Speaking of scary things … Brad shaved his head today. I don’t mean that’s scary because he looks bad with a shaved head. He looks great, actually. I mean it was something he was scared to do.
Brad is fond of telling me that “chicks dig scars” – a philosophy he’s obviously taken quite seriously his entire life. There have been sword fighting accidents, trampolining accidents, fire-twirling accidents (although those, at least, were never too much worse than some singed and blackened hair). He’s had probably hundreds of stitches over the years. He started on the path of attracting females through battlescars at a very young age, you see, and the worst of his accidents happened when he was a toddler. He was in the car with his dad, when a rock fell from a truck, smashed through the windscreen and broke open Brad’s skull. Miraculously, he survived the injury, but fifty stitches later, he was marked by it for life.
Brad had a compound fracture in his arm that required surgery with metal plates, and left deep gashes along both sides of his forearm. The stitches are huge and messy – the arm had to be opened up again to remove the plates once the bone had healed, so there is scar tissue on top of scar tissue. I like to tell people he hurt his arm in a swordfighting accident – that someone stuck a sword through just below his elbow and ripped downward. I especially like to tell them that when they ask “But isn’t swordfighting dangerous?” and he’s trying to explain that it isn’t. Because I’m helpful like that. Then he has to reassure them that I’m lying, that this was a trampoline accident, and that his swordfighting scars are only small: stitches above the corner of his mouth where someone caught him on the lip with the tip of a sword during a stage fight; stitches in his foot where he slipped on wet grass mid-swing and stuck himself with his own sword at a school show. Brad’s proud of all these scars.
He is not proud of the scar on his skull. He’s always feared that the trench across the top of his head, and jagged stitches crossing it, are too confronting, too ugly. He’s especially afraid because he also has a genetic tendency toward baldness. He began wearing hats and bandannas years ago, in preparation for the day when he would no longer have enough hair to hide the worst scar on his body. He has more hats than I have shoes. And he began critically examining photographs of himself and his thinning hairline, trying to predict when that day would be. Nearly thirty years later, his thinning hairline had receded almost far enough to reveal this scar.
In recent months, he’s talked about it a lot. His hair is very fine and blond on top, and he hates it because he can’t do anything with it and in the wrong light it looks almost non-existent. One day he told me “You can see my scar now” and although I could, in fact, see a corner of the scar when he mentioned it and tilted forward to show me, I didn’t think I would have noticed without being told what to look for. Brad wasn’t reassured. He said once the hairline receded further, you’d see the great dent in his head, and people wouldn’t be able to look beyond that. Considering how often I’ve felt ugly and been unimpressed by his assertions to the contrary (on account of his being biased) I can understand.
But today he decided he’d had enough of wondering whether everyone would be unable to see passed his hideous scar. Armed with a hat (just in case) he went to the barber and asked for a number four. And came home looking hot. With scarcely a sign of the scar that’s plagued him for so many years. It really is quite neat, for fifty stitches to the skull. A thin white line that you can only see if you know to look. Otherwise, he’s quite handsome with his short blond hair. It suits him.
My friend Kasey is fond of diagnosing low self-esteem as the basis of everyone’s problems. I mock, but to some extent he’s actually right. Body image is actually very important for one’s self-esteem and happiness, and it’s terribly nerve-wracking to feel your looks deteriorating over the years, and to fear the consequences. To face people when you don’t even like looking in the mirror. To think of anything other than “Can they see my scar?” and wonder if you are going to have to explain it to every single person you ever meet from now on, or if they’ll be unable to look you in the eye for the horror.
But Brad faced his fear, and I’m proud of him. And even he admits now that the scar isn’t that bad. I think a huge weight has been lifted from him, and he seems happier already.
That said, he’s addicted to hats now, so he’s going to wear them anyway. I will allow this, because it allows me to justify another pair of shoes.