Written by: Candice Brattain
“One, two, three…” my mother counted every mole, freckle, and birthmark in the bath. She would say, “you are this many pretty” and I used them as my currency. I carried them around like they were really worth something. Like I could trade them all for a best friend, or that rainbow paint set that was advertised on TV. I’d tell the little girl who lived next door things like, “I counted 36 last night. That’s A LOT.” They were my favorite things about myself. They were like secret constellations on my arms, my chest and back, and the North Star finding it’s home in the crease of my lips. Only I knew how beautiful I was.
And then one day we stopped counting in the bath. And then one day I forgot.
I have three important things I want you to know. One, I am very sorry for the pain I’ve caused you over the years. Two, it has never been your fault. Three, you are infinitely more beautiful and lovely than you could ever imagine.
I take the blame for not protecting you better, for forgetting you were always there with me, for not covering your ears when they lied to you about your worth, for sometimes being the one to tell you those lies. I have been committing the greatest act of self-abuse for most of my life and I did not even realize it. Not only am I very sorry, but I also feel this incredible need to soothe you. To offer some sort of restitution for my part in all this. Because for the first time, I’m realizing how worth it you are.
Because you have immeasurable strengths and talents that outweigh any weight, any crooked tooth, any bad hair day. Let me explain: You have a heart that always feels heavy but honest, good people say its made out of pure gold. Friends describe you as “the one person they can talk to in room full of people and feel okay.” Little kids think hugging you is joyous. You are witty, creative, and unconditionally, fiercely loving.
There have been times in the past where I did not think those things about you. Times when instead I fantasized about cutting the baby fat off of you, never realizing how you were just a baby. Moments when counting birthmarks with mom became begging her to let you buy all long sleeved shirts, even in the hot months, never knowing the warmth you already possessed. When you hate yourself, you want to cover because it’s the closest way you can get to disappearing all together.
I want to no longer want to disappear. I want to be absolutely, positively, entirely present. I want to live a life measured in giggles and people I helped and not pounds and inches. I want to get through one day where my reflection doesn’t ruin me, where a tagged picture doesn’t make me cry myself to sleep. I never want to allow those things to have the power to hurt you so much ever again.
Because that kind of power dismisses any joy. It dismisses any act of love. It dismisses your potential, your growth, your hope. That kind of power promises that it will restrict, restrict, restrict, and it will hurt extra because it’s your own hands around your throat. That kind of power is total betrayal of self, and I’m so sorry that I’ve done that to you. It’s taken me most of my life, but I’m finally ready to take care of you.
I hope you’ll forgive me.
“One, two, three…” I count every mole, freckle, and birthmark. I would trade them all to be my own best friend, or to paint a different standard of beauty. I tell the little girl who lives inside of me that she counts A LOT and that she is my favorite thing. We share the same secret constellations on our arms, our chest and back, and the North Star finding its home in the crease of our lips. Only I know how beautiful we are.