8/25/13

My Daughter's Birthmark Looks Like A Hickey. Does That Bother You?

My daughter, Molly, had a very traumatic birth. It was like a scene from ER, actually, the episode where Bradley Whitford's tv wife was having a baby and the baby got stuck. Only in Molly's case, both mom and baby lived. And there sure as heck wasn't any sexy Bradley Whitford there, either. 


I wish.


Anyhoo. My point is, after having a less-than-ideal birth, the last thing you're going to stress about is a birthmark. Molly had a tiny mark on her neck. It was less than an inch long, red, and slightly raised. Our pediatrician looked at it and announced that it was a small hemangioma, also known as an angel's kiss or salmon patch. "It'll be gone by the time she's five" he assured me. But like I said, after almost dying from blood loss, all I cared about was the fact that my baby girl and I were both alive. Birthmark, schmirthmark. 

Molly is now 17. And so is the birthmark. Yep, it's still there. Over time it changed, and went from a small little red bump to a flatter little cluster of red dots. 



It looks exactly like a hickey. And it's exactly where a hickey might end up on a girl's neck. 

When she was younger, like before age 10? No big whoop. A little red mark on a little girl's neck didn't cause much uproar. But as she got closer to puberty, the comments started. Funny little comments at first, "Haha! That thing on her neck looks just like a hickey!" and "Hoo boy...that's going to cause some trouble when she's older."

And then, the not so funny comments began. "Do you know your daughter has a hickey on her neck?" "I can't believe she's walking around with a hickey." "Mrs. Molly's Mom, this is Teacher Busybody. Just calling to talk to you about the matter of Molly's hickey." Yeah. The beginning of the school year always brings a few calls or emails. Seriously.

But through it all, Molly has been remarkably nonchalant about it. I've asked her, probably way too many times, if it bugs her. If she wants to have it removed. Her answer is always the same:

"Nope. Doesn't bother me. I think it's kind of funny, actually."

Have I mentioned how much I love my daughter? 

So, the birthmark hasn't been much of an issue. Until she started working at the home improvement store. 

This summer, she got a job at the local Home Depot-type store in our neighborhood. It's been the perfect summer job for her. We live about two blocks away, the hours are great and she loves her coworkers. 

She loves everything about it, except for some of the customers. Apparently, the fumes from paint and light fixtures and plumbing material does some damage to the filters in some customer's brains. Because they like to comment on her birthmark.

It's always men, and the comments range from jokey to downright asshole-ish. One dad, holding his kid, said, "Oh wow, Johnny, look at the owie on that girl's neck! I know what she was doing!". And just the other night, one man had the balls to say to her, "I don't mean to be rude, but nice hickey." (you don't mean to be rude????)

Molly handles all of this so much better than I would. She's polite. Unfailingly polite, and calm. "It's a birthmark" she explains. "Everyone thinks it's a hickey." She says they usually apologize, which is good. And I secretly hope they feel sheepish and ashamed about it. But the "don't mean to be rude" guy just said, "Uh huh. Sure." 

He's so lucky I wasn't behind him in line. 

My worry is that the more Molly steps out into the world, the bigger of an issue her birthmark will become. When she goes to college next year, when she starts interviewing for her first real job, when she starts dating. It's all well and good here in our little suburban bubble, but how many "don't mean to be rude" people are out there? And for every single person who decides that it's perfectly okay to remark on a person's appearance, how many are silently tsk tsking, judging and making all sorts of assumptions and presumptions about my baby girl?

I think the thing that really irks me about this is that Molly is probably the last girl on earth who would end up with a hickey. She's a rarity, a 17 year old girl who doesn't party, who isn't boy crazy and who spends the majority of her time either home or at work or with her small cluster of good girlfriends. But even if she was a party girl who went out every night with a different guy every time, that shouldn't matter.

Really, does anyone deserve these kind of remarks? If it was an actual hickey on my girl's neck, would those people have some kind of free pass to say those things? Sure, we can judge all we want within the confines of our skulls, or on the phone to our friends or with our spouses over dinner. But is it ever okay to comment on someone's appearance? 

I don't know. Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe I'm letting mom worry take over. Maybe what I really need to do is accept the fact that my daughter is growing up and so far?

She seems to be handling this one just fine all on her own.

