I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in the church bus wishing everyone would just ride already so we can head home. A non-descript lady in her forties entered and sat across from me. She looked at me and smiled. I was in my early teens, awkward and shy, so I just tentatively smiled back and looked down. She then said something I wouldn’t forget. “Did you know you’re beautiful? “she asked in Chinese Fookien. I was shocked, caught in an amalgam of jumbled emotions; feeling flattered, embarassed and weirded out all at once, as everyone else turned towards us.
“No, really, I find you so beautiful.” She added in a motherly tone. “You should fix your hair to show off your beautiful face.” I don’t remember being able to say anything back, but profusely blush in my seat and smile in return.
I got off from the bus half an hour later with the widest smile in my heart. I knew it was a simple compliment from a woman I didn’t even know. But for a girl who was made to feel like she was too tall, too fat and too manly to be described as beautiful, it was a message that definitively changed her perspective. For the first time in many years, I looked in the mirror and didn’t instinctively find flaws.