Thursday, October 4, 2012

some words on skin--anonymous

I have really terrible handwriting.  It swoops and cuts and floats off lines and really only I can read it, which suits me just fine because most of the time it looks like I’m taking scrupulous notes at work on like “Being your own Brand” or whatever corporate silliness is being presented, I’m more likely writing stuff like ruminations on “Why Am I Not A Wizard.”

My handwriting is unreadable to others.  People have compared it to Arabic and to runes.

I like the rune comparison, though.  I taught myself the futhark (the rune alphabet) when I was younger, and wrote notes to myself best I could in that simplified encryption.  Runes were sigils of protection and magic and meaning, from the Germanic word “to whisper.”  Runes were made to be carved into surfaces that were hard to cut; like stone.

Skin is not as hard as stone but it still dictates marks the same way—quick long jagged lines, leaving red marks and little white susurrations of scars. 

I am covered in these scars still, several years after the original lines were written, by me.  Most are in places I can easily hide, but not all.

I have been judged and questioned and avoided because of these scars.  People ask weird questions, too abruptly, too loudly.  People’s eyes flicker to them and flare and then go hostile and cold, and this hurts more than any cut ever did.  Sometimes people don’t say anything to me but I find out they care later.

People read these and read them in a way that I feel is wrong. 

This is not a venue for a discussion of self-harm.  I will say that I am not embarrassed or ashamed of my scars when it’s just me.  Considered on their own merits I actually think they are quite pretty.

I know people consider self-harm to be such a terrible inscrutable thing, but to be honest it wasn’t, for me.   A lot of people don’t understand that people do that sort of thing because it actually makes them feel better, and most of the times the things they are trying to feel better from are far more frightening and gruesome.  There are better coping mechanisms and no one should do it—but anyway, not the venue. 

The really clich√© stuff about all that is true though, in that it’s annoying that the really really bad stuff in my life did not leave anything visible, anything people can judge me over.  I mean, old news to anyone with any sort of emotional trauma, but there you go.  People only see the scars, which is to them a discrete semiotics of instability and madness.  Which I mean that's how humans work, and I know that, and yet.

To me these lines across my body are barely even memories anymore--the side effect of seeing them everyday translating into a kind of semantic saturation where the marks are meaningless.  However. The scars are what people can see and thus read and thus interpret, the pale lines of a linear and incarnate echolalia of anger.  The other echoes, the real echoes, of voices and actions that still seep and bleed unhealed in my subconscious—those are things that are hard for me.  Not these stupid lines of broken code.

So even though I am intellectually fine with scars, sometimes they become one more way I am marred and one more way I am alienated from my body, and one more way to alienate others from me.

I know I shouldn’t let it bother me.  But every so often I get very very sad, especially when I see how otherwise lovely people react and the barriers it sets up between myself and them.  Otherwise wonderful people have a lot of hostile or contemptuous or pitying reactions to seeing self-inflicted scars.  Or they get scared because they don’t understand it.  It’s easier to think someone is crazy than that they were in pain or deal with things differently than you.

Part of me—more now than it used to be—part of me just wants to be all DEAL WITH IT (EXPLETIVES) but while there is strength to be gained from those trains of thought, it’s not a solution.

A part of me wants to treat it like the nonissue I kind of feel it is.  But life isn’t like that.  People care about really stupid stuff.  I learned (maybe too late) to keep most parts of myself to myself, even though let me tell you I have been around the weird block and I’m actually probably the most boring and nowadays stable person ever.  Seriously though.  My facebook feed can basically be summed up in the phrase "work, amirite?"

But still "cutter" is used as dysphemism for crazy, weird, unfit, overemotional, etc. person. 

And then most of me wants to retire into solitude as a hermit with long sleeves who won’t have to worry about any of that messing things up when trying to make friends or date or whatever.

I don’t know what to do.  I want to accept that I am still lovable with these marks but it is very hard at times.

Some people have adopted scarring as a for of self-expression, forming elaborate patterns and beautiful designs through a process rather wonderfully called “scarification.”  Red and white whispers on skin.  Owning--being--your own brand.

A scar after all is nothing but healing.  It is what makes you whole again.

Scars should not be frightening or confusing; they should be triumphant.

I can’t smooth mine away and they are set, ugly and gorgeous and knotted, with victories and losses.  I can’t take back what happened or what I did.  And mostly I don't want to.  Without my scars I would not be me.  I would be some other, some more insipid pale iteration of myself.

So far I am just trying to remember that when I read fear or disgust in people’s eyes, and try to remember that if they can read my arms and legs wrong, maybe I am reading their faces wrong, even though mostly I think I am not.

(I also try to remember that life is too short and also it's waaaaay boring to have so many superficial issues with yourself, but that doesn’t always help, does it?)

I will say this, though: that if you see someone with scars, don’t balk or think they’re crazy or think you know what they mean.  Unless you’ve written in that language, you can’t speak it.


  1. Beautifully written. I don't think people understand, that e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e has scars, just some hide/show it in different ways.

  2. A lot of insight, thank you. I'm going to be mentally chewing on this for a long time, I can feel it.