My body has always been map of freckles and moles and what, as I was growing up, my mother euphemistically and gently called beauty marks. As a girl, I hated them. Passionately. I dreamed of miracle lemon juice bleaching cures and the day when I could wear enough pancake makeup to cover them up. I longed for un-freckled cheeks the way I longed for a Barbie corvette.
When I was a young girl, I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to fit in. The constellations of freckles and connect-the-dot beauty marks made me self-conscious. I was convinced without them I would be pretty. When you are nine, ten, eleven years old, pretty is the base of your birthday candle wishes. That and a Barbie Dream House.
Somewhere in those elementary years we made self portraits of how we imagined we’d look as adults. My future self had long, loose waves and wore a tee-shirt emblazoned with a Foxy Lady iron-on. The other thing that stood out about my adult self was my face. It was completely blank of all freckles, beauty marks and the other complexion complexities–the very things that make me look like me. I’m not sure which is more note-worthy, the fact I thought I would be wandering around in shirt with a glittery Foxy Lady iron-on, or that my idealized self didn’t include the details that make me look like me.
Eventually I grew up. I saw past the freckles. I understood that foxy didn’t necessarily mean freckle-free. In fact my husband, way back before he was my husband, used to tell me how much he liked those freckles and beauty marks: the very things I spent hours trying to cover with foundation and blush and crayon and paint.
That freckle lover pulled out all the stops for the first Valentine’s Day we spent together. I flew into London. He rented a snappy little convertible and we had reservations at a swanky hotel for dinner. He had new shoes with slippery soles and I had a form-fitting lacy dress and boobs that were young enough not to need a bra. There was a fish course we weren’t sophisticated enough to recognize and silverware I hadn’t seen before or since.
Before we made our way down the grand stair case and toward the dining room we exchanged gifts. A copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the much written about mixed tape for him, and a tee-shirt emblazoned with Foxy Lady for me. If I hadn’t already known I was going to marry him, the tee-shirt would have clinched it. As would his declaration that my freckles are one of the many things he loved about me.
Yesterday I was 4,000 miles away from my husband and sons on Valentine’s Day. There was news of a shooting in my current home city, another targeted terror attack. There was also a notice of a missed delivery. After I frantically searched for news and made sure everyone I love was safe and accounted for, after my heart eventually returned to a normal beat, a bouquet of flowers arrived.
A tale of two Valentines. For my husband and sons, I would gladly paint myself in any ridiculous-ness if it meant they were sound. I would happily traipse about in a tee-shirt with a glittery iron-on Foxy Lady and mark myself with Pippi freckles and a thousand Cindy Crawford beauty marks to know that they are safe and ok. I know they would love me still.
What more does a girl need on Valentine’s Day? Well, other than a Barbie Dream House.