“What’s that on your nose?” said the stranger. Instinctively, my right hand flew to the right side of my nasal bone where my scar was. My cheeks burned, my throat knotted, and I gave them the only answer I could give them as a child. I smiled nervously, and I looked to my parents for guidance. They answered by explaining what had happened to me one fateful morning when I was three years old.
It was my mother’s first day back at work since she decided to become a mom. She hired a babysitter for the day, dropped my brother off at kindergarten, and left for work. The young woman she left me with was instructed in my daily routine. And that included a morning trip to the store right across the street where I would present money, and the lovely lady behind the counter would give me pastries. It was my big girl chore, and I loved to do it according to my mother. The distance between my front door and the store was just a few meters apart. The babysitter gave me my money and proceeded to sit down on the steps of our doorway and watch me run across the street to get my daily bread.
I remember the incident like it was a scene from a movie. I remember running on the asphalt and tripping on a rock. I see myself falling headfirst towards the cement step of the store. The next thing I remember is sitting down on the hot concrete and feeling something wet and warm trickle down my face and clothes. I don’t remember crying. I don’t recall my babysitter coming to me or my mom coming home from work in a panic.
My dad was called, he was a resident doctor at the time, and he decided to treat me at home. I probably needed stitches, but my parents didn’t want to bring me to a hospital when a civil war was raging outside. My life was not in any danger, and since I was young, my dad thought the wound would heal without leaving too much of a scar.
But the wound didn’t heal properly and left a circular, discolored scar on the right side of my nose.
The good news is I grew up not remembering my face before the accident. The bad news is that the scar would be the ice breaker for almost every conversation I had with a stranger as a child and teenager. Miss Manners would frown at strangers pointing out someone’s physical flaws from the get-go, but since I was a child, people felt standard etiquette didn’t apply.
I never felt self-conscious about my scar when I was staring at myself in the mirror. That scarred nose was the only one I’d ever known, but people’s reaction to me was what made me uncomfortable.
Fearing that I might be mocked for my scar during my teen years, my parents took me to see a plastic surgeon when I was 10. The doctor examined my face.
“There is really nothing to be done, and if I try to correct this, I fear I might cause more damage to her face,” the surgeon told my parents.
And then he turned to me, “Do you feel bad having that scar?”
And I answered truthfully, “No, I don’t,” I said.
And that was that. The surgeon said maybe I could cover it with makeup as I grew older, but he was wrong.
No amount of makeup could cover my scar.
As an adult, the point-blank questions turned into stares. Even now, when I get dressed and feel pretty, I never assume people stare because I look nice. It always comes back to my scar—they must stare because they’ve noticed it. And I’ve never worn makeup to try and cover it.
But as laissez-faire as I am about my own scar, in an interesting twist of fate, I am equally as mortified that my children might end up with marked faces. Having facial scars might build character and make you look mysterious, still, it’s not an experience I want my children to have. Your face is the first thing people see when they meet you. It’s your hello to the world. It’s the first impression you give.
Any type of scar or mark tarnishes that image, making it harder for people to focus on anything other than your scar.
Recently, my 4-year-old took a padded bat to the face while playing with her cousin. The foam scrapped her nose, tearing off flesh and leaving a deep laceration on one of her nostrils. The type that will most certainly leave a permanent scar. As she looked at her wound in the mirror while I was tending to it, my daughter turned to me with gleaming eyes.
“Will it heal, mama?”
A pang of emotions gripped my heart, and the 3-year-old girl with a scarred nose flew right back in. I cupped my daughter’s face with my hands.
“It might leave a small mark, but it takes nothing away from your pretty face,” I told her.
The worry lifted from her eyes, and her smile returned. And as for the 3-year-old girl, she stepped aside to give place to the experienced mama who knew her daughter would be fine, albeit with a scarred nostril.