I was born with one lung not working and was promptly whisked away to an incubator. Age two, I got scarlet fever and my parents worried I might not survive. Age three I was fully cross-eyed. But I did not (as yet) have an inferiority complex. I was very happy-go-lucky. Chatting it up all the time with my imaginary friends and all.
Oprah tells this story about herself, a lot. A random woman walked up to her in church one day and commented on her bee-stung lips. She had paid her a compliment on her beauty that was long overdue. Until then, no one had noticed any beauty in Oprah and it meant so much to her that she found the woman, this white woman, many years later and thanked her.
During my cross-eyed period, when I was old enough to be cognizant, people, random people on the street, would turn their heads to look at my brother Alan. He was adorable. They might even comment on his fetching looks, then look back at me and not say a word. Not a word. It would kill me; my fragile little ego, so wounded by a random stranger. And I would wait until I got home to cry from the sting of not being noticed as beautiful.
My mother would look me in the eyes, those crossed eyes with their hideous glasses, and say, “By the time you are 16,” yes, she nailed the number down — not 15, not 18, but at 16 “you will be prettier than them all.” Uh huh. I thought that the crystal ball she was looking into was on crack (and there wasn’t even crack yet). Or perhaps, it was gazing into the far distant future and seeing my drop-dead, gorgeous daughter Augie.