Tuesday, April 3, 2018

31 Common Ways People React to My Facial Difference – According to GIFs

When you live with a facial difference, life is never boring.

People are constantly in awe when I share stories about how people react to my face. From harsh comments to staring, I do my best to not only describe the stranger's words, but their tone and body reaction. But in a world where GIFs are growing in popularity, I've created a list of the most popular responses I get from strangers when I'm out in the public, as told by GIFs – whether I'm on a date with my boyfriend, or if I'm shopping in Target with my mom.

A photo of Crystal Hodges, the writer, with a purple birthmark covering the left side of her face - and rose gold eye shadow glimmering from her eyes.

(Also, please note that most of these statements and experiences were simplified to one sentence from the interaction.)

1. "Is that contagious?"


2. "Is that a tattoo?!" (Mostly asked by children, but not uncommon among adults either.)


3. "How do you shower?"


4. "I'm so jealous, I wish I had one too."



5. "You're ugly."


6. A common question that is often asked is, "What's wrong with your face?" Walking into a church a few years ago, a woman I've known my whole life even greeted me with, "Oh, I thought you were the girl who has something wrong with your face."



7. "Hey – you have the same birthmark as me!"


8. "You know doctors can fix that, right?"


9. "You're so brave. If I were you, I wouldn't even leave my house."


10. "Oh my gosh, are you OK?!"



11. *Stares.*



12. *Staring, while awkwardly looking away when caught, occasionally sneaking a peak."


13. *The horror stare.*


14. *When people follow my every movement with their stares.*


15. "If you had enough faith, you'd be healed."


16. "Why does your face look like that?"


17. "Oh my gosh...Your face looks really bad."



18. "What is on your face?"


19. "Oh, is that a Halloween costume? Who are you dressed up as?"



20. "You poor thing."



21. "You're so beautiful."


22. Once I went to the mall to try on makeup that hides my birthmark – which would be used for a very special occasion. (I rarely choose to hide the birthmark.) Once I was in the chair, I was invisible. Only my birthmark and my mother remained in makeup artist's company. Instead of asking me what I thought about the makeup, she kept referring to my mother with statements such as, “Doesn’t that look better now?" She even slipped out a casual, "See? With her hair down, you can't even see it anymore." While this is one example alone, this GIF represents when people don't see beyond my birthmark, when I as a human...a person...becomes invisible.


23. "What do you use to cover your birthmark? You should try this makeup brand. It hides things like that better."



24. That one time my picture was stolen, and I was turned into a meme that went viral to over 30 million people.



25. "Ew, gross."



26. "Can I touch it?" (And let me point out that not everyone will ask, some people will just reach up and touch my cheek – especially children.)



27. ER Doctor: "I know you're here for an allergic reaction, but did you know that you can get that birthmark treated?"


29. *More staring.*




28. "You're wrong. That's not a birthmark – you have cancer."


29. When people won't believe it's a birthmark, and insist there is something doctors can do about my face.


30. When people take one look at me, and their gut reaction is a swear word.


31. "Do you have purple boogers?" (Usually asked by children. But just in case you're wondering – no, I do not.)



If you also live with a facial difference or body difference, what GIFs describe the reactions you've gotten from strangers?

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal

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All Images Are Provided by Giphy.com









Monday, January 29, 2018

16 Online Dating Tips Singles Should Know

Crystal holding her boyfriend's hand.

Several months ago I announced I was joining the online dating scene. It was mostly for a social experiment, to see how people reacted to me, a woman with a facial difference. But, surprisingly, an online dating experiment became less of an experiment – especially when I met a man who would soon become my boyfriend.

Once I announced I was doing the whole online dating thing, questions came in. And after I announced I met a man on the sites, who was officially my boyfriend? Even more questions about online dating flooded in. And now it's time to answer some of those questions.

I know, I know – many of you are wanting more details about the guy I call my boyfriend – but I'll share more about him soon...I promise! He and I have been talking about fun ways you can get to know him, so stay tuned for that.

One of the most common questions I received about online dating is, "Do you have any advice? Is there anything I should know?"

Thinking about my experiences in the digital dating scene, here are a few suggestion for you:

1. Know that people can sometimes find you on social media by your cellphone number. Put your phone number in the search bar of Facebook. Does your profile pop up? If it does, you may want to check your settings and protect your privacy.

2. You can get a burner number. There are apps that let you create burner numbers. If someone asks for your number on the dating sites, you don't have to use your own phone number. That way, if things get awkward or weird, you can burn that number and you never have to talk to that person again. I didn't do this – but I wish I had.

3. Have friends go with you on your first dates. Your date doesn't have to know they're there. They can be hidden in the background. They can be sitting in a booth across the room, or two tables over. Wherever they are during your date, they're there if things go wrong. They are there if something seems off, if the guy isn't what he appeared to be online. Have a friend there who has your back, just in case.

