“Do you wear bras?”, a high school classmate asked me one day.
“No…”, I replied with anticipation, waiting for her to get to the point.
“You need to”, my classmate said, pointing at my “headlights”.
That was during my last year in high school. Since I had just started showing signs of puberty that year, I did not see the need for a bra. Needless to say, however, after what my classmate told me, I never went out without a bra again. I was what one might call a “late bloomer”, or so I thought. During the summer before my first year in high school, I was diagnosed with Turner syndrome. Turner syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects girls. The condition is characterized by the partial or complete absence of one X chromosome. Many girls find out they have the condition around the same age I did, because one important marker of Turner syndrome is the absence of puberty. Girls with Turner syndrome generally can not go through puberty without hormone replacement treatment (which I started during my last year in high school). I always knew that I was different from my female peers. I finally found out why.
When I hit my preteens I could not wait to transform into a beautiful swan. I watched all my female peers grow into beautiful young women, feeling more and more left behind with each passing year as I continued to show no signs of blooming. I couldn’t help thinking that I will always be an ugly duckling. I will never look like my female classmates, or the beautiful models I see on television or in magazines. My mother always tried to help me build a positive self image, but I just couldn’t let go of the feelings in my heart.
Not only did I feel unattractive, I also felt incomplete. Women with Turner syndrome are usually infertile, and I was told by doctors that I was likely no exception to that rule. This revelation made me believe that I was not a “real” woman. I did not look like a “real” woman, and my body did not function like one either. It took some time for me to realize that there is so much more to a woman than her appearance. A woman is not defined by her breasts or hips, nor is an ample amount of them the mark of a beautiful woman. Beauty and women come in different forms. A woman who undergoes a mastectomy is not any less of a woman because of her lack of breasts. A woman who is infertile is not less of a woman because of her inability to bear children. I am not less of a woman because of some characteristics I lack due to Turner syndrome. Every woman is unique, but the one thing we have in common is that we all have our own special brand of beauty.
In a world where many people feel the need to get cosmetic surgery to “fix” what they see as imperfections, it is hard to be confidant and not feel the need to join the bandwagon. It takes strength to follow one’s own path instead of following the crowd, and over the years I have been slowly trying to build the strength to come into my own. I am learning to look past my “imperfections” so that whenever I look in the mirror I see a work of art