I was born with a caramel, nickel-size patch stamped over the outer corner of my right eye. From my baby pictures until present day, my birthmark has been a permanent part of my face’s topography. And for a time it was special to me because only I had it.
Then a moment came in my preteen-hood when I was convinced that my birthmark was a capital-P Problem. New to a large school, I introduced myself to another student. (As one does.) They replied that I looked like another girl with the same name, but, quote, “That Halie doesn’t have a huge mole on her face.” I didn’t have a witty comeback, nor did I say anything to defend myself. I was so startled I laughed along with them.
If I’d transcribed the insult and uploaded it to present-day Twitter, I would have received a flood of motivational replies and an actor of my choosing to take to the spring fling dance. But this was before the golden age of the Internet clap-back and during a time when so-called imperfections weren’t celebrated. (Remember how much shit people used to give Sarah Jessica Parker for her chin mole?) Back then, in the early 2000s, all I could do was swallow the implications of that statement—you have a birthmark, and it’s not cute—and obsess over them.
Every time I looked at my birthmark, I’d hear the voice of my school’s Regina George laughing at my “ugly mole.”
What followed was a period of face hate fueled by adolescent insecurity and a lifelong flair for theatrics. Every time I looked at my birthmark, I’d hear the voice of my school’s Regina George laughing at my “ugly mole.” I spent the next several years after that moment despising my birthmark and plotting ways to hide it. I’d obsessively swath it in Covergirl Outlast Foundation, but the damn mark would not be concealed; it’s a few shades darker than the rest of my skin, so my ivory-tone makeup was no match for it. I’d schedule yearly visits to the dermatologist, almost hoping for it to have morphed into a skin condition that required surgical removal—but nothing. As much as I wanted to get rid of my birthmark, there was no reason other than vanity to remove it.
Was this an overblown reaction? Absolutely. Could I have done something more productive with the time I spent painting over my birthmark? Probably. Ultimately, I let insecurity cloud two obvious truths: One, the only opinion that matters about my birthmark is my own, and, two, if it’s part of me, it belongs with me.
I never had a grand epiphany when the clouds parted and I suddenly loved every millimeter of my birthmark again. Instead, as the greater conversation around quirks like scars, moles, and a whole host of skin differences changed, so too did my relationship with my caramel splotch. Social media—Instagram, in particular—has become a space for treating features that were once fuel for insecurity as opportunities for practicing self-love instead. My feeds are filled with women embracing moles and “tiger stripes” of all sizes, encouraging me to stop hiding my birthmark in photos and IRL. (Then, there’s one detail particular to my situation: As many close friends have pointed out to me, my birthmark isn’t as obvious as I convinced myself that it was.)
Buoyed by a noticeable shift in the way women talk about such features now—and the general maturity that comes with getting older—I look at my birthmark the same way as the cellulite on the backs of my thighs, or the purple-pink surgical scar on my left knee. It’s a natural part of my face, and it doesn’t need to be hidden or removed. Not only have I decided to keep it; I’ve decided I want it seen (but again, just for myself): I’ve eased up on penciling in the tails of my eyebrows and wearing eyeshadow past my brow bone so that it stands out.
On the occasional morning when I find myself imagining my face without my birthmark, I’m reminded of this: As my once tormentor was so kind to point out, there are a lot of other Halies, Haleys, and Haileys who look like me. I’m the only one who comes with my own special mark.
Halie LeSavage is the fashion features assistant at Glamour.