What No One Tells You About Embracing Your Birthmark
My mom called it an angel kiss.
“When you were in my belly, the angels loved you so much, they kissed you and left a mark, just so you would remember how special you are.”
My Uncle Scott called it part of my oodles of cuteness. But then there was a classmate of mine in the first grade who called it a purple dinosaur, and somehow, that’s what stuck. I have a port wine birthmark on my nose. I’ve had it for my entire life. I used to have one on the side of my cheek, too, but that has since disappeared because my parents, ever the champions for their children, were told by doctors to take me for laser surgery so they could get rid of my birthmark.
At the time, they said the birthmark made me have a higher risk for skin cancer. Whether that’s true or not anymore, I’m honestly not quite sure. That was really never the focus of my surgeries for me. After all, I was five. I just knew that these surgeries hurt, and that they made me different. After I underwent the procedures, my skin would scab, it was raw and an angry reddish-purple color. Hence the phrase, purple dinosaur.
As I grew older, my “skin” sort of thickened to any of the mean comments that would be hurled my way in the aftermath of surgeries. But just because your skin thickens to hurtful words doesn’t mean that they don’t sting. You just learn how to navigate through the pain. And I learned how to hide my scars. Dermablend was my best friend. At the time it was like the mother of all concealers – thick as spackle, and completely covering my birthmark. And yet, even with the make up, I never felt beautiful. I always, always, always felt less than. People always used to tell me, “what do you mean you have I birthmark? I can’t even really see it.” And yet, I always saw it. I still see it.
I’m getting married next month, and one of the ways I knew my fiancé was the one had to do with my birthmark. I remember telling my mom, “he looks at me like I’m the most beautiful woman in the room, even when my birthmark isn’t covered.” Maybe it sounds cheesy to you, but there’s something quite special about being able to feel fully loved and seen, just as you are, without hiding your skin, without wearing a stitch of make up. For those of us who try to hide our marks, there’s a certain kind of intimacy in that.
Back in March my fiancé and I went to see Ready Player Onewhen it came to theaters. Now, I’m a sucker for a love story, 80s and 90s pop culture references, and the magical storytelling powers of Steven Spielberg – that’s a given. But what stuck with me was that the leading female character, Art3mis/Samantha, had a birthmark. That’s right, a birthmark! A big, beautiful, wonderful birthmark. And it wasn’t scary. And it wasn’t ugly. And it wasn’t raw and angry looking. And it wasn’t on her leg, or her ankle, or some place they could hide it with clothing. She had a birthmark on her face. On. Her. Face. And it made my heart happier than I had ever expected, for I had never seen that before – a leading lady and love interest with a birthmark that was “pretty”, or “beautiful”. I’m a grown woman, and yet, in that movie theatre I was in first grade again. But this time, I felt beautiful. This time, I felt powerful. This time, I didn’t care that my classmate called me a purple dinosaur, because for the first time, it didn’t feel like it was something to hide.
I still wear some sort of make up every day. But it’s not spackle anymore. It’s BB cream. Sometimes, it’s foundation. Sometimes, it’s concealer. Sometimes it’s all of the above. But now, it’s fun. And that’s the difference. I do it for me, because I want to, not because I want to hide my mark. Sometimes it’s not easy to always love the skin that you’re in. I think self love is something of a journey, and we have to give ourselves the grace to get frustrated and dissatisfied so that perhaps we can see the beauty that’s staring back at us when we look in the mirror.
Megan Minutillo is a creative professional: director, writer, producer, teaching artist, and the founder of the arts, entertainment, and & education website thewriteteachers.com. She resides in New York with her fiancé. Catch her on Instagram at @MeganMinutillo.