My skin is a diary, stained with ink splotches, often fragile and wrinkled as tissue paper.
From my first breath, a hand-sized port wine stain discolored my torso, as if seared by God at birth.
I hid it for years. People gasped whenever they spied just a sliver of the magenta stigma below a stretched shirt bottom. “Oh my God, what happened? Were you burned? What IS that?” Their comments, their distaste—I was not okay. I dreamed of transforming my sprawling brand into a dragon tattoo. Let it breathe fire onto others as their words had scorched me.
I didn’t appreciate how easily I’d gotten off. Most of these stains appear on the face and neck.
In my youth, we worshiped the sun. We lived outside in a land of eternal sunshine, basking on beach towels and pool floats, slathering ourselves with Bain de Soliel and baby oil. My friends glowed bronze, many blessed by their Mediterranean or Hispanic lineage.
I faded into white walls. Translucent.
My mother always praised my fair complexion. I loathed it. I was a vampire in the land of sun goddesses.
I plastered my face with foundation as soon as my parents permitted, masking my smattering of freckles.
Upon my pale limbs, I traced patterns between my birthmarks and moles. My own constellations. Somehow they looked wrong when I stared at them in a mirror. Though always relatively thin, I allowed my flaws to weigh me down.
On my twenty-first birthday, I believed I’d matured into a woman. In honor of the milestone, I skipped the booze and bought my first bikini instead. Far more gutsy. Go ahead. Stare. This is me.
I’ve worn many since.
The first time my future husband saw my stain, he said not a word. When he finally spoke up, it was only to say I was beautiful no matter what. I washed off much of my warpaint and let my freckles shine.
When my stomach swelled with life, my dragon grew, protecting the child inside. A slight brown mark appeared above my hip where he often kicked. He was born with a brown stork bite on his ankle. We matched. Traces of silver webs hung like a fringe over my womb, forever proving I had grown a child. I hope they never fade away.
Just as I learned to accept my different beauty, my skin betrayed me. Skin cancer. Basal cell, thank God. My constellations began disappear, the motley stars hacked out before they turned into dark matter. A little spot burned off here, another bump punched out there. Pink scars became my new stars. The first time they carved a gash in my shoulder I wore a sling for two weeks, taking extreme care so the scalpel would not permanently disfigure me. The fates laughed, and infection caused a welt seemingly stolen from Frankenstein’s bride.
I hid it, for a while.
Another two-inch gash marred my back. The sun became my enemy. As I hid in the shade to protect my papery shell, I healed within. My freckles faded. My confidence grew even as other blemishes spotted my skin. Be it age, hormones, genetics, or the damage I’d caused in my youth, this is me.
See that silver lightening flash on my hip—baby. That stitch lined gash—skin cancer. Those splotches and lines and big-ass freckles—my signature.
But I am more than my skin. In yoga class, I pose in black tights, my glowing white skin reflected in each mirrored wall. I’m different. I shine. I’m different, yet I’m beautiful. We all are.
Each constellations in the heavens tells a story. Each each dot, gash, and wrinkle upon my skin forms words, a veritable story of my life written upon my vellum. Ask me about one, I’ll tell you my tale.
My story is far from over.
This post is a part of author August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. Be sure to visit the other funny, tear-jerking, inspiring, and always beautiful posts.