Shiny Happy People

Winter

Bring back the snow!!

Yesterday I walked around Hampstead Heath with a friend.  It was sunny out- the light found its way through almost everything.  It was also what they describe as blisteringly hot- I feared for the people turning like toast under the sun.  Walking around, it struck me that people with all different body shapes and sizes were out in summery clothing.  I was impressed that for the most, people hadn’t pushed themselves into style corners.  From young I realised, reading teen magazines, that the advice about size or shape not mattering was a lie- yet here were people living out the “lie” and enjoying it.  It made me happy.  So do the long evenings, the shinyhappypeople, the picnic blankets and tightrope walkers and hula-hoopers in the park.  I like summer.

Yet, summer is the time that makes me most conscious of my scars, of the choice between drawing attention to myself for exposing them, or looking ludicrous in long sleeves and jeans.  It hasn’t ever bothered me, I think, as much as this year.  Possibly it’s my newly developed fashion sense- I like shorts too, dammit!  Or maybe it’s the conscious choice not to self-harm, that makes it feel so unfair.  I’m uncertain.  All I know is that there’s a vulnerability involved in both choices, an admission of difference no matter which option I take.  I don’t think it’s about courage.  I don’t see myself as having a responsibility to “speak up.”  I don’t see these as battle scars to be proud of, though I’m not ashamed, either.   Around friends I feel confident enough to wear short sleeves but in the bit of London I live in, I feel very conscious that I might bump into someone my family know, or similar.

I wrote this a year ago, and it still holds true:

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Under my sleeves. Every single day. A mess of white lines and pink bumps. They have crinkled my skin prematurely. Made me look like a deviant, or a victim. In summer, I swallow shame and go outside, arms exposed to the sun, heart exposed to the public. My heart- etched over my pulse points, spreading veins of scars up to my shoulders. It is almost like having my old diaries read by strangers. If the diaries were written in a language, a short-hand, that they recognised but did not fully understand.

And that’s a difficult feeling to live with.

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