I grew up self-conscious and embarrassed of the off-centre scar on my forehead (the result of crawling into my grandma’s coffee table, aged two). At the age of twelve I begged my mum to take me to the doctor so it could be ‘removed’. The doctor told me to wait until I turned sixteen, and return then if I felt the same. Thankfully, I never did return. The scar still sits proudly on my forehead, and enjoys being tormented with Harry Potter jokes on rare but special occasions. I don’t remember an exact occasion when I overcame my immature idea of beauty as perfection, but this beautiful passage is partly responsible:
On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, ‘I survived’.
These beautiful words come from Chris Cleave’s stunning novel, The Other Hand (also titled Little Bee) and belong to his character Little Bee. The novel sits lovingly dog-eared and water-damaged on my bookshelf as physical proof of the countless times it has been dearly read and adored. Little Bee is a Nigerian asylum-seeker, and one of the most beautiful and inspiring characters you will come across in our wonderful literary world. With her simple but lovely theories about all things, Little Bee will encourage you to view the darker things in life through positive eyes.
My scars now serve as little reminders of experiences I have survived over the years. Two little white criss-crossed lines underneath my chin mark a game of hide and seek played almost two decades ago during which I tripped onto the children’s drawing table in our kitchen. A half-moon crescent and a dark full moon on my knobbly right elbow are physical evidence of an early morning bike ride, during which passing drivers saw me cartwheel over my handlebars; a little bitumen part of Cross Road has been with me ever since. And of course, there are the vertical train tracks at the mid-point between my right eye and hair-line. These scars tell my stories and are (im)perfect reasons to be celebrated. Thanks to Little Bee, I can wear these imperfections with pride. After all, I’m a survivor.