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On Scars

April 16, 2009

When I think about my body, it’s impossible not to think about my scars. They are lines and divets crossing my chest, stomach and back, the remnants of numerous childhood surgeries. And they’re kind of cool. No, really cool.

I’ve never had a particularly antagonistic relationship with my scars. Because they’ve been there since almost before I can remember–my last surgery was when I was three years old–they’re part of me, just as much as my freckles or my belly button. The fact that I’ve never really called them “scars” may help with that. When I was young, my parents and I developed a language for talking about them: these ones are “incisions”, that one my “strawberry”, those are “from my chest tubes”. This made them personal; they were not foreign marks left on my body; rather, they were inherently part of my body, with names, stories and memories attached to them.

But when I was younger, they were the focus of many of my insecurities. I didn’t wear low-cut shirts or two-piece bathing suits; I dreaded anyone seeing my naked torso. In my early teenage years, I was acutely aware that I didn’t look how I was supposed to look, and that this was because of my scars. You’re not supposed to have a long pink line between your breasts; you’re not supposed to have what looks like a second belly button on your stomach. And on and on. Like many girls, I found that there were no images in the media of women who looked like me. I remember being thrilled when I saw Return to Me, a romantic comedy in which the lead (played by Minnie Driver) has had heart surgery, but sorely disappointed at her unrealistically light scar and her embarrassment about it.

In recent years, as I’ve grown more comfortable with my body, I’ve come to like my scars a lot more. In my childhood I took a kind of perverse pride in them, showing them off to friends for the “eww” factor, but now I like them for a different reason: I’ve come to think that they’re beautiful. They’re interesting and colorful and they make my body unique. But the main reason I’ve been able to see them in this way is that I’ve reimagined them not simply as a part of my body, but as visual evidence of my past. My scars bear witness to the medical conditions I was born with, to my parents’ struggles to get me healthy, to my good fortune at having been born in a time and place where those struggles could be fruitful, to my body’s ability to heal and to my own strength. I’ve come to realize that my body and all our bodies are where the stories of our lives are written; in our scars, stretch marks and wrinkles, we can remember where we’ve been and what we’ve been through. This is what makes these so-called “imperfections” so beautiful–and so cool.

And besides, my scars put me in good company:

Harry Potter Scarrrrr Tina Fey

2 Comments leave one →
  1. chingona permalink
    April 16, 2009 9:45 PM

    I liked this post. I don’t have your medical history, but I’ve always been fond of my scars and the way they write my history on my body. I’ve even been sad when a few scars have faded to invisibility.

  2. Laura permalink
    April 21, 2009 11:01 AM

    I’m so happy that you’re comfortable and even proud of your scars, because I really admire them. I see them as a testament to strength, and you have plenty of it.

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