January 5, 2008
By Helen Yu, Boston, MA

For the first time, she sat down and looked at herself in the intricately carved, wrought iron mirror. No, not looked, saw. She saw a young woman, 17, desired by any male that she brushed by, and envied by those that knew her. By God, how beautiful she was! Her jet-black hair was perfectly parted directly over her right eye, combed out a thousand times over until it shone with brilliance, eager to flood down her back as a waterfall would. Her forehead, gently dusted with powder, was as smooth as silk – not a single crease or line marred her forehead. Naturally perfect eyebrows bordered the sockets of her eyes; they needed no plucking, or extra care. Those ebony eyes, always blithely smiling at those that had gazed at her, taking in her beauty, now sparkled at her under the immaculate eye-shadow that corresponded with her lips. The perfect, poised, and pointed nose sloped gently down her face, flawless to the tip as if Michelangelo himself had carved it out of the finest marble. Her cheeks, flushed with the color of cherries in July by her veins, accented her high cheekbones to the point of faultlessness on her unblemished face. Who could peel their eyes off of her while she was within seeing distance? And those striking, full lips. Who could miss lips like those, painted rose red, so luscious they took the breath away from anyone fortunate enough to kiss her, and could have been modeled on her face by angels themselves? They twisted into a half-smile, admiring her beauty, vain as she was. She had what society deems porcelain skin, so soft any baby became jealous at the sight. It was cared for the way a mother cared for her child, mesmerizing and compelling anyone that had come in contact with her skin. Her proud, pointed chin was tilted up in self-confidence just enough that people knew she was not a person to be upset. She was the definition of faultlessness, of beauty, of grace, of attractiveness, of splendor. She was a masterpiece. She lingered on, taking in all of this beauty. But a closer examination revealed something totally different. Her hair was gelled down to the last strand, straightened until her ends threatened to split, and spritzed – correction, drowned - with detangler to help disentangle the knots. That seemingly perfect forehead turned out to be obscured by foundation to conceal her growing pimples, and caked with powder so that the foundation would not slip off and expose her volcanic eruption of acne. How artificial this strange face appeared! She looked closer, hoping to find solace in something she could recognize from her perfect self. But she could not make out anything familiar as she searched her face. Only, and only, because they had been repeatedly plucked so many times that her eyebrows simply refused to grow back, those seemingly perfect eyebrows were the only features on her face that did not require paints to disguise their true appearance. The delicate arch so many people had admired turned into a grossly exaggerated upside-down U. Oh, and those eyes! The hideous unnatural shade of cherry-blossom pink was too bright, too cheery. The eyeliner was too thick; at close inspection, it seemed like she owned a pair of raccoon eyes. The false eye-lashes seemed too orderly; they were jewel-encrusted, and so fake it blinded her to see light reflecting off of the cubic zirconium jewels. Her sparkling eyes metamorphosed and shifted to cruel and patronizing - so emotionless, so cold. The make-up on and around her nose was absolutely revolting. The smudges of paint echoed a black eye, as if someone had socked her out of hatred, and she was too busy to get a bandage for herself. Her lips resembled nothing but a painted heart, the color too vivid to even look like real lips. Anyone that did not know her could have sworn she was smiling, but only she knew the grimace behind the façade and paint. Who was this stranger staring back it her? It was all a lie – the perfect features masterfully created on the face, the smile, the pretense. It was a game that she played, too much of an expert to give up. Not wanting to look further, she turned away.

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