Friday, August 15, 2008

Damn All Those Beautiful Girls, They Only Want To Do You Dirt*

There is an article in the Chicago Tribune from August 13, 2008, about the perception of beauty through the eyes of a Korean adoptee.

The article is here: Beauty Through The Eyes of An Asian Adoptee. (You may have to login to the Tribune's website to read it, I'm not sure.) (The article is written by one of the members of a group called Paper Lantern, a resource for adult Korean adoptees.)

The writer says that one of the most popular plastic surgeries amoung Asians today is a procedure to make their eyes appear more "Western".

I about fell off my chair when I read that. (Yes, I know. I am continuously surprised by things that really should not surprise me. It's like my jaded button is broken.)

My immediate reaction was, "I don't ever want Lana to have a single thought cross her mind that she is not beautiful exactly the way that she is."

(Of course my second thought is that I don't want Lana to think that physical beauty is really that important, and that it is what is inside of people that really matters. That is an enormous concept and I don't actually feel like I have it in me today to tackle it.)

My immediate reaction is that I don't want Lana to ever contemplate for a SECOND that she would need SURGERY to make her face beautiful. I mean, LOOK at her face.

There are times when I look at Lana and she is so beautiful that it takes my breath away. And I'm not talking about the fact that she is, generally speaking, a joyful soul (because that is one of the many more important things that is beautiful about her) - I'm talking about the sheer, skin-deep, physical beauty.

Maybe I am biased because I am her mother. Maybe I feel okay talking about how beautiful I think she is because I had nothing to do with it. (These are not my random strings of DNA knitted together to make that gorgeous little face. So, it feels like something I can talk about without taking any credit. Does that make sense?)

I don't mean to sound shallow, but I think I might with what I am about to say next.

I did not expect Lana to be a pretty child.
(Hold on, I'm going to duck under the computer while you throw things at me.)

But, it's the honest truth. I was not expecting her to be pretty. In her referral photos, I thought that Lana looked intelligent and interested. But, I would not have described her as "cute" or "pretty".

I'm trying to decide if it is a function of time and situation and love that has changed my perception of Lana's physical beauty, or if she has simply blossomed from an interesting looking toddler into a beautiful girl.

I am about to out a secret shameful thought of mine to the entire Internet.

(I strive for honesty, even when it's ugly.)

Here I go. (Deep breath)

I have OFTEN thought that the reason Lana wasn't adopted by a family long before we were eligible to be matched to her was because her referral photos weren't "prettier". (I'm ducking again for a minute.)

Let's be brutally honest. My daughter's face was on our adoption agency's website for 7 months before we were matched to her - WHY ON EARTH wasn't she adopted by some other family during that time??? (I kept going back to her page on the website and looking at her little face, but, I was afraid to ask to be matched to her because of what happened in February of 2006 with the little boy from the website we asked to be matched to. (That story is here: Two Hearts Broken Or Badly Bruised - it's too painful for me to rehash.) Anyway, I was terrified of having my heart broken like that again, so, we didn't ask to go to committee for her.) It wasn't until we had a logged in homestudy approving us to adopt a child aged 2 to 5 years, AND we were working with the waiting child coordinator, AND we were assured that we could see Lana's file without it being released to any other family for a 48 hour period that we finally took a peek at Lana's file, and we were, in fact, moving forward towards accepting A DIFFERENT CHILD'S REFERRAL.

And thank God we did look at Lana's file. (Because otherwise, Lana would not have come home to us, and we would have come home with another family's daughter. What a mess!) And as I poured over Lana's file, I kept wondering WHAT WHAT WHAT the many, many other families who had looked at her file had seen that had caused them to close up the file and send it back to the agency. Was it because of her age? I couldn't imagine why any number of those other families hadn't jumped at the chance to parent this bright, interested little girl. And at the time, the only thing I could come up with was that her photos made her look like a boy.

Maybe it was predestination. Or fate, or God's plan - I don't know. (I have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of predestination, because it conflicts with the idea of free will.) Bottom line is, there was something about Lana's file that made other families reject her, but which made me know she should come home to our family. And I was weirdly grateful that her pictures weren't very pretty, or for whatever intangible thing caused the other families to reject her. (And that is horrible, horribly selfish of me, because I SHOULD have wanted for Lana to come home to a loving family as soon as possible, but, instead I am so grateful, so selfishly grateful, that she came home to US.)

And I was expecting her to be smart, and willful, and curious. And I was hoping that she would be happy and affectionate. But, 'pretty' wasn't on my radar.

Which is why her beauty is so stunning to me. Because it was so unexpected.

Which brings me back to my point (I think), which is: My daughter is beautiful. By anyone's standards, she is a physically beautiful child and I want to shout it from the rooftops - my daughter has beautiful eyes - JUST EXACTLY AS THEY ARE.

