Battle Scars Women and their bodies

Published: September 3, 2012

A little less perfect, a little more beautiful.

On the arch of my foot, there’s a pale crescent-shaped mark, a reminder of how I cut my foot in the early morning rush many years ago — tripping in the bathroom, distracted and hurried, as I rushed to get ready for work.

In those wintry, uncertain days of the first year of my marriage, when most of the time I second-guessed my judgment and held each emotion up for scrutiny, there was no doubt at all in my mind, as I watched the ruby drops bubble up from the cut, that this injury was my husband’s fault. Overwrought with misplaced emotion and pain, I limped over to him, and demanded that he fix what he had ruined. Cradling my foot in his lap, my husband bandaged it, barely able to hide his amusement at my glowering face. I told him in no uncertain terms that if my foot was never the same again, it would all be his fault. He assured me that my foot was just lovely, but I kept shaking my head, “This will leave a scar,” I said.

I was right.

The crescent shape has faded very little over the years and every time I wear a strappy sandal, my scar is accentuated, just as I had feared.

Only, I no longer think of it as just a scar — I think of it as a battle scar acquired in a crucial battle which had seemed completely ordinary at that time but which surely, subtly changed the direction I was headed in. In those lonely, uncertain days, getting over my pride and asking for what I wanted — bandaging and love — demanding that he take care of me the way I wanted him to, was a big deal. So the scar is a badge of pride, not unlike another person’s big, shiny car — a symbol of what, at one point in my life, I didn’t have, and the fight I had to put up to acquire it.

I shared my battle scar theory with a friend who had a perfect nose before she got into a minor accident while hanging out with her in-laws and bumped it. She stroked her still-terrific nose, fretting over how she had been getting minor injuries and how her body had been changing. Like I had been at the time of my little accident, she was consumed with the fact that her nose would never be the same again.

But I thought how amazing it was that as we grow, our bodies change in subtle ways to tell the private stories that make us who we are. Wounds of suffering and happiness, joy and distractedness, scratches that edify and abrasions that warn. Life wounds us, and heals us, and leaves the tales etched on our bodies — as scars and lines, a thicker waist, breasts like wilted flowers, silvery arcs of cellulite. To me they are all signs of a woman victorious.

Which is why it confuses me that women go to such great lengths to preserve the dewy skin, voluminous hair, tiny waist and still-slim hips of a girl without battle scars, a girl who has not fought, a girl who has, in fact, not lived. Am I the only one who finds it sad that women would live through great experiences but then strive to bring their bodies in conformity with that of a virginal ideal? As they disown their life stories to embrace some ideal of beauty, their bodies tell just one story — that there is none. The 35-year-old who looks 24 has been engaged in a battle with her own body — and who wants that to be their life story?

And so we camouflage and hide — artfully, painstakingly, embracing a plastic perfection which in its deceptiveness and untruth is the very antithesis of beauty, forgetting that our beauty lies in our distinctiveness, that we are loved, not because we are perfect, but because of our flaws.

Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, September 2nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Shayan
    Sep 3, 2012 - 4:07PM

    Keep telling yourself that

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  • Ayesha
    Sep 3, 2012 - 4:15PM

    Beautiful piece of writing. I so agree with u.

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  • Haseeb
    Sep 3, 2012 - 4:36PM

    Express tribune always tries to write these controversial blogs and love to face critics over their blogs. BTW after marriage your character would only be your key be make your married life more successful. If you don’t have such characteristics, then you would need to try these mentioned things to attract your mate. :)

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  • Sep 3, 2012 - 4:51PM

    ‘ scars and lines, a thicker waist, breasts like wilted flowers, silvery arcs of cellulite. ‘ are signs of living and ageing and not necessarily of victory.

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  • tj
    Sep 3, 2012 - 4:56PM

    beautiful write up

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  • Faisal Khan
    Sep 3, 2012 - 5:09PM

    Very True. Seconded

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  • Nattyshaw
    Sep 3, 2012 - 5:58PM

    @ Maryam. Every day you live is a small victory in itself. I struggle with these very ideals that I feel I must conform to. I try to fight the battle that I am beautiful despite my singularity as an individual and my ever increasing cellulite and changes. Age is as beautiful as it is trying. I wish everyone the strength to move beyond the need to conform to these twisted prepubescent body image ideals.

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  • Pakistani
    Sep 3, 2012 - 6:38PM

    @Writer –
    Puh-lease. If you try to find excuses of letting yourself go, putting on pounds and looking haggard, you ll find many! “..sign of a woman victorious”!!? THAT I find rude, absurd and very sexist. I have had the privilege of working with and spending time with remarkable women, accomplished in their career of choice, with children, in their 50s and still looking better than most 25 year olds with this frame of mind. Looking good while leading a successful life – these things are not mutually exclusive. They take A LOT OF WORK. Time in the gym, watching what you eat, discipline etc. There are women, and men who do that. And that, my friend is what I call being victorious!!

