As we approach New Years Eve, there is an emphasis on losing weight, getting in shape, etc. in the coming Year. We make resolutions to better ourselves and reflect on the year that passed us by. With the impending New Year, there is also a realization that we become a year older, which for some means more grey hair, wrinkles, or other marks that appear on our body. It is safe to say that we live in a world that is obsessed with body image and the search to find the fountain of youth. In fact, TV is plagued with reality shows that perpetuate this obsession. Keeping up with the Kardashians displays such a problem. People who watch this show watch Kris Jenner’s facelift to her struggle with body image despite the fact that she gave birth to six healthy children and is 56 years young. There are also shows that show people obsessed, even addicted to plastic surgery – they are trying to attain perfection, attempting to reverse the aging process, and remove the scars of their lives.
As I reflect on this plastic surgery and the body image obsessed culture that we live in I reflect on my own imperfections. When we are born, we are born relatively mark free. As we age, marks begin to appear. As we become older, scars begin to appear because of different incidents in our lives. They help shape us and serve as a reminder. For me, it is the scar on my hand from the hot glue gun I used to make floral arrangements for mine and my friends weddings. The chicken pox scar on my face reminds me of how my mother cared for me and warned me (actually constantly hollered at me) not to scratch or I would have scars – and as usual she was right. The scar by eyebrow that resulted from my daredevil actions on a swing that caused me to hit a screw that stuck out from the frame. Then there is scar on my knee and forearm from the moped accident. The same moped my mother did not want me to have because she did not want me to get hurt, but gave it to me anyway (until the accident, then it was quickly sold). Another scar is on the front of my right foot reminds me of last Christmas when I painted and redecorated my daughters rooms as their presents because it was our first year without Santa’ visit and I just had to make it special. Then there is the round scar in my left arm that once contained a pick-line that fed magnesium through my veins for seven weeks to keep my twin daughters from being born too prematurely. Also the hernia scar that adorns my right lower hip that resulted from a tear in the muscle that I received from the weight of carrying my daughter during my pregnancy – a muscle that my uterus was permanently attached to in an attempt to preserve my fertility as I fought endometriosis since age 15. A repair that tore again from the weight of my second daughter. A scar that became further distorted from the twin pregnancy that came four years later. The scar is ugly and the stretch marks that came with each pregnancy are forever engrained in my abdomen but I would not change it, hide it, or do anything to remove it. All of the scars and marks that appear on my body, a once clean canvas, tells a story of my life. A story that will no doubt be added to as I continue to age. All of these marks make me who I am, so to reject, hide or alter them is a rejection of who I am.
I am not alone in my viewpoint. For as many people who strive for perfection, there are role models that also dawn our television sets that embrace their scars – scars for them that indicate survival. A veteran like J. R. Martinez who suffered severe burns all over his body, yet went on to win America’s favor in Dancing with the Stars. Tina Fey does not hide her scar, a scar that represents violence that she experienced as a child. It is a part of her and it is part of her beauty. Her scar represents survival. Elizabeth Taylor and Catherine Zeta-Jones sport scars from life-saving tracheotomies. Harrison Ford sports the scar of youthful mis-adventure on his chin, not from treasure seeking or fighting droids in roles he has played as an actor.
In essence, Hollywood is filled with imperfect people with scars and imperfections. Perfection is a result of airbrushing, spandex, corsets, surgery, etc., something that more people need to see. The illusion of striving for physical perfection can be diminished or even squashed. In fact, Jamie Lee Curtis is responsible for giving us the first real look of what she looks like without all of the glam and special effects. What we saw was a picture of a rather ordinary woman, someone that we might work with or see in the grocery store. In this picture, though, I believe it emulates Jamie Lee Curtis’s real beauty – raw and imperfect, just like me.
I would me remiss if I did not address the beautiful scars of everyday survivors. For instance the breast cancer survivor whose scars from a mastectomy tells a brave story of survival. Even survivors of abuse, crimes, or self-inflicted scars tell a story. Their body shows a story that may be filled with pain, struggle, and hopefully healing and power. Scars should not be judged as imperfections, but rather marks of bravery and perseverance. Is that what the scars of Christ represent?
I believe that those that have scars are in the majority. In fact, could be we also constitute the 99%? If we are in the majority, then why do we allow the 1% to dictate how we should look and what perfection looks like? In this New Year, I resolve to embrace who I am, in all of my imperfections. If we are made in the image of God, then how can we not be pictures of beauty and perfection in our own imperfection? Leonard Cohen said in The Favourite Book (1963) Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh. What does your scars say and reveal about you?
Michele Stopera Freyhauf: Feminist scholar, activist, and has her Master of Arts degree from John Carroll. She is now a graduate student at the University of Akron in the Department of History focusing on Religion, Gender, and Sexuality. Michele is the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS) and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia.” Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf and her website can be accessed here.