When I was a little kid, I got in trouble quite often for staring at people. I was raised in the South, and my people all have a thing about manners. Apparently, it’s bad manners to stare at someone. It’s my opinion, and it always has been, that when someone tattoos their face and stretches holes in their ears big enough to fit uncut grapefruits into, they kind of want you to stare at them. This argument never got me very far with my sainted mother, who wouldn’t hesitate to bop me in the back of the head when I got that fixed, glassy-eyed “stare” look on my face.
“Wendy Lynn! You quit staring at that man, you hear me? That’s not nice!”
(Side note: there’s a rule in the “Southern Mother Handbook” that clearly states every command you give your children be followed up with, “You hear me?” If it’s not answered with a quick and definitive “Yes ma’am,” the rule goes on to state it’s perfectly within your rights to repeat and punctuate each word in the phrase with a smack, i.e. “Do?” smack “You?” smack “Hear?” smack “Me?” smack!)
“But Momma, he’s wearing a dress. That man has a dress on.”
Here’s where six-year-old me points and immediately gets my pointy finger slapped off.
“BE-have! He’s just different, that’s all. It’s not nice to stare or point at people. You know better than that.”
Fast-forward 40 years to present day me, who knows better than to stare, but can’t help it for more reasons than just being curious. I don’t really notice people with tattooed faces or giant, Dumbo ears anymore (there’s a whole lot of them out there), and I’ve seen more than one man in a dress strolling around the truck stops. Nope, freaks don’t catch my attention much, but my Nurse Wendy mode kicks in every time I see a good scar, and I can’t help but look at the disfigurement long enough to make a guess as to what caused it. I tell myself it’s medical research, but I know deep inside it’s just plain nosiness.
I’ve seen some fantastic scars at truck stops. I saw a guy in Oklahoma with a line that started at the crown of his head and trailed down behind his right ear and diappeared into his collar. There’s no telling where it ended, and I didn’t ask, because I prefer to lurk behind people and stare at their scars, like a normal human being. Nurse mode told me it was a surgical scar, because it was precise and well formed, but six-year-old me imagined his right side was cleaved off by an evil space worm and glued back together with magical elf glue. (And no, I have not been licking frogs again.)
Scars represent change. They represent a life-altering event, and sometimes they’re not all bad. I have a terrible scar on my hand, but that scar is the reason I have the opportunity to ride around the country and write about it for a living. I make fun of my scar and I don’t mind if people ask me about it, because I will lie and tell them it’s a shark bite.
I’ve found that other people who have scars usually don’t mind talking about them, not that I’ve run up to a bunch of people to ask them about it, but every once in a while I can’t help myself and have to ask. If you’re polite and respectful, people will usually talk to you about pretty much anything, but do yourself a favor and if you’re with my Mom, don’t stare. You hear me?