You can take a subject as seemingly small and insignificant as a mole and turn it into the most moving and profound essay, and do it with humor as well.

    What is with dermatologists? In my forties, I had a skin-colored mole removed from the side of my nose. I'd had it as long as I could remember, but my dad thought it looked like it was growing and wondered if it might turn into something cancerous down the road. My dermatologist said to me EXACTLY what yours said to you before he removed it: that there would be a small scar, but it would look a lot better than what was there before! Luckily I had grown up unaware of how hideous I was!

  15. Every morning, I wake up,and say, "thank God it's gone!!!" just kidding. I never thought anything of it. I've never thought anything of my nasty mole on my nose until Paps, my 90 year old neighbor told me to get it removed! Anyway, I'll probably get it removed because it's doing the same thing, growing and growing.

  16. You look lovely with or without!

    I had a mole too on my left temple area. I unfortunately was very self conscious of it (like everything else about me) and usually always kept bangs to cover it and I also worried about it being in the sun. Not long after graduating high school I had it removed.


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