Skip to comments.Hiding my Freckles
Posted on 12/29/2012 11:25:00 PM PST by nickcarraway
Angel kisses. Thats what my Grammy called my freckles when I was a little girl. And what my great-grandmother called my moms freckles when she was a little girl. Unfortunately, our Grammys cant be with us all of the time, and much of the universe lacks their confectioners-sugar-dusted worldview. I wore heavy makeup. I bleached my skin. But I never could cover them up, and eventually, I stopped trying
Where I grew up, in mid-coast Maine, the primary industry is lobster fishing. Although I can now recognize my hometown as an oasis of beauty and tradition, as a kid I was terrified of the lobstermen and their stories and slang. They smelled of bait and had thick Maine accents I couldnt understand.
One day a grizzled lobsterman, still in hip waders, came toward me down the stone steps of King Ro Market, our villages general store, which kept an enormous block of hard cheese on the counter, to be sold by the slice, as well as motor oil, Wonder Bread, and my objective whenever I escaped the carob and kale of my childhood home: Swedish fish and other penny candy.
Jesus Christ, the lobsterman said, laughing with genuine amusement as I tried to sneak by. Whatd a seagull shit on your face?
I froze, absolutely paralyzed, as only humiliation can render us. Still shaking his head at his own wit, he climbed into his truck and drove away. Meanwhile, I buried his words deep in my shame pit, one of the first items to ever lodge there.
This lobsterman certainly wasnt the only person to make fun of my freckles, just the cruelest. Soon after, I was out at a store with my mom, lost in some little girl reverie, as I often was, when several older kids rounded a corner and stopped short.
Shes got so many freckles, one girl whispered in the shocked tone I might have expected if Id had horns or a tail. The others nodded and snickered.
What they said was true. And because there was no denying the accuracy of their vision, it was hard not to also trust their negative assessment of my freckles. The moment probably sounds innocent enough, and looking back, I can see that it was. But after enough interactions like this throughout my childhood, I learned to do that thing where we identify the flaw in ourselves before anyone else can; if I judged my freckles first, and more harshly, then no one elses judgment could touch me.
Finally, when I was ten, an ambassador to my lonely freckle island: Molly Ringwald. There it was, right in the opening sequence of Pretty in Pink, as she put in earrings, applied mascara, colored her lips: freckles. Lots of them. The weekend the film opened in nearby Damariscotta, I saw it both Friday and Saturday night. I couldnt believe it: Girls wanted to be her, guys desired her, and she had freckles.
I did have one other source of hope. My beautiful mother had outgrown the freckles on her face. I thought I might too. Many people do. For years, I expected to go to the mirror one morning and find my freckles gone. But it was not meant to be.
At 13, I discovered the perfect expression of every dark insecurity within my overly busy brain and deeply romantic heart: The Cure. Through them, I found my people: Goths. I loved their black pointy shoes with the endless silver buckles. I loved their Miss Havisham-esque black lace ensembles. I loved the way they forced the world to deal with their anger, sadness, alienation and deep passion for Halloween. They were different. I wanted to be different.
I especially loved the one thing I could absolutely never have: their flawless alabaster skin. I began wearing heavy face makeup and white talcum powder. I applied numerous skin bleaches. I drank white vinegar, enjoying the harsh taste like a penitent who feels her absolution should be painful. I wore long-sleeved shirts and long skirts, even in hottest summer, and did not go in the sun. For 10 years.
None of it worked. When I wore my dramatic makeup, at least I felt like people noticed me for a reason within my control. But I was at a standoff with my freckles. The makeup was a nightmare messy and time-consuming and I finally dialed it back to a more reasonable routine, but one still intended to mask.
Luckily, there is a finite amount of energy we can devote to most obsessions. In college, I started drinking, which sometimes made me feel pretty, witty and unique, no matter how uncomfortable I was with my freckles and other imperfections. Still, I never left the house without makeup. And at the start of new relationships, Id even put on face powder in the morning while my guy slept.
When I was 20, I was actively pursued by a man who not only liked me in spite of my freckles; he actually liked me because of my freckles. He confessed that his mom had a thing for freckles (i.e., his dad), and hed inherited it from her. He pointed to his longstanding crush on his female roommate, a very cute, freckled skateboarder. He made for a lovely boyfriend, and five-and-half years of his freckle worship was a healthy dose of antivenom for me. But the relationship didnt last, and breakups arent historically great for ones self-esteem.