4. Don't go in for a hug the first time you meet. Not everyone is a hugger, especially when it comes to practical strangers at the beginning of a first date. This especially can make women feel very uncomfortable. Two weeks of chatting online doesn't mean you've earned a hug, or any form of physical contact. Even if the date goes well, don't expect a hug at the end. You can be blunt and tell her, "This is the awkward part of saying goodbye – should we shake hands? Hug? High five?" Give options. Leave it in the woman's ballpark.

5. Don't ask a girl to pull up a coupon on her phone – especially on a first date. I love being frugal and saving money. I love a good coupon. A lot of women do. But let's save the coupons for several dates down the line. Instead, if you can't afford a specific venue or restaurant – pick a place you can afford. 

6. Always be prepared to go Dutch. For older generations, it was a given that the guy were to pay for the meal or activity on a date. But, every date I went on, I took money and planned to pay for my own meal – just in case. I also know women who insist on paying for their own meals, at least for the first couple of dates with a man. Some of my friends have found themselves in situation where men paid for their meal, only to have expectations for the end of the date.

7. Ask your date questions. Don't do all the talking. Get to know them, and let them get to know you. I once went on a date where the guy talked about video games for the first hour, before even asking how I was doing. It was impossible to get a word in, and I probably only got 100 words in during my three hours with him. And even though he did all the talking, I didn't learn much about him – except that he enjoyed playing video games. Get to know your date, and let them get to know you too. There's a reason they said "yes" to the date, or a reason they asked you out. Don't allow the opportunity of getting to know the person sitting across from you go to waste – even if your time together doesn't lead to a relationship.

8. If your date is a talker, listen. If you're on a date with a talker and you can't get a word in, that's OK. There is a pro to this. Even if they're talking about something that's not typically a go-to topic in your life, and even if you don't foresee a second date, listen. Take the opportunity to learn from the person sitting across from you. You may learn something new about finances, security systems, or video games that you never knew before – knowledge that may come in handy at some point in life...Even if you don't expect it to.

9. Don't ask for a second date during the first date. Let the girl process the evening before asking her to commit to a second evening with you. Instead, indicate you want to see her again. Tell her you had a wonderful time. It's even OK to say, "I hope to see you again." But, if you ask for a second date during the first – she may not feel comfortable to tell you "no" – especially if you're still a stranger she barely knows.

10. If anything makes you uncomfortable, say so. If they ask for a first-date selfie and that makes you uncomfortable, say so. If they go in for that hug during the first five seconds of your first date, step away. It's OK to let your feelings be known. During a date, one guy asked me for my last name. Because it's easy to Google me, I wasn't comfortable giving it to him. Not on the first or second date, at least. When he asked, I was direct and told him it was easy to learn about me in the digital world, from my blog to places like People Magazine – if he wanted to get to know me, he needed to do that through me. In the end, he understood and I was glad I stayed within my comfort zone.

11. Always have a pair of cute backup shoes with you. I drove three hours for a first date with a guy (now my boyfriend), and one of my shoes broke. Because this was a first date, I had people who went with me – just in case. But, no one had any glue, and I didn't have time to go to the store before meeting the guy for lunch. Putting our creative minds together, I ended up on an 8 1/2 hour date with a shoe that was "gummed" (when chewed up gum is used in place of glue) and clipped together. It was almost like a modern Cinderella story...But with gum.

12. You don't owe anyone a second date. Or a third. In fact, you don't even owe them a first date if something feels off during the messaging process.

13. Be persistent and intentional, but not overbearing. If you are interested in someone, pursue them with intention. But, if you don't hear back, texting them or calling them multiple times back-to-back isn't the answer...and that's likely to get you blocked. Instead, call once every few days for about a week or so, and leave a short voicemail. 

14. If you go on a few dates with someone, don't ghost them. Gently and kindly let them know you're not interested and why. Don't leave them wondering what went wrong, or what happened. (Unless the situation doesn't feel safe. Then ghosting and blocking is totally appropriate.)

15. Remember that you're incredible. Meeting new people and going on dates can be terrifying. I get that. But here's the thing – you're amazing. As you go out there and take the dating scene by storm, always be yourself. Stay true to who you are. Be genuine, be confident. You can never go wrong by being yourself.

16. Don't ever settle. Because remember...You're incredible. You deserve the very best. You deserve that person that makes your heart beat a little faster every time you see them. You deserve that person who challenges you to be a better person, who believes in your dreams and talents, and that person who you love being around. Do. Not. Settle. 

If you have any online dating questions, feel free to let me know! Send me a message on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment in the comment box below.

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why I'll Be One of the First in Line to See 'Wonder'




Born with a facial difference, it's a rarity for me to see anyone featured on the big screen who has a similar storyline to my own – especially with a storyline that is seen in a positive light. When it comes to Hollywood, often people with facial differences are shown as villains, awkward and social outcasts, or are not shown at all. Yet, most real-life people I know with facial differences are beautiful from the inside out, changing the world one life at a time.

When I picked up the book, "Wonder," I couldn't put it down.

