A friend was talking to me a few days ago about my scars (Hi, A!) and asked if I worried about the reaction of people to them. They also asked if I think I’m “different” because of them.
(Quick recap – Two scars: One runs most of the way across my stomach from an operation I had when I was six weeks old. The other is a burn scar that covers the right side of my chest, which is as a result misshapen)
To be honest, I might not be the best person to ask for two reasons. Firstly, neither of my scars is in a place that is exposed to people on a regular basis. You’d have to have X-Ray vision to spot the stomach scar, and the burn scar isn’t exactly getting shown round at parties. Although there is one small round portion of it that sometimes sits above the neckline of low-cut tops, it isn’t terribly noticeable. The shape of the right breast is only obvious sans top, so it isn’t obvious to many.
Secondly, I’ve had both since infancy. The burn scar is courtesy of a hot cup of coffee I pulled over myself when I was six months old. It was made a little worse when I was involved in a (minor) car accident about six years ago and the seatbelt cut across some of it, so bits are redder than others. But really, I don’t know a time when it was any different. I’ve always had the scars. They have always been a part of me, and don’t occupy my thinking that much.
That’s not to say that if I had the choice I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow without them, but I’ve never had a moment where I run through my head what someone’s reaction to them will be. They are there. In the case of the stomach scar, I thank god and all his tiny angels it is there, because the alternative is me writing this post with one hand whilst the other fiddles with a harp atop a cloud in one of the less-cool parts of heaven.
Every time I see a piece on TV about a person with a facial scar or some other obvious scar, I am thankful that mine aren’t in a place where I have to worry about the reaction of strangers. So maybe I do care. I know I usually make a small effort to warn people in some way that I have scars if they’re going to be in a position to see them, but I can’t say I’ve had any negative reactions to the scars. I mean, I don’t recall anyone being in raptures about the scarring, but I’ve certainly never had anyone recoil or anything.
Jesus, it’s complicated, isn’t it? I know at least one person who has asked me why I haven’t “Just had them fixed”. But it really isn’t that simple. For a start, after nearly 25 years, I don’t know if anything could be done. I know the stomach one couldn’t really be fixed. As for the burn scar, I have no idea. I’ve been told it would probably involve some kind of reconstructive surgery because of the shape of it, and I don’t know if I would go through something that involved for the sake of vanity. Really, do I want to go through that for something that in the grand scheme of things isn’t that big a deal? If it was on my face I’m sure I’d feel differently. If it was on my arm, no doubt I’d look into it harder.
But I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t change it. I won’t spend time, money, energy and involved myself in painful procedures unless I am truly unhappy about them, and I’m not. I’ve grown up knowing that, in the case of the stomach scar, my parents cared about me enough to fight for my life when doctors told them I wouldn’t survive. I know in the case of the burn scar that it was my mother’s quick-thinking actions that saved me further pain and scarring. If I took them away, would it change me? Would it make a difference?
I know I’ve never worried that anyone would think differently of me because I am scarred. I’ve always thought that they are simply a part of me, a part of my life. I know when I was a bit younger the burn one bothered me a little. But never enough to contemplate doing anything about it. I’ve always though it was me that should change, not what is on the outside of me. I don’t think any differently today.
To be honest, the only answer I can give you, A, is that it doesn’t really factor into my thinking all that much. If there was a pain-free, cheap way of getting rid of them available, of course I’d take it. But there isn’t. And there won’t be in my lifetime.
I can’t say how it has affected me as a person. I have no way of telling how it has affected me at all. I don't know if it's made me a better or worse person, or if it's made no difference at all.
Bah! As usual, my friend, my only answer is that there isn’t really an answer. And it’s taken me 902 words to say that.
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