The other day I was talking with one of my dearest friends from childhood. Her weight was driving her crazy as she weighed about 10 pounds more than she did this time last year. For me, when I get into this situation, I simply stuff my fat roll under the waist band of my jeans until the mood strikes me to lose it, but because she is in the weight loss industry, she is reminded every day when she is not at her fighting weight. Then we started to chat about physical things that you might want to change about yourself.
Then she said to me, “You know what I’ve never asked you, Kathryn? I’ve never asked you what it was like…that night…when you got your scar. Gosh at that age, what were we 12 or 13? I’ve never asked you.”
I’ve noticed that, when it comes to my scar, people fall into two camps. (Ooooh, I just love putting people into two camps! It’s so much less time-consuming than breaking people into three or four camps, or even getting to know people as individuals!) So people fall into two camps, those that take years to ask me about my scar (or they never ask about it), and those who literally cannot wait until there is a break in the action after meeting me to ask me about it.
People in the first category seem to have had a few knocks in life. They know what it’s like to suffer a little and just assume I suffered some trauma…enough said. (And please note my friend above waited decades merely to ask how I felt about it, I did not feel like after four decades she had finally decided to assess my looks. :)
The people in the latter category generally were young men who I met in my 20s, and more often than not we were meeting on a blind date. Those guys were literally, and not very subtly, trying to work out in their minds, if after hearing my story, they could see a future with a girl who was scarred. Typically if they asked the question on the first date, I already knew the answer was ‘No.’ And honestly, I knew that if someone asked me “Hey, how’d you get that scar?” in the first five minutes of meeting me, they were already on the path to failing my own ‘Scar-Aware-Douche-O-Meter’ test. By this I mean he had already indicated that his EQ wasn’t that high and he was probably going to age into being a total weenie.
Being that scars by nature are most likely created by accidents that are so traumatic they leave a scar, it then does figure that asking someone to re-live a scarring event might not be the most thoughtful question. Keep in mind that when one does have a scar, they are asked that question over and over so in essence, the whole world asks that person to re-live a major trauma on a pretty regular basis. Normally I politely re-live the event, but sometimes if someone bugs me I just answer, “Oh my gosh my scar? What happened was I got into such a bad accident that it left a scar.”
And for the many thoughtful people I meet who are too polite to ask, here is the story...
When I was 12 years old, about to turn 13, I was ice skating one night on Lake Ellyn, a truly Rockwellian lake in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. I think it was during Christmas vacation, which means it was bitterly cold. There must have been hundreds of kids, teens and adults on the beautifully lit lake that night. I remember the smell of the warming house; hot chocolate, popcorn, hotdogs and super cute teenage boys...it was the smell of excitement. On that particular night hats were being stolen (as were kisses) there were great flirtatious chases, random hockey games and speed skating races. In other words, it was the perfect night.
I believe in the middle of one great chase, I pretended to fall. I rolled over on my back and laid on the ice pretending to have fainted or something equally idiotic. As I was feigning this epic fall, a friend who actually had fallen, slid into my face, blade first from another direction. It was an extremely hard hit at a very high speed. My head rocked hard upon impact.
As I laid there, my first thought was “Oh no! I bet I’m going to have a fat lip!” I’m sure I screamed because of the feel of a boot kicking my face. I stood up to assess the damage. When I looked up people were gasping putting their hands over their mouths. I looked down and blood was pouring down my blue and orange winter ski jacket. I put my hand up to my chin to feel what I was sure was going to be a swollen lip and placed my tongue on my inner lower lip to feel the damage from the inside. Instead of feeling the inside of my mouth, my tongue went straight through my lip to my hand. It was a 4-inch clean laceration opening up my lower face. The cut started at the corner of my mouth and went down my chin at about the place a marionette puppet might have a vertical line down it’s lower chin. (I remember later that year once intercepting a note in which one girl referred to me as ‘half puppet’.)
Someone scooped me up and skated me to the warming house. I was laid on my back in the back office and the Chief of the Glen Ellyn Fire Department, Stu Stone, showed up and wrapped me in blankets. He placed a gauze pad on my lower face, stroked my matted bloody hair and said my parents were on the way trying to keep me from slipping into shock. When my Dad’s face came into view I said “Don’t show Mom, she’s going to freak out.” My Dad held my hand and stroked my head as well. He lifted the gauze, looked at God knows what, and said, “You’re going to be fine Kath, you are going to be just fine.”
I was driven to DuPage County Hospital Emergency Room, and the attending doctor gently lifted the gauze covering my face. He looked at my parents and verbally said, “I think we need to call a plastic surgeon.” Now, as a parent myself, I recollect his non-verbals said, “My friends, this is serious, we are going to do our absolute best to try and put your lovely child’s face back together. I’m so very sorry.” The plastic surgeon arrived and for many painstaking hours he stitched layer after layer of the crushed skin and muscle back together. 475 stiches later, my parents took me home. I later found out he had worked on a few Chicago Blackhawk players.
To my parents unending credit, I never saw them cry, gnash their teeth or wail about this accident. There were no bitter recriminations or tragic waving of fists at the Gods and cursing them for what had happened. My parents loved me and took care of me, but life moved on very quickly. I was just Kathryn with a scar.
I really don’t remember much about junior high as it pertains to my accident and scar. I of course remember friends coming to visit me. They were wonderful and said kind things. I tried out for cheerleading with my face heavily bandaged up and I made the squad. (Oh my gosh, as I type this it just occurred to me I might have made the squad out of sympathy...hilarious! I'll take it!) I actually remember junior high as being a great time. I felt loved, included by my friends and their parents. I got to make out with the boys I wanted to make out with, my classes were interesting, I had a blast. Really what I see when I look back at photos from that time is not the angry deep red scar on my face, but my absolutely terrible Kristi McNichol Dutch Boy abomination of a haircut. I have no idea what my parents were thinking.
As an adult, my feelings about my scar have changed significantly. I've seen people who are dealing with so much more and somehow it seems really ungracious to worry about a scar. And, let’s face it, just like I do not care at all what my friends look like, I cannot imagine them caring what I look like. And haven’t you noticed that many super perfect people seem a little miserable? Some of the most beautiful people I know seem to have deep scars on the inside or are so tied to their perfection that it must be awful when it starts to age away. At the age of 12 I was given the gift of never having to worry about any of that.
So now back to my friend mentioned earlier, the one who is worried about 10 measly pounds. I hope she knows that all anyone ever sees is how a person makes them feel, and she has always made me feel loved.
How beautiful is that?