Growing up, I had a scar on my face?a perfect arrow in the center of my cheek, pointing at my left eye. I got it when I was 3, long before I knew that scars were a bad thing, especially for a girl. I knew only that my scar brought me attention and tenderness and candy.
As I got older I began to take pride in my scar, in part to stop bullies from taunting me, but mainly to counter the assumption that I should feel embarrassed. It?s true, I was embarrassed the first couple of times someone pointed at my cheek and asked, ?What?s that?? or called me Scarface. But the more I heard how unfortunate my scar was, the more I found myself liking it.
When I turned 15, my parents?on the advice of a plastic surgeon?decided it was time to operate on what was now a thick, shiny red scar.
?But I don?t mind the scar, really,? I told my father as he drove me home from the local mall, explaining that I would have the surgery during my summer vacation. ?I don?t need surgery.? It had been years since I?d been teased. And my friends, along with my boyfriend at the time, felt as I did?that my scar was unique and almost pretty in its own way. After so many years, it was a part of me.
?You do need surgery,? my father said, his eyes on the road, his lips tight.
?But I like it,? I told him. ?I don?t want to get rid of it.?
?You need surgery,? he said again, and he lowered his voice. ?It?s a deformity.?
I don?t know what hurt more that day: hearing my father call my scar a deformity or realizing that it didn?t matter to him how I felt about it.
I did have plastic surgery that summer. They cut out the left side of the arrow, leaving a thinner, zigzag scar that blended into the lines of my face when I smiled. The following summer they did the same to the right side of the arrow. Finally, when I was 18, the surgeon sanded my cheek smooth.
In my late 20s, I took a long look at my scar, something I hadn?t done in years. It was still visible in the right light, but no one asked me about it anymore. I examined the small steplike pattern and the way it made my cheek dimple when I smiled. As I leaned in awkwardly toward the mirror, I felt a sudden sadness.
There was something powerful about my scar and the defiant, proud person I became because of it. I have never been quite so strong since they cut it out.
Excerpted from ?Readers Write,? a regular feature in which The Sun invites its readers to submit their own essays on a particular topic such as falling in love, excuses, laughter, idealism. A truly unique publication, The Sun covers every subject imaginable from politics to the small epiphanies of everyday life, but always with strong, sharp, clear writing. Reprinted from The Sun (Jan. 2003). Subscriptions: $34/yr. (12 issues) from Box 469061, Escondido, CA 92046.