Last night, SEX+STL hosted a clothing optional, Scar and Tell event. This was an opportunity for our members to sit around as naked as they want and share as much as they felt comfortable about the scars they have sustained over their precarious years on this dangerous planet. Scars can be a source of embarrassment or pride. Scars can remind us of painful experiences.
“Scars remind us that the past is real.”
The word scar traces back to Greek eskhara, “hearth” or “scab.”
So far, my young daughter only has a scar on her chin that she got by jumping up and down and then falling on her face as a toddler. I wonder how many other scars she will collect as she navigates through life.
I’ve made a valiant effort to collect some worthy scars.
I also have a chin scar from falling on my face. Like mother, like daughter.
I have my tummy scars from my hysterectomy. One puckers in weirdly like a second belly button.
OH yes there is the belly button, everyone’s birth scar.
I have a scar on the back of my left hand where a pregnant black stray cat bit me.
I have a small, thready line on the inside of my arm from when I experimented with cutting myself with a razor as a teenager.
I have a really embarrassing curved scar on the inside of my calf from when I drunkenly kicked off a high heel and gouged myself (?!)
Personally, I think scars are sexy, especially when they’re on the lip or eyebrow. How about you?
At the event, we all sat around in a circle in a private residence. The place was intimate and cozy. Eighteen people were supposed to come, but about five dropped out at the last minute, so that left us with about a dozen attendees, which ended up being a good number.
I got things started by explaining how the evening would work. “You are welcome to disrobe, but you don’t have to. We all have scars, and it’s up to you which ones you’d like to share with the group. Let me get the ball rolling, and then we’ll all take turns, okay?”
Events like this always start off awkward and nervous, especially when people show up late and the flow is interrupted with startling door knocks and new energy being added to the mix. But as people settle in, the group warms up and relaxes. It was a new experience for several of the guests. One anxiously confided in me, “I’m worried about being naked in front of other people.” I assured him that it often felt weird the first few minutes, but he’d be surprised at how quickly became natural and normal. Sure enough, he was! Trading in that feeling of fear for one of empowerment is so liberating!
Smiling and chatting, I did a scar strip tease until I was down to my pretty black undies (which matched my outfit, by the way), then turned it over to the others. “Who would like to go next?”
Slowly and bravely, people shyly came forward and shared their stories. They also shed clothing, until most people were naked or in their underwear. A lot of the men there had penis scars from being circumcised.
One man had a scar on his head from being clocked with a brick by some gang members as he got off the bus when he was 12. He walked home trailing blood. He spoke matter-of-factly about it, saying, “Hey that’s North City for ya, I’m glad it wasn’t worse.”
A woman showed us a burn scar she got from an abusive boyfriend.
A man showed us debilitating scars on his feet from construction work and kicking walls when he was angry years ago.
A man showed us the scar he got as a teenager when his sister shoved him out of a moving car.
A woman showed us the scar on her side she got when her dad shoved her into a glass coffee table.
A man showed us the star shaped scar right in the middle of his slightly concave chest. It covered a steel plate surgeons installed to replace his crushed ribcage with. Terrible car accident when he was 14. He knocked on the steel plate and it sounded like knocking on a table. For years he never took his shirt off, and when he looked in the mirror, the broken glass, tree branches and twisted car metal would all rush back and take his breath away.
A woman showed us the large scar on her belly from having an appendectomy while pregnant.
A man showed us the scar he got dumpster diving.
A man showed us the straight white line down his shin from when a hot iron fell and hit him when he was three.
A man told us about a scar we could not see – he had jaw surgery, and half of his bottom lip is now permanently numb.
Another man told us about his invisible scar – his head injury. A motorcycle accident changed his life drastically in the blink of an eye. He was in a coma for a week.
One woman showed off her partner’s scars – he has a tapestry of them all over his body from getting hit with chairs, beer bottles, and more during his heavy metal shows. She loves to lie in bed with him and trace her fingers over them, examining them and wondering where they came from.
A man talked about his face scars and how he never notices them when he looks in the mirror, but does when he looks at photographs of himself. He talked about how he was teased as a kid, how self-conscious he used to be. He would airbrush them away, but since we’ve been delving into so many body acceptance discussions, he’s starting to regard them differently.
A woman showed us a cutting reminder of a very dark time in her past – a time of depression, turmoil, heartbreak.
It’s fascinating to think about what the injuries looked like when they were fresh and raw – the stitches, the staples, the bruising and swollen flesh. Now they were merely ghosts of the past – slashes and bashes, trauma and drama. I tried to imagine how each person felt at the time – shocked, horrified, stunned, unconscious – compared to how they were now. They were brave, calm, and strong.
A couple people admitted that the session was the first time they shared their scars and stories with others – even their family members didn’t know what lay below the surface.
And that was another thing – at the start of the evening, I just saw a diverse group of human beings. They all looked normal enough. But each one took a turn to stand up and stand out – to bring attention to something I hadn’t noticed before, something they think about every day, a very real and intimate part of themselves. It was like peeling back a layer and revealing their secret superpower. Everyone was so warm and accepting, so open. I asked a lot of direct, blunt questions; I hope that was okay.
To the man with the steel plate in his chest, I asked, “Why didn’t you die?”
He replied softly, “It was a miracle.”
I have several scars. Some from various surgeries, some from being one of the clumsiest women on the planet. I don’t actively hide them, but honestly I don’t usually give them a second thought. THEY are ME.