By the time I was in third grade I was seemingly assigned
the roll of Ugly Duckling. I started with glasses, and the “four
eyes” jokes, moved onto braces, and got the whole gamut of railroad
track mouth jokes, and by the time I was in the fifth grade, I had developed
acne to the point of insanity. There was not a single place I could touch
on my face that was not covered in acne. I had crazy frizzy hair, I didn’t
know how to dress, and I had reached the age of Totally Awkward.
My acne spread. It was on my chest, my back and my arms as well. It was
horrible and it was painful. My father used to question me, “Why
do you have acne? Your mother never did, I never did!” Of course
I had no answer for that and, needless to say, it wasn’t helping
me at all. I needed that big hug that would assure me that it would pass,
it wasn’t my fault, and everything eventually would be OK. But no,
that wasn’t available. It was more like, “get over it”.
The names and words continued. I remember specifically one time when I
was in the sixth grade. I was carefully not touching my acne because I
was told not to and that it would only scar my face, so I was full of
white heads. My class was in line, waiting to go into the actual classroom
and a boy turned around and caught my eye. He said, Why are you looking
at me with your thousand eyes?” I was Thousand Eyes for a long time
after that. To this day I remember that guy’s name. I also remember
going home after school and disappearing into a pillow and crying for
three hours. After that I began digging at my face – trying to get
rid of what everyone else was seeing. At the age of eleven I didn’t
have any access to makeup or anywhere to hide. I was just left out there.
I was completely vulnerable.
The bullying accelerated rapidly at that point. I would be backed into
corners until I cried, then rocks would be thrown at me. It hurt. I felt
like a caged animal. I had heard that Vans were cool. If you wore Vans
shoes, you were it. I didn’t know how to dress, I was awkward, but
I could go get those shoes. So my mom bought me a pair.
I wore my shoes to school. They were ripped off my feet and thrown into
the garbage can. I guess I wasn’t allowed to wear cool shoes. I
wasn’t good enough for them. I waited until everyone was gone and
then I went and dug through the trash can to find my shoes.
From that point it reached some sort of level of torture, to be honest.
Of course as a young girl, I wanted the attention of a boy; just someone
to be interested. They fed on me like little sharks. The new game of choice
was for one of them to come up to me and ask me if I wanted to “meet
up” after school, and tell me that they were all going to the pizza
parlor, creek, sports field, wherever. It happened four times. I would
show up and the boy of choice and his buddies would all be lined up, waiting
to see if I would show and then laugh at me, mock me, and point at me.
The word “Cruelty” does not describe this. I was so humiliated,
but I knew better than to cry or let it show. I would say, “Very
funny” or whatever, then I would go home and fall apart.
What happens in your mind after something like that is awful. You start
thinking, “Maybe I’m not meant to find someone who likes me.
Maybe I am meant to be all alone.” Stuff like that. After four times,
you give up hope. The hope is gone.
That is when I attempted suicide. I tried twice. I had almost drowned
once as a small child and I lived, so I thought maybe I had altered fate,
that I was meant to drown. I was too young to know any different and way
too absorbed in my own pain to see any other way out of that pain. Obviously
I failed in my attempts. So I started thinking, well, maybe this isn’t
meant to be; maybe it isn’t just about me. I received a Christmas
gift of Proactiv ® for my acne. It was amazing. I could finally feel
a part of my face that was skin – what skin was supposed to feel
I began to search for what I wanted to do. I started looking outside myself.
I found make-up. So I began doing my girlfriend’s hair and make-up
before a dance, or just because. I saw them be able to look beyond their
own insecurities at that point and see themselves enhanced, which is what
they needed to see themselves truly. I saw how good it made them feel
and that made me feel good because I saw value in me for the first time.
Then I thought, wait! What about if I give some of this to myself? I could
apply this for me too!
I will never forget my first ever compliment. I bet most people can’t
remember that. You can remember specific compliments, but in the tenth
grade I received the first compliment of my life. His name was Jimmy Glosser,
I will never forget. We were sitting on a bench at the beach. He was with
my girlfriend who he had a big crush on. We were all talking and he said
to me, “Your eyes are so beautiful. It is like I can see the world
in them.” It wasn’t a teenage come on, it was simply a statement.
He didn’t have to say that, but he did. I had my little tail up,
my ears all perky for a whole week, for the first time in my life.
My “sleeve” is very important to me. I got these tattoos of
blossoms because I had awful acne scars on my arms. I never looked in
the mirror much as a kid, I couldn’t bear it, so I seldom saw my
face, but my arms were always there where I could see them and I picked
horribly. I chose the blossoms for my tattoos because they represent flowers
that can grow out of any situation, even if the soil seems barren and
dry. With some nurturing and love, the flowers will bloom. I look at my
life that way.
Words are very powerful. I’ve had so many of those awful boys come
up to me in later years and apologize and then even ask me for a date.
I politely accept the apology, but I would never date them because I cannot
forget the words. Words resonate. Fortunately for me, some words reached
me that changed my life. I never forgot what Jimmy said to me and I began
to think – the eyes are the windows of the soul. I’m going
to enhance those eyes so than anyone can see them, not just the viewer,
but the person whose eyes they are and when they look in the mirror, they
I had found my purpose. I had looked for it, reached out to find it, got
out of myself a bit, learned to care about myself and good words came
my way and carried me, like a gentle wave, on to my own beach.
I am kind to people. When I see someone I don’t even know and I
like their shirt, I say it. A kind word here and there can change a life.
People put on fronts, just like I did when those boys were making a mockery
of me, but you never know how much a kind word can mean, even from a stranger.
I know about both.
I have opened my own business, Ugly Duckling Beauty Artistry. I love what
I do, and I am doing great.
I was the Ugly Duckling. It will always be a part of me. But now you can
just call me “Ducky”.