When I was a teenager, I was in love with a boy in my neighborhood whose nickname was “Nubbs.” Never did I question the origin of his nickname until my closest girlfriend at the time scolded me about not knowing. “What! How could you not know?” she exclaimed. I explained to her that I had just never asked, but since she already knew the answer, and she considered the information noteworthy, she dissolved my ignorance. “Girl, he is missing fingers, from not one, but both hands!” Her expose’ confused me because I had never noticed missing fingers, but the next time he invited me and some friends over, I looked for the “nubbs.” We sat in his room listening to music, when a Jay-Z song that he really liked came on, and he began to snap. I was mortified. There he was whirling and plucking his missing forefingers in the air without any regard for how the scene looked. Didn’t he know this was strange?
Around the same time, I met an underclassmen at my high school whose name I cannot now remember. The day I met her, she was dressed so neatly, clothes ironed and maybe even starched, shirt neatly tucked into belted pants. Her hair was cute, long, shiny, curled slightly at the ends. As any other slightly insecure teenage girl, I had given all these details about her a once over in attempt to size her looks up to my own, but one thing forced my eyes to double take. She was wearing flip flops, and after staring at her feet, then away at the wall enough times to fully register the image, I realized that she only had three toes on one foot. She had been so cute. Wasn’t she concerned that her toes would ruin her neat look?
In a society obsessed with altering looks and gaining perfection, I found it strange that people would be willing to accept their abnormalities, let alone boldly display them. Even more so, in hindsight, I noticed how even when someone else is comfortable with the quirks that make them different, others (like I did) project insecurities onto them. Recently, I thought about my own differences. I have extra skin outside of my right ear. I’ve joked to some that it is my super power that gives me my super-hearing. Never did I seriously consider having it removed. Never did I treat it like a sore subject or a mood damper. I can’t count the number of times people have overlooked spacial boundaries to squeeze this skin repeatedly and ask, “Does this hurt? How ’bout now?” Never did I become angry and ask why I was cursed with such an embarrassing bump. Instead, it was a conversation piece, a detail that made me just that much more interesting.
Last week, a co-worker of mine returned from Italy and explained that though the people she met didn’t share our same financial issues, they did have similar social ones, body image one of the most paramount. Girls as young as twelve years old were baring the scars of plastic surgery, fixing noses, juvenile waistlines, foreheads, etc. Girls too young to perceive how the clay of their flesh will settle and form as adults are altered and normalized. I marvel at this rejection of our special quirks.