I have what I call a "ghost mole." About seven years ago, I had a mole removed from the left side of my chin, and while I expected a small scar, I didn't expect what's been happening ever since: Once or twice a year, the scar becomes inflamed and bloody and crusty and gross (which you probably figured out from "inflamed and bloody and crusty"). It's like the mole is haunting my face, trying to get revenge for being removed. (I'm working on the screenplay.)
My skin is almost done healing from the latest flare-up -- the longest-lasting and worst I've ever experienced. The inflammation spread to a wider area than usual, and it was rough and swollen. I left it alone for the most part, giving it its best shot to run its extremely annoying course as quickly as possible, but if I was going out for anything more social than a walk to the dog park, I'd cover it with concealer.
The only thing concealer did, though, was tone down the redness; there was still an obvious, flaky bump. It was obvious to me, at least, because it was on my own face; not to mention it was pretty sore. But I figured it was pretty obvious to anyone who looked at me, too.
"Ugh, does this look terrible?" I asked Rachel when she was staying with me a few weeks ago, pointing to it and scowling.
"I wouldn't have even noticed it if you hadn't pointed it out to me," she replied.
But I didn't believe her. I never believe anyone when they assure me I'm the only one who notices my own little flaws, and I'm never the friend that does such assuring.
That's because I definitely notice everyone else's tiny flaws, and I don't think I'm the only one.
Among the "unnoticeable" things I've noticed on people:
- Pulls in sweaters or strings hanging from seams.
- Slightly uneven bangs.
- Crust in the corner of an eye.
- Errant nose hair.
- A finger wart.
- Small food/beverage/sex stains on clothing.
- Crooked glasses.
- Mascara flakes.
I'm not looking for your flaws. I'm not interested in picking you apart and cataloguing your imperfections to make myself feel better. And unless we're friends and I know for a fact you don't like the look of mascara flakes on your cheeks, I'm not going to mention what I see. I just happen to notice little details. For me, noticing that you have one gray hair is no different than noticing you have a tiny nose stud.
You might like to think that you don't have such a scrutinizing eye, but if you've ever told a friend they have something stuck in their teeth, you're just as observant. If you're capable of noticing a tiny piece of apple skin wedged between two incisors, you're just as capable of noticing a sty on someone's eyelid.
We're reluctant to admit that we notice these little imperfections because we think it signifies that we're nitpicky or judgmental. OK, some of us definitely are. But when I notice a small flaw, my brain doesn't launch into a critical inner monologue about the person it's on. It's just a blip on my radar, and then it fades away into the ether.
And I have a feeling most of us are like that.
Rachel swears she really didn't notice my ghost mole, and I'm close enough with her to know she's not lying to me. But I'm also close enough with her to know that if she had noticed it, she wouldn't think all the unfavorable thoughts I wouldn't want someone thinking about it and about me.
And that's what we're all nervous about when we don't want people to notice our flaws, isn't it? That they'll form an opinion about us based on something we don't like about ourselves. And we're nervous that people will notice because we know, deep down, we would notice it on someone else.
And that's OK! Noticing the little things about someone they might hope you don't notice doesn't mean you're a bad person. It's not like you can stop your eyes from seeing someone else's zit. It's what you do with that visual information after it hits your retina that matters.
If you're like me, you just see it and move on. And I like to think that most people who noticed my ghost mole -- and the couple of zits I have right now, and the lipstick I had on my teeth for god knows how long yesterday and my under-bra bulge, etc. -- did exactly that.