Tina Fey, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael K. Williams, and I have something in common. We all have very prominent scars on our faces. Although we may share that physical similarity, we also share the same outlook on dealing with a facial scar: lie about it.
Now, I don’t know for sure that they are lying, but as a fellow “scarface,” I’ve gotta admit their stories sound suspect. Joaquin Phoenix says that he was born with the scar on his upper lip. Tina Fey kept the origins of her facial scar under wraps for years, finally telling the story of being attacked by a man behind her childhood house. And then there’s Michael K. Williams. (To be perfectly frank, his scar terrifies me.) Michael claims he got the scalp-to-throat scar (via the middle of his face) while trying to break up a bar fight between his friends and a gang when he was cut with a razor blade.
I didn’t always tell the truth about how I got the scars on my face either. It’s not that I was embarrassed about how I got them, I just didn’t think the true story was awe-inspiring enough to merit an audience. My favorite incarnation of the “scar story” went something like this:
“Hey, how’d you get that scar on your face?” – Tactless Stranger.
“You mean the one on my chin?” – I retort.
“Yeah. What happened?”
“Ever since I was a kid I’ve been a camper, so every year I volunteer to go camping with the Boy Scouts. A few years ago, I lead Troop 314, the “special needs troop” into the Sespe Wilderness for a weekend camping trip. You know, whittling wood and shit. Anyway, one of the campers threw his dinner scraps into the bushes rather than the garbage bag, so guess what happened?”
“What?” (I know, brilliant answer, right? Just bear with me.)
“A bear attacked our camp. I woke up in the middle of the night to the screams from a tent of campers. I jumped up, unzipped my tent, and found a GIANT bear sniffing the tent full of boys. I shouted at it and flashed my flashlight on it, pointing it straight into the beast’s eyes.”
“I don’t fucking know that! The bear stood up, 9 feet tall on its back legs, towering over the tent of preteens. I sprinted toward the tent and immediately started unzipping it, trying to get the kids out. The bear dropped back onto all fours when I finally got the flap open. They were going to need help to get to safety, so I climbed in and picked up Davie, a camper, when the bear slashed at the movement in the tent… me.”
“Yes. The first sharp paw was so quick, it knocked me onto my back. One of the other Boy Scouts pulled Davie to safety but I was pinned under the fabric of the tent with the bear slicing, poking and prodding at me. In the end, I needed 43 stitches in my face: the long cut on my chin, the one at the side of my mouth, one on my upper lip, and perhaps the most horrifying, a half-inch cut centimeters from my jugular vein on the left side of my throat. I also needed stitches in my stomach.”
That’s a pretty good one, huh?
Of course, that’s not how it really happened. The real story isn’t inherently dramatic, but I’m going to give it my best shot. What do I have to hide? We’re talking about a scar on my face.
I was seven years old and playing “Tag” at the neighbors house. I was “it” and I was chasing an older neighbor, Jeremy, around the outside deck. They had a Living Room that was completely encased in large pane glass windows, with a sliding glass door to the patio.
When we encountered the glass room, Jeremy stayed on the deck but I decided I would try to outsmart him and run through the Living Room and catch him on the backside of the house. So I ducked my head down and ran as fast as I could into what I believed was an open sliding door. I smashed the glass, breaking the large pane with my head and face. I bent over as I came to a stop, halfway through the window, causing a broken shard to penetrate my stomach. When I backed out slowly, this piece of glass broke off in my stomach.
The neighbors came running to my aid with towels while someone ran over to get my Dad. Once in the car, he was so concerned with me that we “got lost” on the way to the hospital.
I was rushed into the ICU and all I really remember is lying on my back on the gurney with my face taped together waiting for the plastic surgeon to arrive. My Dad kept me conscious by counting the rings and loops holding up the curtains around my bed. Soon enough the doctor arrived, stitched me back together with blue stitches, and sent me home. We ate pizza that night. Mine was cut into tiny triangles just big enough to squeeze through my swollen, stitched-up face.
A few months later, once my face had healed and my stitches had come out, my dad talked to me about my scar. He asked if I was comfortable with it or if I wanted to get it “sanded down.” I could feel the raw flesh still raised off my skin, but even at a young age, I knew it wouldn’t be that way forever.
“No. I wanna keep it.”
So I did. I kept my scars. I’m PROUD of my scars. “Chicks dig scars.” Getting rid of them would be denying what was (up to that point) the most trying incident of my life. They make me unique. Besides, sometimes my skin is so tan that you can hardly even see them!
Thinking about it now, lying about how I got these scars is metaphorically sanding them off. Why would I keep something I am going to lie about? It doesn’t make sense.
So I’m done.
I ran through a glass door. I needed 43 stitches in my face and 8 in my stomach. So my next question is… am I gonna get a movie role outta this? I seriously doubt it.