When I found out there would be a movie? My excitement soared. (Ironically, before looking to see who was included in the cast, I told my friend, "Oh gosh – I hope Julia Roberts plays the mom of Auggie, the main character with the facial difference. I can't imagine any other actress in that role." And to add to my excitement, the casting department agreed.)

I've been excited for several movies in my lifetime, but never quite as excited as I am for "Wonder."

My story may look different than Auggie's, but the basics are still the same. From medical treatments to the bullying, for the first time in my life, I'll be able to see a form of my storyline portrayed on the big screen.

When I talk to people who have read the book, I've learned how their perceptions of people have changed. I've heard the stories of discussions that parents have had with their children after their nightly reading, as "Wonder" took a turn on their nightstand. I've seen the concept of kindness being refreshed in people's minds and actions.

Books and words have the power to change the world – and "Wonder" has. And now it's about to hit the big screen, this Friday. I have yet to see the movie, but I can only imagine how this movie may impact the world for years to come. I can only imagine the impressionable minds that may see the movie during a family night, walking out of that theater remembering that people are people – regardless of what they look like, or don't look like – reminding to treat others with kindness for the rest of their days on this planet.

Because of the work I do as a speaker and writer with a facial difference, I'm constantly in a variety of Facebook groups for people with a variety facial differences – and "Wonder" has been a big debate on some of these pages.

Why?

Because the actor playing Auggie doesn't actually have a facial difference. He's a "typical" looking kid.

While I do agree that it would have been preferred to have a child with the actual medical condition play the role of Auggie, I don't know what went on behind the scenes in the casting process. Did children with the condition audition? I don't know. Did the directors try to find a child who not only can play the role, but who also lives it? I don't know that either. But the actor choice won't stop me from going to see the movie.

I can understand why some people may avoid the movie due to standing their ground. About 95 percent of characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors, and that needs to change. It's an important point to make, an important fact that needs to be changed. But I'm still going.

I'm still going because I want my ticket purchase to tell Hollywood that these movies are craved, that they are needed. I want Hollywood to know that I support the fact that they've made efforts towards showing someone with a facial difference in a positive light – and not just as the bitter, angry villain with a dramatic story. I want them to know that I'm glad they're sharing his story with love and humanity, and not with the stereotype that people with facial differences are "fearful" and "scary."

Photo found on the Wonder Facebook page.
But more importantly? I'm still going to see the movie, in theaters, because I want everyone walking in and out of that theater to know that the story of "Wonder" isn't just a Hollywood story. It's a story that's real.

I want them to know, to be reminded, that people with facial differences do exist. That they are real people...That I am a real person, sitting in the same movie theater, watching the same movie. I want them to know that facial differences go beyond the two hours of a story they just saw on the screen.

As I go to to the theaters to see the movie, I hope that anyone watching the 2017 production that may see me, will realize they can start practicing kindness in that moment.

They can start practicing kindness by not staring at me. By not asking with a rude tone, "What's wrong with your face?" They can show kindness by not calling me "contagious," or comparing me to a villain in their favorite superhero film. Kindness can be shown by not making assumptions about my story.

And better yet, I hope that if the movie leaves them with any questions about life with a physical difference, that they won't be afraid to come up to me and ask out of genuine curiosity and a desire to learn, while using gentle body language and tone. (Not everyone with a facial difference would be comfortable people doing this, so please be respectful if not all people with facial differences are open about their story.)

I hope the audience, including myself, walks out of that theater changed.

I hope that we are all reminded to always, always choose kindness – because kindness matters.

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal

Are you taking a classroom or group to see the movie "Wonder," and are interested in having me join your group for a discussion? Contact me at: crystal@crystalhodges.com



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

20 Experiences From Online Dating With a Facial Difference

Y'all.

I'm pretty sure my last blog entry about starting the online dating journey has been one of my most popular entries in the comment section on social media. I was amazed to how many of you responded, related, and told me, "It's about time you joined!" (At least, that's what my mom said when I told her I joined.)

Since the first blog post last week, many of you keep saying, "I'm anxiously awaiting your next post about this."

Well, update: I joined one more site. (But is anyone really that surprised?)

I know, I know. I was already on three. But, since so many people went on and on about OkCupid, I decided I had to experience it for myself. Also, it's a blog project (with a side of hope to potentially finding someone to connect with)... So why not?

As a pro: So far it's the most interactive site, and out of all four of the ones I'm on, it's the cheapest. Not only that, but after a week on the site, it sent me a map showing me my top five states and countries that I hear from, and my weakest states and countries I hear from. Oh - and if you're considering online dating - you don't have pay to receive and send messages, like so many other sites require you to do.

I'm still not sure where it ranks with all the other sites, but it does have a variety of features most don't seem to have. (At least, in regards to the other three I joined.)

Anyways, here's the online dating update you have all been waiting for.

It's another list, but a little more in-depth. Odds are, not all entries will be in the form of a list. And, if I continue to get this much content every week or two, there will be many more entries to come.

