Hanne Blank, also known as livejournal's misia
, posted this
piece today about the unique beauty of scars. I strongly urge you to read it, especially if you have any scars at all, or love someone who does. That would be almost all of you, I think.
I read it with a lot of joy, but also with pain, pain I've carried around for years.
I have no scars. I have been careful with my body and lucky in my life, and have never been hurt in an accident or needed invasive surgery. I hope it will always be so. My scars, all two of them, are in identical places on my hands, from very different accidents separated by more than two decades, and they are all but invisible unless I tell you where to look.
What I do
have are stretchmarks, which are
scars, they just don't get called that. I have always been heavy, but between twelve and thirteen I went from zero to 34 B in about eight months, and my skin just tore
. Calves, thighs, hips, belly, arms. All over. The stretchmarks even covered my breasts, radiating out like jagged blood-colored slashes cut into white silk. Sargon, who was with me even then, called them my "lightning bolts of power" and touched them with love. They're old and silvery now, not the angry red-purple they once were, and I can bring myself to look at them and touch them without quite
feeling that horrible twisting anguish that I once felt. But I still feel regret
. The whole "you have the breasts of an 18-year-old" thing? I never had that, even when I was 18.
Other women speak with love of their stretchmarks, their sagging breasts. They see their scars as marks of valor. Their bodies are the very first thing that they give to their children, and in giving it with love many clearly find a kind of joy and acceptance that their younger selves would shun. These women are wise, and they are right.
But I don't have children, never will. From a certain point of view, I can't even claim to have gotten anything out of the bargain. My overzealous body outgrew its own silly hide like a hand-me-down, and I have nothing to show for it but this battered skin (long may it escape its rightful hanging on the barn door).
When Hanne wrote of the sad woman with her beautiful breasts and the stretchmarks that painted them, it struck me open-handed in the heart. Mine make me sad, too.
I've spent a lot of time hurting for the uncomfortable child-that-was, mourning puberty that came too young and brought with it no rewards but those I forced it to yield to me: touch, my compensation for being housed in a flawed body (This flesh is not perfect, but I will share it with you.); sex, my reward for a body that betrayed me with blood and pain every month (If I must bear the curse anyway, then I shall eat the fruit of temptation raw and salty from the palm of the devil himself.); knowledge, my reward for safely navigating the headlong rapids of teenage lust (Even if those who loved me never knew where I had been, I always knew where I was, and I never failed to return safely.).
I was a sad person as a teenager. I was lonely. I was told that I could never be blonde and thin, and I had been told that blonde and thin were what was beautiful. If you were anything other than that elite one percent of blonde, thin people, it didn't really matter what you did with yourself. Unless, of course, you wanted to bleach your hair and starve yourself, neither of which worked in the long run anyway.
I've spent a lot of time distancing myself from that lonely, bitter person. I've become wiser, healthier. I have begun to treat myself better. At last, I admitted that even if I couldn't have what I had once wanted, I could still make the best of what I have.
Would you believe that there are still days I would trade the canny gifts of experience for the gift of a body that had not been savaged by biology and sabotaged by helplessness? Yes, we all end up marked by time. But I would give much, much indeed, to have had those fifteen or twenty years. And I still kick myself daily for waiting so long to decide that my body was -- mostly -- okay.
The scars are more like lightning than ever. My husband loves them, and that is a very real thing. I hope that as the years go by, more of his affection will wear off on me. That I will learn to accept my sagging breasts, the gravel in my ass. If we could treat ourselves as kindly as those who love us do, we would be better served. We cherish our friends, gravel and all, and speak with love of those things that in ourselves we still despise as flaws. We see our friends with truer sight. But that is a lesson learned hard, if it is learned at all.
I will leave you with a final vignette, a sketch of a person I have never forgotten, and never will, because I am still in love with him over twelve years later.
There was a young man in my summer driver's ed. class who had been burned badly as a child. He was beautiful
. Older than the rest of us by a year or so, and tall
; thick black hair kept long, the rest of his skin a tawny gold except where the fire had kissed him pink. One side of his face and his left arm were covered with smooth, taut scars that looked raised but were, in fact, flat. The differing depth of the burns had left his skin irregularly thickened, like variegated marble. Nobody knew how far they went – they vanished down the collar of his shirt, up into the sleeve.
His eyes were bright and dark and hard, eyes that challenged everything he saw. To lock gazes with him was to stare into the face of the fire, and few people could do it. Hardly anyone looked at him because he really looked back. Hardly anyone spoke to him because they were afraid. His realness, his quality of being very present
, were unnerving. I took the seat on his burned side and guarded it jealously. And I watched him constantly.
He didn't go to my school. I didn't know him. I don't remember his name, though I think it started with a "J." Jesse. Justin. Julian. It might have been Jeremiah.
I wish to this day, wish to god
, that I had told him the reason I could not take my eyes off him was that I wanted to touch him so very badly
. He almost certainly thought I was simply being rude, and I was, but I couldn't help it. I was spellbound.
I still admire his frank stare. "This is what I am. Want to make something of it?" I have no obstacle in my life, no quirk of my appearance, that approaches what he was saddled with, and I still cannot match the total flatness, the nakedness
, that I saw in his eyes. The nakedness of an animal, which is what it is and doesn't question any longer. That leaves shame where it belongs – in the eye of the beholder.
I think of him, and I feel ashamed of my own pain. He was a truer heir to it than I, and though I am sure that it had changed him and I am sure that it bothered him a great deal, I also don't doubt that he had already dealt with and moved beyond more of his pain than I will ever experience in my entire life.
I wonder if he lay alone at night touching his smooth, smooth skin, right hand to left arm, feeling that same awful bone-bending sadness, that ache in his chest, that I felt at the same age. I wonder if he mourned his beauty, which had not even been spoiled by nature, but had been changed forever by an accident
, a whim of fate.
I wonder if he regretted becoming the beautiful boy that he was. That seems terribly sad to me.
I wonder what color his scars are now. Have they taught him only of more regret? Or have they taught him something of love?
I hope he has found someone whose hands love his scars the way that my husband's love mine. For what he gave me, I wish him that much in return.