If he hadn’t been just a kid I wouldn’t have bothered, but it was one small thing I could do. I carefully lifted bits of scalp away from a head that was, by my own standards, not fixable. I cut off what hair I could, then washed it, and tied it into small bundles. It may bring the family some comfort.
When I was eighteen, working in the spacesuit factory, there was a man who approached me politely and asked if I’d be interested in going out with him. We went to the movies and to restaurants and skiing. He gave me rides to work, sat with me in the lunchroom and bought me a teddy bear on Valentine’s Day. We had several formal, stiff conversations and I rebuked all his advances because he simply wasn’t good-looking enough.
Nothing was wrong with his appearance, but back then, I had a type. He had to be tall, very skinny, and have long hair, preferably blond. Basically I was into men who looked like trashy rock stars, and no one else would do.
One thing about my youth that always makes me cringe is the high importance I placed on appearances. I can’t imagine judging someone’s worth as a companion now on what they look like. It would help if they practiced basic hygiene and didn’t have very many open sores or a mouth full of decaying brown teeth, like some white meth user who lives with his mother, but other than that, I just don’t have a “type” anymore. Not only are looks not everything, they aren’t anything.
Whenever I have a young suicide in my care, people are shocked if she is pretty, as if being pretty can serve as someone’s entire reason to live; as if pretty people are immune to depression, pain, and things life can throw at them. Being a conventionally pretty girl generally guarantees a few small pleasantries: boys will be interested in you, and some adults may treat you better.
But being attractive when you’re young also has challenges that average-looking people might not have to face. If you’re too pretty, boys assume you’re taken so they don’t approach you. Girls assume you’ll steal their boyfriends. Both may assume you are promiscuous, or dumb, or shallow. Teachers and employers may figure you won’t be a hard worker because you look like you don’t have to be. If you are sexually victimized, your looks will be considered a factor. If you have no sexual experience, sometimes your own doctor won’t believe you. Your parents may become over-protective and restrict your basic activities.
When a girl is isolated, not believed, ostracized and perhaps has several rumors spread about her, she can become depressed. And if she does become a suicide victim, inevitably some man who works in a morgue or funeral home will say that he doesn’t get it because look at her, she had everything going for her!
But maybe it wasn’t what she needed. Beautiful people kill themselves, as well as rich people, talented people, people with loving families and people with very comfortable lives. It’s just another part of “seeming fine.” If your friend “seems fine” because he is rich and can afford all sorts of fun activities and relaxing vacations, you may think he is immune to depression.
Not everyone wants to be beautiful. I have known girls who have slashed their faces after a sexual assault. Others have deliberately gained a lot of weight or neglected their personal hygiene as a defense mechanism. If I didn’t look like this, maybe this wouldn’t have happened, and if I have to look like this, I’d rather be dead.
There was a post being circulated on social media a few months back featuring photos of people a few weeks before suicide. They were not hiding in their rooms writing depressing poems. They were boating, backpacking, hugging girlfriends and boyfriends, smiling, laughing. They had an outward appearance of having everything. Depression is still misunderstood. A lot of people don’t know that shortly before suicide, people often appear relieved and elated. This is because they’ve finally made the decision to end their lives, and feel as though a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. They are no longer agonizing over making a decision. They’ve made it, and looking in the mirror rating themselves a solid 9 isn’t going to change their minds.
I know a pretty, bubbly girl having her first baby soon. I’ll be checking in with her in a few weeks, and a few months, because I know what postpartum depression is. I know it doesn’t care what you look like, or how perfect your new child is, how much money you have or how attentive your husband is.
I wouldn’t be depressed if I won the lottery. Actually, most lottery winners are bankrupt in a year. But if a bunch of money cured your depression, you didn’t have depression. If you have access to a jar of spare change, you have more money than most people in the world do.
I think one common factor in people who are depressed enough to end their lives is how frequently people assumed they didn’t need help. After all, how many of us have looked at a suicide and said, “Well yeah, I can kind of see why she did it, look at her life”?