1. I think I'm too sassy for online dating. One guy told me, "I miss your voice." I replied, "You've never heard it."

2. Sending me a message for the very first time, a guy told me, "Sexy - what happened to your face?" I don't even know where to begin with this one... I'm not sure that he realizes those two phrases don't really go together, and that they feel rather contradictory. Also, not all women feel comfortable with a stranger calling them, "sexy." (Or at all, rather.)

3. Another guy sent me a message for the first time. His message read, "FYI, you can use dermablend to cover it." (Referring to my facial birthmark.) I messaged back, "FYI, you clearly didn't read my profile." Told you, online dating is bringing out my sassy side. But, I did hold back from pointing out that "dermablend" should have a capital "d" since it's a name brand. It took all the restraint I had.

4. One guy wanted to meet for a date. He wanted to go for a movie and dinner. I asked, "What about coffee in the afternoon?" He agreed... and proceeded to tell me I'd have to drive to his city 45 miles away to pick him up as he didn't have a "working car."

Bro, it's 2017. Borrow a car. Call an Uber. I'm not going to get in a stranger's car, nor am I letting one in mine.

5. When someone messages me, but they don't show their face in their photos, I don't respond. I feel that if I can share my face in such a public format and be upfront about my birthmark, I don't need to reply to someone who can't show their face too.

6. Chatting with one guy, he told me, "I'm a lot shorter than you." I replied, "Yeah, maybe. But I'm a lot more purple than you." Quick-witted, he messaged back, "You don't know that. I could have my whole body tattooed purple." Instant kudos to him for rolling with my birthmark joke.

7. Texting with a guy, he wrote me and said, "You're one of the best texters I've seen in years." Jokingly, he continued with, "That alone is engagement ring worthy."

What can I say? I'm quite the texting catch.

8. To add to my list of conditions other guys have been open about, I've now also seen profiles that mention missing limbs, diabetes, and facial differences - including one guy who has the same birthmark that I have. Talking with him, he said, "I've tried treatments and read blogs from other people with the same condition." Little did he know, he'd make it into mine.

9. When I glance at people's profiles, I've realized that many 60-something year olds think they can pass at 25 year olds.  Although, I'm sure plenty of women are not honest about their age as well.

10. I've had a couple of guys express that they'd like to take me on a date. For some, asking me out was their first-ever message to me, and for others, we had already been talking for a few days. Yet, anytime a guy asks me, I freak out, "What if they're a serial killer - or something else super dramatic?" Then I rationalize, "Wait. I'm online on the same app, and I'm not a serial killer."

Realization: I think I've seen too many episodes of "Criminal Minds."

However, for a variety of reasons, I still have yet to agree to anyone who wants to take me out. So far they've either been a bit too pushy with too many red flags, it was too fast for them to ask, or it just didn't feel right.

11. Chatting with one guy on the phone for the first time, he was instantly ready to delete his profile 30 minutes into the discussion. And he kept trying to convince me to delete mine. I kept insisting that I had to meet him first and get to know him before I made that decision - while not wanting to also explain, "I'd like to meet someone - but this is also for a blogging project." Regardless if I were blogging about the online dating experience or not, that's a bit fast to ask someone to delete their profile.

12. Having a retired correctional officer as a dad has not gone to waste. All my childhood training on types of tattoos has come in handy as I sift through profiles. Tear drop tattoos on the face? Spider web tats on the elbow? Who knew this knowledge would come in so handy in my adulthood.

13. As I was talking with a guy who messaged me, this is how our conversation went:

Him: What do you do for a living?
Me: I'm an editor.
Him: Ohhhh that is very good.
Me: Yeah, I like it.
Him: I like that!!!!
Him: Wow.
Him: You are very very intelligent!!!!! Very good.
Me: Thanks. It's really just like a grammatical Easter egg hunt.
Him: You're very positive, I like that. And you have a very nice spark. I love that!!!
Me: Thanks.

Eventually I let the conversation die down. I couldn't handle the redundancy of, "I love that," or "I like that." He used those phrases so much, it felt a bit condescending. (There were also a few other annoyances.) Eventually he started messaging me every hour, saying "hi" and "hello." Growing tired of him blowing up my phone through the app, I took away his "chatting privileges" - an option Zoosk offers that I'm incredibly thankful for.

14. After a guy asked me, "Do you know any Spanish?" I explained I only knew a few words here and there - I didn't know it well at all. And I asked if he knew the language. He explained that he was Mexican and that he did know the language. Shortly after, he asked, "Can you tell me in Spanish?" I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing at all. Language wise, all I currently have to offer in Spanish is basically, "Hola quesadilla, underwear, and chicken taco. How are you?" (Although, I really do want to learn more.)

15. Many "men" aren't very gentlemen-like. Real talk. I know I'm on the more conservative side on the sex issue. Just writing number two on this list made me feel awkward, and I doubled checked with several people if it was OK to share the comment that was made to me. Once I had the approval of a pastor's wife, I decided to just go with it and share the blunt realities of this experience.

