Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Thing About Birthmarks

My mom has a birthmark on the heel of her foot. According to my aunts (and maybe also my mom) this means that she is "layas," which in Tagalog means that she is on the move all the time. Presumably because she has this birthmark she's pre-disposed to going out all the time and not being able to stay still. For the most part I think this is true, and probably where I've inherited my love of travel.

I have birthmarks in several places in my body. I have one on the left side of my scalp, one on my left leg just below the knee, and one in my left armpit. Using the same logic applied to my mom's birthmark, I guess this means I am smart, am always on the move, and have really bad B.O. Other members of my family also have that birthmark on their armpit so at least I am not alone in the B.O. department. This is also probably why I am obsessed with European deodorant.

Accordingto, a birthmark is a blemish on the skin formed before birth whose cause is unknown. Like mine, some birthmarks run in families. In Italian they are called "voglie" and in Arabic they are called "wiham," both of which translate to "wishes." According to folklore, they are caused by unsatisfied wishes of the mother during pregnancy. For example, if a pregnant woman does not satisfy a sudden wish or craving for strawberries, it's said that the child might bear a strawberry mark. Maybe back in the day my mom yearned for better deoderant.

I also have a Darwinian tubercle on my left ear, which also runs in my family (my niece Samantha has the same exact thing on her left ear). Basically a tubercle is a malformation in the ear, resulting in extra skin along the outer rim of the ear. When I was younger I was very shy about showing other kids this thing on my ear and I was very self-conscious. Kids have a tendency to make fun of things they don't understand, and since none of them had it I thought it best to keep it quiet - and well-hidden. This meant that as a kid I never wore my hair in a ponytail or wore a headband to school. My left ear needed to be covered up all the time or else I'd risk getting asked, "What's THAT?" by some kid in school, which would pique the interest of other kids, and before you knew it everyone was pointing at laughing at me. Not that this ever happened, mind you, but just the thought of it was terrifying. It was my worst fear.

I never felt ashamed about my tubercle whenever I was at home or with family. My mom always told me that it was my "agimat," my lucky charm. It wasn't a big deal in my family and no one ever made fun of me. As I grew older I stopped caring about what other people thought about my tubercle. For the most part people are polite and ask me what it is if they're curious. Sometimes people look at it while talking to me but never bring it up out of courtesy. Most people don't say anything about it at all since it's small and the same color as my skin.

The thing about having a tubercle is that this physical flaw made me who I am today. I think that being so self-concious in childhood about having extra skin around my ear makes me more sympathetic to other people who might have the same condition or have a physical imperfection they cannot control.

As for the birthmark in my left armpit - well, that's up to you to decide. How badly do I smell?

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