But, even if she weren't beautiful - she would be walking around with perfectly perfect eyelids. Perfectly useful and suitable and appropriate eyelids. And it kills me to think that anyone would ever put a thought into her head to make her want to change the essence of her ethnicity in the name of physical beauty.


*Sean Kingston, Beautiful Girls


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lana is very beautiful. Few girls look good with a crew cut.

But, and I wish it were not so- physical beauty is important. It is very important.

Yes, you certainly should teach your girls to be wonderful, interesting, educated people.

And of course that their ethnic looks are beautiful. But as far as getting ahead in the world and having opportunities looking good is going to be a big plus.

You can find tons of studies that say pretty children are thought smarter and graded better by teachers. Pretty people are thought to be brighter, nicer, tend to be chosen for activities, people are more willing to befriend them- they have a definite edge.

My mother always told me, and I have come to find it is true -make sure your little girl always looks pretty and well cared for. Dress her in nice clothes; make sure her hair looks great, nice shoes, good hair cut. People will treat her better. When she looked like a street urchin people treated her like that.

My referral was a crew cut, malnourished, little older child too. My theory was anyone in the USA can be pretty if they want. You can go to the gym and build a great body. You may not be a wash and wear beauty, but you can get yourself together with a little hair, makeup, and exercise.

Friday, August 15, 2008 1:19:00 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

I have enjoyed your blog for about a year and have never commented--I've got a domestically adopted son (of Vietnamese heritage) and adopted a daughter from Vietnam in April. I think you're one of the most thought-provoking people out there in blog land, and an amazing writer to boot. I just wanted to give you that background before I tell you I think Lana is stunningly beautiful with her short hair. Yes, she looks a little boyish, but her features are literally stunning. I have a theory that people who aren't as "physically attractive" according to "standards" are made beautiful to people who know them and like them. It goes along with the idea that if you ARE beautiful inside, you become "beautiful" on the outside to people who know you. Great post...I always enjoy reading.

Friday, August 15, 2008 1:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lana is a beautiful little girl and I hope she never has to go through the pain of not feeling beautiful, physically beautiful for any reason. I wish the same for my own daughter.

I generally just lurk around here but I just wanted to comment because my mom actually got that eyelid surgery. I was much younger when she got it done; I'm guessing I was around preteen age. My mom is a confident woman. She was a beautiful young girl, and still beautiful today. I know that at first my father didn't want her to get the surgery done. Of course, as it should be, he loves her just the way she is. It was larger than that and had to do with how she felt about herself personally - more than just feeling good as a woman, but as an Asian woman. As an adult I've started to understand more. I personally wish I had a different skin color. I know I'm pretty, but I have no doubts that if my skin were darker (not tan, but more of an olive tone) it would be easier for me to "fit in." And that's why I think my mom did it - more so as a way to fit in rather than for beauty. I know that's not the reason for everyone who gets that surgery or wants to change something physically about themselves, but that's just how I personally feel about it.

Friday, August 15, 2008 2:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Lana is beautiful, and I don't think she wasn't pretty in her referral photos, but the short hair maybe did make her look more boyish to others. I also hope my kiddos never feel the need to change something about their physical appearance. I know people have all different reasons for doing that, but still . . .(says the woman who is trying to change her husband's hair). And about the whole predestination thing (which I know wasn't the point of your post, but I'm going there anyway) I have one word: foreordination. Perhaps I'll write about it all on Monday.

Friday, August 15, 2008 5:13:00 PM  
Blogger Chel @ Gingerblue Beads said...

I have to admit- I think Lana's early photos are incredibly stunning. Her haircut only brought out her beauty.

I personally think it was the age factor- everyone I knew who was signing up to adopt from Vietnam the same time as us were doing so because they were hoping to get an INFANT.

Gracie wasn't placed before we came along, either- we got her referral just 48 hours after we signed with our agency. And although she was only five months old at referral, she considered "older" compared to what most families were asking the agencies for!

The idea that Gracie might one day look in the mirror and not like what she sees breaks my heart into a zillion tiny pieces, although I know most every young woman does it at some point. I just wish that she will realize how amazing and incredible and beautiful she is, inside and out, and LIVE that. I take heart in the fact that I HATED my freckles growing up and now I adore them. I'm still working on "adoring" my physical disability, though, but that's another thing entirely.

I guess I'm not making sense. I just can't imagine anyone regarding Gracie with any less awe than I do...

I do have a family friend who got some plastic surgery done and the doctor offered her the "Western" eye surgery (she's half Cuban, half Asian- gorgeous...) and she declined forcefully. That made me happy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008 1:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

What a wonderful and honest post, Gretchen. I never once felt like you needed to duck under your desk. I think more people should be so open and truthful. Then again, that's coming from me, and I'm missing that part of the brain that tells me when to stop sharing my thoughts. I don't know where to start. Before I forget, I feel like I can say all sorts of great things about my son's intelligence and physical appearance (I think he's the cutest little boy, EVER, and he's too smart of any of our good) b/c I had nothing to do with either of those traits. He was born intelligent and he was born adorable, and I get no credit for either, which gives me shameless bragging rights as far as I'm concerned.

