My Good Side
When I was fifteen, I cracked my face open.
It was the summer after my freshman year of high school and my family was on a vacation in Italy. I was dehydrated or overheated or possessed by il diavolo and I passed out in the center of a small piazza in Rome. I fell face-first onto the crooked cobblestones, and awoke to blood gushing and wrinkled nonne (little old ladies) scampering over to help me, one of whom offered me a place to rest in her apartment.
Maybe this story is on my mind because I was just thinking about our wonderful tour guide and family friend, an ex-pat who insisted on rushing me to the hospital and spending the day translating between the Italian ER doctor and me. (Side note: the doctor wanted to perform surgery. For free. I wanted a second opinion.) Or maybe this story is on my mind because I recently fainted for the first time in years, this time in a Chipotle in San Diego. Or maybe, I’m thinking of this story because of the serious implications it had on my self-image after I returned to the US.
When I went to a doctor here in the states a second opinion, he pulled out a special mirrored contraption. “This,” the polished plastic surgeon Ken doll said, “this is how you look to other people. What you see in the mirror at home is actually backwards, but this is what people see. And by looking at this version of your reflection, you can see how asymmetrical [read: crooked] your face is. See your nose curves dramatically to the right and the left side of your face is much flatter than the right– see how your cheekbone has almost no definition on this side.”
From that day on, I never looked at my reflection the same way. Sure, I had always known that I wasn’t perfect. And yes, ever since the time in second grade when I walked face-first into a low-hanging Magnolia branch, I’d been aware of the scar on my nose. But I hadn’t thought that others saw me as crooked and gnarled, deformed and ugly. Hell, I’d even thought I was kind cute.
For years, I convinced myself that I had a good side. The right side of my face was my good side. I always wanted to stand on the right side in photos. And when I would admit this to friends, they would always swear they couldn’t see the difference, which upset me even more– did they think both sides of my face were deformed?
As I’ve gotten older, stopped caring, and become more fabulous, my aversion to left-side photos has lessened. I’ve calculated that the time I could spend worrying about posing in a photo, I could also spend napping. So therefore it’s a waste of time. But it wasn’t until this week that I realized that my bad side is finally cured. It’s not that my face itself has changed (and no, it’s also not because I opted for rhinoplasty). It’s that I saw a picture of my face, of my supposed bad side, and I actually liked it. It was the photo in this post, a picture of me doing what I love. And then it began to make sense to me. A good photo, and a great portrait is one that shows joy and self-expression. And after all, joy and self-expression look good from all angles.