I moved to Boston, where the dense concentration of Irish men guaranteed I couldnt step into most neighborhood bars without receiving a freckle-based pickup line. The best? A face without freckles is like a night sky without stars.
But I was still getting called out for being different, even if it was the more normal way of adult socializing: photographers asking for pictures, girls confessing theyd wanted freckles so much theyd once painted them on, nerved-up boys blurting out, I love your freckles, and then running away.
Having freckles is a bit like being pregnant: a condition of such interest to random strangers, they feel completely justified in ignoring normal rules of social engagement in order to share in the experience of having them. It was as if Id been visibly pregnant and having my belly rubbed by total strangers for nearly three decades, with no final release of childbirth on the horizon, and I wanted it to stop.
The only other analogy I can think of is when Ive seen very tall men and women, or very short men, squirm under jokes or friendly comments about their height. Of course they would probably say Ive got it easy. Their stature is obvious, undeniable. And during the time Ive worked on this essay, several long-term friends have told me theyve never noticed my freckles and had to look at photos to picture me with them. Which made me feel even more self-obsessed and vain for caring about them in the first place. But my shame pit was dug long ago in my childhood, and as much good work as Ive done to build something better on the site, I dont know that what has existed within me for so long can ever be expunged completely.
Six years ago I moved to Los Angeles, and, perversely, living in a place where women really are that skinny, and really do look that good, set me free. There was no point in competing. At first figuratively, and then literally, I became a bit more comfortable in my skin. Still, any time I see a model or actress or meet an attractive woman with freckles I cant help but make a small mental checkmark on the internal tally board of my freckled soul. Its beginning to look like I always will.
And then it hit me: For years, I was desperate to be different, to be unique, to be special. I was a slave to every obvious counterculture fashion and makeup cliché in order to feel so. Meanwhile, I spent thousands of dollars and hours trying to look distinctive by covering up the one thing about my appearance that actually is.
I never had any problem with freckles, personally. In fact, I thought Annie Wersching as FBI agent Renee Walker on '24' was freaking hot. And I wasn't the only one. Also, I think Poppy Montgomery of 'Without A Trace' is heavily freckled, and she's pretty sweet, too. There's plenty of others.
i know exactly how she felt when people commented on her freckles when she was a young girl... until i reached the age of 16, i heard, “you’re so skinny!” and i hated it... but i sure do like it now... well, no one actually calls me skinny... they say other things...
btw—when i was 20 i dated a guy who had lots of freckles... i thought he was so cool... i met him at a Halloween party... he had his face covered in camouflage make-up—he was dressed kind of Rambo-ish... i had no idea he had freckles when i met him... soon after he showed up at my place of employment, and i was shocked for a moment... but i liked him... fun guy...
32 Pretty Girls With Freckles:
I love freckles. I have them and two of my sons do too. I absolutely adore them.
I love freckles, my wife has a bunch of ‘em.
>>And at the start of new relationships, Id even put on face powder in the morning while my guy slept.>>
Pathetic self absorption and lack of morals! What a combination she presents to our young women.
She has freckles on her but she is pretty.
Ah, the freckled! The new, oppressed minority!
I have freckles. Where’s my government check?
Love sees right through freckles, later, they become decoration.
My wife hates her beautiful freckles. I love them!
The Freckle Song--The Pearl Trio (1947)
My freckles went away...replaced by age spots :(
Pathetic self absorption and lack of morals! What a combination she presents to our young women.
That sentence jumped out at me, as well. You captured my thoughts perfectly. I kept waiting for this essay to go somewhere that was not so shallow.
Amen or red hair.
Hmmmmm. I had all three. Skinny as a rail, red hair, and freckles!! Maybe they helped me never care what people thought of me. Can’t ever remember a day when I did. Lol
Everyone in my family has a thing for freckled redheads. I noticed that my kids responded the same way even as toddlers. As toddlers my kids made judgments based on the character they perceived in an individual as opposed to looks — they had not yet been infected by artificial value systems. Still they were automatically in love with redheads with those freckles.
Some of us find you very beautiful.
Well I am no longer skinny, or a redhead, and my freckles have mostly all faded away but.....thanks!!
I love Lucy Liu’s freckles. Ok, I love Lucy Liu. Can anyone posta pic? I am posting pic challenged.