“What happened to you?” he asks, nodding at the unevenly coloured patch of skin covering my right wrist, extending a good three inches along my arm. He’s got my arm stretched out, his strong fingers holding my hand gently.
“Oh,” I blink in surprise. “I got burnt twelve years ago. I completely forgot about the scar, it’s been so long.” He’s eyeing my old scar with curiosity and something I can’t quite make out. Is it fear I see? Awe? Disgust? It really has been too long. He touches my scar, running his fingers very lightly across the uneven skin. Is he not disgusted? The now healed skin is so uneven, can he not feel how weird it is?
“Does it hurt?” he’s stopped the movement and I realise I have a horrid expression on my face.
“Um, it’s been 12 years since the accident, Einstein, what do you think? It healed a long time ago, can’t feel anything now,” I mock him. “It’s just, I forgot I even had a scar, you know?”
Most girls I know would be so conscious about having a scar as obvious as mine they’d cover it up for the rest of their lives. Either by wearing long sleeves or by means of makeup, but not me. Most of the time I don’t even remember my scars are there, much less remember to cover them up. When I was younger my mom used to suggest we visit a plastic surgeon in the states to have my skin fixed up all pretty and neat so that my arm would look normal again. Asian parents have this eternal fright that if their daughter is ever scarred, she won’t be able to attract a good husband. Not that my definition of good would be the same. At the time I told my mom I would never go under the knife because, as a eight year old child, I was scared of the pain. But now – 12 years later – it’s out of principles.
I’ve lived with the scar for more than half of my life, and it just doesn’t bother me. It definitely bothered me for a week when I was hospitalised and had to go through with the treatments to minimise the damage and scarring, it certainly was annoying the hell out of me the weeks afterwards when I had to return to the hospital daily to continue my treatment, and it might have bothered me for about a year or two in the aftermath when I was getting accustomed to the distortions of my skin. But I was a child and the knowledge that the scarring was permanent didn’t bother me as much as it would an adult, so little me shook it off and continued to boss other kids around. And gradually I started forgetting the scars were even there.
So you see whenever someone asks me about the funny looking patch of skin covering my wrist, I am as surprised as them to see the scar. Until, of course, I remember. But instead of yanking my sleeve down to hide it and mutter embarrassingly something about getting hot oil all over me, I look at it as if I’ve never seen it before in my entire life and start telling them the story about how I learned not to agonise too much over what is commonly perceived as flaws, and how that contributed to my seemingly bottomless enthusiasm. It’s the story of how I learned not to give a damn.
Because my lovelies, once you learn not to look at it as a flaw, but rather a strength, your life will be so much easier. Your head will be less confused, your mind less troubled and your emotional life less suffering. And you will be so much happier, you’ll forget the “flaw” is even there and life will be pretty wonderful indeed. Until, of course, you remember it’s there. But it’s ok, because by then you don’t really care that much anymore you just shake it off with a shrug. And honestly? All other minor “flaws” in your body image will seem puny and unimportant in comparison. And since you don’t care about the “big” one, you definitely won’t be caring about the others.
Just shake it off, baby.