• Fri, May 27 2011

Outer Beauty: My Deceased Twin Left A Mark On Me

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.

Share This Post:
  • Meghan Keane

    I really enjoyed this essay. Thanks for sharing Christine!

  • Eileen

    That’s actually really cool.

  • Kelly

    I’m with you, Eileen. If I had a badass scar on my arm I’d wear sleeveless tops all the time. And you don’t have to explain it to anybody – just say it’s a scar. If they ask what it’s about, tell them you don’t want to talk about it. You get to stay cool and mysterious and also don’t have to go through the awkward explanation.

  • Amanda Chatel

    I really loved this.

  • Rebecca

    I think your scar sounds amazing and beautiful. Regarding this quote: “It’s such a strange feeling when you realize you are different from everyone else. ”

    One thing I’ve learned more recently is that it seems most people have something that makes them feel “different” from everyone else…something that makes them feel like they’re not quite part of the tribe, or marked in a certain way.

    For me, that thing would be my brother’s suicide. He died when I was 10, and it’s an invisible wound I’ve carried since. It has marked me for 20 years. But it seems I meet people every day who carry a similar (or completely dissimilar) mark and feel just as ostracized. It makes me feel a little more normal.

  • Christine Michelle

    thank you so much everyone! i really means a lot to see such positive reactions to it.

    i’ve always thought about getting a huge tattoo near it so i had to show it off. i’m a huge coward though but a girl can dream right?

  • Olive

    People may ask, but you needn’t tell them anything. Or make up a silly story. An old football injury from World War 2. Perhaps from when you ran away to be with the circus that year and were fired from the cannon but they miscalculated a bit so you were only able to hook the net with your arm and you got burns from the nylon. Or you were visiting the zoo one day when the walrus began making a strange barking noise and he obviously couldn’t breathe. The trainer tried to reach his/her arm down the the throat but was too big and you were the only child around. After quickly getting your parent’s permission you reached down and plucked out the offending fish, but the walrus spasmed and clamped down giving you a bite that was aggravated by the bacteria in the walrus intestinal tract. Actually, pretty near to a real story except they needed the tallest man in Japan to volunteer. In any case, you needn’t tell the same story twice, enjoy it. Humor defuses a lot. Incidentally, you are entitled to however you feel about it and you needn’t make other people feel better about it if you choose to share the story. If you told me, I would say that I was sorry for your loss and I might ask if the scar was a mixed blessing- both a reminder of your loss, but nature’s method of honoring your loss, akin to a tattoo. But what is most important, is that you are comfortable, both literally and metaphorically, in your own skin. Cheers!

  • Anko

    Thanks for sharing…It’s 2 am and I was hooked by your story…I’m going to make a painting out of it