Lana is amazingly beautiful. She's an incredible little girl, and if I'm being honest, it's hard to see the same child in her referral photos. I believe that has a lot to do with her happiness and mental well being as well as the hair. While you said you were only referring to skin deep beauty, I think one's mental and emotional well being is reflected in their physical appearance. While I'm not claiming that all orphanages are terrible and that we're (APs) the answer to everything, the fact is that at some point, after some adjustment, most children will do SO much better with their families than they would have in the orphanage. I think that feeling of more security and happiness shows physically. Just my two (or one hundred) cents.

About the eye surgery, I saw a "documentary" about this a few years ago (I use quotes b/c it was on MTV, but it was really interesting). It was about the number of people of Asian descent who have the surgery. It's disturbing to think that our white world in this country affects so many people in such a way that they feel they need to take steps to look less Asian. I could write a lot on this b/c I just had a conversation with another AP that upset me, but this is your blog and I'm already writing too much.

Thank you again for sharing this.

Saturday, August 16, 2008 3:33:00 PM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

I agree with the other comment. I think Lana looks gorgeous in her referral photos. Almost like those Calvin Klein adds with the jean jacket and the short hair. Her face screams " I am a girl". She totally has feminine features.

Her recent pictures show a happier little girl thus probably the big difference in her appearance beside the obvious longer hair. Sometimes inner joy can really shine through and it only adds to her attractiveness.

I wrote you before about how I believe some people are meant to be with each other. Whether it's fate or some people's energy attracting each other, God or whatever the underlying force. That is truly the only reason I can think that she was there for you at that perfect time. Same with Bronte and even some of our other children. The circumstances are just too strange or things fell into place too perfectly to be an accident.

I would absolutely die if any of my children ever desired that operation. I think Asian eyes are extremely attractive. Actually, I think Asian people in general are just beautiful. When in the Tokyo airport, I felt like we were in the land of beautiful people. We were surrounded by gorgeous women and men everywhere. Coming home to the Philly airport was quite an awakening.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger mam said...

I can't do better than what other commentors have said, so...ditto. (And especially ditto to you and Laura; I too feel oddly free to brag about Lucy's gorgeousness only because I'm in no way responsible for it, biologically.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008 6:38:00 PM  
Blogger S. said...

I am too much in shock at how grown up Lana looks to leave an intelligent comment!

She is just gorgeous.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

I saw an episode of MASH where an Asian (supposed to be Korean, but it seems like about 1/2 the "Koreans" on MASH were actually of other Asian ethnicities) boy asks BJ for eyelid surgery - and I remember thinking, "wow, we sure have come a long way - it's just awful anyone ever thought they needed surgery like that" - assuming it was all in the past. I can't believe that kind of thing is still an issue. Lana IS beautiful - Asian eyes are beautiful. Just because they are almond shaped does not mean they are less attractive - and it is just a sad state of affairs that anyone would think so.

Monday, August 18, 2008 5:27:00 PM  
Blogger La Turista said...

Of course you have everything to do with how beautiful Lana is - she is so loved, she just beams. When I look at baby pictures of my goddaughter (adopted from Russia), she looks like a totally different child than the gorgeous, full-of-life 4 year old she is today. Genes are genes, but there's a lot to be said for love and attention.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Shamay said...

My baby girl was 5 months old when we adopted her from VN and is now 21 months old. Several people (all women, incidentally) have commented conspiratorially to me recently that we got "lucky" because we "got one of the really cute ones" and one went further to say that she wasn't very cute in the beginning so it's amazing how she is turning out and aren’t I glad I didn’t get one of the homely looking ones? And each of these women are not strangers, but close to me. It makes me sad because no one would say that, or anything close to that, about my biological child. Would you ever say of a bio-kid "wow, you got lucky. So many people give birth to ugly kids, but yours, well they are surprisingly pretty". It makes me sad that my baby may grow up with this measure as one she may feel she has to live up to. She is beautiful and like you, I sometimes catch myself staring at her and wondering how I was lucky enough to be her mommy for so many reasons. But when your child is sick and you are tired, when they are throwing a tantrum in public, when you realize that you indeed cannot clean the spaghetti stain off your carpet and when you haven’t slept for a week because of the monster in their closet, you don't scoop them up and love them because of their physical beauty. It's because you (and maybe you alone some days) can see the beauty in them and that is what makes them beautiful. I would have loved an 'ugly' baby just the same and she would have been just as beautiful to me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008 3:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Lina said...

Wow - Lana is beautiful! I have lost touch with your blog for a while and I was shocked at how much she has grown since I last saw her. She's gorgeous!

Thursday, August 21, 2008 9:21:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Hit Counter
Get a Free Hit Counter