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Mari, 47

Appearance was not highly valued in my childhood family. My dad would say mean things about women who wear makeup. He would also criticize my looks and tell me things like I’m so ugly that no one will ever take me.

Behind this behavior was my dad’s disappointment about his first child being a girl. That’s why I was made to wear clothes that would make me look more like a boy, for example. In almost all my childhood photos, I’m wearing dreadful team Tappara sweatpants. At my grandparents’ place I had some nice clothes that my grandpa had bought me, but I was too afraid to bring them home. The alcohol problem made my dad’s behavior even worse than before.

All of that has remained in my subconscious, for sure. I don’t feel like I can appreciate myself the way I am. And you don’t truly comprehend these things before you’ve reached adulthood.

Now I would know how to get back at my dad. Say something like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I was also bullied in school. Bullying was pretty common at the time, and no one really tried to stop it. What’s stuck with me from the bullying is that people said my ass was wide. I still think about it when I choose clothes: I check that they’ll hide my butt.

In hindsight, all of this probably impacted my decision to not want a princess wedding. I couldn’t see myself in a beautiful bridal dress, at the center of attention. I’m sure it could have been important to feel beautiful like that for once. But we got married in a simple manner in the courthouse. My dress was rather modest, and I had given birth three weeks earlier. Still, it was a very nice day.

My husband is from the Philippines, which has of course affected how our children look. If I had had kids with a Scandinavian, they would probably show more of my features. To be honest, I’m relieved that my children don’t really look like me but are really beautiful. It’s a good thing for them. Maybe this is a cruel way to think, but that’s just how the world is.

What’s always disturbed me the most is my nose. It’s a pretty big, Carelian-style nose. I also used to have a large mole on the tip of my nose, the kind I would see from the corner of my eye. A few years ago I went to have it removed. It was the first thing I’ve had the courage to do to my face, and it felt good. Now I don’t constantly have to notice my nose.

Getting older has helped with accepting myself. We live in Germany these days, and here I’ve started to buy more clothes than before and even take selfies of myself. When we visited Finland in the summer, my daughter said that I’m worse than her: that I am “all the time” doing my makeup or looking at myself in the mirror.

I said that I’m doing it on purpose. It’s my way to learn to enjoy my looks.