Search for the noun “scar” in the online Miriam Webster Dictionary and you’ll find six definitions.
1: an isolated or protruding rock
I know nothing quite so solitary as being a fat child. Every pound I gained seemed to set me further and further away from my classmates. Neighborhood children told me that I wasn’t allowed on their swing set; I was over the weight limit. The girls I invited to my birthday parties were always busy. Chronically unable to find a partner, I held the teacher’s hand on field trips. School dances always ended in tears in the restroom because no one would dance with me. I wandered campus at recess looking for a place to sit and heard over and over, “You can’t stay here.”
It wasn’t as if I could just melt away or hide. Fat girls stand out; they attract attention. My body was mocked. Fat. Gross. Nasty. Huge. Hippopotamus. Pig. My classmates developed a chant, “Kate, Kate, you’re overweight. You’ll never, ever go on a date.” Boys I didn’t know would accost me in the hallways, “I bet you can’t even see your toes!” It wasn’t only insults that got hurled in my direction. In junior high they threw objects at me on the bus, the worst of which was a condom filled with glue. The boys at the bus stop in high school made a game of trying to pitch pennies into my bra. I dreaded P.E. because, regardless of the sport, my classmates made a game of aiming directly for my head with the ball. It only grew worse after P.E., in the locker room. Showers were required and one particularly ferocious female made a sport of exposing my breasts, already DDD’s by 7th grade.
2: a steep rocky eminence; a bare place on the side of a mountain
Without friends I retreated into myself, to a place where I could not be touched. I fell in love with the written word. In a book, I was someone else, somewhere else, something else. And while I read, I ate. A sweet distraction to the taste buds to accompany my escape from my life. I read as I walked through the halls and I couldn’t hear their voices. I read as I brushed my teeth and I didn’t see my reflection. I even read as I showered, one hand aloft holding my book above the scalding stream, the other lathering my body unconscious of the fleshy curves it traveled over.
How could I help but to develop an exposed wound? Ugly and open to the world, my countenance grew harder as I learned to turn my scalpel sharp humor against myself. If I made the fat girl jokes first, at least they were mine. I owned my disfigurement and profited from its exploitation. A freak at the circus, working her pain. “Why is a fat girl like a moped?” I would quip, “They’re both fun to ride and embarrassing to be seen with in public.” My audience snickered guiltily, unable to meet my eye.
So I have made my cliffs sheer and inaccessible. I have made my face like flint: flat, rocky, hard and unreadable.
3: a mark left (as in the skin) by the healing of injured tissue
It began early on, taking solace from meals. When I was five years old, my father left, suitcase in hand, and my romance with food began. My father phoned, my mother cried, and I ate. I stole bologna slices from the fridge and crept to the backyard to eat them. I demanded whipped cream on my cocoa with all the self-righteous indignation a six year old could muster and ran away from home, slipping through my bedroom window and taking off down the street, when it wasn’t given to me. Furtively, I whisked food off my little brothers plate after polishing mine clean.
The divorce was finalized by the time I was seven and so was my identity: fat-girl, gross, ugly, fatherless.
4: a mark left on a stem or branch by a fallen leaf or harvested fruit
That period of my life was characterized by loss. Besides my father, my innocence was stolen. An older girl introduced me to the pleasures to be had in women’s bodies and in pain. The old man leered and called me pretty, groping and begging for kisses. A teen-aged male babysitter could not restrain his hands around me.
I swore I’d never wear a dress again and I would never be beautiful. Fat girls are not beautiful. Food was my comfort, but fat was my armor.
5: a mark or indentation resulting from damage or wear
A gift arrived on my seventh birthday, a replacement father. My mother, brother and I moved in with Mike. Mike was present yes, but his presence was no comfort. His scalpel sharp tongue and fondness for whiskey ruled over my childhood. Mike had a way of rendering a child invisible; his eyes could look right through you at the television for hours on end. Minor infractions were enough to warrant days, weeks, or months of “groundation”. Grounded meant sentenced to your doorway or the stair landing. No talking, no sleeping, no laughing, no reading, no playing. Grounded meant you did not exist. The family did not see you, did not acknowledge you. The only reprieve was meal times. At meal times, you were allowed to creep out of your room, creep down from the landing, and sit at the table alone. Eating was something to do, something to break the monotony of hours of nothing. By refilling my plate again and again- seconds, thirds, fourths- I could draw out a meal and postpone my return to my room.
When he did see me, Mike was disgusted. There was nothing about me of any value. I was fat, I was lazy, I was clumsy. I would never hold down a job, I would never have a waist, and I would never be loved. Mike’s voice took over my inner thoughts. My jailer became a vengeful prophet, ruling my life and my mind.
6: a lasting moral or emotional injury
These scars have persisted, but they have not repaired. At 37 years old, I write through my tears. Thirty years of seeking healing in food have left me marked and numb, but not whole.
I am Tamar. I am the desolate woman. Feeding on ashes. Hands eternally trailing ashes.
Three decades of trading sorrow for meals is enough. Too much of my life has been wasted tending to wounds, building up protective covering, and disguising my disfigurements. Better pain than these scars.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
Isaiah 61:1-7 (NIV)