I wore one of my favorite Halloween costumes in the 2ndgrade in Islamabad, Pakistan. Since so many American children attended the International School of Islamabad, the school allowed us to dress up and celebrate the holiday. Of course, purchasing a costume was out of the realm of possibility there. There were no shops selling plastic superhero masks or anything like that. My best friend at the time was Kirsten, a blond-haired girl from Arizona whose father’s job, like mine, brought her to Islamabad. Back in the States, Kirsten’s favorite TV show was “Little House on the Prairie,” and so her mom dutifully made a Laura Ingalls costume. Not knowing what to do for me, my mom decided to be creative and tried one of her knee-length lingerie white nightgowns. On me, the gown fell past my ankles, draping the ground. Not knowing where she was going with this, I watched my mom as she folded up some aluminum foil and made me a halo (of sorts) and matching foil wings. “There you go, Meg. My little angel!”
I instantly loved the costume; the nightgown was lighter and silkier than anything I had ever felt against my body. Indeed, the material was rather see-through, yet instead of feeling shy about that, I felt sheer joy. But the thing I adored most was that its wide, willowy sleeves almost entirely covered my arms and hands. As Kirsten and I walked together in the Halloween parade together at school, I felt an inner thrill. I was able to march through the hallways of the International School with a sense of freedom I had never experienced. “What an adorable little angel,” one mother remarked with a wide grin pointing at me. If only for that short period, I could pretend I did not have only one finger on each hand, and walk freely past strangers in the
halls without attracting those sudden double-takes and side glances. Those not-so-subtle points and whispers.
The fact is, for much of my life, my dislike of my own appearance was intricately linked to how I felt others perceived me. The previous Halloween I had worn a costume where I was a cat, wearing my tight black leotard and a matching tail affixed to my bottom. My hands were clearly exposed. I could feel and sense the awkwardness in how people would look at me or attempt a smile. I could feel the pity through their stares. So young at the time, I couldn’t tell if I hated them more for staring, or simply hated how their gawking made me feel–like less of a human being.
Many years have passed since that parade in Pakistan. Beyond Halloween, it is no secret that many adults continue to want to disguise themselves—only in a different way. Perhaps they have a large, elongated or misshapen nose they want to fix, or a large blemish on their face they would like removed. The purpose? An attempt to get closer to physical perfection. That goal, in my opinion, comes with a hidden price-tag. While I cannot begrudge those that have made the personal decision to “upgrade” their appearance, allow me to share the benefit I discovered from not having the ability to “fix” my “problem.”
After my mom took back her nightgown and my costume fantasy evaporated, I returned to a life where I couldn’t just wear extra long sleeves to hide my arms and hands. But it was just as well. By not having the ability to hide my physical imperfection, I have only attracted the most wonderful people. I have succeeded in “weeding out the jerks” without even trying! In essence, those that have wanted to know me, befriend me, date me and marry me (only John!), are not shallow. Rather, they are the same people that are willing to not only appreciate, but embrace difference. They are the people in this world that have a heart and soul so evolved that they are immediately attracted to the person inside, not enthralled merely by what they see on the outside. I am convinced that if I could walk this earth with my hands hidden, and a body seemingly “perfect,” I would have the new and daunting challenge of figuring out which people are truly worth knowing. With my shortened forearms, my shoes that never fit perfectly, and my differently-shaped hands so visible, I only attract the most genuine, loving, and authentic people.
What a gift! This is my life’s blessing.