Everybody has a “good side” and a “bad side” when it comes to getting photographed. With some people the “bad side” can be very hard to tell from the “good side”. With me, it’s a no brainer, my right side is definitely, without question, my “bad side”.
I have a scar on my face that runs from the corner of my right eye, across my forehead and over the right ear.
When people meet me for the first time, I can always see them look at it, but are too afraid to ask.
It used to be fun playing with that when they did get the courage to ask me about it. I’ve said the following things: I got it in a knife fight, shark attack, bad sleep walking episode and finally defending my husband’s honor. Although I would love it if any of those were true, none of them obviously are.
The simple truth is I got it from being absolutely stupid in the summer of 2001.
I was working on a dairy farm in between high school and college. I think it might be a Vermont right of passage.
My boss’s son could occasionally be seen on the property riding his dirt bike. I was eighteen years old and the thought of a motorcycle was pretty intriguing. A dirt bike seemed like a great way to start me on the path to feeling confident on one.
Anyone who knows me knows that motorcycles and I were never a match. Never.
But in my eighteen year old immature mind, it seemed the perfect fit.
One day, he came over on his bike and asked me if I wanted to try it.
Yes. I said it without even thinking. I got on it, without even thinking. I had him help me start it without a helmet on, without even thinking. I did everything that afternoon, without ever thinking that the course of the next five minutes would forever change the way I saw myself in the mirror and, for a long time, how I viewed myself internally.
The bike started. The loud rumble of the engine startled me and my hands gripped the handle bars, hard. The engine revved up, the bike took off and before I knew it, I was running head long into a tank with large metal rods on either side.
The force and the rods ripped across my face and head, severing nerves as it went, so when I landed, I felt no pain.
I actually thought I was okay. And like Dana Carvey’s “Massive Headwound Harry”, tried to stand up.
I heard the voice of my boss’s son tell me to stay put and he went screaming for his parents.
I’ll never forget the panic in his voice.
I was so stupid.
I had surgery to stitch up the right side of my head and fix a severed tear duct.
The rod came that close to my eye without dispatching it completely.
I was so stupid, but so lucky.
The first time I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. I no longer had an eye socket or facial definition on my right side. It was simply one thickness all the way down, like the smooth side of an egg and then I saw my new buddy, my brand new scar. A child born out of utter teenage idiocy.
That day would be forever a memory every time I looked in the mirror, like some drunk tattoo.
The swelling went down. My right eye is still a little funky looking due to some scar tissue under the lid. I can’t feel anything on the top of my head on the right side, due to nerve damage. I’ve actually run into tree limbs full force and not felt a thing.
Nothing can stop me! I’m atomic!
But I’m alive and I can see. A miracle.
And my buddy the scar? I have a very complicated love/hate relationship with it.
There were so many days starting off, I would look into the mirror and cry. This was going to be my reality for the rest of my life. I would be doomed to have people’s eyes wonder up there while talking to me and be doomed to tell the same story over and over again of the moronic ten minutes that changed my life.
It was like that for a very long time. I put all my worth in the fact that my face could no longer blend in with the crowd.
Those were the hate days.
Then came the love days.
When I hit thirty, an amazing thing happened. Not only did I give birth to my beautiful son, but I began not caring anymore.
It’s a wonderful day when you stop caring about the thing that has made you feel so vulnerable. That day you’re vulnerability becomes your greatest strength.
I gave up looking one hundred percent perfect in photos. I gave up looking one hundred percent perfect in general. I began to live my life free of caring how I looked or what people thought of how I looked.
Your face doesn’t need to perfect for you to have amazing contributions to the world. I gave the world two incredible contributions with my two children after my scar. Contributions that are far more important that whether or not you have a “good side” or a “bad side”.
My face doesn’t have to be perfect for me to write, run a 5K or 10K, or make my friends laugh. I don’t need a perfect face to learn and grow as an individual. To learn empathy for others and serve others. There’s a working brain behind all of this skin and bone. In fact, that’s all this skin and bone is for, to protect the only thing that’s really valuable, our minds and spirit.
In this age, when women are told that we have to look symmetrical to have worth, what does it say to those of us who are not symmetrical. To me it says that we get even more chance to shine because we no longer need to worry about trying anymore. We get a free pass to simply enjoy our lives and worry about the things that really matter.
I don’t want you thinking that I’m cured of American society’s hold on me. There are many days I still wish my “little buddy” would just disappear. I wish I could look in the mirror and see more symmetry and less uniqueness. Those ideals are forced on us at such a young age, it can be hard to shake them.
But as I write this, I really want to do better, if not for me than for my daughter and learn that none of us has a “bad side”.
And screw symmetry, that’s for math problems, not for human beings.