Joie Davidow


Marked for Life: A Story of Disguise, Discovery and Redemption

Marked for Life
is the story of growing up with a purple/red birthmark that covered most of the left side of my face and eye. It is the story of learning to cope with feeling that I was grotesque — first because my face was emblazoned with a stain so bright and large it was impossible to ignore and, later, because I lived behind a mask of heavy makeup, harboring a face I dared not show. It is also the story of how, late in life, I was able to resolve some of those feelings and came to understand that despite being “marked for life,” I am really just another face in the crowd, no different than anyone else. Mine is the story of a little girl who grew into a young woman with the stigma of a big red-purple mark, trying, against all odds, to be pretty enough to attract a boyfriend, thinking she had to be perfect on the outside in order to deserve love. I believe that all of us, however physically flawless, have felt at times that we were hiding some defect, that we were only pretending to be “normal.” So my story is shared, at least in part, by anyone who ever felt unable to fit in, who felt that he or she was looking at life from the outside.

"...a thoughtful meditation on self-perception." —Publishers Weekly

"...a generous book, overflowing with tender wisdom."
—Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of "A Woman of Independent Means"

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I’m sitting with Mommy and Jackie on the bench at the back of the train, the three of us huddled in a cozy row, merrily riding off to Grandmom’s house. I love riding the subway, love looking out the window at the black tunnel, watching for the wispy trail of light that grows wider and wider until we roll into the next station. The train stops and a scary man gets on. I want him to go away but he stands close to our bench holding onto a pole. He is a pale man with sparse gray hair, and his clothes are very wrinkled. I’d rather stand up than sit close to this man, even if the only empty seat on the train was the one next to his. His face is half-covered with a deep purple birthmark. It’s darker and bigger than mine, climbing down onto his neck, but I recognize it. He seems so sad and lonely, lonelier than anyone else on the train, because everyone else on the train is looking away from him, even me. Mommy must see him, but she pretends not to notice. Mommy would never say anything about the man or his birthmark. But if Jackie, sees him, she might point. She might say, “Look! That man has a birthmark just like Joie’s!” And then everyone will look at the poor man and look at me. I slide closer to my mommy and put my head in her lap, hiding the birthmark side so that no one on the train will think I’m like that man. The train pulls into the next stop. I shut my eyes tight. Please, please, let him get off right now! Let him be gone when I open my eyes. But the train starts up again and the man is still there. I have never seen anyone with a birthmark like mine before. I’m a nice little girl in a pretty new dress. It can’t be possible that I’ll be like that man when I grow up. I promise myself that the man has nothing to do with me. But for a long time I think about the ugly purple all over his face. I see him standing there, swaying, holding on to the metal pole, trying to be invisible.

Random House web page for Marked for Life

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