I have three girlfriends who are uncomfortable with their abdominal scars. Bikini tops and intimacy have shifted from the forefront to the back burner for each of them.
Whaaat? They’ll actually settle for a one-piece or skip the beach altogether? And they won’t undress in front of their men?
But my view came from a different take on scar-acceptance. Two years prior, I expressed the most concern over a half-inch incision across the area once belonging to my navel ring.
“Didn’t y’all see the hole there?”
There were four more coordinating cuts, individually resembling equal signs but collaboratively forming an “M” across my lower abdomen.
“I mean, you couldn’t cut above the piercing? I should’ve just left the ring in.” I was visibly upset.
My doctor smirked. “It’ll probably come back once the scars heal.”
But perhaps it wasn’t entirely about the ring, after all it wasn’t like I still walked around flaunting my midriff in crop tops. Those days were over for me. The navel ring was merely an adornment and a birthday gift from seven years earlier. Maybe its absence meant double the injury: Not only was my stomach suddenly blemished, but it was also sort of naked.
Or maybe I needed to accept the fact that the doctors couldn’t incise much lower as we had hoped. Although I knew the possibility the cuts could be much higher, I dismissed the thought until it actually happened.
I stared at my stomach every time I got dressed. Yet I started to feel indifferent since I already had a much older scar on the back of my left calf – the result of a box cutter accident during my very early architecture days in undergrad. Who sits on the floor and cuts foam board? That’d be me.
I’m sure I needed stitches because my body took over a week to say, “Forget it” and close the one-inch wound on its own. Even today it still looks “open.” Yet it never dawned on me to keep that thing covered in public except when it was profusely bleeding.
And I never thought to relinquish my beloved two-piece bathing suits, either. I was online searching for an emerald-green one and a hot pink one a mere six months post-surgery. A one-piece? Eff that. I’m not on the Olympic swim team!
But I did start a scar gel regimen, which was too much work, not to mention the cost of a tiny tube of scar gel isn’t cheap. And although the equal signs still healed, they haven’t completely faded. I also tried to force the pink stone back in. But it would only go so far. When it began to grow sore from all the pushing, I readily accepted my navel would be bare.
At least for now, this was my new midsection.
I may have a better understanding of my friends’ desire for “perfect” skin now that I have a visible injury. About a week ago, I moved a frying pan of bacon from a lit burner (another dumb ass move, I know) to an off burner. The grease splattered, raining on my hand from my pointer finger to my wrist. By the next morning, my hand was painted with 11 dark brown polka dots.
It doesn’t look good, at all, even after five spots magically disappeared. I went to a salad bar and wondered if I’d alarm the other patrons. Would they think I had a contagious skin disease? If I saw another customer with tongs in her speckled hand reaching for lettuce, would I opt for spinach instead?
I attended a gathering over the weekend and swore everyone stared at my hand as I poured a glass of spiked tea. I found myself explaining my mishap to everyone whom I imagined glanced my hand’s way. No need to scare the guests. Maybe I should’ve invested in some band-aids.
Granted we’re fretting over smaller-scaled skin injuries but they nonetheless influence self-consciousness. We weren’t necessarily superficial with a skewed view of beauty but rightfully fearful of dark spots and potential keloids and the negative attention they could attract. We just weren’t comfortable with perceived judgment – nonverbal questions and assumptions – that trigger automatic explanations.
But that’s our own ish.
More oft than not, we magnify smaller imperfections not realizing others may not even notice them the way that we think they do. I’m not the first person to have post-surgical scars and burns (although I may be the first to slash her leg while doing a school project.) So why should I have to cover them?
I have a story behind every flaw. Some come from a happy or funny place while others are reminders of what I endured. But none should come from a place of discomfort or embarrassment. You want to ask me about my bruise? I’ll tell you about it. I’ll even give you a closer look. I have nothing to hide and I’m still beat.
Maybe one day my girlfriends will see it that way, too.
Washington, DC transplant Teronda Seymore is a writer and an undercover Twitter addict whose work has also appeared online at xoJane. Follow her @skinnydcwriter.