I realize this is the second time I've written about my mole in the last few weeks. Don't blame me. I write about what's going on in my life—a memoirist, if you will (and if you will, please do so with your pinky extended). And lately, in my life, the three or four millimeters of slightly raised, brown skin to the right of my mouth have gotten an inordinate amount of unwanted, negative attention.
In June, it was the guy on OkCupid who unsolicitedly advised me to have my mole removed in order to "improve [my] social life in direct and indirect ways." Some of my friends were baffled over my decision to engage with this schmuck while others applauded my response. Either way, I figured it was last time I'd have to deal with a brazen mole troll for a while.
I was wrong. And I never could've imagined how the new round of taunts would come about.
On Tuesday evening, I took my dogs, Max and Rufus, to the dog run in my Brooklyn neighborhood with my neighbor, Dan, and his dog, Bianca. While we were there, Bianca, a sweet, stocky pit bull, kept barking intently at a back corner of the run; we figured she was just excited about the kids in the adjacent skate park. However, a park employee showed up saying he'd received a phone call about huge, dead rat in the dog run, and while no one in the in run claimed to have made the call, we realized that's what Bianca was probably worked up over.
The park employee looked on the other side of the gate where Bianca had been barking and, yep: huge, dead rat. I don't know why, but I felt compelled to take a picture—the park employee was more than happy to make him pose, and "dance," and "talk"—and post it to Instagram.
The next morning, Gothamist's deputy editor, Jen Carlson, reached out to me and asked if she could run the photo along with a few more details. Of course! Gothamist has some of my favorite New York rodent coverage. Did you guys see that Park Slope squirrel eating a folded slice of pizza? Classic!
By Wednesday evening, I'd received a comment on my original Instagram photo from Daily Mail's photo desk asking for permission to run the photo, too. Huh—weird. I mean, I understand why Gothamist would run a funny little story about this, but Daily Mail? But hey, I'm not their editor. If they think it's news, sure, go ahead, use the photo.
On Thursday morning, as I was on the train going over the bridge into Manhattan, I thought to check to see if Daily Mail had published a story about the rat that—let's be honest—was big, but definitely not international-news big. I typed "park slope rat" into Google and was surprised to see the headline Daily Mail had chosen to go with.
When I clicked through, I saw a less personal, inaccurate alternate headline: "Woman horrified to find HUMUNGOUS dead RAT in New York dog run." OK, for one thing, I didn't find it, and secondly, I wasn't horrified. If anything, I was just sort of grimly amused.
The story more or less paraphrased the Gothamist story and my Instagram caption, except with far less wittiness than both. One thing it had that the Gothamist story didn't, however—and what I totally wasn't expecting—was another photo from my Instagram: a recent (and relatively rare) selfie from when I was bummed out about how long the line was for the Morbid Anatomy Museum Flea Market a couple weeks ago.
Well, even though what I notice about this photo is my hair, my Kam Dhillon glasses, my Burt's Bees Lip Crayon in Redwood Forest, and its utter irrelevance to the story (which, seriously, is so not a news story), multiple commenters zeroed in on my mole like extremely rude mole-seeking missiles.
Ouch. Normally the opinion of someone who goes by "Colostomy Jane" and seems to think the UK is in the United States wouldn't bother me, but that stung.
I GET IT.
Cool, good luck with your zoophilia.
What? It's a mole, not a tiny circle of a hair. I don't even... What? (By the way, you don't have to have a commenting account to up-vote or down-vote, so of course I down-voted a bunch of these comments.)
I bitched about the comments on Facebook, so that was probably one of my friends. (Up-vote!)
I had trouble reading the last couple of comments through the Phantom of the Opera mask I'd put on in embarrassment and to shield the world from seeing my horrifying/comical disfigurement, but I'm ashamed to admit, they got to me, especially after the recent OkCupid malarkey.
I know I shouldn't listen to Daily Mail commenters. I know I shouldn't listen to OkCupid douchecanoes. But when a bunch of people on the Internet decide, within the span of a few weeks, to pick on one particular physical feature of mine—and not even something that I chose or went out of my way to flaunt, like a haircut or cleavage—it's hard not to wonder for a moment or two if my mole is the first or only thing people see when they look at me.
In a moment of insecurity and curiosity last night, I reached out to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City (coincidentally, the hospital where I was born), to ask him if there would be a way to, I dunno, sorta flatten my mole without losing the spot?
"I would recommend what we call a shave removal, where I numb the spot and gently remove the top part of the mole sticking out from the skin," Dr. Zeichner explained. "In the end, the skin is flush. There may be a scar, but it usually heals beautifully and is barely noticeable. In some cases, the spot can actually become pigmented, so instead of a scar, you will have a flat brown spot rather than a raised one. For many people, this is a home run."
And that's what I'd like: a flat but pigmented spot, because I really do love having a beauty mark. But there's no guarantee the pigment would come back. And besides, my mole sticks out only a couple millimeters, and it's perfectly healthy; there's no major cosmetic or medical reason to do it.
And yet, I'm thinking about it because it seems to be what people think about when they look at me.
I like my mole being a trademark feature; I don't like it being a distraction. And while only anonymous Internet assholes have been audacious enough to actually make rude comments about it—OK, there was that one five-year-old girl in the nail salon last year who said I had a pimple like her big sister—I do wonder if the more polite people I meet are distracted by it.
Friends, of course, have reassured me that it's cute, that it's in an ideal spot, that it's not of a size that would prompt an Austin Powers-esque response. This sudden, unexpected onslaught of insults has me questioning that, though.
It's just a few millimeters near my mouth, but it's taking up a lot of space in my head lately.