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On Marilyn Monroe's birthday, here's why I love my beauty mark

by Megan O. Steintrager /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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When I was about 14 years old, a neighborhood woman grabbed me by the face, took a good look at the mole under my right eye and pronounced it "probably cancerous," suggesting I should get it removed asap.

"Besides, you'd look better without it anyway." I couldn't imagine my face without my mole, so I was relieved when an actual dermatologist — instead of a random person with no medical training — deemed the mole perfectly fine.

Birth Marks. From right to left, Cindy Crawford,  Marilyn Monroe and Madonna.
From right to left, Cindy Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Madonna.AP file

I can't remember a time when I didn't feel passionately protective of my mole — even when kids called me "birdie turd face," or later when I found out that guys in college called me "the girl with a dot." I'll give credit to my parents for fostering that self-esteem ("My mole is part of me and I am good, therefore my mole must be good"), but also to the clever rebranding of facial moles as beauty marks. It's not clear exactly when this mole makeover got its start, but by the Renaissance, beauty marks were so popular that people were affixing false ones. (Do you have a feature that you're not too crazy about? I say, give it the beauty mark treatment!)

When I was young I always called my mole a beauty mark. In fact, I was such a beauty mark cheerleader that I was enlisted to talk to a friend's little sister who was getting teased for her facial mole. I told her how awesome beauty marks are, how they make us special and how proud she should feel to be in such great company with Cindy Crawford, Madonna and, of course, Marilyn Monroe. Now I wonder what her mother thought about me suggesting the "Like a Virgin" singer as a role model for her 7-year-old daughter ... in any case, she did seem to feel better about her mole after our chat.

Photos © Diana Levine | http://www.dianalevine.com | dianaroselevine@gmail.com

As an adult, I grew somewhat embarrassed to use the term "beauty mark" and started saying "mole" for a while. (It felt too much like I was saying, "I am so hot that I have a mark on my face to tell you just how hot I am!") Then, a few years ago, I described myself to a publicist I had never met in person so she could find me at an event: "I'm about 5'4", I have long blonde hair and I have a mole on my face." I showed up at the event and the first thing she blurted out was, "You're so pretty!" before stammering about how she imagined an ogre when she heard there was a "mole on my face." (I imagine she was picturing Shrek — who, now that I think of it, had a message about accepting yourself as you are, moles and all.) It's been "beauty mark" again ever since.

And every year at my annual dermatology checkup, I'm actually relieved to hear that my mole still looks so beautiful and healthy that I can keep it. OK, so maybe the doc only said that it looks "fine" — but every once in a while I let the "beauty mark" slogan go right to my head.

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