A woman in Cleveland, Ohio who had received the nation's first face transplant had remained anonymous ... until today. Connie Culp, who had had her face destroyed when her husband shot her in a failed murder-suicide attempt, literally faced the press to say this:
Facial disfigurement stuff always hits close to home and I applaud Connie's courage in facing cameras. The main reason I started taking photographs was to avoid being in them.
"When somebody has a disfigurement and don't look as pretty as you do, don't judge them, because you never know what happened to them. Don't judge people who don't look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away."
My parents raised me with the philosophy, "Beauty is on the inside" and it's a lovely sentiment but society doesn't always agree. The reality is, people like pretty people better and that's just not going to change. Also, if it looks like you've been hurt, it scares people because they see scars and they imagine pain; it's uncomfortable for them.
Connie's psychiatrist Dr. Kathy Coffman, relayed a story that really got to me:
Once while shopping, she heard a little kid say, `You said there were no real monsters, Mommy, and there's one right there,'" Coffman said. Culp stopped and said, "I'm not a monster. I'm a person who was shot," and pulled out her driver's license to show the child what she used to look like, the psychiatrist said.
This story sparked a childhood memory: I recall running around with the neighbor kids when we learned that a new family had moved in down the street, the Morenos - and they had four kids! We all went to investigate. There stood Ricky, Irene, Oscar and Carlos - ready to play.
Oscar, a happy, chubby kid a few years younger took one look at me and his face lit up with delight. He immediately walked up, grabbed my hand and said: "Ooooh! I like you! I like monster movies!" and off we went.
I still think about that and laugh but also remember my confusion. 'What did I have to do with monster movies?' As with all kid comments, the translation is quite literal.
I also remember a boy I had a crush on in middle school say to me: "If you didn't have that thing on your face, you'd be such a babe." And then - here's the kicker - I said, "Thanks!" with real gratitude.
Seriously. I THANKED HIM. This is how insecure we are at 13 so what are you gonna do? To this day, the worst thing someone could say to me is: "I think you're beautiful anyway."
Reading the article this morning, I briefly entertained the fantasy of getting a face transplant. Not necessary, of course. I've finally made peace with mine. Now, if I could just stop the aging process ...