Stories about young people running away from home often don’t end well, but I just heard a story of a good outcome. The young woman who shared her story with me isn’t a child, though. She’s in her early 20s, but she ran away from home last year. She lived in Michigan with her dysfunctional family. Her mom was addicted to meth and various prescription drugs. She was the only one in the family who worked — and her family took almost all of the money she earned. The only bright spot in her life was a guy she met online playing a video game. The two grew close and fell in love. About 18 months ago, she secretly packed everything she owned — and he drove from Birmingham to Michigan to pick her up without her family’s knowledge. Today, they’re married and have a new baby. She says leaving her family was the second best thing that ever happened to her — and her husband and baby are the best. “He doesn’t seem to understand what a big deal it was,” she said, “but he saved my life. I took a big risk and he did, too, but I’m happy and loved for the first time in my life.” It might not be common, but some runaway stories do end well.
I didn’t get a good look at her face, but I saw enough to be pretty sure it was Elizabeth. She was sitting alone in a black Lexus in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant where I had just eaten. I hadn’t seen her for a couple of months, so I walked toward her car and called her name as I approached the partially open window.
As soon as she turned her face toward me, I regretted approaching her. She looked as though she had been crying. Her makeup was a mess. She looked lost and very alone.
“Are you OK?” I asked. I couldn’t think of something more appropriate, so I asked the obvious.
She looked away and I was afraid she just didn’t want to talk. We don’t know each other that well, after all. I had never seen her in a moment of vulnerability of this sort. I had only known her as a charming, intelligent young woman who always had herself perfectly together.
After a long moment, she turned back to look at me. Her face was almost emotionally blank.
“No, I’m not OK,” she finally said. “Everything’s wrong.”
This is apparently what I would look like as a woman, at least according to a ridiculous app called FaceApp that I’ve been playing with late Thursday night. (Find links for iOS and Android here.) It’s been around for a couple of years, but I just downloaded the free version and had some fun. I’m happy to say that the app has diplomatically given me a bit of liposuction in the process, so this is probably more like what I might look like as a woman who’s about 70 pounds lighter. My sisters were both beautiful young women — and one of them annoyed her classmates by winning a beauty contest and then never caring enough about it to mention it again — so maybe our genes are better for females than males. Give it a try. It’s silly, but it’s fun.