Unless you know me personally outside of the virtual sphere and has been around while summer, you probably don’t know I have a prominent red port wine stain on the left leg. Growing up with a birthmark that goes from the top of my thigh to the bottom of my knee has been a challenge when it comes to body positivity and self-acceptation.
Obviously, it’s been there my entire life and I often forget its even there until a stranger decides to start staring at it a bit more heavily or children point at it in the streets. A lot of people are confused because it has a red tint instead of the usual brownish color. The reason behind that is kind of confusing and gets really sciency but I’m willing to explain if anyone is really curious.
I often get asked if I had an accident, if I got badly bruised, if someone hit me or if I burn myself, or as a memory I cherish a lot as a child if I “fell in a swimming pool of blueberries when I was young”. When I was younger, it never really bothered me, I was super cute and super smart so you know who cares. But as I got older and started caring more about my appearance, I started to be self-conscious. Not because of how I looked, but because I was tetanized thinking about the reactions people could have when seeing it.
My friends and family always say they can’t imagine me without it and I wish I loved this part as much as they do, but because of the way people have reacted over the years, I find it very difficult not to want to hide it. One of the most painful thing someone might have said was, while discovering it, “Omg it’s such a shame”. Never asked why, don’t want to, but you know I guess this person considered my birthmark was so important it was ruining the rest of the good I had in me. High school has been a major struggle in the “relation” I had with my birthmark. I started despising it, doing everything I could to pretend it wasn’t there. I felt bad wearing shorts during summer because it was “out there for everyone to see”.
I cried a lot.
I hated it for “ruining my life”, I hated my parents for “making me with this awful part”, I hated people with “regular legs or body”.
But I grew out of it. We all have our personal struggles and battles, the only difference as a dear friend of mine would say is that “the only difference with your struggle is that it’s for the eyes of everyone to see”. Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is this: if you meet someone who has a noticeable birthmark, scarring, or really any sort of feature that’s out of the ordinary there are a few things to remember:
1. Don’t be afraid to be curious! I’m never offended by someone asking about my birthmark. It’s not something you see every day and I get it! That’s cool. But…
- Think before you ask. While I don’t mind curiosity, make sure your questions aren’t rude or ostracizing. If you make the person feel like a freak you aren’t going to be welcomed very warmly.
- Don’t act alarmed. I can see myself in the mirror. Yes, I know it’s there. This seems like it would be understood, but I can’t tell you the number of times people have stared at me wide-eyed in shock. And that’s not very good for the self-esteem department.
- .” What happened?” is hardly ever a good question to ask. In my case the answer is, “nothing”. But in case the person actually was in an accident the odds of them wanting to replay if for a stranger are basically zero.
- I won’t feel bad if you complain about a spot you have on your forehead. Yes, my “condition” is worse but it doesn’t prevent me from understanding the little desagreements we experience in life. Just try to be reasonable