“It was obvious on my dating profile. It was shown in all my pictures, it was written within my ‘about me’ section. I was intentional about it being obvious.
Granted, I was doing an online dating experiment to see how people react to those with facial differences, like mine – a port wine stain birthmark that dwells on my left side of my face.
I remember one of our first phone calls, just a few days before our first date and he bluntly said, ‘I don’t want to waste my time, and I don’t want to waste yours – but I need to let you know I’m looking for something that could lead to something serious. I don’t want to just date for fun.’
I knew this was my opportunity to throw in my ‘I don’t want to waste anyone’s time’ line.
Responding, I told him, ‘That’s what I’m looking for too, so we’re on the same page. But since I don’t want to waste my time either, nor yours – so I need to make sure you’re OK with my birthmark.’
I can’t remember exactly what I said after that. I’m pretty sure I threw in a blunt, ‘If you’re not OK with it, that’s OK. You’re just not the guy for me – because I don’t feel the need to hide it, or hide who I am. And I won’t change who I am for a guy’s preferences or expectations.’ But maybe I just thought that, maybe I didn’t say it. I was nervous to be so bold, but it was important. Did I warn him of the comments that could come? Did I warn him about the treatments I have to undergo to make my birthmark stay healthy? Or did that come later?
I can’t remember all that I said, but I do remember ending it with something like, ‘Are you OK with it? Do you have any questions about the birthmark, or about life with it?’
He didn’t understand why anyone would see it as an issue, or as a valid reason to not date a girl.
Our first date lasted over eight hours. And since that call, we’ve spent hours on the phone. We’ve seen each other every two weeks since our first date – and we’ve gotten engaged. He’s even gone with me to two of my laser treatments – one where I stayed awake, the other where I went under.
Growing up, we took friends with us to almost every treatment. It always made it more fun, more of an adventure. As an adult, I’ve gotten pickier on who I want to go with me. Letting someone see me get lasered (which can be quite painful) and then to let them see the initial affects of the treatment can be such a vulnerable thing – especially since I don’t usually leave my house for nearly a week after undergoing one of them, depending on the swelling and discomfort I’m experiencing.
I remember him asking to go to one for the first time. At the time, he was my boyfriend, but I knew that was a whole new level of vulnerability for our relationship – and it was up to me and if I was ready for that. To an extent, I was. I wanted him to go and experience ‘real life with Crystal Hodges,’ but I was afraid of also letting him go to a treatment – letting him see the process and the pain, to let him smell the burning flesh and hair.
What if it was too much for him? What if he’d go, and realize this wasn’t a life he wanted?
Sometimes it does feel like a lot to ask of him.
The migraines caused by the effects the birthmark has on my brain.
The occasional smells of burnt flesh and hair.
The risk of growth.
The risk of him being accused of abuse – both potentially serious accusations, or flippant.
How is it not a lot?
But he knew from the get-go. He chose to jump in, he has chosen to stay.
In the midst of my fears, he’s gone above and beyond.
Knowing my tradition that started as a child where I take a stuffed animal for every treatment, for his treatment experience, he brought me a handmade bear he commissioned someone to make me. He took selfies with my mom as they wore the ‘Willie Wonka’ glasses they had to wear to protect their eyes – because that’s what we do every time. And even though he lives three hours away from me, he came home with us that weekend and just held me as we binged my favorite movies and TV shows. He didn’t even care that I fell asleep on and off throughout our viewing experiences.
Yesterday was my second treatment since our relationship began, but this time I was being put under. Knowing I was feeling anxious and nervous, he put his own nerves to the side and rubbed my feet as I waited. He even made my stuffed animal dance to the music I was playing, knowing he’d get laughter out of me.
He started showing ‘in sickness and in health’ at the first treatment I invited him, months before he asked me to marry him – and he continues to do so every day since, with every treatment since.
He embraces who I am, as I am – lasered or not lasered. He loves that I love the color purple, and sometimes he’ll even wear the color purple to color coordinate with my natural look. He laughs with me as I make new birthmark jokes. He sees me as beautiful when the world tells me I’m not, and when I don’t feel so beautiful after a treatment – and he makes sure to tell me so on a regular basis. He partakes in the traditions I started as a child without even being asked. And when people stare or make comments? Per my request, he lets me handle it depending on how I see fit – but is ready to jump in if I need or want him to.
I don’t have to ask him to stay through it all, because for him, it’s not even a question.
And when I walk down the aisle in the coming months? By desires of my own and also by his request, I’ll be wearing white, but with a splash of natural color – keeping my birthmark untouched and unchanged.”
SHARE this story on Facebook or Twitter to encourage inclusion and acceptance.