The remnants of my own illness have taught me that when it comes to difference, don’t stare — but don’t turn away
Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012
“Do I freak you out?” she had asked.
It was the kind of question adults rarely pose. But Abigail (a pseudonym, like some other names in this piece) is 8, and she doesn’t have any qualms about being direct. The person she was asking, my daughter Beatrice, likewise didn’t hesitate in her reply.
Abigail is new to our school this year. She is in every way a typical second-grader, except that she was born without a left hand. It’s a trait that makes her undeniably noticeable, and so, sometimes, people ask questions. Sometimes Abigail has questions of her own. Sometimes, when you’re different, you want to know.
When Bea told me what Abigail had inquired about a few weeks ago, I’d winced a little, wondering how my child had answered. Had she passed whatever test Abigail was giving? I know how frank Bea can be, how she walks behind me when we’re out in public, checking whether the shiny, taut expanse of bare skin on my scalp is visible. “Mom, your bald spot,” she’ll say when we’re in a restaurant, fussing with locks to try to hide the five-centimeter circle where, a year and a half ago, I had surgery to remove cancer.
I know that Abigail’s question haunts many of us who are physically different, in ways both small and large, either by birth or circumstance. It plagues my friend with accident scars on his legs, who’s already nervous about summertime and exposing his flesh at the beach this year. Maybe it’s a small yet indelible birthmark on the chin. Or it’s a big burn. Or a missing limb. Does this make you want to look, or want to look away? Do we make you uncomfortable? Do we freak you out?
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/11/look_at_my_scars/