My flippin’ scar

If it weren’t for the scar on my shoulder, I’d probably forget that I ever did gymnastics.

It puzzles me still how I ended up enrolled in a gymnastics class at our local YMCA. Maybe I had watched Nadia too many times on TV because it was more likely you’d find me with my nose glued to the tube or buried in a book than exercising. Writing that makes it obvious why my parents wanted me to be active, yet why gymnastics, the epitome of “girly” sports?

No one ever called me a tomboy, but I certainly didn’t consider myself girly. When I crammed my pudgy body into a leotard, I felt ugly and sexless. The other girls in the class confidently wore cute outfits and were in control of their hair. They could imagine themselves walking the balance beam with ladylike grace. They probably envisioned themselves sticking their landings with winning, womanly, Mary Lou Retton smiles. Meanwhile, I prayed that I could somersault without falling over.

During one class, I waited in line for my turn to tumble. The princess in front of me turned to chat with the doll behind me. They were probably discussing make-up or boys or ponies or some such topic that got me tongue-tied. I tried to play it casual, though, and not seem too desperate to fit it with my gender. I hoped no one could read my doubting mind as I questioned my femininity before I even knew the word.

The girl ahead of me stopped talking when she caught sight of my shoulder. She had spotted the  large birthmark near the right side of my neck. It was asymmetrical, bumpy and altogether hideous. While a shirt could conceal the unattractive brown mole, the leotard left it exposed for all to see.

“What’s that?” asked the princess.

“A birthmark,” I replied.

“Why do you have it?” inquired the doll.

Before I could answer, the princess responded with complete authority: “That means you were supposed to be a boy.”

My stomach cartwheeled. My secret fear had been both revealed and confirmed.

Years later, a plastic surgeon removed the birthmark and its potential to become cancerous. I now sport a silvery scar that’s easily hidden and much less noticeable. When I glance at the smooth, shiny skin in the mirror, my brain flips back to when I was in gymnastics. I recall how, when it came to being a proper girl, my routine was difficult but lacked the required technical content, with additional points deducted for faulty execution.

36 thoughts on “My flippin’ scar

  1. Isn’t it amazing how one comment can destroy us for years to come? I wish so much that all the random comments of someone saying, you did a really great job, or your hair looks pretty today stuck as well.


  2. It is always amazing to me when I see my thoughts/feelings as a child reflected in someone else’s writing. Those comments, made by someone whose name you may not remember, certainly stick with you for life. I’m trying to remember the positive comments…struggling with that…we seem to focus on the negative as a society. Changing that one person at a time!


    1. You are right. We have to fight the urge to remember only the bad. Sometimes those hurtful words can spur us to action or make us stronger. If not, we need to let them go and build on the positive words that we hear.


  3. I would like nothing more than to have my children programmed so they remembered the good and dropped the bad stuff. I have several comments from my childhood that I swear I can hear as clearly as if they’re being said to me right now. Sometimes life is really hard–which is the heartbreaking part of parenting.


    1. I’d love to be able to report that, having been on the receiving end of thoughtless comments, I have been forever mindful of what I say to others. Alas, I know I’ve said my share of hurtful words.


  4. Being a girl is not for sissies. I remember while playing soccer, and at one practice all the girls wanted to touch my breasts (they were teasing me because I was the only one who had them). I would have ran away screaming, but I think I hit them instead, and suffered in silence. I was so ashamed.
    So this really spoke to me.


  5. Ah, kids… they’re just the best.
    I was teased in elementary school for two scars I had on the back of my head, near the hairline where they were easily viewable (I’d had two suspicious moles removed)… Even now when I go to get my haircut I feel like I have to explain them to the barber… it was nothing sinister, it wasn’t brain surgery, I am complete and smart, honestly, it was just some dermatological modification.


    1. You know, if Harry Potter had been around when we were growing up, we could have likened our marks to his lightning scar. We could have claimed these marks were symbols of our super powers.


      1. Hah! Great idea.
        Which is funny… I did that later in life. Any time I got an injury I always made up great stories to go with them. The time I crashed my bike and the gears slashed my leg – they looked like like triangle shaped teeth marks – I told everyone I was surfing and a shark bit me….


  6. Cyn, I really enjoyed this post. Your voice comes through loud and clear. Great writing! ” The Princess” and “The Doll” made me laugh.

    I LOVED Nadia, and I took a gymnastics class, which I sucked at ; ) Here’s to setting fire to the balance beam!


    1. I was/still am scared of heights, so the balance beam freaked me out. However, even though I was overweight, I had great flexibility thanks to those classes. It was my one saving grace during those “Presidential Fitness” tests in PE.


      1. We played floor hockey in school when I was a kid and I totally ruled, but other than that, no, I haven’t played hockey. They didn’t have girl’s teams when I was a kid anyway. I hated figure skating.


  7. Girls are just so mean. I’ve so been there and it is constantly fascinating to me how just a few words tossed away by a fellow female can haunt us for years to come.


  8. Girls learn to be cruel at such an early age. I did gymnastics when I was young only because I loved watching it. Watching gymnastics and trying to do gymnastics are two different things and I gave up after the first year.


  9. I played Nadia’s theme too! I’ve never heard that bit about a birthmark meaning you should have been a boy. Thank goodness as we get older we can avoid the mean girls.


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