When my dog bit me on Christmas day, a lot of things swirled around in my brain. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that one major thought was, “but I’m pretty“. I was angry that I was likely going to live with scars on my face. I take good care of myself because I value what I have, and in a split second I was possibly changed forever. It seemed unfair.
I have searched high and low for a positive (or neutral) synonym to describe the word “vain”. I have largely come up short. Most sources cite that there are negative synonyms for the word, but no one singular word that puts a positive spin on the connotation. You see, I’m vain, or rather I care about my appearance a great deal. I don’t think I’m egotistical, or self-absorbed, or conceited. I don’t think I’m the most gorgeous being to grace the planet. But, I do care about how I look. I want to look my best. It makes me feel good.
In the days after the attack, I was even more bitter. Every time I looked in the mirror and saw twelve stitches staring back at me, I wanted to cry. Each time a well-meaning friend or family member commented that “the stitches looked so good” or that I was “going to heal so well”, it made my stomach turn. When talking about the possibility of needing plastic surgery, my sister (who completely meant to help) said jokingly, “maybe now you can get the face you’ve always wanted”. Even though I knew she was kidding, I rejected those words. I had the face I always wanted – before the bite.
I realize that in the grand scheme of things, what you look like in the present doesn’t matter. Looks change. You grow and you age and things start to sag and wrinkle. It’s “what’s on the inside that matters” in reality… but here’s the thing for me. I get to choose what’s on the inside. I get to choose how I react to things in my day to day life. I get to choose to be kind to people. I get to choose to not be bitter. But I cannot choose what’s on my face. I cannot choose my natural eye color, or my facial features, or my height. Those I just get. My DNA chose that for me, and I was ok with those things. They were mine.
So, I have a thing about control, too. I like it. Right or wrong, it’s my nature. I like the ability to choose, and when this incident happened, I did not get to choose. Every morning, I’m reminded that my face is different and I detest it. I don’t hate my face – I still feel good about my face – but I hate how it changed. To me, this is different than “aging gracefully”. Those changes happen with time, and they’re inevitable. This change was a force outside of my control and instantaneous.
I know I’m not the only one who has had an experience like this, and I want to let everyone know that it is ok if you feel this way. Please don’t confuse my laments with self-hate or self-esteem problems. I love myself and I am confident. I simply hate the changes that happened to my face due to a force outside of my control. There is literally no way I will ever look 100% the same as I did before the incident. Even with surgery, there would be differences. I’m living with the changes to my face… but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.
My sister mentioned that she felt a little of the same after she had a baby. She said her body changed and everything was different, so I feel confident that there are so many other situations that cause women to feel the way I do. Has anything happened in your life that caused you to feel “but I’m pretty”?
Many of you expressed an interest in hearing about how I’m moving forward after my dog bit me. How my dog and I are moving forward is definitely something I plan to write about, but this post was too raw not to harness, first.