When I was born 25 days short of 40 years ago, I was born with a dime-sized burgundy birthmark on the bridge of my nose. Slightly off-center but dead-on in the sites of anyone looking at me, it was the color of red wine. Its contrast with my super pale skin made it impossible to miss.
If you saw my Christening portrait, however, you wouldn’t know. The photographer convinced my mother that it would fade so they painted it out. Unfortunately, however, there was no photographer following me through life painting over the offending red circle.
It did not fade. It stayed frustratingly prominent in the center of my face. The first thing that you saw was not my flaxen hair. You did not see my big smile. You did not even see my hazel eyes that change color. The first thing anyone saw was the red dot on my nose.
People never quite knew what to say about it. Concerned adults would ask “What happened?” as if it was an injury. “Is she hurt?” Kids could be less subtle. “What happened to your nose?” “Did something hit your face?”
And so it stayed. I was the girl with the red dot on her nose. As I got older, the harder it became. Children went from a lack of subtly to a lack of civility. Bullies are always looking for things that makes one different and having a large red circle made me an easy target — pun intended. At one point an especially troublesome boy (surprisingly I cannot remember his name considering how many tears I shed over him) came up with the term “hickey nose”.
That’s right. Hickey nose. I was 9 years old and I had no idea what a hickey was. So I went home and asked my mother. If you think having a 10 year old bully calling you a name is painful, try learning what a hickey is from your mother! Once he came upon this moniker, he never let it go. For three years, he and anyone he could convince called me “Hickey Nose” incessantly. On the bus. In the halls. Across the cafeteria.
Finally, we changed schools. And while I left behind Hickey Nose, I could not leave behind the stares and the feeling that I was scarred; marked for life. Attempts were made with makeup but I was so young and the makeup so heavy that it never really worked. Finally, at the age of 13, I began a series of procedures culminating in a surgery that would remove my Scarlet blemish.
It was successful. All these years later, I have a very faint scar across the bridge of my nose. Most people never see it unless I point it out. But in so many ways, I will forever be the girl with the red dot on her nose.
Small scar on the outside, big scar on the inside. What scars do you carry?