Color Me Confused

Hello! We took some time off to tend to ourselves and truthfully there wasn’t a lot to be said about having BPES. Taking care of our needs in the second half of 2020 meant tending to much more basic things offline. We’re making a slow comeback to the blogosphere. Welcome to a new year, and for those in the Northern Hemisphere, hopefully a spring filled with hope and good health. 

I get my eyebrows threaded and I love it! I mentioned in previous posts that after my eye surgery in 2012, I stopped getting my eyebrows waxed based on my surgeon’s advice. The consultant I usually see to have my eyebrows threaded had a repetitive stress injury in her hands (her money makers!) and she was on medical leave towards the end of 2020. I was waiting for her to come back from leave (instead of just going to see someone else) and five months seemed like a very generous window of time to recover. Yes, I see your face recoiling! I went five months managing my brows on my own.

I went to visit her this week and thankfully she has fully recovered. She was back at work. She fixed my eyebrows, which truthfully just need to be trimmed. They mostly keep their shape at this point after years of threading. She asked if I wanted to have her fill in my brows. I was intrigued so I said yes! She also asked if I wear make up for work. I belly laughed. I do not wear make up on a regular basis. I might throw on tinted moisturizer, blush, and tinted lip balm for a major occasion or something. My sister and I have discussed elsewhere on the blog the pains of eye makeup as a woman with BPES, so ever since my eye surgery, I steer clear of eye shadow. Based on my reaction to my consultant’s query, our conclusion was she would fill in my brows “for fun.”

I was amused, nervous, and a bit excited to see what she would do. I have noticed over the last so many years that my eyebrows are not remotely symmetrical. This is normal. HOWEVER, I suspect that after my surgery, I think my sling is stronger/higher in my left eye compared to my right eye. I am convinced my eyebrow symmetry changed after my eye surgery. My consultant did extensive filling in on my right eyebrow to make it appear more level with my left. From afar, things looked okay. Up close, you could see that the pencil color probably matched my hair color better than my darker eyebrows. It was very obvious that my eyebrows were filled in.

I am glad I tried it for fun. I felt as if I had come full circle. When I was high school, I was very self conscious of having very thick eyebrows. In college, I didn’t really understand how to pluck my eyebrows, but I attempted it based off of the encouragement of my dorm mates. I would pluck some to ensure I didn’t have a unibrow. My high school drama coach always made fun of people with unibrows and I have this unfortunate psychological scar around this. Being impressionable and insecure as a teenager, I remember being very self conscious that he might call me out as having a unibrow. Laughable now, but I was so concerned at the time. After college once I had a stable income, I started getting my eyebrows waxed. I felt like a NEW WOMAN. My entire face looked different and I loved it. With intention, I do see the power in grooming your brows if it serves you. I then went through a phase where I grew my eyebrows back in before I transitioned to eyebrow threading. What is so funny to me is that I’ve been threading for so long, some hairs don’t grow in anymore. When my consultant filled in my eyebrows this week, it was essentially artificially creating the size and volume I used to naturally have before I started interfering. Hmmm…

Which leads me to wonder, between surgery and threading, did I make my eyebrows thinner and uneven? What is wonderful about this inquiry is that it doesn’t really matter and I suspect most people don’t even notice. Even if they did, I don’t care – it’s MY face! Experiences like this bring me back to that constant question floating calmly at my side as a lady with BPES whenever something weird happens to me – do other people have these eyebrow quandaries or are my eyebrows super wonky because of BPES?

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Taking the Plunge

I was on Facebook the other day and I came across a post from the BPES group.  A woman was inquiring  if anyone else’s children had trouble with their eyes when swimming.  Her daughter didn’t like putting her eyes underwater, and would use goggles, but the woman had trouble finding goggles that would fit.  Other members assured her that their kids had similar issues, and gave her some recommendations for brands of goggles to try.

After reading this I was like woah!  I have always hated opening my eyes underwater, because it stings, but for some reason, I never connected that to my BPES until now.

Part of the reason is that I have only known for about 5 years that I have BPES.  But even when I thought I just had small eyes, for some reason, it never occurred to me that this could affect how my eyes react underwater.

I have always enjoyed swimming and dunking under the water to stay cool, but to this day, it is still uncomfortable trying to open my eyes underwater.  I am glad that I read that Facebook post and I now know this is “normal” for people with BPES.

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Reactions – Hair Safety Net

I don’t mean to keep doing this, but this ongoing dialogue in responding to my sister’s posts is too delicious to pass up. I love the diversity of perspectives from women with the same condition and same history from the same family! It highlights while as women with BPES we have common struggles, we may approach them differently.

