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.