I had an uncle, my Mom’s older brother, who used to tell me how ugly I am..This is not a “poor me” perspective, just a memory to share. This troubled memory intertwines with another cherished one, that of my Grandom’s one and only pinto beans and cornbread with slaw dinner that she would prepare every Thursday.
My uncle, an adult baby, was the only sibling of eight, who chose not to leave home…He was not mentally unstable..he just never flew the nest. A janitor at the High School, I recall how he would work, come home, eat, and then drink a few. For the Thursday evening pinto bean feast, I would always sit across from him. In order to avoid looking in his judgmental eyes, I would stare at myself in the hanging walll mirror behind him. And then he would begin,
“You sho’ is an ugly child!”he’d offer. Then he’d chuckle. I would peer in the mirror and scrutinize every inch of my face….Was I so ugly? Why was he taunting me this way? As I became older, he changed the question.
“‘Broke any mirrors lately?'” he’d ask. I changed the dynamics of the badgering.
“Broke any mirrors lately?” I’d ask.
This verbal exchange became our form of communication. When I started dating my first boyfriend, my uncle realized that this dude was a Casanova, and observed my bouts of estrangement and love ache. It was quite challenging to accept the reality that this man, this Casanova that I loved, the one who unvirginized me..that he would never become my Romeo. Irregardless of the love ache, I maintained good grades in high school and focused on registering for college, unlike my Casanova boyfriend. It is then that my uncle’s taunting stopped.
This uncle would give me a few dollars to purchase items that I needed because (my Mom, his sister, and Dad) weren’t around at the time(another story)…
I realize now that my uncle’s taunting was his way of trying to instill within me the power to understand that knowledge is more important than beauty. He wanted me to understand that just having a pretty face ain’t gonna pay the rent! It wasn’t about slamming my self-esteem, it was about instilling wisdom. I thank God for the lesson learned. Thank you, Uncle Manuel. I haven’t broken any windows…but a few glass ceilings:-)