I have always fluctuated between having long and short hair. I enjoy them both. Usually I will grow my hair really long until I can’t take it anymore and then I like to have it dramatically chopped off. I hadn’t done that in awhile. A few years ago I was able to cut off 10 inches of my hair and donate to a Locks for Love type program. It was the first time I’d done something like that and I really enjoyed it. In chopping off so much hair, I also discovered as an adult how much I love having a short bob. It made me feel very professional and mature. Moving to Singapore, I also appreciated having short hair as one less thing to make me sweat so much. Right now I am growing my hair out to see how much I can tolerate it in this climate. I also want to donate my hair again because I found it so gratifying. I hope I can make it without caving in. I have found for each inch of additional hair I have, I really am noticeably hotter. I am getting tired of having my hair up in a bun all the time to keep from melting. So we’ll see if I can make it to a length long enough to donate.

I was struck by my sister’s post in that I have never hidden behind my hair. My sister can attest to the number of times (as younger sisters are want to do) I told her I wanted to chop her hair off. She has defaulted to keeping long hair most of her life. Maybe I can convince her to cut it to shoulder length. She has always had beautiful hair. I still look at her face though and others do too. Her hair does not hide her BPES. It is always astounding to me how much of a narrative we create in our minds about how others see us. In reality, they don’t see us at all or they notice completely different things about us. Being self-conscious is such a hard thing to overcome, especially when you have BPES. I always harden up whenever I think someone is looking at me or going to make a comment about my eyes. I can understand why my sister likes having a safety blanket.

What is so delightful about our blog is that we are learning so much about the other and how she views her BPES, even though we have a close relationship and talk all the time. I had no idea she felt that way about her hair. I would love to see her cut her hair and see how liberating it can be.

Wake Up

A few days ago, I was standing at the bus stop.  It was cold, my hands were in my pockets, and I was staring at the ground, willing the bus to hurry up.  Then this man walks by and exclaims “Wake up!”

I never know how I am going to react in the moment when people say things to me.  In this case, I kind of gave him a half smile and didn’t say anything.  I wish I could have seen my actual facial expression, but I am sure I looked annoyed.  The man realized I was not amused, and walked away.

The bus arrived and I got on and started thinking about his comment.  In my mind, I was like maybe I should have said “I was born with a rare genetic condition and my eyes always look this way.”  But I just wasn’t in the mood to explain anything.

The other thing that annoyed me was that even if I had “normal” eyes, and someone told me to wake up, I would still not be happy about it.  Obviously this man didn’t know I have BPES, and just thought I was tired.  I would never say that to anyone, because I perceive it as rude.  If someone is tired and their eyes are drooping, why is it your place to tell them to wake up?

I have been dealing with stares and random comments my whole life, but now that I have this blog, I am glad that it gives me a chance to document it.  It is interesting to me how I always think I will politely explain my condition when people make comments, but when it actually happens my immediate reaction is to glare at them and say nothing.

 

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Riding Around Asia in Taxis

We’re back from hiatus after taking some time away from BPESisters to disconnect and focus on other priorities. We’ve been itching to get back on the blog and are excited to say a belated hello to 2019.

A few weeks ago I was in a taxi between meetings, with a particularly opinionated cab driver. I find there are three types of cab drivers: those who don’t speak at all during the trip, those who exchange some pleasantries and brief chatter at the beginning of the journey, then slip into silence for the rest of the trip, and finally those who chatter nonstop during the entire ride. I appreciate all three depending on my mood. It doesn’t always happen that my mood matches that of my cab driver. I might be feeling outgoing and chatty only to get in a taxi with a silent driver. Or as was the case a few weeks ago, I really just needed some quiet time to reflect and rest, and my cab driver talked to me the entire trip. He was friendly enough, but he made some rather radical political statements. I politely went with the flow and acknowledged that we all have different opinions, without really agreeing or disagreeing with his statements. The conversation got weirder when he started to allude to my appearance and my eyes. I knew where this was going. As a woman with BPES I can tell when someone wants to ask me why my eyes are so small or if I have Asian heritage. It drives me crazy EVERY SINGLE TIME. As an adult, I have been able to brush it off much more easily. I used to get annoyed, stand offish, and defensive. I think ultimately what really annoys me is that I just think it isn’t someone’s business to ask me about my eyes. I am not embarrassed, self conscious, or ashamed of my BPES-related features. I just feel that I shouldn’t have to explain my features to others. Their curiosity or confusion should not become my burden.

I took a deep breath and cut him to the chase, telling him if he was wondering if I was Asian, I was not. He then proceeded to make some rather racists statements. I politely informed him that his statements were not acceptable to say and offensive. Thankfully we were very close to the end of my ride. Amongst other things, this ride stood out to me because after being in Asia for about seven months, that was the first time someone here asked me if I was part Asian. I can’t help but wonder how many other people assume or think this, but are too polite to ask. I laughed off my cab driver and was mostly thankful that I safely got to my destination in tact. Funny how it rarely happens now, but each time someone asks me about my eyes, something deep in my gut triggers, and I get prickly, annoyed, defensive, and irritated by the entire thing. Thankfully once I shut the cab door and walked away from the curb, I was able to leave my irritation behind and not give it a second thought. I laughed it off as as crazy cab ride.