Yet, I'm not sure why a good chunk of men think they can get away with some of the personal and invasive questions they ask. I've even found myself bluntly asking, "Why is this such a common question on these stupid sites?" Four times in one day I was asked the same question, being told that I hadn't had "certain experiences" yet, that they wouldn't date me. That it "wouldn't work out." Not to be redundant with a line I used in my last blog entry, but... #ByeFelicia

16. I feel like I'm paying for guys to treat me disrespectfully. From comments about covering my birthmark with makeup to other innapropriate topics... A true gentlemen would not say, nor ask, the things 98 percent of these men are saying and asking. And, to clarify, it doesn't matter if I'm on Christian Mingle, OkCupid, Zoosk, or Match.com.

17. A guy messaged me on one of the apps. As we got talking, he asked me if I went to a specific high school - and I had. Turns out we went to high school together. I was surprised he remembered me, as I don't think we ever talked... Then again, I guess I do have an unforgettable face. ;-)

18. One guy's initial message read, "You are so beautiful. I love the color purple, and it looks so good on you." Another guy told me I had an "exquisite look." Again... I love the instant comfortability that some guys show.

19. When you share that you're online dating, people on your Facebook friend list (who don't even know each other) bond over digital "romance" stories - the good and the bad. Also, the singles randomly appearing in your inbox can turn out to be a nice surprise. (I even have had stranger a in Spain who read my blog email me about my singleness, wanting to set up Skype conversations if I am still "looking for a relationship.") If anything, I'm glad people have reached out - whether it was to inquire about putting an end to my singleness, or to relate to the tales never-ending.

20. I'm starting to think it would have been much easier to ask friends on social media if they had any single friends they thought would be compatible. There has to be a better, classier way to find someone.

Nearly a month in, I'm still trying to figure out what I think about online dating. There are days where I don't like it - at all. There are days where, like I said above, I feel like I'm paying to be disrespected. Then there are days where I can't help but think, "This is awesome!" as I chat with a really kind guy, who is more gentlemen-like than the majority I've interacted with on all the sites combined.

Yet, if I'm honest... By seeing the reactions from family and friends about my online dating experiences, I'm starting to wonder if just doing a basic, classy, non-desperate post of, "I'm single and ready to mingle," is all that it could potentially take. Who knows - you might see that kind of post and reply, "Oh, I know someone who is perfect for you!" to, "Hey. Remember me? I'd love to chat and see if there's something there worth pursuing between us."

And, as I relay all the stories and experiences to my mom, she even pointed out to me last night, "You know what's interesting? It seems, so far, that the guy you're interested in the most isn't even one you met on any of the sites."

Maybe, just maybe, being honest and saying to the world, "This is where I'm at," is all it takes.

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal



Monday, July 17, 2017

25 Insights to Online Dating – From a Gal With a Facial Difference

You guys. I did it. I joined a dating site.

Wait.

Actually, I joined three.

About 75 percent was due to thinking, "This would provide great blogging content," and 25 percent was because I'm curious to see what the odds are I might meet someone. I've done a lot of traveling and have made my way around the world, but I've never had much luck in the dating department. And, now that I work from home, I don't leave the house as much as I used to, which means I don't meet a lot of new people - unless I'm out speaking, traveling, or at the Dutch Bros or Target check-out line.

I've been trying to decide when to reveal my new online dating hobby. Should I sign up, complete my subscriptions to the sites I joined, and then share on my blog? Or should I share as it is taking place? But then my friend told me I should do it as I go along, to help keep people enlightened on the experiences - and entertained. (She also told me, "then you can do a highlight reel once you've married Prince Charming" - so stay tuned for that one, y'all.)

While doing some research, some sites recommended not to join more than one to two sites at a time, in fear that the subscribed member will be overwhelmed with too many fish in the sea. But real talk. It takes a special kind of guy who will date a girl with a facial difference. And he has to be a Christian. I don't think I'll be swimming in an overstuffed ocean, so two weeks ago, I joined three sites (in this order):

1. Christian Mingle

2. Match (#2 Dating Site)

3. Zoosk (#1 Dating Site)

Christian Mingle was oddly silent, which is why I added Match to the list. But curiosity for the number one dating site also struck, and that's where I decided to add one last site.

While creating my profile, I mentioned I didn't care where people lived, that I wanted a Christian man, and my birthmark is obvious in my profile pictures - and I even mention it in my profile.

The concept of online dating has always been an odd one as someone with a facial difference. There was fear of honesty, "Will someone steal my image and turn me into a meme again?" But, I also embrace who I am as I am, and my birthmark is usually pretty good about weeding shallow people out of my life. After hearing from women who have been in makeup since the age of two, and women who have been forced to wear makeup to bed by their husbands - I needed to let the men know that this is me, and I don't feel the need to hide how God has made me. And, as I made the decision to be bluntly honest about my birthmark, I thought, "Well, I've already been a meme once." And I don't want to live in a mindset of fear. I wanted to be me, without the filters - whether they be digitally or cosmetically created.

