I recently fought with my parents over this photo. I had been out with friends when I received a very emotional email from my mother detailing how my choice to have a photo with my artificial eye out as my profile picture was extremely distressing for her. How she was crying every time she opened Facebook because she had to see it and how I just couldn’t understand because I am not a parent. She also stressed that my father was equally as upset. She begged me to take it down. Very hurt, I called my father, and upon arguing with him I was told “You don’t realize how your face is off-putting to everyone” and “It is like someone posting a photo of a leg that has been shot off.” In a later email, my father would go on to say “You are making a huge mistake by defining yourself by your one eye.”
I had chosen this picture as my FB profile photo for many reasons: I love the way the lighting was, I loved the way my hair looked, I was ecstatic about my new banjo, etc etc. At no point in choosing this photo was I thinking “I must make sure I present my lack of a left eye as my defining characteristic!”. In fact the eye was out because the socket had been irritated by the change in weather. It was a health decision.
In the end I felt I could not budge on this issue. When I was very small I was hyper aware of my face. Constant visits to doctors and ocularists instilled in me a sense that my face was “incorrect.” I would be upset by seeing photos of myself. Embarrassed when kids asked me why one eye was bigger than the other (it takes many years to grow in to an artificial eye). Being asked “Whats wrong with your face??”. Kids tend not to think before they speak and as such can be quite cruel. But by the time I reached young adulthood. That age were you really start developing who you want to be as a person, I realized something: my face isn’t “incorrect.” Its my face. Plain and simple. And the older I get the more I understand that my face without my artificial eye is no less valid, no less my face, than when my artificial eye is in. And on top of this, I am very happy with myself. With what I see in the mirror. When I was younger I would try and hide my face hoping people wouldn’t realize that my eye wasn’t real and my jaw was crooked. The reflection in the mirror was something I was ashamed of. Now all i see in the mirror is myself. And I like the self that I see there.
I am many things. One-eyed is one of those many things I am, alongside a person with a ridiculously cheerful disposition, a penchant for being silly, a history student, the youngest sister out of three girls, a lover of all foods…I can keep going. In the end i AM one eyed. But that s not the sole characteristic that defines me. Nor does the fact that I have several severe medical concerns. Those are just realities. They are not who I am.
Unfortunately this was not the first fight about my face that I’ve had with my parents. Previous fights my parents have pleaded with me to wear sunglasses whenever I have to leave my eye out for an infection, or an eye patch (which if you have an empty eye socket are extremely painful). Before I moved to England to pursue my masters, my mother commanded me to never let anyone see me with my eye out or I’ll never get a job, insisting that London is where beautiful, elegant people lived and I’d frighten and disgust people. We’ve even previously fought about a different profile photo for the exact same reasons we fought over this one. And time and time again it reaffirms my decision to be happy and open about who I am. It instills in me the importance of liking oneself, which is such a rare gift. I refuse to take that for granted.
I will admit that it hurts every time i fight with my parents over this. It hurts a lot. These are my parents. I wish so much that they could understand. And it bewilders me to no end that they are telling me i SHOULD feel like a victim. I SHOULD feel like I have to hide my face. That my self confidence is WRONG. And no matter how much I try, they cannot see that they are the only ones making me feel bad about myself. No one since middle school has ever made me feel ashamed of my eye. NO ONE. Except my own parents. They have become the bullies that they are so afraid I’ll meet out in the world. Even when my sister and I try to explain to them that my friends all love my photos, my parents respond with “they must be lying to her so she doesn’t feel bad.” No. People go out of their way to tell me they love my photos. People take me aside at school to thank me for being confident and helping them feel like they can be confident about themselves. And while I don’t think I am deserving of thanks or credit for just being myself, it still makes me feel so happy if I can help anyone feel more confident in themselves just by refusing to give up.
And it makes me sad that my parents will never understand how the world is changing. Maybe they are from a generation where it was imperative to fit in. To be normal. To be like everyone else. But one of the things I am proudest of in the new generations is how much emphasis is being put on body positivity and self confidence, and how strong we are becoming in saying “this is who I am. And I am happy with it.”