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I have the kind of scar on my leg that would make a child cry. I know this, because it once made a child cry. It happened while I was in Italy last year on an extravagant birthday trip for a friend. She had rented a villa in Tuscany for a group of girlfriends and their kids. Maybe it was all the rosé or the cheese or the general high from being in Italy, but I had completely forgotten about my scar when I stripped off my jean shorts and tee to stretch out on a lawn chair by the villa’s pool. As I took off my shorts I heard a gasp—like an actual gasp. I looked up to see one of the little girls on the trip staring at my leg and possibly pointing. No, she was definitely pointing.
“What is that?!” she exclaimed, with a tone best described as a mix between fear and horror.
“What is what?!” I thought, without uttering a word. Was there a bug on me? Had my hair taken on a life of its own, as it tends to?
And then suddenly, I remembered. She was pointing at my scar. My large, pink, all-the-way-across-my-thigh scar from a freak surf accident. I think that was when the tears started, and the little girl ran away. I instantly pulled my shorts back up, which is where they stayed for the rest of the day.
Generally speaking, I’ve made peace with my scar. It would be hard not to, considering I see it every day of my life. I know its curves and colors, its shades and intricacies. It is now as much a part of me as my blue eyes and flat feet. I am (more often than not) okay with it, or as okay as you can be with such a blatant imperfection on one’s own body. But then shorts season arrives, and I remember that my scar peeks out of most shorts and many dresses, and of course is on full display when I don any bathing suit. For me, warmer weather now brings with it a sense of dread I didn't feel P.S. (pre-scar).
I used to really enjoy shorts. I work out a lot and have skied my whole life, and while my legs are not skinny, they are undoubtedly strong. I have defined calves and muscular thighs, and I used to feel a sense of pride in showing off my strong legs that I had worked my ass off for. Not so much anymore. Now when the time for small clothes arrives, I stand in front of my closet every morning in a quagmire:
“It’s too hot for jeans,” I think to myself.
“That dress is long enough to cover my scar, but it makes me look wide.”
“That dress would be perfect, but it will show my scar.”
Cut to me reaching for jeans, and accepting the fact I will likely be over-heated all day.
People love to tell you that scars are “hot.” I have generally found the people who tell you this do not have terrible scars. Scars are in fact not hot. They are generally pretty ugly, but they do tell a story. They tell a story of resilience and risk, of pain and recovery. They tell a story, yes—but they do not look good when peeking out of shorts, which brings me back to my summer-clothing issues.
Recently, I bought a cute pair of shorts online. I liked them, so I bought them and immediately accepted the fact people may stare for a moment when they see my scar poking out below the hem. I have also started to come around to wearing short dresses again. It gets so hot in LA, and two years after my accident, I think my desire for comfort is beginning to override my fear of showing what my leg has become.
Truth be told, there are pieces in my closet from P.S. that I have given away or sold because I just couldn’t bring myself to wear them anymore. They ran their course and were from a different time in my life, a time when my legs told a different story. But my new wardrobe is okay too: Some of it hides the scar and some of it subtly shows it, but all of it tells the tale of who I am now.
This summer, I’m going to try to have less of an internal battle each morning in front of my closet. I’ll try to wear those new shorts with pride and put on my short dresses a few more times than I did last summer. I’ll try to accept that all stories are good ones, because regardless of the scars they’ve left, they’re ours to tell—and what’s life without a few truly epic stories?