“No matter what you do, you’ll still be ugly.”

To this day, I don’t know what the boy looks like.

To this day though, I hear those words. 





16 years old.

The age where you believe as a “tween” (a term that didn’t even exist while my generation was living the highly volatile pubescent drama, aesthetically, socially and otherwise), some kind of sorcery happens.

You wake up and BOOM.

Clear skin.

Socially graceful.

16 is supposed to be easier.

But when your genetics renders your skin dermatologically furious and no amount of restructuring can force your square pegged nature into a round hole…16 kinda sucks.


The Häagen-Dazs was packed.

Located in a strip mall adjacent to the TGIFriday’s and the AMC Movie theater, it was the natural lily pad to land after giant virgin margaritas and a movie probably starring Leonardo DiCaprio. In South Jersey, on a night in 1996, this is absolutely where you would end up.

The line snaked in two rows, a long mirror opposite the counter.

The pods of teenagers moved through together, in close quarters, eyeing up their rival high school peers, avoiding eye contact with anyone from your own school that wasn’t in the same strata, or galaxy, for that matter.

(If you hummed on the same social frequency, you would convene outside. Final objective, typically, phone number exchange.)

The line moved along; I was with two of my best friends.  The Hot One, The Bad Girl and…well, me.  The sidekick.  The one that didn’t quite fit in any of my groups of friends, the outlier.

I turned to the mirror.

I adjusted my ponytail.

I heard him.

“No matter what you do, you’ll still be ugly.”

The decibel level was loud enough to echo the small store, but he blended into his specific faction.

I don’t know what he looks like.

I never saw his face.

I turned.

I left the line.

I left the store.

I left with my face on fire and my heart in my throat.  

I left with those words stomping through my head.  


The Buddhists have a word for the stories we tell ourselves; the impressions in our minds that consciously or unconsciously shape our actions.

Samskaras are like the grooves of a record, an analogy that many yoga teachers have used before me. 

Samskaras can be positive or negative; they lay the groundwork for our habits, our patterns and our addictions.

Words that are spoken first time create the track; a single revolution around your subconscious record player.

How many times do we hear the same thing over and over?

Around and around and around again.

Some wounds may only be inflicted once.

Some we hear, repeated by the same people, over and over.

Some we hear just once.

But that’s all it takes to etch the groove.

How can we move the needle from one track to the next?


I have an astrological predisposition to aesthetic.

I’m attracted to the attractive and the provocative.

Words. Art. People.

I find it in everything and everyone. 

I quite certainly find the beauty in nearly everything; skewing the perception of a penchant for simply pretty.

How tragic to embody the alluring and gritty grace that you adore in the world and not see it at all in yourself.


And there is the space for the work to be done.

To move the needle.

To look in the mirror and hear something new on your soundtrack.

To diffuse the addiction of external validation.

To break free from the overwhelming urge to play up, to please out.

To believe so much that all the habits and the obsessions that were developed over two decades of passing time to fix what you believe was flawed.

No matter what you do you’ll still be divine, holy and extraordinary.

But you must believe it yourself.

Hear yourself say it.



And that is the ugly truth.

This piece was a submission to the 2020 Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. It received an Honorable Mention.

xo, LR.

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