Tip of my hat

One of my favorite parts about launching this website is learning about my sister’s experience with BPES. We share a lot as sisters, but it still strikes me when I read her posts and think – “I had no idea that happened to her!” My sister and I have talked in the past about how difficult it can be to find sunglasses due to our BPES features. I have also had hat struggles that she describes in the last post. As a kid, I could rarely put on plastic kid sunglasses or a kid’s baseball hat and have it work on my face. As kids, we would attend an event, visit a museum, or go on a field trip and potentially get a free baseball hat. I used to be thrilled at getting something free, but I could never figure out why the hats looked so natural on my friends, but somehow just didn’t sit quite right on my head. I didn’t realize until years later that part of my struggles could be attributed to our BPES facial features. I also learned as an adult that one size rarely fits all. I am now much more selective when trying on hats and sunglasses, truly only buying something if it really fits and compliments my face. Thankfully there are many more options available compared to when we were kids in large part due to online shopping.

Her post struck me because it took me YEARS to realize that ear warmers work really well for my face and ears. I had an ear warmer my sister actually got me that I loved, but I think it fell out my bag at a movie theater in Amsterdam last year (devastating). This winter hopefully I won’t have the need to don headwear as I am in the tropics. However, I want to tip my virtual hat to my sister in all her BPES glory for rocking every kind of winter hat beautifully this season. Even though I will be spending this holiday season alone, I hope to rock my matching “SLAY” winter hat as well as she does in BPES solidarity.

Hats off

It’s starting to get colder, which means I’ve begun to wear my winter coats, scarves, and gloves.  Along with this comes my yearly reminder that I don’t like how I look in hats.  Since I have BPES, my ears stick out slightly, and one ear sits up just a bit higher than the other.  I have spoken before about my struggle with baseball caps, but at least those are optional.  When it gets cold, if I don’t put something on my head, my ears will freeze.

I usually keep a knit ear warmer in my bag in case I need it.  I also have one of those hats that has fur and flaps over the ears, and I don’t hate how I look in it.

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But when it comes to just a knit cap to put on my head, it is hard for me to find something that is flattering.  Usually I just go with the ear warmer or put up the hoods on my jackets.  If it is really cold, I put on the hat with the flaps.

I do have 2 knit hats that I like, but I don’t love how they look on me.  I know I shouldn’t care, and this winter I am going to make myself use them more.   I try to tell myself not to be self-conscious, because other people probably don’t even notice.

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2.0

You talking ’bout me?

This Friday my office had a happy hour after work. As I was chatting with colleagues in a non-work setting, I made some offhand comment about using checklists with my mom as it related to a story I was sharing. My colleague immediately jokingly asked if my mom was Singaporean, making a subtle reference to her perception of the overly structured expectations in Singaporean business culture that we are currently experiencing on our project. My mind immediately jumped to the thought of “oh my god, does she think I am half-Asian because of my eyes?” I jokingly laughed it off and the conversation moved onward. Only a day later did it occur to me that I think she was just making a joke about our client. I don’t think my self-consciousness will ever leave me where I consistently jump to conclusions that people are judging me based on my eyes. Oftentimes, they probably aren’t, but that still remains my first interpretation or in the very least something I wonder. I don’t know how to effectively un-train my brain on this one.

If I Had a Billion Dollars

The latest Mega Millions jackpot got up to 1.6 billion dollars.  I never play the lottery, but every once in a while when there is a large jackpot, I will cave and get a ticket.  So on Tuesday afternoon before the drawing, I ran out to the liquor store and got a quick pick ticket.  I didn’t really expect to win, but it was hard not to daydream about what I would do with the money if I won.

I imagined paying off all of my debt, getting a luxury high rise apartment with a water view, and traveling the world.  I would give away money to family and friends, set up college funds for my nieces and nephew, and donate to charity.  I would splurge on a Chanel bag and Louboutin shoes.

I did not win, but it occurred to me that in all my thoughts about what to do with the money, not one of them was for cosmetic surgery for my eyes.  I am happy that this thought did not pop into my head.  It shows me that I am confident and secure with my unique look, and wouldn’t want to change that, even if I had a ridiculous sum of money.

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Mistaken identity

I recently started on a new project at work. I am working in a two person team with a woman who is a similar height as I am. Some people at the client repeatedly mistake me for my colleague, calling us by the other person’s name. It is a bit strange as we feel we look quite different. We are having a hard time understanding why they keep confusing us and calling us by the other’s name. We are of different races. She is Asian and I am Caucasian. I also wear distinctive glasses and she does not wear glasses. We think it is funny, but also a bit weird that they can’t tell us apart. I hate that I always wonder in cases like this – do they incorrectly think I am Asian due to my BPES eyes? In truth, I have no idea what they are thinking. It is funny how we project our thoughts onto others, when in reality, maybe these people at my client are just terrible at remembering names or telling people apart. I’m not convinced though…