This was a tentative title for my second book yet it was easier writing about my rape and attempted murder on my ninetieth birthday in “From Agoraphobia To Zen.” What is it about not being or seeing yourself as pretty that is so embarrassing to write about. I’ll share my story or some of it. I was born to a mother with severe mental illness. She had low self-esteem which is not the same thing. She had bad skin; also not the cause of her mental disorder. Yet, I believe her skin problem which I inherited caused her great shame and guilt. She wanted to help me. She burned my face with hot water to help me. It didn’t work. Hot water has no effect on acne nor does soap, a sugar-free diet or taking me to the most expensive dermatologist they had in the 60’s. No one knew what caused acne or how to cure it then or even now. Yes, now there are theories, there are pills and there is Proactive, which may or may not work according to the article you read.
But, in my life there has been no cure for my acne. I am left with scars that go beyond what people see. I was bullied in school. I was bullied at home by my mother. She called me “pimple face bastard” when she was deep in her illness. She called me ugly, and worse said no one would ever want to marry such a creature such as I. In my chaos, I looked for men to validate me. I had a “nice shape” they said. I had long silky blonde hair and I had nice shoulders and breasts. Yet, my mother never mentioned any of the good things. She never said I was smart either. she only focused on my looks; my ugliness. Only the boys who looked beyond the white ghoulish mask of white medicine the doctors told me to wear at all times, told me I was sexy, that I was even pretty. Men in the street whistled at me. Yet my mirror told me a different story. I had scars. I didn’t pick my pimples, I did everything the doctors told me to do, yet, I faced the world with ice pick scars and acne so bad, I was told by a prospective employer I would scare about his clients. There was no discrimination law then. Now, I would just not get hired. Then I got insulted as well.
Beside my scars there is another defect that defines me. This defect was also pointed out to me by others. I have a lazy eye. My mother called me names for that too. She wasn’t cruel. She called it constructive criticism. Is there such a thing I wonder when your face is twisted with hate and you yell and call your child unspeakable names? What surprises me now is how embarrassed I am to say what those name are; just as embarrassed as facing the world with defects. I think my agoraphobia was born in my fear of facing up to my appearance. I was tired of trying to be pretty. I had a husband and children. damn I had a few husbands and more than a few children. Yet my inner-child knew I was a fraud. I was pretty ugly.
When my mother’s tapes were almost erased and my inner-child (yes, I believe in an inner-child because my life was saved by her) was healing, I started thinking of why I was/am so sensitive about certain aspects of my looks. It shouldn’t matter now. I’m older, ok, old, and my looks are not important any more. Or are they? I remember one incident in Spain. I went there at 23 to study Flamenco dancing and ended up studying men who didn’t care about scars. There at a dance, two sets of men friends approached my bar stool thinking I didn’t speak Spanish. One set of friends said, ‘Wow, look at that “guapa” cute girl” and right behind the other set of men stage whispered “que fea” What an ugly girl. I was confused. I thought I had covered my scars with thick makeup and with my hair covering my eyes and face looked “normal.” Yet one set of friends had discovered my secret. The confusion was in which set of friends had it right. I would live my life battling that question, confused and behaving according to what other’s said about my appearance. Words can indeed hurt and cast a spell over a person. Sometimes when I go out without putting on makeup, I see clerks at stores staring at my face. It is not my imagination, I think.
I believe judging on the basis of appearance and media’s fascination with building up stars and breaking them down by their weight and age is not going away any time soon. We show our faces. We are judged. Last year, I got a laser treatment designed to reduce acne scars. I can’t say I look any different but I feel better. It reminded me of a time I was so depressed over my acne scars I begged a doctor to make me look like a human being. He said to me, ” Ms. Mendoza, when you entered the room, I had no idea what you wanted to see me about.” I felt so free. Imagine that; I was normal. I was not judged by my appearance. I wanted to hug him. I wanted him to tell everyone what he said to me. You are ok, just as you are, and your gifts are more than what is on the outside. Your gifts are good, pure and scar-free. My gift is love and love is always pretty.