I am sorry. I am sorry for not telling you. For not telling you that today you are beautiful. I am sorry for not reminding you that when the jeans don’t fit. You are beautiful. When you are sitting alone at the lunch table. You are beautiful. When you are the only one with freckles. You are beautiful. When you want to play football instead of loom bracelets. You are beautiful. When your hair texture is different than your friends. You are beautiful. When your clothes from last school year don’t fit this August. You are beautiful.
When you are missing your two front teeth. You are beautiful. When you are too shy to make eye contact. You are beautiful. When you are wearing the wrong brand shoes. You are beautiful. When you are more interested in the plays on the court than the gossip on the phone. You are beautiful. When the pimples on your face seem to have overtaken the night before Homecoming. You are beautiful. When you bring home a stellar report card. You are beautiful. When you hear insults the entire year of seventh grade. You are beautiful. When you wake up one morning and realize you have boobs. You are beautiful. When you cry yourself to sleep at night, when I drop you off at camp. You are beautiful.
When the invitation for prom never comes. You are beautiful. When you would rather spend time with your family than the popular girls sleepover. You are beautiful. When you get pulled out of class for another speech evaluation. You are beautiful. When you are taller than everyone on the bus. You are beautiful. When you are afraid to give the speech in front of your peers. You are beautiful. When your skin is darker than all the other girls. You are beautiful. When your teeth are covered with wires that you think will never come off. You are beautiful. When you feel like you will never be enough. You are beautiful.
I should have done a better job of telling you. Of reminding you. Of teaching you. I should have stopped waiting. Waiting for my own self to be beautiful. I should have been a better example of what beautiful is.
So here I am saying what beautiful is.
Beautiful is when the curves in my body do not match the clothes on the rack. Beautiful are the freckles all over my face that remind me I am more at peace near the water. Beautiful is when my belly made room for the life growing inside of me. Beautiful is the extra weight I continue to carry around my middle, reminding me of every life that has grown there. Beautiful is the short hair that made me feel sassy. Beautiful is the long hair that your father prefers. Beautiful is the grey hair that reminds me that I am wiser than the year before. Beautiful are the lines on the side of my face from the nights of crying when fighting for our family. Beautiful is choosing to stay home at this point in my life. Beautiful are the snug jeans because having ice cream with you was more important than what anyone else believes. Beautiful is realizing that I was beautiful before anyone ever told me.
Beautiful is understanding you need to know that wherever you are. Whoever you are is beautiful.
At every stage. At every age. At every size. At every defeat. At every victory. At every moment.
My dream. My wish is that you would not wait until becoming almost forty to know you were beautiful all along.
Sheli is a writer on good days when a child isn’t puking or screaming or the dog hasn’t run away for the zillionth time or when the house doesn’t look like a Hoarders episode or she didn’t forget to pick up one of the five children from school. She lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband who has pushed her to be a better version of herself for sixteen years. She adores her best friends and she gets anxiety attacks around anyone pretty or skinny, so she stays in her yoga pants and writes about her redemptive story as a proud member of Redbud Writers Guild. You can find Sheli at www.shelimassie.com and on Facebook and Twitter @sheligeoghanmas.