But You Have Such A Pretty Face

May 23, 2014

I have always joked that I could write a book about all the crazy comments I have heard people say to me, over the years. Luckily, my long term memory comes in handy for this because I can REMEMBER many, MANY things over the last few decades. I don’t think people mean to be as doltish as they come off as when they say something so moronic. Well, maybe some do………

As a child, teenager and young woman, I never had weight issues. I was always tall, had a nice shape and would blush when I was told so. After having the kids and learning to cope with all that life had hurled at me in a few short years, I found comfort in food! Only now, unlike the days of my youth, what I ate never really burned off in calories (probably because I was always picking at food to distract myself from facing all the new challenges I was faced with.) I would run into people I had not seen in years, and instead of them asking me how life had been treating me, they would tell me that I should go on a diet because “ You have such a pretty face.” Now, I’ve heard this one a lot and my first I thought was always to be, ‘Oh thank you’, before realizing what they actually meant to say was “Hey there gigantor, your face looks nice but your body could be used as a float in the Rose Parade.” After hearing the same comments a few times, it had gotten to the point where I just wanted to say to them “ Why tell me this? You HAVE to know, that I know I’m a fat ass, you don’t need to comment on my face, you fruit bat.” Having a non-confrontational personality that I do have, I’d just smile (and secretly want to eat a pan of brownies…. Then hit them in the head with the empty pan.)

After I had my first baby and learned I had also given birth to another baby girl who didn’t survive (which I had no knowledge of during my pregnancy), I had nurses, other staff and random people during those first 3 days at the hospital say “At least you got one baby out of it.” Excuse me for not throwing a ticker tape parade. I didn’t just enter a drawing for some raffle prizes, these were my babies. I came to the conclusion during that experience that people working in hospitals grow a coat of armor when ‘feelings’ are involved, or just become numb in general. And soothing words of comfort fly out the window.

And then there is Jenni. I think I have heard everything when it pertains to her! When we knew positively she had Down syndrome (I knew but waited for UCLA’s genetics clinic to send us the official diagnosis letter), we shared it with friends . One dear old man, our neighbor, told me one afternoon to not worry about it. “I’m sure if you run on over to Sav-on Drugstore, they can fix her right up.” (How wonderful that thought was at the time.) Others said she’d outgrow it. Or asked me if she just had a touch of it. Or if there was anyone ‘Asian’ in the family. (Yeah, I’ll run with that one.) Then there were people who would see her as an infant and say “Oh, she doesn’t look THAT bad” (So…….HOW is she supposed to look? Like some half-witted gargoyle? She’s a baby for crying out loud. And a cute baby, at that.)
When she was one month old, I had her with me at the psychotic obstetrician’s office (the place she was delivered), and he told me to ‘Take her to Israel. They can do surgery on her eyes and face to make her look normal.’ At the time, I thought “How insane is he?” only to learn a year later that the man truly was insane and sits in a prison cell right now. And what a horrible thing to say to me anyway. Such class and tact. What does a ‘normal’ baby look like anyway? Let me tell you, I have seen many a baby in my day, and there’s been more than a few of these ‘normal’ babies, who look anything but. I have wondered what their parents were thinking when they’d sendout pictures of their little bundles of joy. I’ve seen a few babies that honest to God, looked like trolls, but I’d never share that with the parent. I’m serious, there have been a couple of occasions where I actually grimaced at some of these infants. Who is to say my sweet baby girl doesn’t look normal? Why? Because her eyes had a slight almond shape? Her ears were tiny?

My mother in law not only sent me a sympathy card after Jenni’s birth (yeah, for real), but she tried to tell me she knew all about the mentally ill because she ‘worked across the street from them.’ (Honey, the people across the street from you aren’t the only mentally ill people close to you. Glancing in the mirror would bring you hand in hand with your working neighbors.) Dennis and I tried to explain to her what Down syndrome meant, but we may as well have been speaking in Farsi because she didn’t get the fact that mental illness and intellectual disabilities were TWO different things.

Then there was the brief time I worked evenings at a department store. I was 26 and was the ‘oldest’ person working evenings, unfortunately for me. This young guy who was cross training me (he was 18), said to me one night as he was pointing to another young man across the store, “That guy is a real mongoloid.” (No, he didn’t have Down syndrome…………just a word this imbecile used for fun apparently.) I do not like confrontation, never have, but I couldn’t contain myself. I told him that word was derogatory, not used anymore, and if it was used, the person must be a real pinhead. Then I proceeded to mention that the only mongoloid I had seen of late, was standing next to me. Then I walked away. (And stayed in the restroom until I felt my beet-red face return to a light tan coloring.) I never apologized to him and he never said it again.

When Jenni was 4, she attended classes on a regular elementary campus. Her class was in a building next to the main, non-special ed classrooms. We were planning a Christmas Program with a raffle and it was going to be a fun filled event. We heard that the ‘other’ part of the school- the kindergartners- were going to be doing a performance and we (as the special education section) thought maybe we could share the auditorium together. I mean, the two school’s classrooms intermingled with one another. Kill two birds with one stone. Our PTA board presented the idea to them and after a week, we heard back that the ‘regular’ ed (I always have despised the term) kindergarten parents, now get this, didn’t want their kids singing with ours. I guess they assume down syndrome can be caught?

When mom passed away, I was so sad and reality hit that she was gone. I know people mean well, but I had a hard time not wanting to scream at everyone when they’d all say “She is in a better place.” “It’s for the best.” (That one always made me want to beat someone over the head– again, with the brownie pan.) “There is a reason this happened.” Better place? Come on…… I’d rather have her here on earth, cancer free. And a reason? What reason should anyone be dealt to have to be struck with cancer or any other terminal illness? For once, I’d love to hear an REAL explanation as to why people have to suffer so horribly.

I know I could write 10 pages on this subject, but I won’t. It just always amuses me when I hear some people speak before they truly think. Amuses me and often times makes me wonder what in the hell goes through some people’s brains? Words can be hurtful and harmful. There are the individuals who I know have no common sense and I’ve learned to just blow them off, but the ones who just blurt out things that should be kept to themselves boggles my mind.

Some things never change, and once again (like I did many years ago), I have heard “But you have such a pretty face.”

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