My profile bio slightly varies from site to site, but here is the core of all three:

"I'm a 'God-sized' dreamer filled with humor, compassion, and adventure. I'm a frequent baker, photographer, and traveller. My beat-up passport has taken me to 14 countries - most recently to Taiwan. American Sign Language is my second language, although I'd love to learn Spanish next. I make it a point to laugh every day - even if means laughing at myself...because hey, laughter is the best. My favorite color is blue, unless glitter is an option. Then it's glitter...always, always glitter. 

Currently I'm an editor for a news organization in the LA area, but I work from home. Distance isn't an issue for me as I can take my work with me wherever I go.

I'm not like most gals. I mean, no one is exactly the same - which is one thing that makes this world such an incredible, beautiful place. We're all different, I just wear one of my differences on the outside. I have a purple birthmark that has been hanging out on the left side of my face my whole life. My birthmark doesn't define me, but the tales are never ending as it continues to help me grow as a person. I'm 100% open about it and don't feel the need to hide it. I mean, seriously...Purple is one of my favorite colors, and I get to wear it every single day. What's not to love? ;-) 

I'd love to meet someone here who loves a good adventure, has a good sense of humor, and who values their family. Also, someone who sees the beauty and importance of putting God in the middle of the relationship."
My profile photo on all the sites.
As I spend time online, connecting with a variety of people, here are some of my thoughts and experiences as an online dating newbie:

1. Online dating makes me feel like I'm Amazon shopping for men. Though, I have been told I'm a pro and finding awesome things online... So, maybe the odds are in my favor. But, I figure I've met many of my dear friends online - why not a potential future husband?

2. My photos of my birthmark made a 48-year-old man "tear up," but that's OK. He's an "emotional man." (I'm still trying to figure out why a 48-year-old man was viewing my profile, as a 25-year-old.)

3. The Christian dating site is a lot quieter than the non-Christian dating site. In the back of my mind, I can't help but wonder if silence is why so many Christian singles I know (including myself) are struggling to find someone.

4. Within the first discussion, a man insisted to know how much cooking and cleaning I'd do if we got married, and how much money I was willing to contribute for buying a house. When I refused to answer, he replied, "I guess you expect the man to pay for everything." Replying, I told him that I felt he was wanting to get to know my assets before he got to know me, to deem if I were dateable. I then decided I wasn't going to reply to any more of his messages.

5. After being asked if I wanted to have children one day, a man went on a long rant about how most women only want children so they can "feed off the man the old fashioned way..." and that we need to make sure we don't overwhelm ourselves in the "awful economy."

6. I've noticed that most men don't like showing happiness or joy in their profile photos, and many "forget" to put on a shirt. Unless their shirt was stolen, then I can't blame them for looking mad. (Smile guys - your smile is much hotter than an angry looking man who forgot to get dressed.)

7. It's interesting to see what people pick up on their first message. For one, it was that I'm bilingual in sign language. One man also replied that my username made them laugh, and that purple is their favorite color. Both won instant gold stickers for reading my profile...but the second guy got even more props due to instant comfortability with my birthmark.

8. Holding a conversation with a guy, he asked me, "Have you ever dated a black dude before?" But, it wasn't his first time asking me that question. So, I pointed out his repetitiveness and added, "Have you ever dated a gal with a half a purple face before?" Match.com showed he read the message, but he never replied.  Oops.

9. I felt very awkward sharing with anyone I joined the online dating world. Two weeks in, I finally shared about it with one of my closest of friends, and then a few days later I finally told my mom. After those initial two people, I the nerves were gone and I didn't mind telling anyone else.

10. Others are open about their medical conditions on their profiles as well. And it doesn't matter whether they have an "invisible" condition or a physical difference. So far I've seen guys open up about their eye patches (due to cancer), vitiligo, epilepsy, and autism.

11. At least half the men that I've started a conversation with have wanted to instantly figure out our lives together before we even know each other's names. Reading their quickly written, passionate messages, I'm left on my end with a loss of words.

12. A man wrote on his profile that his aunt, who is a nun, visits regularly. I love a guy with a close family, but I'm still perplexed as to why that was news worthy on his profile.

13. It's awkward to see someone you know on the same dating site. It shouldn't be. You're single, he's single... and it's 2017. Although, that may just be an awkward thing for me, considering I'm always awkward around people I have a slight interest in - and that includes this guy.

14. One guy shared on his profile, "I don't judge women by their appearances." But, on a lot of these dating sites, you can get very specific about the kind of person you're looking for. According to his list, he was very particular about the kind of woman he was looking for, ranging from her height, hair and eye color, to her body type.

15. Online dating makes me question my writing abilities, from my own profile to the messages I send. Do guys not reply because they haven't fully subscribed to the site? Because my profile says I'm an "editor," and I have a typo in the mix? I don't feel natural when I'm in the online dating world, and find myself often fumbling over my keyboard.

