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Let me tell you, one of my least favorite questions to answer is “What happened to your face?”

This past weekend, I had one of my stupid, klutzy, hairbrained personal injury accidents; the most recent one, of which I write, involved smacking my face into one of the shelves of the cat-gym. The collision left me with a 2” long scrape across the top of my left cheekbone (or where a cheekbone would be if I didn’t have such a pudgy face). All day today, everyone has been asking me what I did to my face. I mean, yeah it looks like I was in a barfight or my spouse beats me senseless or something violent like that, but it is nothing more than my own lack of depth perception coming back to haunt me. Woo, I’m a clumsy oaf. Should that be Oafess? Or perhaps Oafette? Oaferina? In any event, yeah, I injure myself in lame and embarrassing ways and am not that fond of having to explain, thus expose, my innate clumsiness. Too bad I hadn’t done something embarrassing, yet not so public, like bruised my butt. Then the only people who would know about it would be whomever reads this journal, because you know I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to wisecrack about my own ass.

More about my face, since I am on a roll. I’ve got a birthmark under my left eye. A hemangioma or “strawberry birthmark,” which is basically a mess of malformed blood vessels that cause the skin over top of them to get all puffy and lumpy and discolored, and possibly permanently scarred and stretched out of shape, like mine is. Actually, in my case, it isn’t really that bad—most of the puffiness receded years ago, and the color has faded to where it mostly blends in with the surrounding skin, and since I am so acne-prone anyway, a little more or less lumpiness and discoloration in one area of my face isn’t that noticeable. When I was a little kid, however, it was quite a different story. When you are a kid, your peers are little kids, too, and we all know that little kids don’t know tact yet. So any time I was around kids I didn’t already know pretty well, I got the third degree about the birthmark under my left eye. I mean, it is hard not to notice, and kids do notice everything. Some kids just asked what it was, or if it hurt, others asked if they would catch it from me, or if it was a disease, or why I had it. My parents, from having had to explain it already for some years before I was fully verbal had given me fair tools to explain my birthmark. “I was born with it, it doesn’t hurt, it will probably go away when I’m grown up.” That was the party line, and that’s what I told everyone. When kids acted grossed out or called me “disease face,” I told them they were very stupid and that I wouldn’t play with such dumb kids. Sometimes this lined them out, sometimes not. I tried not to let it get me down, but there’s something damaging in being so openly questioned and criticized, so regularly and so predictably, for so many years, that just kind of seeps into your marrow. I remember people asking my parents about my birthmark, while I was present, and me piping up with my own explanation of matters. People would either be shocked that I understood what was going on, or would adopt that “poor sad little kiddie” attitude, like it really was some horrible, fatal disease, and not just an ugly birthmark. But grownups, no matter how rude and out of line they were to question my parents about me, had nothing on kids for creative cruelty. I mean, how do you respond, when you are 9, to the question, “did you get the number of that truck that hit your face?” If you were me, and it was 1986, you don’t respond at all, but get embarrassed, mad, and hurt, and learn to mistrust other people just that tiny bit more. What kid needs to be bitter and disillusioned before she’s even a teenager, I ask you? I mean now, if somebody made a crack like that to me, I’d probably say something inappropriate right back to them, like “It was your crazy, blind granny…y’all should see about getting her off the road.”

Anyway, my birthmark has mostly faded and most of the puffiness is gone, and while it is still a little rough and shiny, and slightly discolored, it doesn’t show that drastically, at least not when I have my glasses on, though people sometimes think I have a black eye if they see me without my glasses, and I am all back to explaining that it is a birthmark, it is fading gradually with the years, it doesn’t hurt me, etc. I don’t know why I even bother. I ought to tell people I got a black eye whuppin’ their boyfriend’s ass in a seedy bar-brawl.

Grr, I’m such a dirty little badass.

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