A bazillion years ago when I was a kid, a boy who was more than old enough to know better touched me in a way that changed me forever.
The change didn’t happen overnight. It took years for the confusion, guilt, shame, and secrecy to build walls and to paint my own mental picture of Dorian Gray. In my mind for many years, I was an ugly little troll, and I did not want to be.
I was thinking of this the other day as I was sketching a rough layout of a similar moment in my next book, The Truth About Trolls, when everything changes for the main character, Elly. That moment is a big reason why I wrote the story. It was to acknowledge that sometimes things happen, even to children, that they can’t control and that change them. Even though that moment in the story is told in a way that is comprehensible and accessible to young children, I knew the rough sketch was on the right track because I started to cry as I drew the hand of a brash boy reaching to touch the wing of a fairy.
When I met my husband, a.k.a. The Big Guy, my mental picture changed. He was the first man who knew me and my secrets and still told me I was beautiful. Twenty years later I still see a very round troll when I look in the mirror, and he still tells me I’m beautiful. The only difference is that years of loving the Big Guy, 16-year-old Thing1 and 10-year-old Thing2 has helped me see that trolls can indeed be beautiful.
That is the next part of the book. Sometimes things happen and they do change us, even against our wills. But too often those changes cause guilt or shame, and we can begin taking unflattering mental selfies. What Elly discovers, and what I’m hoping children will glean, is that even if you are not the same person you were, those changes don’t make you any less valuable or beautiful, and, in time, you can come out stronger.