Everybody has scars. Usually these marks carry a negative connotation because they mark up skin that was once smooth.
When I see a scar, I see something else. I think about how much it probably hurt, of course, but I also think about why it's there in the first place.
Some scars are lessons-- learning when you're five that the iron is really really hot. Some are from a traumatic experience or surgery-- a mark of courage. And the rest are most usually attached to some wild story.
The great thing about scars, is no matter how small, it seems you don't forget why they're there. Each scar has it's own story behind it, and those seem to stick around remarkably well, sometimes more so than the scar itself.
I decided to ask around for the best 'stories behind the scar.' Here are some of the tales I was told:
Marks of Bravery
"When I was a freshman in high school I was at soccer practice and passed out mid warm up run. Come to find out I had a hole in my heart where 90 percent of the wall between my upper chambers were gone mixing the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood causing my heart to work harder and enlarge ten times its normal size. So I had to get open heart surgery to fix the hole or else I would have died before 18 years old-- my doctor said my heart and hole was the largest he'd ever seen. So now I have a nice scar in the middle of my chest." -Brittany M.
"I had a calcium buildup on my arm, and decided to have removal surgery to get rid of the pain, knowing there would be a huge scar after. A surgery intern was the one who closed the incision, and they didn't do a very good job. The scar didn't heal right, so it was much bigger than they expected. A few years later, I watched them cut out the entire scar to fix the damage, which left me with a new one. It's still pretty big, but I used to be very self-conscious about it. Now I have accepted it as part of me. So sometimes when people ask me what happened I like to make up stories (i.e. shark attack, stabbed, car accident), because I get a kick out of it, and who cares anyway?" -Ashley J.
"I saw two guys ganging up on my friend, so I stepped in. Three more guys decided to jump on me. I was fighting those three guys which resulted in a split from my nose to my lip. I remember the shot of novocaine directly in the cut (before the stiches) hurt a lot more than the punch." -Anthony V. (Dad)
'I Don't Remember ALL the Details...' Scars
As I have come to find, many scars happen to be result of a bit too much to drink, and bad decisions (for example, someone I know deciding that burning yourself with a lit cigarette would be hilarious). Sometimes the exact details are fuzzy, but here is a small collection of those tipsy triumphs.
"It was November, and in my town high schoolers go to this place called the "Crater" in the woods to drink. One night I was there and my best friend, Meredith, who was holding my hand, tripped and brought me down with her. My hand was gushing blood so I was holding toilet paper on it that some random kid had in his back pack. A few minutes later I heard from my ex boyfriend say, "where the f*** is Meredith?" Then I heard "what?" I turned and she was on the ground, he was gone, and her nose was bleeding and broken. So we walked together, my hand gushing, her nose gushing. I was worried about her that night, so I didn't get stitches. Now we both have scars from that night." -M.
"I went sailing black-out-drunk and ended up tipping the entire sail boat over. In the process I cut my foot on a broken bottle." -C.
"Well New Year's Eve I went to a party and there was a ton of people. The clock turned midnight and the cops kicked open the door and threw in pepper spray bombs. There was like 100 kids in the room and they barricaded the front door so everyone had to squeeze out the back. It was a normal sized door during a stampede, so my hand got stuck and cut open. Turns out I got it for nothing, we all got trapped by the cops in the back yard anyway." -K.
"I was peeing in the dark, I didn't have much balance at the time. I ended up falling, rolling down a hill, and my hand found a glass bottle at the bottom. I'm just glad it was my hand." -M.
Some scars have stories attached that are just plain funny. (Though, at the time, probably not so funny.)Like, when my brother decided to make french fries while shirtless, resulting in a straight scar across his stomach from the pan.
"I have a scar on my head. Hit it on a moving ceiling fan. It was great." -Ally P
"Me and my brother got into a pillow fight. I saw the pillow coming right for my face, so I put my hand up, punching myself in the face. I started bleeding everywhere and had to get stitches up there. Nobody can really see the scar, but I'll never forget it. My brother sure won that pillow fight." -Katie O.
"I have one on my tongue-- cause I bit through it. And had to get it stitched back on. Because my brother threw a baseball at my face." -Katrina B.
"So I'm four years old and laying on the ground in my brother’s room while he is vacuuming. He took the vacuum and vacuumed my head. I had a bald spot for five years." -Molly K.
"I don't have too many of my own, but Dana I sure as hell remember watching you somersault down the cement bowl of the skate park when I was trying to teach you how to roller blade. Your elbow was bleeding the whole day." -Alexandra N.(Yes, I do have a huge scar from that lovely day.)
"For Dana’s birthday every year we went to walk the rock coast in Rockport MA. Her mom only had one rule for this birthday weekend: no flip flops. I wore flip flops. Now I have a nice big scar in the middle of my shin" -Katie O.
"I was at the first fireworks that I remember, and a falling firework ash fell into my Wellington boot and burned me. I was only three when it happened." -Kate G.
"While riding my dirt bike in 8th grade, I slid out in the mud. My Suzuki landed on top of my leg, I was pinned on my back like a turtle. I calmly turned the engine off, then turned to panic as I felt the burning on my leg. As I was in the mud, I couldn’t get any traction to lift the bike. I yelled, I cried, I blacked out, I awoke…to see my younger brother ride down a hill to me, he jumped off his bike while it was still moving, and he pulled the bike off of me, using all of his 6th grade 80 lbs! My dad, who was riding ahead, estimated it was 10 minutes or so. It felt like a lifetime. My little brother grew up to be a firefighter, still saving people from burning! The result: 3rd degree burns, two large ovals on my calf that perfectly reflected the exhaust shield. They look like bite marks, so I used to tell people I was bitten by a shark. Over the years, I've told the story so many times that it's become convincing enough to fool just about anyone." -Anthony V. (Dad)
"I grabbed a hot tail pipe as a child because it was shiny-- I got second degree burns on my hands." -Shane N.
My last scar story isn't too wild, but I have a tiny, tiny scar on my arm. It's from when I was in the hospital senior year -- as a result of a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter). Basically, it goes from your arm to your heart to give you nutrients, medications, and take blood from. I got it in the ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital -- it was one of the lowest parts of my life for sure, and I was very weak. But I love that scar, it's right in the middle of my bicep, so I see it and think how strong I've become since I got it.
Scars teach lessons -- be proud of your life marks. If you're ever worried about showing your scars, take a lesson from my dad:
"I needed surgery to fix a shoulder that dislocated four times in two years. Before I went “out”, my doctor told me he’d try to keep the scar small. Under the anesthesia, I told him, “for all the pain I’ve endured, make it big, I want a good story to tell”. So I have a 6 inch long, half inch wide scar on my right shoulder."