My name is Penny Loker. I’m 34 years old and I’m considered ugly…bare with me– just keep reading! I was born with a facial difference made up of 2 conditions; Goldenhar Syndrome and left Hemiofacial Microsonomia. All this means is that the soft tissues and bone on the left hand side of my face didn’t develop correctly; this makes me unique. I’m not the only one born with these conditions however most are born with one or the other not with both. As a result I have poor vision (I cannot obtain a driver’s licence), I have lost 99% of the hearing in my left ear.
Growing up with a facial difference was hard. I often times felt (and was) isolated from my peers. For example, I was laughed at, mocked, and ignored. I didn’t have any friends in grade school and was only spoken to by a few peers throughout high school. Growing up not being able to connect with my peers made me feel quite isolated which inevitably took its toll on me. As the theme of this entry is about love, and dating it always comes back to when I was going through grade school and every Valentine’s Day would mean an empty paper bag where Valentine’s Day cards were to be deposited. If I hadn’t had the support of my older sister Crystal I wouldn’t have turned in to the person I am today. Crystal never hesitated to stick up for me when I was being picked on, and when going through various surgeries she would always take care of me when home. As I get older and put myself out there to date, she has become my biggest cheerleader and my sounding board.
Based on my own life experience and the way people react when they see me, I believe most people are very superficial and someone is accepted only if he or she fits in to a certain image. From my vantage, it often feels that since I don’t fit into the expected mold that must mean I am somehow inferior; simply because I look different. For example, I experienced this recently when I attempted to meet someone online via a dating service. As 2016 rang in, I thought that I would subscribe to an online dating app. I had been considering it for awhile but hesitated. However, for some reason on January 1st, 2016 I decided, why the heck not?! I downloaded 3 apps in total, and all had a very simple sign up process and the questions were all similar and seemed like great questions. As most of these sites require payment to unlock their full potential (no foreshadowing there eh?) I opted for the free portion of each site. My first “connection” on one of the apps led me to a guy asking some seemingly innocent questions initially. However, it soon became clear that his intentions were anything but. When I respectfully told him that his line of questioning made me uncomfortable– that I would no longer be communicating with him but wished him well, he decided to respond not in kind. Instead, he childishly wrote that I was ugly and that no one would want to be with me.
Given many stranger’s reactions to me throughout my life, I wasn’t 100% surprised that this happened. In many respects, I was quite honestly expecting it. And then it happened again by another man a short time later. He had contacted me and after reading his profile, I allowed myself to have hope and it thought would be a promising connection. However, after my “hi” back his response read, “u r blocked, ewww”. I get that by everyday human concept, I’m not attractive, it’s not news to me, I know that I’m “ugly”, and I’ve accepted the way I look. However putting myself out there on dating apps, hoping to make a connection with like-minded individuals and then only to have my difference thrown back at me is somewhat, no it’s extremely frustrating and disheartening.
For me on a typical day, I honestly don’t think about how I look, as I’m sure anyone reading this doesn’t. You get up, get dressed (if you have to because if I don’t have to I stay in my fuzzy PJs all day), and go about your day either going to work or school. I get reminded every time I go out that I look different, the look that lasted a little too long, the child that just won’t stop staring, but that is just one part of my day. I’m also a caregiver, a co-worker, a sister, a friend. Being different has shaped my view on a lot of things and whether through online sources or not, I hope one day I meet the love of my life and I get my happy ending. But for now, no more dating apps!!! I will continue to use my facial difference to identify people that might be willing to look past an unexpected exterior and appreciate that the most important beauty comes from within. I also hope to use it as a means to help those who are different as well. By sharing my experiences though dating and navigating life in general I hope my story provides a light to those who are younger going through what I went through and I can be someone they can reach out to for understanding and guidance.
Sure, I still strive to accept my difference, especially on my bad days. But fortunately I also have my good days where it actually shines, I embrace it, and I’m happy.