Monday, August 4, 2014

We of the rosy cheeks

I looked at all of the kindergarten self-portraits on display, looking eagerly for my daughter's artwork. Quickly, I scanned past the brunettes and the redhead, my eyes moving back and forth amongst the blondes to see which one was Clara's.

I immediately blushed when I saw the identifying factor which definitively differentiated Clara's portrait from the others: two rosy red cheeks. "My name is Clara and I like cupcakes," she wrote underneath her artwork. 

Clara does not have particularly rosy red cheeks, and yet her artwork throughout the year was consistently punctuated by those same two unmistakable rosy cheeks.

I didn't have to look very far to realize why she identifies so strongly with red cheeks. I have rosacea.

What is rosacea?
Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness of the face. It is common for people with light skin of European and Irish descent. About 14 million people have it, even well-known people like Bill Clinton and Prince Charles, and actresses such as Cynthia Nixon. 

Rosacea and me
No matter how many famous people I know who have it, having rosacea is embarrassing to me. My regular skin tone is pale and pink, but anytime I have an uncomfortable thought, my face broadcasts my discomfort with a blush ranging from flamingo pink to firehouse red. I feel exposed, like my emotions are constantly on display even though I am a very private person. 

Staring at my daughter's artwork so clearly displaying one of my most uncomfortable physical traits was quite a blush-worthy moment.

Finding beauty through my daughter's art
The final art project of Clara's school year was to make a "moveable me portrait" that featured life-size hands and feet. Clara worked hard to mix paints to match her exact skin tone. This project took weeks. I was excited to see the final artwork.

By this point in the year, I was not surprised to see the predictable rosy circles prominently attached to Clara's cheeks on her "movable me".

Clara could hardly wait to show me the project and how the arms and legs moved.

"Do you know what my favorite part of my movable me is, Mama?" Clara asked.

"No, what...?" I thought she might mention the details she put into the patchwork shirt and skirt or how each part could move individually.

Clara said, "My favorite part is... the rosy cheeks."


I lost my breath for a moment. How was it that the physical feature I dislike most became my daughter's favorite?

My daughter may indeed have rosy cheeks like her mama when she is a grown-up. Rosacea has a hereditary component although how it is passed down is not exactly known. It usually manifests after the age of 30 so she has a while to find out.

For now, even though Clara does not have my rosy cheeks, she sees what I view as an imperfection as a sign of beauty, as a mark of our tribe. 

I strive to cultivate the sense of acceptance she so clearly demonstrates in her artwork. And yes, I admit, Clara's rosy view of herself (and me) makes me blush with pride.


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