Monday, July 12, 2010
I don't hide anymore. But not because I'm suddenly comfortable in my own skin, or have acquired a cool fuck it attitude. I just can't do it anymore, I won't. I have spent years underneath stifling sweaters, secrets covered by bangles and armwarmers. And maybe I'm hoping that if I pretend i don't care, eventually I won't. That eventually I will overshadow my scars and flaws, my past, and it will just be a reminder of survival and strength, not the striped marks of mistakes and shame.
I still burn underneath their stares. I see eyes widen and hear voices cut short or change tone, gazes locked to my arms while I speak. Some days I shrink into myself, red cheeks and hunched shoulders. But more frequently I rise up disdainful and bold. I stop what I'm doing at the cash register, and wait to lock eyes with them: "everything okay?" more a dare than anything else. I dare you to question me, to judge. And some days the judgments and questions never seem to end. They range from puzzled ("What is that?") to concerned ("oh my God, what happened?") to disgusted ("Why do you do that to yourself?" "You shouldn't cut yourself" or the almighty "You should really get help."). I've learned to cope. The puzzled and concerned get a "they're just old scars," or "it's personal, nothing I really want to talk about." I spit back sarcastic retorts to the armchair psychologists, raise my eyebrows at their own cigarette and alcohol purchases.
The other night at work was a new one. I stood there in my new dress, the sleeves just passed my shoulders, where the dark purple-pink scars, thick as worms, seem to glow in the fluorescent lighting. The forearms scars snake around white and gnarled. The man buying cigarettes stares blatantly, his eyes amused and impressed. "Can I ask you a question?" I know what's coming, my eyes narrowed, voice steady. "Ok. What?" "Are you like, into pain? Is that what those are about?" I felt the anger and shame burning in the pit of my stomach, but I stayed calm and said, "Excuse me? do I know you? because you're asking a lot of personal questions." He backed down and left. I stood there struggling to breathe in and out.
For some reason that question has latched onto me more than any of the others, even more than the man who stood in line with his friend and literally pointed and laughed at my arms. Maybe it was the assumption that I seek pain, like a game, while in reality my scars are years of fighting off the pain, of trying desperately to spill it out of me. His eyes, his assumptions, made me feel dirty and ashamed. all those stares and words do, really. they enrage me, they take parts from me and turn into something else in their minds, and I want to snatch it back. It's mine, it's me, it's my pain and my past. I carry it around, but it's not for you to see, it's just for me not to hide.