What 'Beauty and the Beast' Taught Me as a Child With a Facial Difference
I finally saw “Beauty and the Beast” this weekend.
It was incredible.
While in recent years I’ve become an advocate of how villains are portrayed in movies, the 1991 cartoon version of this movie has been a constant favorite in my life.
I don’t remember the first time I saw the movie, but I was young.
I loved Belle’s personality. She had a sense of adventure, daring to be herself regardless of what the townspeople said about her. Oh, and she loved her books. While they never showed her as a writer, I often pretended in my childhood that she enjoyed holding a pen to a piece of paper as much as I did.
But as a child with a facial difference, my reason for loving this movie was so much more than relating to the beautiful Disney princess.
You see, I was born with a purple port-wine stain birthmark that covers half my face. Three in 1,000 have my condition, but as a child, I didn’t know anyone else with a facial difference, let alone anyone with the same condition. Facebook support groups for people with birthmarks weren’t a thing, and we still had dial-up.
Watching the movie’s storyline unfold in front of me, I was in awe… especially when Belle fell in love with the Beast.
Often, as a child, I would forget about my birthmark. Unless someone made a comment, stared or I had a medical treatment, it wasn’t the focus on my life. I was just a kid. I was just like everyone else. I was focused on hanging out with my cousin, watching “Boy Meets World,” and building things with my Legos.
But in that moment where Belle started to develop feelings for the Beast, I remembered my birthmark. I remembered my unique physical appearance.
“People who look ‘different,’ can find love too. Maybe someone will one day fall in love with me,” I remember myself thinking.
At around 6 years old, I don’t recall ever worrying about dating or finding love. I don’t recall ever wondering if I would marry or if anyone would be able to see past my face’s two-shaded skin tone. But as I watched Belle and the Beast fall in love, the thought of love was planted in my mind, and it would never leave.
I’m now 25 and still very much single. “Beauty and the Beast” still remains my favorite Disney film, but now we have high-speed internet and Facebook groups for a variety of topics, including some for people with birthmarks like my own.
Discovering these social media groups for the first time around the age of 21, I never realized how much I craved to connect with other people with the same condition. I made new friends with similar appearances, with similar stories.
Then, one day, the question emerged from my mind, “How many people who look like me have found love? How many are married or are dating?”
I then found myself shamelessly clicking from profile to profile, curious on their marital status. My 21-year-old single self needed to know it was possible. I needed to know the concept of “Beauty and the Beast” wasn’t just a Hollywood storyline.
Last night, I asked my mom, “I know it was a different time with different resources when I was born, but did you ever consider trying to find someone with the same birthmark for me to connect with?”
She told me she never thought to ask, as that seemed to be the farthest thing from the doctor’s minds.
And for the first time, I told her about why I truly loved “Beauty and the Beast.” I told her, “Growing up, I saw many married couples. But all those couples had typical appearances, none of them looked like me. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was the first time I realized people like myself could find love too.”
As an adult, I see the even deeper connections I feel with the Beast. Like the Beast, society has a hard time seeing past the appearance. Like the Beast, rumors about my appearance travel. Like him, I’m often misunderstood and mistreated — all because of how I look. And also, his name. He’s literally known as “the Beast.” While several know me by name, as Crystal, strangers often refer to me by my appearance. And even for some friends, who have known me my whole life, my name still doesn’t go beyond the phrase of, “The girl who has something wrong with her face.”
In a season and society of high expectations where where I’ve been asked to be on a show called “Too Ugly For Love, Body Fixers, The Undateables,” and where I’ve been called “contagious” and “ugly” by blunt strangers, “Beauty and the Beast” gives me hope. One day, it’s possible I may meet someone who won’t “shudder” when they touch “my paw.” He may even love both me and my birthmark — maybe just as much as I do. To one man, one day, I may be known as so much more than “the girl who has something wrong with her face.”
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