Archives for September 25, 2014

Concealing a scar

Concealing a scar

Jessica’s long red hair bounces as she runs up the trail.  She trains daily for the upcoming marathon.  Her long legs are designed for running and nothing makes her feel as free as the rhythmical movement. The crisp morning air hitting her face reminds her that she must run home and start getting ready for the day.

It takes Jessica longer than most women to apply her makeup.  She works in an upscale retail shop that expects people to look a certain way.  Every day she puts on her makeup she feels like she revealing her true self and hiding her history simultaneously.

Without the makeup, people don’t see the real her.  Instead of seeing a vibrant, intelligent and healthy woman, they see a scar.  When Jessica was in high school, her right cheek got burned during a chemistry lab experiment.

Angry that one brief act of carelessness by her lab partner, and unsafe practices by her teacher had cost Jessica her flawless complexion, Jessica’s burn became her identity. The hours spent in the hospital didn’t help her social life, but most people were repelled by her sarcastic, flippant attitude more than anything else.  Her remaining friends and family didn’t understand how saying things like “you are still beautiful on the inside” or “the right boy won’t even notice the scar” hurt.

She knew that when someone had to describe her to someone else, they didn’t say, “she’s the track star” or “she has red hair”.  All they said was, “she is the one with the scar on her cheek” and everyone knew exactly who she was.  She imagined herself as two people, Jessica Before and Jessica After.

After multiple plastic surgeries, years of creams, and a few instructional sessions with a professional make-up artist, the scar on her face was no longer the first thing people noticed about her.  Before she learned to adequately conceal the scar with make-up, people pitied her.  She could feel them looking at her but trying not to.  They found it difficult to look her in the eye.

As a young adult, Jessica felt isolated, like people couldn’t understand what she had gone through.   Walking around the town, she looked at others and imagined their lives matched their complexions, perfect packages.  Just as people ceased seeing the real Jessica, and saw only Girl With A Scar, Jessica stopped seeing the essence of others and saw them as People With Pretty Faces.  Her family was supportive but they didn’t understand why this one aspect of her life dominated her thoughts and feelings.

With proper make up she could conceal the outward scar fairly well.  It still showed, but now people gazed and remarked on her big blue eyes and fire red hair long before they noticed the scar on her face.  She got better at hiding the anger too. She started to actually listen to others instead of mentally preparing a sarcastic remark.

The more she listened to other people, the more she realized that she had more company than she ever realized.  Many people felt their body was a shell that hid their true identity from the world. She heard an overweight women talk about her childhood dream of becoming a ballerina and how she still loves to dance.  She noticed women who dressed like men.  She asked her mom why she always dyes her hair blonde.  It turns out her mom did not want to be identified as “a grandma”.

After hearing Jeff’s story, she started relating to people on a whole new level.  Jeff lost his leg below the knee, during his battle with cancer.  He felt proud to be a survivor and learned to have fun with it.  Once, he was walking down the aisle of a store, when his prosthetic came off.  The lady behind him almost didn’t notice until Jeff said, “excuse me, but could you hand me my foot please?” Her horrified expression was priceless.

Jessica learned to share a dark humor with Jeff that not everyone could appreciate.  Jessica incorporated her scar into her Halloween costume, one year as the Bride of Frankenstein and another year as a zombie.  Winning first place at a costume party by highlighting her personal tragedy disturbed her mother, but it was part of the healing process for Jessica.  She started merging Jessica Before and Jessica After.

Year by year, Jessica became less interested in the physical scars and anomalies of others.  She had real friends again and realized that everyone struggles with identity.  The quest for inner peace and outward acceptance starts early and continues through adulthood.  Jessica came to forgive the lab partner and teacher, realizing that her own journey was accelerated because of the scar on her face.

She still wears makeup to conceal the scar in public. She wants strangers to first notice her eyes.  But when she is at home with her husband and children, she often goes without makeup.  They know the story and see her for true self.  It turns out her mother and friends were partially right.  The right man does her inner and outer beauty.  But they missed part of the point.  The scar was part of her journey and therefore is part of her beauty.  Her husband, Jeff, does see her scar and loves her all the more for it.

Plus, in the early years of their marriage they had great fun with door to door salespeople. When a solicitors come to the door, they have great fun answering it.  Jeff puts his foot in his hand and Jessica puts a touch of red lipstick dripping from her scar to look like blood.  They got a kick watching the sales people stammering through their presentation.  They don’t do that anymore because most of the sales calls these days are friends of their children selling popcorn or cookies.