For twenty-one years I have sported an odd looking scar on my right arm, halfway between my elbow and my shoulder. It’s an indentation that goes around its entire circumference. When people see it, they often ask if I had a rubber band on my arm for too long. What? Who does that?
In actuality, I am a twin. When my sister and I were growing inside of my mother she wound herself around my arm with her umbilical cord and stayed that way for the majority of the nine months, so my arm virtually grew around it. It’s definitely not common, and I have dealt with colossal self-confidence issues because of it.
When I am forced to explain my scar, people always look extremely confused, because I am no longer a twin. My sister died three months after we were born and left me the burden of telling what could be a funny story. Instead, I end each tale with a fast paced mumble, “and then she died.” I quickly bounce back with a lot of fumbled, “its no big deal’s” and “I don’t remember anyway.”
In elementary school, at field day, we would go swimming in a lake and I had to wear a bathing suit. That was the first time I can really remember my peers looking at me like I was a circus freak and accusing me of wearing a rubber band. They were six, so I’ll excuse their stupidity.
It’s such a strange feeling when you realize you are different from everyone else. You immediately feel like all eyes are on you. I felt like I was excluded from some elite club when I watched everyone look at each other and then at me and then run into the water. I’ve felt this numerous times since.
Before I was old enough to pick out my own clothes my mother always dressed me in sleeveless shirts and dresses in the summertime, like I was some normal kid. I constantly saw people noticing at my arm and it butchered my self-esteem. At swim lessons and dance recitals I always saw parents and kids looking at me. I had become my scar.
When I got older I refused to wear anything that showed it off. My own mother hasn’t seen it in years. She caught a glimpse of it at my junior prom (I wore a shawl to cover it) and commented on how much better it looked. As I grew and gained muscle it did get slightly less defined, but it is still very much there.
I have dealt with exhaustive therapy to try to learn to accept my imperfection, but it is a slow process. I often get sick to my stomach when I think about how much I have let this physical flaw define me. There are people out there with real handicaps and I am embarrassed by a mark on my arm. I can hide it. It didn’t affect my health. My arm could have needed amputation if it was worse. I am so lucky.
The intimacy issues I face are also becoming easier to get over. It still takes me a long time to grow comfortable enough with a person to reveal it. Some of my best friends have never seen it or heard the story. Even taking the time to write this essay has helped me accept it.
I’ve learned that without the scar I would have no memory of my sister. It has become a physical representation of her. We are connected for the rest of my life. Unless my parents were lying. Maybe it really was a rubber band.