This morning I told a student I was gonna write a post about scars – how scars are sexy – and she said, “Oh my god have heard Alix Olsen?”
She told me about Popcorn and Laughter:
You see, I never noticed I had stains
until he asked for a discount
So, I almost missed out on
Loving you. Who said
“Perfection’s imitation, that’s why it’s called a deal,
See, real things have scratches and
I’m looking for real.”
You paid full price, never asked for change til I gave it,
You said “baby, save it. You’ll need it for something harder than me
You said “I’m easy, I think scars are sexy.”
Right. The fuck. On.
Bodies are… I mean, what are they? They’re these sacks of bone and meat and water held together by 2 meters of integumentary tissue. They’re battlegrounds of infection and injury, the immune system waging desperate war against hoards of invading critters and chemicals and against the damage that living itself does to an organism. Each battle leaves a history, and that history accumulates over the lifespan.
Embryology, man. Embry-fucking-ology… the cascade events, the self-organized cascade of developmental processes just turns my brain inside out and knocks me to my knees. Babies are beautiful in their way, but they’ve had so little time on the battlefield of life. Years pass and the young little body is exposed to infection, to injury, to growth, to its own immune functioning, to life, and life leaves a mark. We become less symmetrical. We age. We live.
When I was about 2, I was jumping on the bed at my aunt and uncle’s house, and I fell. And I cracked my head open. I earned my first scar. It’s hard to see now; it blends in with my wrinkles.
It was a tiny accident, it’s a tiny scar. I haven’t got big any big scars because I haven’t had any serious physical trauma. I’ve been obscenely lucky in my life. So far.
But I’ve seen and loved bodies that have survived life and trauma. The straight line down the length of your sternum, where your chest was cracked. The Mona Lisa smile that underscores where your baby grew and marks where a c-section released a new life from your body. The sensitive scars of childbirth on the perineum. Where your knee was reconstructed, where you burnt your hand when you were 12, where your leg was cut off to save your life, the hypertrophic healing of your adolescent acne, it’s all, all life and beauty.
If scars are marks of acute stress, callouses are marks of chronic use, like paths bushwhacked through the woods by travelers, over years. I have them on my feet from dancing, and on my right middle finger from writing. That one on my finger has been there since the third grade.
I have callouses from doing things I love, things I’ve been doing and loving for longer than I can remember. Mine are dilettante callouses, callouses of leisure and privilege. Lots of people have callouses from a lifetime of intense manual labor or not having shoes to wear. Hard-worn skin for a hard-worn life.
A body is a life.
My opinion is that bodies, lives, people who have suffered and survived are the MOST beautiful. The marks left on their skins tell us of the strength, the resilience, the power of the person. The so-called flaws of a body show you what a person has made of themselves.
Give me scars and callouses and wrinkles and hair in the surprising places where age decides to make it grow.
Real bodies, real lives, real people. Real things have scratches.