(but I'll still help her get it removed if she changes her mind)



33 comments:

  1. If it is an issue for job interviews, it wouldn't take that much make-up to cover it up, I'm guessing. Congrats on raising such a self-assured, sensible teen!

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    1. Thanks, SC. We did cover it up once, just to see how it looked. Meh. So-so. She actually brought it up to the person interviewing her for the job she has now. The manager told her, after she was hired, that it made a good impression on her. So there's that!

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  2. She sounds like a gem, but that's no surprise considering who she has for a mama. If she's anything like my girl, she likes that there's something that makes her distinctive but I'm also pretty sure she loves that you have her back, no matter what. xo

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    1. Thanks my friend! She really is a gem. Don't know if I can take any credit for that though, when I was her age THE HICKEY WAS REAL. LOL. Thank God some apples do far fall from the tree.

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  3. Wow, I had no idea. She's so poised. I have a friend who has a cleft lip and didn't want it fixed for whatever reason. He is in his early 40s and is one of the more interesting people in this world. I think he is stronger for it.

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  4. OMG, I can't believe how many people have nothing better to do than get uptight about Molly's "hickey" or give her a hard time about it!! Seriously?? Not only are these people fools and idiots, I think they're blind. I mean, to me, her birthmark looks exactly like that -- not like a hickey at all. I confess that I'VE had a few hickeys (oh how shocking), and they looked like bruises, NOT like what Molly's got. (Oh, and the first time my mom saw I had one? She knew exactly what it was and just chuckled in a good-natured way...of course, I was in my 20s and dating the guy I eventually married...but I expected her to get all "that's so unladylike" and otherwise give me a hard time about it, and she didn't at all.) Anyhoo -- you and she both have a great attitude about it, and Molly is better at anger management than I am. I probably would've punched that one loser.

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    1. I got a hickey when I was in her age, from a boy in our grade named Adam (I'll let you figure out the last name). My mom busted me, despite my futile attempts to cover it with makeup and a turtleneck.

      Seriously. I don't know where she gets her calm. It's a great trait.

      Thank you so much for reading!

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  5. I have the exact same birthmark in the exact same location. My teen years and slightly beyond were filled with many silly comments about my "hickey", but like Molly, I smiled and explained the situation. Now I have a family of my own, and I honestly hadn't given my birthmark a thought in probably five years, until my sweet three year old daughter asked what was on my neck the other day and why couldn't I rub it off. So long as Molly is confident about it, I wouldn't worry. The comments will cease soon enough. It's just these awkward years that can suck. I've always worn my birthmark proudly, and I'm sure Molly will continue to do so also.

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    1. I'm so glad to hear this!! I once Googled "birthmark looks like hickey" in hopes of finding out how others dealt with it. So happy you chimed in! Thank you so much.

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  6. She's teaching some good lessons to some people who need it: Think before you speak; Don't judge a book by its cover; If you can't say something nice, don't say anything.

    Good for her for being cool about it!

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    1. My girl is coolio! I love her. And yeah, I hope the people who do say something think twice next time they feel inclined to make a remark.

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  7. Wow... there really are trolls everywhere, aren't there?

    My favorite line: "He's so lucky I wasn't behind him in line. With a pipe or hammer." Actually LOL'd.

    Another thing: I'm a violist, and when we practice a lot, we get a mark on our neck under our jawline that looks exactly like a hickey. When I was in college practicing all the time, I had a doozy of a mark and people commented on it ALL. THE. TIME. Of course, unlike your sweet daughter, I was promiscuous... not that this gives people a free pass to be ass-wipes though, as you mentioned. =)

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    1. Trolls trolls, as far as the eye can see. Effers.

      LMAO. Love the thought of you as a promiscuous violist. You should write a blog post about that :)

      I've had a few hickeys...one in my 40's. Not my proudest moment.

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. Haha, I did write a post called "Letter to a Twenty-One-Year-Old Slut." But I don't think I mentioned anything about viola in it. I need to polish that one up and repost it again. (It was one of my first posts.)

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  8. My cousin has one of these on her chest, and everyone thinks it's a hickey. She wears high-collared shirts for anything important so people don't get... distracted. Oh and my son has one but it's on his side and is covered by his clothes. It will probably get him in trouble with some future girlfriend. People are nosy and they suck so Molly might want to cover it somehow for certain occasions.

