Lucy Beall Lott discusses accepting her scars and the various reactions they invoke in others. Through looking at her time spent studying in London and comparing it to growing up in Texas, Lucy paints a thoughtful portrait on how different cultures can affect body perception. She tackles the topic of "the perfect body" with wit and introspection, and we hope you find her words as poignant as we did.
I was in in a pub in a royal mews of Chelsea when an older man, surely many pints in at that point, turned to me and didn’t attempt to hide the shock on his face. “My god dear, were you in a terrible accident?” he asked, voice laced with concern and drunken amusement. I had worn a short dress, and the scars of my childhood were on full display, the red splashed across my knees, although I had stopped noticing them myself a long time ago.
My friends gasped and quickly accosted him. I was surprised too, yes, but not for the same reason. I had just completed my second semester studying in London, and that was the first time anyone had commented on my scars since December. That time had been an abysmal date shortly after my eighteenth birthday, who remarked when I shed my jacket, “You didn’t tell me there was something wrong with you.”
There’s not, and that’s something I had spent most of my teenage years in the United States reminding myself. A miscommunication in protein cells was in no way my fault. I had fought my way through over ten surgeries, countless wounds, and my scars are what I have to show for it. And I’m lucky; not everyone can display their strength on their bodies like awards. Those two instances in London stood out to me so much because they were the only two I had experienced in a year of living there- back home in Texas, I’ve lost count. Why do some people not view my scars as I do?
My first semester I thought it could be down to the fact that I lived in a city full of other people who had more important things to do than ask a girl walking down the street what happened to her knees. But as I continued to split my life between two different cultures I’ve come to realize the distinction is deeper than the aloofness of city-dwellers. It has more to do with how our cultures react to something outside their preset confines of a “normal” body, or what we think an average body is.
I’ll admit, happily, that my body isn’t average. But I am by no means ashamed of it. The difference was the clearest to me when my American roommate in London insisted I put my illness in my tinder profile because “they had a right to know”, though my British friends never even asked, nor did the guys I ended up dating. They didn’t feel as though they had a right to my body.
It’s not as if everyone in America feels they have a right to my body. But the media in the states is drastically different than in the United Kingdom. We see billboards of the Kardashians and plastic surgery urging us to fix any imperfections; even in a town of eight thousand in Texas, where cows out populate people. It's so ingrained in our minds that whenever we see something that isn’t smooth, tucked or plumped, we ask why not? What have you done to become this way? Where do we place that blame? A woman in New Mexico once said I was lucky “my face was spared”; well, what if it wasn’t? Would I be worth less as a person? Would my experience as an art historian and writer be discounted? Moving away from that shame-based way of thinking has shown me the faults in how we view one another.
After we had sat down for awhile in the pub, the man came over, visibly upset, and asked for my forgiveness. He informed me the only reason he had mentioned it to begin with was because he himself had severe eczema, and though his wording was horrific, he thought I may have had something similar. There is unity in the differences we have, and that’s wonderful. I hope that soon others may start to think so as well.