I can only think of a maybe a handful of times that words have really cut me to the core in my life. Where I was struck completely speechless and stunned, as the person verbally assaulting me continued to speak on and on, that I couldn’t even defend myself. It’s this odd feeling of are they really saying what I think they are saying, surely I am imagining it, it almost feels out-of-body.
I supposed I need a little back story on my life…. I wasn’t sure I was even going to share this with the internet, but when I was 4 years old I was burned badly in a gasoline fire. I had 3rd-degree burns on my face, arms, and back and I spent 4 months living in a hospital bed and 8 years having non-stop surgeries to repair the damage.
It is something I have lived with my entire life and honestly I never let it slow me down. I wear tank tops and open-backed shirts, I try to tell myself every day it’s Alabama, it’s freaking hot, and if someone doesn’t like seeing my scars than screw them. I feel that my scars aren’t an issue, I am a beautiful woman, and I am not afraid to be seen. I have bright red hair for gosh sakes… I don’t mind being noticed.
Now back to my story… I was sitting down having lunch with my co-workers, laughing and having a good time and this guy who is a photographer in another studio in my building approached our table to talk to us. He is known throughout the building as a perv… he has a photography package where he teaches girls how to become models, which we are all convinced that’s code for he gets underage girls in “barely-there” outfits and takes pictures of them bending over. As he was in the middle of a shoot a few weeks ago he shouts to me, I am going to take your picture next….my thoughts “yeah sure, I don’t think so”. Back to what happened, he approaches our table, points to me and says “I’m serious, I want to take your picture, I know you have, you know, scars and stuff” gesturing in a circle around his face. “I was thinking we could use a mask, and sort of go with the Phantom of the Opera theme”………… me and all of my co-workers are just sitting there stunned. Now I really don’t think he truly grasped the full impact of what he was saying to a person who has had to endure what I have had to endure in my life and I don’t think his intention was to hurt my feelings, I really just think he is that stupid. He continued on talking but I couldn’t tell you what he said because everything from that moment on was just a humming in my ears. I was shocked at how that made me feel…. I am the first person to defend myself and to defend others and, believe me, I don’t have a problem stating my mind, but I was truly stunned and unable to respond.
I was stuck on what he said and what his intention for saying it was. When he left, the only thing I could say to my co-workers was “did he really just compare me to the Phantom of the Opera?”, they were shocked as well and I was forced at that moment to talk to them about personal things that I didn’t think I would have to mention in a group work setting, the tears started to flow and I was so angry that stupid asshole made me cry. Of course, me crying made my co-workers start crying which oddly enough made me feel better. They truly are my friends and they care.
I have had to work so hard…. soooo hard my whole life to have self-esteem. This isn’t like a scar on your stomach or a scar on your leg. My scars are covering my arms and hands and over my entire face, neck and back. Most, I do not have the ability to hide at all unless I wear long sleeves and gloves in Alabama summer heat. It is impossible for me to cover my face! I went through elementary to high-school with these scars. Started dating boys and eventually getting married with these scars and building enough confidence in myself that I am desirable and I am sexy and I am beautiful. I was so stunned that this man… this insignificant ass of a man could make me feel so ugly in all of about 5 seconds. I just kept thinking he thinks you need to wear a mask…. I know he’s stupid, but it still hurt.
Will I let this affect me?… Well maybe for a day or so… yes, I am still mad! But I will move on and I know he is wrong and I know that even if I wasn’t burned there would be jerks who said something to hurt my feelings. I will push his words aside and know I am the sexy woman I am and screw him. It also feels kind of good that every man I know wants to kick his ass….
But you think you have such confidence, but it is amazing how fragile self-esteem and confidence really are.