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  • Sonia
    Sep 3, 2012 - 7:01PM

    @Pakistani:

    Gym you say!!!

    wow why would anyone go to gym? coz they want to stay fit. And this write up is a literary write-up not a news article. The writer says ‘bodily changes’ not ‘letting go’ of the body.

    again I dont see the writer saying one cannot stay fit- what a person looks like has nothing to do with their inner strengths. a person having a lean body and one who wishes not to go to the gym both have the same age and the same inner strength. someone who looks 25 cannot have the strength of a 25 year old!

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  • Sep 3, 2012 - 7:06PM

    well im all for inner beauty concept, but frankly speaking normal eye can hardly see it. so lets not philosophy it beyond recognition. one might appreciate the beauty in their wrinkles and cellulite gains as the marks of their toil in life, but others see it just as it is.
    matter of prospectives

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  • Pakistani
    Sep 3, 2012 - 7:33PM

    @Sonia Wow! So is that what this is? A literary article.. and not a news piece you say. I shall forever have to carry, albeit gingerly, the burden of gratitude towards you for enlightening me.
    Look I dont mean to be disrespectful and that was never the intention. However, I urge you to consider this excerpt below taken of course from this very piece.
    “Which is why it confuses me that women go to such great lengths to preserve the dewy skin, voluminous hair, tiny waist and still-slim hips of a girl without battle scars, a girl who has not fought, a girl who has, in fact, not lived”
    Like I said in my previous post, the two are not mutually exclusive but this article further reinforces the typical desi woman mindset whereby its ok “to let yourself go after getting married and having a kid or two”. THAT is a girl who has not fought. Its symptomatic of a low self esteem and glorifies sloth. Growing old does not mean you dont try to look as good as you can. That is tough work though. Its easier to write a “literary article”, consigning it to the natural scheme of things and being ok with it. Its never ok. There is always a choice.

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  • ainaa
    Sep 3, 2012 - 8:10PM

    love the article, really beautiful piece of writing.

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  • Vigilant
    Sep 3, 2012 - 8:32PM

    Good Read & i second author’s opinion

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  • Saba Khalid
    Sep 3, 2012 - 8:46PM

    @Batool: I’m glad you wrote this, one of the best articles we’ve published in Ms T

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  • Fat people pls smile for this will make you feel well.Recommend

  • Munema Khan
    Sep 4, 2012 - 12:19AM

    I strongly disagree on one point, growing old doesn’t necessarily mean cellulite and wading towards the dimmer side as your article implies. Indeed many women look much more if not just as much, beautiful and graceful in physical appearance in their late years then their younger ones without any extrinsic effort. Age is but just a number right.

    I also dislike the way you have tried to justify “scars” as positive which shows the hitherto negative image of them, in your mind. Why the need? Scars aren’t always ugly, Sometimes as in the case above they impart more beauty, valour and mystique then a blank canvas would.One of the landmarks of our life. Isn’t that obvious?

    Most importantly, There’s a HUGE difference between wiping out your existence(as you say scars) in heed of an “ideal image” and a difference between maintaining yourself to bring out the best in you, the best you deserve, So I hate the way you have meshed the two concepts up to one. Taking care of yourself does not mean you disown yourself, Quite the opposite.

    Lastly, I’m amazed at the way you’ve given yourself the liberty to judge your fellowwomen without even having proper insight of the matter. Conceited.

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  • Parvez
    Sep 4, 2012 - 11:58PM

    For some odd reason I realy enjoyed reading this, made me think of a lot of nice things.

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  • Sonia
    Sep 7, 2012 - 10:39AM

    @Pakistani:

    “Which is why it confuses me that women go to such great lengths to preserve the dewy skin, voluminous hair, tiny waist and still-slim hips of a girl without battle scars, a girl who has not fought, a girl who has, in fact, not lived”

    Seriously what are you trying to prove here by bringing out an excerpt that is exactly opposite of what you are saying. ‘Preserve’ the dewy skin…… The lines donot denote that she wants ‘let go of herself after having babies’. She just does not want to have that girly figure. Its her personal opinion.

    Desi mindset- really- do you even have an idea of the desi mindset- it is giving in for your family for an eternity. forgetting yourself for your family and yes women who do so enjoy it! Y are you so offended by the desi-woman mindset?

    Whereas the woman in this article enjoys the marks of age on her body. She does not want your APPROVAL. No she does not. She is in her own world enjoying a body that has come through different times. She does not opt for a laser surgery each time she has a cellulite problem or a scar that does not go away. She does not fret over the baby bulge. She is at peace with her natural body and is not continuously fighting it. The natural body is not necessarily bulging to enormous proportions!!!!

    What are you doing with the two different perspectives of a desi mind-set and the mind-set in the article???!!!!!

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