16. I was chatting with a nice guy, until he told me he produces porn. #ByeFelicia

17. When I asked one man about his faith and if he went to church, he told me, "I do have a church in the area. (I) was more involved in attending services while in a relationship. Maybe (I) just need the direction of a good woman holding my hand and guiding us back into the church together." Yeah, uh, no...That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works.

18. Grammar matters to me more than I realized was possible. (Proof: I edited the message I shared on number 15 before sharing it on my blog.)

19. Most men don't pay attention that I'm an editor, or maybe they don't care when they type their messages without punctuation or capitalization. And when they message me, I have a hard time turning my editor side off when reading what they send. But, I'm the kind of gal who, when sees a typo on a website, emails the person running it to let them know there is an error.

20. I've realized it's hard to know when you should give your number, if asked, or when it's OK to ask if you can send yours.

21. Apparently every man online is "funny," according to every profile that is filled out.

22. It's hard to balance people wanting to add me on Facebook, and my thinking, "But I want to blog about you..."

23. On these sites, they have you judge if you want to meet someone by their photo alone. They show the photo online, not sharing their username or giving you the ability to view their profile - until you rank you want to meet them. It feels very shallow to me to judge if I want to meet someone by their looks alone, like some of these sites ask you to do. A guy's appearance is not why I'm on there. Looks are ever fleeting, their foundation and core of who they are is what lasts.

24. On all three profiles, I told the dating sites I only wanted to date Christian men. I didn't mark any specifics on how much he had to earn, his body type, height, hair color or eye color...I didn't even care about distance. ('Cause you know, I'm the "travelin' chick.") Yet, the two non-Christian ones are constantly sending me profiles of people with different religious beliefs, atheists, and agnostics... Which I think is super odd.

25. Several guys have written to me to ask, "What happened to your face?" This is another sign that many didn't read my profile.

Two weeks into the online dating world, that's pretty much the basics of where I'm at - with both my experiences, observations and feelings.

...But don't worry, I'll keep you posted as I go from an online dating novice to becoming a pro. ;-)

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal

Friday, May 26, 2017

What 'Beauty and the Beast' Taught Me as a Child With a Facial Difference

I finally saw Beauty and the Beast this weekend.

It was incredible.

While in recent years I've become an advocate of how villains are portrayed in movies, the 1991 cartoon version of this movie has been a constant favorite in my life.

I don't remember the first time I saw the movie, but I was young.

I loved Belle's personality. She had a sense of adventure, daring to be herself - regardless of what the townspeople said about her. Oh, and she loved her books. While they never showed her as a writer, I often pretended in my childhood that she enjoyed holding a pen to a piece of paper as much as I did.

But, as a child with a facial difference, my reason for loving this movie was so much more than relating to the beautiful Disney princess.

You see, I was born with a purple port wine stain birthmark that covers half my face.  Three in 1,000 have my condition, but as a child, I didn't know anyone else with a facial difference - let alone anyone with the same condition. Facebook support groups for people with birthmarks weren't a thing, and we still had dial-up.

Watching the movie's story-line unfold in front of me, I was in awe...Especially when Belle fell in love with the Beast.

Often, as a child, I would forget about my birthmark. Unless someone made a comment, stared, or I had a medical treatment, it wasn't the focus on my life. I was just a kid. I was just like everyone else. I was focused on hanging out with my cousin, watching "Boy Meets World," and building things with my Legos.

But, in that moment where Belle started to develop feelings for the Beast, I remembered my birthmark. I remembered my unique physical appearance.

"People who look 'different,' can find love too. Maybe someone will one day fall in love with me," I remember myself thinking.

At around 6 years old, I don't recall ever worrying about dating or finding love. I don't recall ever wondering if I would ever marry, or if anyone of the opposite gender would ever be able to see past my face's two-shaded skin tone. But as I watched Belle and the Beast fall in love, the thought of love was planted in my mind, and it would never leave.

I'm now 25 and still very much single. "Beauty and the Beast" still remains my favorite Disney film, but now we have high-speed internet, and Facebook groups for a variety of topics - including some for people with birthmarks like my own.

Discovering these social media groups for the first time, around the age of 21, I never realized how much I craved to connect with other people with the same condition. I made new friends with similar appearances, with similar stories.

Then, one day, the question emerged from my mind, "How many people who look like me have found love? How many are married, or are dating?"

I then found myself shamelessly clicking from profile to profile, curious on their marital status. My 21 years old, single self needed to know it was possible. I needed to know that the concept of "Beauty and the Beast" wasn't just a Hollywood story-line.

Last night, I asked my mom, "I know it was a different time with different resources when I was born, but did you ever consider trying to find someone with the same birthmark for me to connect with?"

She told me that she never thought to ask, as that seemed to be the farthest thing from the doctor's minds.

And for the first time, I told her about why I truly loved "Beauty and the Beast." I told her, "Growing up, I saw many married couples. But all those couples had typical appearances, none of them looked like me. 'Beauty and the Beast' was the first time I realized that people like myself could find love too."