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    1. Her hair covers it somewhat, so that helps. It's just been so freaking hot here that she's been wearing her hair up. Which in some cultures means, "Please comment on my birthmark", ha!

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  9. People are dumbasses. Your daughter is getting evidence of that at age 17. It sounds like she has a great attitude. I would let her be the guide at this point. If she's not stressing about it, try not to worry about it too much.

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    1. Thanks Kay! You are right. We need to take cues from our kids.

      Thanks so much for reading!

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  10. I would just like you to consider something that you might have missed when you've been thinking about how your daughter is being judged for her birthmark, even though it's super obvious:

    People are going to judge all your children from a first impression.

    Literally, all of them are going to be judged for their faces and their bodies. Your boys are going to be "too tall" or "not tall enough" or "not muscular enough" or "too masculine" or "too feminine." All depending on who is looking at them, and what they're looking at them for. Girls are judged by their beauty all the time--you're too pretty to be smart, or you're not pretty enough to be in the beauty trade (modeling/acting/spokesperson/etc). Too thin, too fat, too dark, too light, etc.

    People will judge her by her clothes, her hair, her make-up, her footwear. They will think she's a skank, or an intellectual, or a punk based entirely on her choice of jewelry or contacts vs glasses. Even how busty she ends up being will determine how people judge her sex life.

    So, while I understand that the birthmark as a "hickey" makes you feel like she's being pigeonholed as something she isn't...well. That would be happening with the birthmark or no birthmark. I think it's maybe why she's so unconcerned with it--she might have already come to this conclusion that the point is that people will judge her for something. And if she tries to get rid of everything that they might judge her for that isn't what she thinks her personality is, then she won't even look like herself anymore.

    I sympathize as a parent wanting to protect your child from wrong impressions and skeezy comments. But, I think that in the end, teaching her that the world is wrong to judge her for it, rather than teaching her how to get rid of the birthmark, is going to ultimately be the best move you can make as a parent. This is only my opinion though, and you really do know your kids best.

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    1. I love this. Thank you. I hadn't even thought of it from this angle...I was so freaked out about people thinking it was a hickey because of all the other things that go along with hickeys: sex, booze, drugs, etc.

      I really do love this, and I'm going to come back later and read this often because I think it's highly relevant. Are you someone I know, or are you truly anonymous? Because if you're someone I know, I think we need to go have a cocktail or something. On me.

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  11. My oldest son had 3 hemangiomas -- doctors said they'd be gone by age 10. He's 21 and still has two of them (one was super small and disappeared after a few years). One is on his head, therefore he prefers to wear his hair on the longer side to avoid comments from strangers. The other was on/in his cheek, and resulted in a discoloration which has faded significantly, and swelling -- that cheek is bigger than the other one and always will be. Oh the comments. He went through a lot of stupid people saying stupid things and thought he couldn't take it anymore so two years ago we saw a plastic surgeon to have it fixed. No can do. Based on where it's at he's got it for life. That was hard for him to accept but once he did accept it, he took the comments better and either ignores people, shuts them up quickly with medical facts about his birthmark, or uses sarcasm to toss it back to them (depends on the comment). Your daughter sounds like she's in a very good place regarding her birthmark. May I offer one piece of advice? I don't think she needs to have it removed (and it sounds like she doesn't want to) but before you offer that as an option again, check with a doctor (dermatologist or plastic surgeon) to even see if this is possible to get rid of. That was the worst part -- after the doctor explained why they couldn't remove it, he was so angry (better now... but angry at that time).

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    1. Twister: Thank you so much for sharing your son's story. A couple of years ago, we were in the doctors office for something else, and I did ask our pediatrician what he thought about her birthmark (and I also jokingly reminded him that he said it would disappear by now, ha). He said it could be removed via laser (?) or something like that. And I actually did make an appointment for a consultation with the plastic surgery people. But I found out that it's not covered on her insurance (Big Daddy is covering them for now, and they have like a $15,000 deductible). We talked about it and Molly said it was okay, and I think it was then that she truly made peace with it.

      My heart feels for your boy. Molly can cover hers up, when she wears her hair down it's not as obvious. Something on the face is always right out there. Sounds like you have raised him right. The anger is to be expected but the fact that he's come to a place of acceptance is such a good thing.

