When people make fun of disabilities or kids who look different, I turn into two people. On the surface, my superpowers flare and I become Barnmaven, Defender of the Innocent, Crusader Against Injustice and Ignorant asshattery. I swoop through the air in my bright pink cape, using my Acid Tongue to serve a Verbal Lashing on the evil perpetrator. Justice served, I fly back to my telephone booth, magically transform back into Barnmaven the Mom and regular old human being, and then I crawl into my closet and I shed a tear or two.
The tears are from the other person I become when I witness cruelty. I become the Girl With the Braces.
Thanks to congenital deformities to my lower spine and right hip in conjunction with a C-curve scoliosis, I move a little funny. Not so much now, but when I was little it was really bad. After I started walking, my toes pointed straight in toward one another. Straight in. Not pigeontoed.
Throughout my childhood years, I suffered a combination of leg braces and physical therapy to help my bones move the right way and to strengthen the right muscles so that I could walk more like a normal person. The braces and the funny red shoes they came with I have almost no memory of, but I remember the physical therapy, using sandbag weights to build muscles and crying because it was so hard. My right foot, the one with the malformed hip socket, still turns in when I'm not trying to make it go straight, and because of the scoliosis, I give new meaning to the phrase "Baby's Got Back."
I suspect this has a good deal to do with both my desperate need to be liked (I wanted to feel normal) and my deep-seated distrust of people (they made fun of me - a lot). Questions I heard in grade school and beyond: "Why does your butt stick out like that?" "How come you walk so funny?" One particular incident in sixth grade, a group of older, junior high aged girls approached me, ready to make fun. They were laughing. "You know your butt sticks out?" one girl asked, challenging me. I turned bright red and looked at the ground. "I have scoliosis," I mumbled in embarrassment. "What's that?" "Its something that makes my back curve the wrong way. Its better now, I used to wear braces for it." "Oh. Wow. Hey, you guys, leave her alone. She has a DISEASE."
In my twenties I remember a guy at a bar that I knew only superficially walking up to me and saying "You know, you'd be a really pretty girl if your butt wasn't so big." "You'd be a halfway attractive guy if your IQ wasn't so small."
I was lucky. I outgrew my braces, my differences are mostly under the surface now, unless you're looking for them. The emotional scars are deeper and longer lasting. And it is time for me to start letting go of them.
Putting pictures of myself on my blog is excruciating. Its not only that I know you're looking at the bags under my eyes, the deep lines next to my mouth and the fact that my mouth is crooked and my right eyebrow higher than my left. And yes, I have hammer chin. And I would like you all to not notice those things and think instead that I am pretty. But what is deeper and worse is that I am sure you can look at my pictures and see my funny leg and my butt sticking out and also the remaining weight from my babies that I keep losing and gaining and losing and gaining.
But today is Bloggers Without Makeup day. And so. Without further adieu, here I am. Late to the party, as usual.
Part of me knows that there is a way to overcome my fears of being exposed, and that way is not to continue to think that I am successfully hiding my flaws. That way is to bring them out into the sunlight. The people that see them and run away, good riddance. The people that make mean comments about them, so sad that they remain hopelessly shuttered behind their lack of intelligence and class. The people that I want to know, the people that I think I can let in a little, they are the people who see me and don't care about those superficial things.
Which kind are you?