Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scars: How to explain them when you really don't want to.

I didn't believe in flying monkeys either until that day...
= perfectly valid
Let’s face it. Sometimes you just don’t want to tell the truth to people about your scars. There can be many reasons for this. For example, the person asking is a complete asshat that you know you can’t trust with an honest answer < ---- Come on, we all know some of these people. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve dated all of them. All of them. Anyways. (Sometimes I find it funny to be blatantly honest with these people just to see them squirm – yeah, I can be a dick too buddy). Well, look at the mood I’m in today. Wheeeee!

Let’s start again.
It happens to everyone. Sooner or later someone, somewhere, is going to notice that you have a veritable world map of roadways etched into your skin. Unless of course scars aren’t an issue for you. There are plenty of ways to self-injure that don’t leave permanent marks or, alternatively, plenty of places that are always covered by clothing and not easily detectable to the outside world. Good long term planning there. If this is you, good job, you don’t have to deal with this. For the rest of us, we occasionally have to deal with unpleasant questions.
The two most common scar questions are: How do I explain them? And; how do I make them go away? (we’ll cover this last one some other time)
Reiterate. Some people like their scars. Others hate them. Both attitudes are valid.
Even for people like me though, just because I happen to like my scars, doesn’t mean I want to talk about them all the time or at times when it isn’t appropriate or convenient for me. Or with people that I don’t feel I need to disclose this stuff to.
Most people that ask aren’t intentionally trying to make you uncomfortable. Many of them don’t have any clue about the nature of the injuries or even that self-harm exists. Hell, often they don’t even really want to know, they’re just making conversation. That’ll teach ‘em to be sociable. Regardless, now you have to come up with something to tell them.
What you decide to do is entirely up to you, where you’re at, and of course, who it is that is asking. If it’s someone you think you can trust or someone that is showing genuine concern or curiosity. The truth might not be a bad way to go. IF! If you’re comfortable with that.
If it’s a relative stranger, acquaintance, you’re in the grocery story picking out cat food, it might just not feel appropriate to you. My default is to half-laugh it off and say something along the lines of, “Oh just the trials of a misspent youth.” It’s relatively ambiguous, they can read what they want into it, or not. You could say, “It’s a looooong story that you’d rather not get into right now.” Or anything suitably vague and discouraging. Anyway, the point is, this is a very personal issue and it’s kind of rude of them to be asking you something so intimate, so you should not feel pressured to answer if you don’t want to.
I used to not want to tell people this sort of this. Still do occasionally. For instance, I keep a lot of stuff separate form my work environment. Not that anyone here has asked me about my scars, very professional, but even if they were to, I probably wouldn’t tell them truth because that is my place of employment and mental health issues in the workplace are kind of a sticky subject.
What are some things I used to say, you ask?
            I had a skateboarding accident and wiped out on gravel. (Back in my skater days)
*In a suggestive voice* Use your imagination *wink, nudge*. (I have to admit, I find it highly amusing to make people uncomfortable when they’ve made me uncomfortable. Implied sex acts of a kinky nature usually work rather nicely.) I’ve had an instance or two where this hasn’t quite worked and they’ve responded with, “I don’t have much of an imagination…” and I usually follow up with, “Wow, that’s a shame,” or if I’m getting testy I throw politeness to the wind and say something like, “Well that’s unfortunate, my condolences to your {significant other}”.
Angry puppy
My cat launched off me
Don’t ever fight with farm machinery – humor also works. If you can get them to laugh they usually just move on to another subject because even if they don’t believe you, they will pick up on the fact that you’re obviously avoiding the question. This usually helps with keeping things less awkward, yanno, if that’s what you’re going for. I like awkwardness, especially when I get to watch other people that aren’t me being awkward for a change.
Nothing for you to worry about. Which occasionally transitions to: By which I meant, none of your business.
I’m sure I have more but I can’t think of them right now. Other amusing things people have said:
I had unprotected sex with a porcupine.
Well, let me just tell you this: You should NEVER EVER, under ANY circumstances, go out with a guy/girl that you met on the internet.
"It's a long story." They usually leave me alone, but this one guy said, "I've got time." Then I said, "I fell. [long pause] Ok, so it's obviously not THAT long."
I was at this party with Marilyn Manson and everyone was giving out hugs.
I'll just put it this way: when they tell you not to feed the bears, it's for a damned good reason.
I got them climbing a fence to escape this hell-hole. (said at school)
Hostage situation
I had to fight off a mugger
Window exploded in a car accident
They’re not scars, they’re stretch marks. Thanks for reminding me.
Shark attacks  are brutal.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. In summation, have your excuses ready. It’s good to have your story straight before you’re asked. It makes it easier for you to deal with the inevitable. What excuses have you used before?


  1. i'm struggling with this right now. up until last year, i had safely kept my scars in places where, if i wore pants and a t-shirt, i looked normal. now, i have eight scars in a row on my lower arm from an incident last summer. i've worked my ass off since then in dbt, and i feel stronger than i ever have. i'm now headed to a graduate school for students pursuing their mdiv or counseling degree.... it's a fresh start and i'm not sure how to handle the scars: just leave them be and if anyone asks, address it with them? cover it with a nice new tattoo (not sure if i want to do this or not-the scars will lighten with time, tattoos don't, plus the location for a tattoo would be awkward with other tattoos already there)? always wear long sleeves? (i'm headed to the new school in august, and it's damned near impossible to find cute long sleeved shirts right now.) any suggestions? thanks for posting, btw...

  2. Hm, you could always go the emo route and wear a ton of bracelets. I don't really know your fashion sense, but at one point I would wear fashion sweat bands (oxy-moron?) at unmatched places and it suited my style.

    Tattoos are tricky. I've heard that tattooing over scars is difficult because the skin tissue is a different texture than normal skin.

    I couldn't imagine always having to wear long sleeve shirts. Amusingly I'm a fan of hoodies and I usually have one on. Hoodies are a great way of looking casual in long sleeves without having to explain why you're not taking off your coat. Plus you don't need a new hoodie everyday. Since it's a jacket you can wear the same one whenever.

    I also think we're much more aware of our scars than other people are. I've casually made reference to having scars to friends I've known for a while and they've responded with, Scars? What scars? I think the less self-concious you act about them, the less attention will be drawn to them in the first place, which will probably be the best way to not attract attention.

  3. I know you wouldn't say this, but imagining someone replying to the "how'd you get those scars" with "these are my scars, these are not the scars you're looking for" complete w/ Obi Wan hand-wave is making me giggle.... Then again, you might do that, given the appropriate (geek- discomfited) audience!

    1. Ahahaha! No no, that is totally something I would do. In fact I may have to do that next time (though I'll probably follow it up with a real explanation). That's too funny. Thanks for the laugh.

  4. i've seen some bad tattoo coverups and some good ones. i have some tattooing done over scars on my legs, and they look fairly good-- not so noticeable. but i got those tattoos not to cover scars, but because i wanted them. i do need some long sleeved coverups for my comfort level. i've talked to friends, and apparently, they are as noticeable as i feared. thanks for your suggestions!

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  6. When I was struggling with self harm in my earlier teenage years, I took a packaging knife blade to my hips, reasoning with myself that the cuts and eventual scars would seldom be seen. I really didn't see myself becoming a stripper down the line, so now my dozens, if not nearly a hundred, of some raised and some flat white scars lining my hips and very upper thighs are on display to me and countless others on nearly a nightly basis, and I'm having to come to terms with them being there once more. No customer has said anything yet, only a couple of other dancers. I don't know if it's out of courtesy that the customers keep their mouths shut, or if they simply aren't noticing.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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