As an adult, I see the even deeper connections I feel with the Beast. Like the Beast, society has a hard time seeing past the appearance. Like the Beast, rumors about my appearance travel. Like him, I'm often misunderstood and mistreated - all because of how I look. And also, his name. He's literally known as "the Beast." While several know me by name, as Crystal, strangers often refer to me by my appearance. And even some friends, who have known me my whole life, my name still doesn't go beyond the phrase of, "The girl who has something wrong with her face."

In a season and society of high expectations where where I've been asked to be on a show called Too Ugly For Love, Body FixersThe Undateables, and where I've been called "contagious," and "ugly," by blunt strangers....Beauty and the Beast gives me hope. One day, it's possible that I may meet someone who won't "shudder" when they touch "my paw." He may even love both me, and my birthmark - maybe just as much as I do. To one man, one day, I may be known as so much more than "the girl who has something wrong with her face."

The Travelin' Chick,

Crystal

Side note: As an adult, thinking about the movie through my advocate-tented-glasses, beyond my personal, childhood, experience, there are many other issues I could cover. But, if you'd like to read about those, feel free to check out this article by my friend, Carly.

Friday, March 31, 2017

To the Woman Who Feels She Can't Leave Her House Without Makeup on


A sweet gal from the Ukraine wrote to me today and shared that she has the same type of birthmark that I have.

Reading her words, she told me, "I am afraid to leave the house without cosmetics. How do you live without cosmetics? I'm afraid people will laugh at me and don't want to communicate with me."

I read messages like this on a weekly basis, and my heart breaks...Every. Single. Time.


My heart breaks, because I get it. I've been in her shoes...Afraid others will laugh, afraid of what others will say.

In fact, I've been in situations where people have done just that.

I've had to tell people to stop staring at me, and they've laughed as they continue their forever-long, awkward gaze.

A woman working at a well-known department store once refused to talk to me the whole time I sat in her cosmetics chair, as she put makeup on my face...Once I sat in her chair, she instantly switched gears and chose to only speak to to my mom. Sitting in her chair, she began to only see me as a birthmark, forgetting to see me as a person. Instead of feeling beautiful after my makeover, I left our session with a broken heart and my confidence feeling depleted.

People have told me I must be contagious, and they've even cursed in reaction to my face.

In addition, my image was once stolen, commented on by thousands of strangers writing their unkind words and opinions next to my unknown face, on the unexpected, popular Facebook post.

My heart breaks that this has to even be an issue in society - regardless of the country and culture people are born into.

But here's the thing...

In my journey, I've learned a lot.

When I went viral to over 30 million people, and endured some intense cyberbullying, I questioned many things. I remember asking myself, "Am I making life more difficult by not covering my birthmark? Should I be investing in the expensive, uncomfortable makeup, made for conditions like mine?"

It took a while, and with the help of my family and friends, I finally came to an important "ah-ha" moment.

A little foundation on my cheeks can't be the foundation of my confidence. That is not where my identity lies.

I mean, don't get me wrong. I like makeup. It's artsy and I think it's quite fun. Plenty of makeup brands sit in my own cabnent. But, I've always been taught that makeup is meant to enhance our natural beauty - not to hide it.

I am so much more than my birthmark on my face, and honestly - I think it's beautiful. Some have told me that it reminds them of a heart. Others have told me they love the ombre affect, and all the colors mixed within it.

I think it's beautiful, and hope the whole world sees it the same way one day.


And most of all? I've learned that with every cruel person, there are at least two or more people who are kind. People who are encouraging me on my journey, who see beyond my obvious difference.

Maybe you're in the same situation as the gal who messaged me - and maybe you don't even have a birthmark like ours. Maybe you've struggled with accepting your natural appearance, afraid to leave the house without a few layers of makeup on your face.

I've heard from a lot of people over the last few years, and I know she's not the only one who struggles with the same topic. Better yet, I know I'm not the only one who has struggled with the topic. Overtime, I've heard from woman who have been put in makeup at the age of two (yes - you read that right), and from women who's husbands have forced them to wear makeup to bed.

Ladies, I'm sorry that society has told us that we aren't acceptable to go out into the world just as we are.

I'm sorry that others have twisted the concept of beauty, turning it into a competitive sport, rather than treating us as a one-of-a-kind, priceless gems that we are.

I'm sorry there is an industry that has made millions off of our insecurities.

I apologize that it hasn't been reinforced enough that we can see the beauty in others, without tearing ourselves down in the process.

I wish we weren't handed a box on the day we are born, one full of society's unrealistic expectations...One that we feel we have to tightly squeeze into for the rest of our lives.

But hey. Guess what?

You're right. Others are beautiful...But can I tell you a secret?

Just because we see the beauty in other people, that doesn't make our beauty any less.

Iron sharpens iron, remember?

Regardless of what others and the world may try to tell you...

You are beautiful. (Or swagful, if you're a dude reading this.)

You are unique.

You are one-of-a kind.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

You are a rockstar in the skin you're in.

...And I hope you never forget that.

The Travelin Chick,
Crystal