I have these two moles on my face, one on each cheek close to my cheekbones. They’re not symmetrical but they’re prominent and my family’s always hated them. When I say my family I mean my insanely archaic Korean elders. My brother and cousins will agree with me on this one, and they too know about the attempts to make me have my moles removed.
Here are two clear photos of the moles in question, and I swear it’s just a coincidence as to the circumstances:
The thing is I never called them moles growing up. I always called them “my beauty marks.” Somewhere along the way I succumbed to calling them moles, but I never did fold to the pressure from my family to have them burned off my face. My youngest aunt did have it done, and to this day she has little scar-dents in the places where her moles once stood! And for what? Old wives’ tales, superstitions, and skin-deep beauty in the eyes of the Korean community? They told her that removing her moles would raise her chances of getting married. Um, no.
So I overheard from a very young age that if my moles ever got too big, then “something” would have to be done about them. I never felt threatened and it’s not like it was ever said in a cruel way, but just very as a matter of fact-ly. It was always the women in my family talking about it, because Korean men never get involved in female aesthetics. But when I was a child, I always wondered what “too big” meant. I worried that my moles would grow so big and take over my face one day.
But then I started to really like my moles. They made me look different and so I felt different, in a good way. I remember clearly the day I attended my first art class in elementary school. I couldn’t draw or paint for shit, and I still can’t, but that first day I was given a canvas of paper and some poster paint with a brush. I drew my face and nothing else. My eyes and nose and lips and ears and my two moles, is all I presented. I didn’t even think twice as to what I’d paint, like my classmates all wrestled with. It was instinctual. And I made my moles way bigger than they were in real life. Looking back that first piece of art for me meant more than I ever realized, and I wish I knew where it was.
As I got older I overheard less and was just told more that my moles were getting “too big.” I ignored these people. I’d never get married and Korean men, and their mothers, wouldn’t like my face because of my moles, I was told. But all the women in my family had moles on their faces too and it annoyed me as I got older. They’re my moles! I like them! I became protective of my moles and started wearing more SPF.
But I started to question and balk at other things too and I know now after learning about my family’s rich history on two continents, now three, that my mother was the same way growing up. I am truly my mother’s daughter. She was a rebel in her time, and I use that term loosely because it doesn’t take much to get yourself ostracized in Little Koreas. But it’s why my mother got to marry for love and not for money. It’s why she tried to squelch me as I got older, while my father encouraged me to spread my wings and try to fly wherever I wanted.
My dad never really got involved except to play parrot messenger once, between my mother and me. She and I stopped talking to each other for a period of time, after getting into a fight about the whole mole drama.
“Your mother thinks you should think about getting your juhm removed, but you don’t have to, ” my dad said to me on behalf of my mother.
“She doesn’t want to get her juhm removed, so don’t ask her anymore,” he said to my mother, for me.
And all these years later, I still have my moles. Now that I’m “finally” married with a kid, according to my mother, I don’t have to do a thing about my moles. Right. Because I was going to do a thing about them anyway.
I really like my moles!