I have two scars in the center of my forehead. I only remember getting one of them. I was a Brownie scout that year, and I ran in the house because I had just sold my first box of Girl Scout Cookies, to the next door neighbors, which was no testament to my selling abilities — the sweet elderly couple would have bought anything from me. Still, I was excited to tell my family, and in my excitement I disregarded the no-running rule and ran into the kitchen, and I managed to fall headfirst into the dishwasher.
For years, my parents jokingly complained — much to my embarrassment — that I had dented the new dishwasher.
I also had dented my head. The bleeding frightened me, cuts on the head bleed profusely. Mom fixed it up with butterfly stitches and bandaids.
I didn’t die of a head wound, despite how glamorous a death that would have seemed to my Brownie self. I only got a small scar. Eventually another scar joined it, or perhaps it was there first; i was a clumsy child and remember the details of very few scars.
My mom once pointed out that the two scars in such close proximity looked like a minus sign and a one.
Negative one. Hahahaha.
But that was me, wasn’t it? I thought it to myself many times.
The only daughter in a family of boys, the one so who was so good (but did wrong so often). The one who was so smart (but frequently appeared to be missing common sense).
Do you know, I didn’t know until I was a teenager that women had ‘private parts’. I simply knew that boys and men had weewees, and girls had none (whenever i thought about it, i was truly baffled that we somehow managed to urinate).
I was in college and married before I finally learned the names of all the lady parts.
My whole life until then, all I really knew was girls were missing things boys had.
So girls had to be prettier, and eat more neatly, because that one special difference somehow made it acceptable for boys to be rougher and dirtier. Also boys could pee outside, which is something I secretly envied during swimming season when we had our own backyard pool.
The difference between girls and boys also meant that, while in theory I could do anything I wanted when I grew up, I would be very happiest if I had a bunch of children and spent as much time with them as possible. Later, as my family began reading Nancy Campbell’s magazine and the Pearls’ books, I realized it meant my body would always belong to someone with a dick, and I could only purposely limit the number of children I bore if I wanted to risk sinning against god.
It meant that no matter how gifted with prophecy and teaching my dad said I was (he once figured those were my spiritual gifts), it would never be appropriate for me to speak to mixed groups.
My brothers occasionally joked about my minus-one scar. But I knew what it meant. It meant I was worth less. That god, in his love, wanted me to be worth less than men because he said so, and because he was god and therefore I had to accept my less-than status happily, that somehow because it was god’s desire, being less than actually meant being more than.
I also figured that my marking was a sign of what a sinful and rebellious person I was, that I would be always incapable of living up to the high calling Christ wanted for me.
When I started wearing makeup, I had mixed feelings about covering up that scar. It had become in my mind not two separate scars but a single symbol. On the one hand, I wouldn’t risk being teased and my face would look more attractive, but on the other, I would possibly be dishonest, by trying to hide the fact that I was clearly marked as a negative one.
A few months ago I mentioned a vivid and obvious scar on my arm. My mother suggested I try putting Vitamin E oil on it, and put on a dab, saying it might help. I intended to get some oil of my own to apply regularly, but never did.
More recently, I was looking for a DIY cellulite wrap, because I am caving to societal expectations and frankly it is one of the most emotionally healthy things I have done in awhile.
So I found one that looked simple, which required cellulite cream and Vitamin E oil.
A few days later, after a shopping trip, I slathered myself in creams and then wrapped myself in cling wrap. I didn’t look in the mirror, because I was terrified. I squeaked to my robe and covered up before leaving the bathroom to watch Merlin and sweat away the inches.
I caught my reflection in the mirror as I went out the door. I looked back down at the small bottle of oil and gulped. Those scars on my forehead had been marking me as a negative one for a decade and a half, and I had believed them to be a sign, for a decade and a half. Did I even dare touch the scar now?
Oh, but I do dare. I cut off my long hair and I wear shirts that accentuate my breasts and I form my own opinions on the world, and I do not have to believe in signs that are marking me to make me remember my place anymore.
I’m twenty-five years old, so far away from being a Brownie Scout. There is almost no chance the oil will have any effect on the old scars on my forehead.
I held my breath, then I carefully poured the oil into my hands. I spread it gently over the scar in a cross pattern, as if I were anointing myself.
I recognize the pain and beauty in my soul, and I tell myself, you are not ‘less than.’ You are not a negative one.
It’s time to let myself heal, even if it’s too late for the scars.
Then I sighed a deep sigh of resolve and the plastic squeaked, and I laughed and hobbled off to the couch to watch Morgana discover she’s actually magical. It’s hard to be serious for long when you’re wrapped in stretchy plastic.