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Dear Cal: Advice To My Teenage Daughter (Part 3)

By Elizabeth Jayne Liu

This is the third installment in my series “Dear Cal: Advice To My Teenage Daughter.”
Letters One and Two can be found here.



When I started high school, I was just shy of five feet tall. I hit a growth spurt in my late teens after giving birth to you, Cal, and now, I’m 5 feet 2.67 inches tall. I’m still trying to figure out what propelled my growth plates to grind out the extra inches. Did my mindset to “Think Tall” finally have a psychosomatic effect? Should I thank my younger brother for being a reluctant but willing helper in my Gumby Experiment-pulling on my legs at least three times a week while I held onto the bannister?

The world looks so different from up here. I was standing next to a very short person recently. A toddler, if I’m recalling correctly. I’ll admit it, my chest puffed up a little bit knowing that I would be able to see the topping selections at the very back of the build-your-own-sundae station and he wouldn’t. I should have lifted him up or called out the choices, but I just dressed up my ice cream and left. I try not to be a callous tall person, but I’m also human, and I have my faults.

As I finished my dessert, I thought about the two years of intense begging and campaigning I did as a high schooler for my parents to find a doctor who would inject me with human growth hormones. My efforts fell on deaf ears.

When they countered my pleas with affirmations like “Your height is just right” and “You are perfect just the way you are,” I didn’t believe them. Their unwillingness to help fulfill a dream made me question whether they really wanted their children to be happy. I didn’t have hard evidence to back it up, but I just knew that the major indicators for success in life were measuring at least 5’1’’ and the TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator which I also didn’t get. Why did my parents even have children if they were going to be so mean to them?

I wasn’t happy with my body and I wasn’t going to let anyone convince me otherwise.

What I wish I had known as a teenager is that there’s no magic bullet for success in life. Or rather, now that I’m over the 5’1″-mark by A LOT, I can verify through personal experience that it’s not what you have that matters most. It’s how you nurture and use what you’ve been given. I try to use my vertical advantage to boost others (the literal kind). We all need a lift sometimes (not the literal kind). I’m here to help.


When I was seven months pregnant with you, our nearly 80-pound family dog, who had been with us for nine years, bit me in the face. It was, like, totally a dramatic incident. There was a lot of blood and screaming and puncture wounds down both sides of my face with a few bites piercing all of the way through.

Once the swelling subsided and the infection cleared and the stitches were removed, the angry discoloration still remained. I tried to hide the prominent welts by styling my hair differently, but for reasons I still don’t quite understand fully today, even the slightest brush from a few strands of hair sent electric waves of pain through my face and down my neck. Covering the scars was out of the question.

I didn’t leave the house much for a long time. Having a new baby became my perfect excuse to stay hidden away. I didn’t like the sympathetic tongue clucks or the questions or the exclamatory remarks. “OH MY GOD, DID YOU KNOW YOU HAVE SOMETHING ON YOUR FACE?”

Um, yeah dude.

The reactions weren’t limited to just well-meaning strangers. A few of my friends regarded my new face with grim fascination. “Girl, you better develop that personality of yours real quick” became the new joke. At first, I played along. It was funny, and it was a refreshing departure from the looks of pity. The comments lasted long past the initial humor, and because I had allowed dissatisfaction to creep in about my height, I already had the script in my head for any other area I thought was lacking. Like my friend, Flashlight Ben (he had really white teeth), I felt like my scars were my defining signature.

On my first Mother’s Day, my friend, Mike, came by with a lotion and soap gift set, and didn’t say a single word about the dog bites. I waited and waited for him to make a comment, and after an hour of casual conversation, my curiosity took over. “Aren’t you going to say something about my face?” I asked, pointing to the scars.

He feigned ignorance. “Oh, whoa, what happened there? I didn’t notice until you pointed them out.”

It was a blatant lie. I have never loved a lie as much as I loved Mike’s lie.

He later admitted that the scars were the first things he noticed, but because they didn’t change my worth as a friend, as a mother, and as a woman, he didn’t think it would benefit anyone to focus on them.

I spent more than ten years seeking different procedures to smooth out the scars. While the incident made me a stronger person, I didn’t want the remnants of that one tragedy to be my first introduction to people. I think of my friend Mike often when I see the faint lines that still remain. They remind me that I don’t have to be perfect to be good.

Read  Letters One & Two in my series “Dear Cal: Advice To My Teenage Daughter”

About the Author

Elizabeth Jayne Liu

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she s...

Elizabeth started her blog, Flourish in Progress, on her thirtieth birthday to chronicle a yearlong shopping ban. Surprisingly, she survived, and now records a series of weekly challenges called Monday Dares. She fails a lot.

Elizabeth writes candidly about her former addictions, love of four-letter words, and her affinity for all things rap. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, whom she married after dating for just eighteen days, her 13-year-old daughter, and her complete collection of Yo! MTV Raps Trading Cards.

Connect with Elizabeth on The Huffington Post, Facebook, and Instagram (@flourishinprogress).

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Lording your extreme height over small children is really low. Way to crush their small souls! :p

Beautiful post. Really. It’s amazing what we learn from events in our lives, not just by the way WE handle it, but by the way those around us do. It is always telling, and really shows you what a person is made of. And everyone has scars. Some you can see, and some are buried deep. How you handle those scars makes you the person you are. And you? You’re beautiful.

Isabel Kallman


Ames k.
Ames k.

Your writing is amazing. I follow your blog and its a fun read. But when I read your letters to your daughter, it makes me tear up. You are such an incredible parent. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us.


Melissa C
Melissa C

I really love this series and your writing – thanks for sharing!


I was in an accident when I was 5 that left a one inch scar running out from the corner of my mouth. Children can be so cruel. I was teased a lot. I’m not gonna lie, I believe it had a huge impact on my personality. To this day, I am very nervous when meeting new people, but I figured out long ago that my scars don’t define me. Let’s add to that the fact that I have neen 5’9″ since the age of 14. Talk about awkward teenage years. It may be difficult to be vertically challenged, but… Read more »