"Beauty is only skin deep" was a phrase I heard quite often during my awkward childhood. When I was a baby, I had two chins, Michelin Tire legs, and hair that stuck straight up even though it was easily over two inches long. My mom would often dress me in only a diaper on hot days inspiring my uncle to label me with the name of "Marshmallow Butt." It was a name he was quite fond of calling me, even years later. As I grew, the double chin turned into one and a half, the legs stretched into colonial columns, and the hair eventually lay flat. This all happened just in time for puberty-acne and my first training bra when I was only ten. It was during this transitional point in my life that my father began to teach me a valuable and significant lesson regarding beauty and the power of words.
During my childhood, my family indulged in a weekly ritual we called family night. We used this time for various activities. We would hold family councils where we truly believed we had a say in important subjects. We would play games and have lessons such as "being kind to your family" or some other moral issue of the time. Sometimes we would sing songs, hear stories from Dad who could rival Mark Twain any day, or spend an hour to two eating ice cream and playing at the park.
I am the second child and oldest daughter in a family of ten children, so these weekly "get-togethers" rarely went without some type of fiasco. These fiascoes varied from kicking at one another as Mom was teaching us about "Doing Unto Others" or my older brother Bill and I having a hair pulling fight, not just a tug-of-the-hair fight, but a fist-full, pull-as-hard-as-you-can, you-let-go-first hair fight. It was for one of these activities that my dad brought home a movie entitled Johnny Lingo. The story was simple, but for a shy ten-year-old girl who had long, stringy, brown hair, big brown eyes, a freckled face, and who looked as though the Pillsbury Dough Boy was her closest relative, it was a story filled with magic and hope.
The movie told of a girl named Mohana. Mohana was, quite frankly, the ugliest girl on the island. She was all "skin and bone." She rarely washed her hair and never combed it. She spent all her time hiding in the woods so no one could see her and make fun of her. Even her father called her "Mohana, you ugly." One day, the most handsome young man in the area, Johnny Lingo, came to the island and chose Mohana for his wife. He gave her father eight cows as a gift in exchange for Mohana. No one had ever given more than four cows as a gift for marriage. This was a great demonstration of devotion and love towards Mohana. A year later when Johnny and Mohana returned to the island, Mohana's father came to visit them. He hardly recognized his daughter. She now had long, shining, beautifully combed hair. She had put on some weight, and even her personality had developed some self-assurance and confidence. Johnny Lingo told Mohana's father that he...