      I think you are 100% right: she doesn't need to have it removed. Like anonymous commented above, we are all going to be judged for something. I was (am) transferring my fears and anxiety and worry onto her, and onto that odd little mark on her neck. In the end, it's part of who she is.

      Thanks, as always, for such a thoughtful voice in this conversation!

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  12. I love it that you've got your daughter's back the way you obviously do. You are lucky to have each other!

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  13. She's got a great attitude - I deal with a lot of teenage girls in my work and I think many of them wouldn't be so calm about it!

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    1. I don't know where this girl got her "easy peasy" attitude. She's very chill.

      Thanks so much for reading :)

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  14. I can completely relate to this story. I have a red birthmark in the middle of my neck that looks EXACTLY like a hickey. I am 23 years old, and from what I can remember, the comments and questions started when I was about 13. The funny thing is, that because my birth mark is in the middle of my neck, sometimes people don't notice right away or as much as they would if it was on the side (where hickeys would normally be).. at least that's what I think?.. anyway mine is a little bit lighter than Molly's but still really visible. I have always had the same attitude as her, doesn't bother me, never let the questions or the teachers or adults get to me when they didn't believe it wasn't really a hickey... I actually dated a guy in my junior year that didn't even notice it until we were already together for 3 months and then thought I cheated on him.. lol
    But I understand where you're coming from as a mom and being worried about what she might have to face once she enters the real world, but heres how I feel about it.. Your daughter seems like she has enough confidence in herself to not let people get to her, if it didn't affect her during her teenage years (which are arguably the most confusing and awkward times in life, when the opinions of your peers mean everything) it's not going to affect her any more once she's in college, or working.. etc. For me the only time having this type of birth mark is an issue is when I'm going for a job interview because I'm always worried the person will assume I have a hickey on my neck and get a bad first impression of me. Other than that, I don't even notice that it's there until someone says 'nice hickey!'

    Honestly, don't worry! your daughter seems like she can handle herself just fine! nobody in college will judge her, (at least from my experience), and even if they do, eventually they'll realize its not going away and will know it's only a birth mark and will laugh it off like all of my friends have..

    Like you said, if she ever wants to get it removed, the option and your support is there, so why stress over a problem that basically doesn't even exist? I know tons of girls that would be so insecure if they had my birth mark, it's great that your daughter has such a great attitude! and I promise theres no need to worry for her!

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  15. I love this comment. I told Molly what you had to say about it...thank you so much for sharing your story :)

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  16. I have a birth mark that looks exactly like that but is just under my collar bone, it doesn't bother me bc I forget it's there

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  17. I typed this into the internet to see if anything came up. I turn sixteen in 3 days times and have a red birthmark on the side of my neck that is just bigger than a 50 cent coin and round. It looks exactly like a hickey too. I get comments sometimes from strangers, teachers and work colleagues (I also have a casual job at a salad bar). It doesn't bother me really and it might do when I'm older but I just think its part of me and what makes me me and different. I just deal with it.

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  18. I'm 17 and I have the same thing.
    I'm impressed that Molly is so confident about it, I on the other hand am not so confident when I get rude remarks. When I was a kid, some people said I had marker on my neck, but at the time, it never bothered me. In junior high, it got slightly redder and larger(it hasn't changed since then), but my mom and many others started noticing it. Now that I'm a teen I do get rude comments(mostly from men).
    Yet, I'm so glad I read the comments for this, it reminds me that the Lord has created me in His image, and overall, my birthmark has been the conversation starter to many of my friendships. It helps make me unique, but it is a relief to know I'm not alone in my "ITS NOT A HICKEY-like struggle" lol.

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  19. I have a similar birthmark below my collar bone and oddly near my lower leg and feet. When I was younger no one really pointed it out but it was clearly there. It wasn't until I entered middle school that people began to point it out. At first I didn't mind I thought it was kind of funny but now i can't wear a v-neck shirt with out some one making a comment. Of course i explain that it is simply a birthmark and say that many people think that it's a hicky and let it go. What bothers me is when some one says some thing like "sure" or "uh huh" because I have nothing to hide from you and even if it was a hicky its not your problem.

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