Monday, May 9, 2011


"We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."

- Chris Cleave, Little Bee

When I was a little girl, I wanted desperately to be a tomboy. It didn't help that I loved playing with my dolls and reading my books and going to school, all the things I thought tomboys must hate. But having a brother aided my cause, and I often came inside with bumps and bruises and scratches up and down my scrawny legs. I remember crawling into my grandfather's lap, proudly displaying what I affectionately called my "bruise collection," naming where I'd earned each scab and each sore patch of skin.

As you get older, you realize that bruises and scratches and scars aren't something to be proud of. The world isn't like my grandfather, interested in what's wrong with my finger or why the skin on my arm looks funny. Instead, the world offers bandages and healing cream and make-up and plastic surgery and laser removal to help your bumps and wrinkles and imperfections disappear.

Only they don't really, do they? They're still there, just covered up a little better than they would be otherwise. They're covered, but you know, deep down, they're there, there with memory of what happened and when.

Skin cancer runs in my family, and I'm naturally fair-skinned (read: pasty). I've got freckles and moles dotting my body, and I've always been rather proud of them, until one day I realized they could kill me. So now I go to the doctor a couple of times a year, just to get everything checked out. A few weeks ago, for the first time ever, I didn't get a clean report.

Now there are three to four inch scars where two of my moles once were.

They offered me plastic surgery, which I thought was a little extreme. Then I looked down and realized: These are not pretty scars. They'll heal with time, I suppose, with Neosporin and laser treatment. But I'll always have these angry-looking marks up and down my thigh and arm. When I wear sleeveless shirts or pull on a pair of shorts, people will see, and they will wonder what happened.

At first, I felt ashamed. As I glanced at the evidence that remained, I didn't like what I saw. Big, ugly wounds marring my skin.

Then I remember the eight-year-old me, the pride I took in the scratches I received from climbing trees and playing outside with my brother.

I thought back to Little Bee, to the moment she tells us that scars are beauty. Scars are survival.

I have scars, yes, but you know what? I don't have cancer.

Instead, I survived, and because of that, I won't cover these scars of mine with bandages or shirtsleeves. They mean I'm getting older, tougher, and I've been around long enough to have lived a little, to have accumulated some battle wounds from life.

My scars are beauty and story and me, and for that, I am grateful.

What do your scars mean?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding me to schedule an appt at the derm! Way better to have scars than skin cancer :) And remember our bodies only last us for this short life, compared to eternity!

Lex C. said...

You are one of my favorite bloggers for this reason. You are so inspiring and I love your quotes! You're the cutest thing ever and I totally agree, scars are beautiful. I'm really glad you see this :) You are so fortunate!

Julianne said...

When I read Little Bee that quote really stuck out to me as well. Admittedly, I wished for a little scar on myself at that point. ;) It sounds like it was the perfect time for you to come across that book with all of your doctor visits lately! The little girl that you were is probably really impressed with your new battle wounds. :)

Melissa said...

I agree whole heartedly...first day of the second semester of my freshman year at Freed, I fell through a plate glass door in the student center and ended up with a night's hospital stay and over 100 stitches..all on my legs - 3 places; I like you, survived. I didn't lose a limb, as I very well could have, and nothing above my knees was touched...was so scarey and I still have ugly scars, but know what, they've faded and now no one even seems to sweet hubby just says it's just something else he loves about me.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. My scars mean I battled depression and survived. I know you weren't talking about depression and its physical manifestations, but this post should really be read in therapy circles! I often feel embarrassed about the scars on my body. They ARE embarrassing. My scars did not result from natural circumstances. But they do mean I've been through the shredder and survived. I just wish the world saw it that way instead of being afraid of people with scars from bouts with depression. I'm afraid this comment is a bit too explicit for your lovely and cheerful blog...but I had to tell you this post is really encouraging to people with a past of self-mutilation. Keep them coming, girl!

Joyeful said...

That quote is so beautiful. And so is your heart :) Now if this post doesn't convince me to go see my doc ASAP about all my freckles that have morphed into moles and are starting to look scary, well then, I don't know what will :(

stephanie said...

i'm thankful to hear that you are being so proactive about your personal health - you're such a good example for other women.

i'm a martial artist and get quite a few bruises and bumps that i'm pretty proud of - i completely understand where you are coming from.