The Shock Value of Not Having a Belly Button

13734661664_df7cf67578_oA recent post on Man Repeller declares that belly buttons are the new nipples on the scale of shock-worthy body embellishments to reveal in public (see: the omnipresent fungus that is the crop top). While that may be the case for your average woman, it was laughable to me, because guess what? I don’t really have a belly button, and well, I think that kicks your run of the mill belly buttons ass.

Though I’d like to credit the scar on my stomach to extraterrestrial roots or a shark attack, neither would be the truth. Insteaddrum rollI almost died when I was born and went through a surgery/large jumble of letters called an omphalocele.  Not being very medically astute, I will just describe it as follows: my insides were on the outside. So, yeah, shit was pretty messy. Telling my parents I could be in the hospital for up to two years (if I survived), the doctors went to town on my tummy, slicing it down the center and putting everything in its proper place. I ended up being in the hospital for a mere two weeks. Unfortunately (or so I felt for many years), the surgery still did some necessary damage to the good olinnie-or-outie situation. In its place, I now have a proverbial battle wound—a scar about as long as the space between my thumb and pointer finger, that is a subtly different texture (and darker in tone) than the rest of my softer belly.

I’m sure you can imagine that this was a fucking ball to grow up with—because young girls don’t come pre-packaged with enough insecurity. No, it was as awful at times as you might imagine. There was the time someone wrote that I was an alien on the boy’s bathroom wall, causing me to cry through a best friend’s birthday party and force my older brother to venture into that literal shit-hole and sharpie the hell out of it. And don’t get me started on going to our pool club—where I had to decide between the utter un-coolness of one-piece swimsuits and the reality that, when in a bikini, many people would gawk and/or initiate a round of twenty questions based solely on my mid-section.

I was convinced for a long time that this dark mark of mine—and one lacking any clout-by-association from Voldemort—rendered me worthless to the opposite sex, if not simply worthless altogether. I was a freak, I believed, set from birth to be eternally unsexy and untouchable. Sure, it was superficial, I knew that—but I couldn’t seem to control that simply thinking about it during my younger years would often make me physically ill. I was the textbook definition of ashamed, drowning in equal parts self-pity and fear.

But then, miraculously—to my smaller self, at least—nobody really cared. Boys and men liked me anyways. In fact, I’ve never been with anybody who hasn’t blatantly kissed my scar (whether it be a one-night stand or a long-term love). Sure, self-worth shouldn’t be based on what men (or whatever genders we’re attracted to) think, but I don’t really buy that it doesn’t affect us all at times. I’m not ashamed to admit that the thoughts of others have of course affected me throughout my life, and that the warm reactions to what I had convinced myself was disgusting were a huge impetus for me seeing my scar in a kinder light.

This scar is hugely symbolic of who I am as a person—a fighter since birth, as my parents joke (sometimes begrudgingly if during an argument). During the inevitable rough patches of life, all I have to do is look down and remember that I’ve survived a whole lot worse—not simply a near-death surgery, but a deeply entrenched insecurity that I thought I’d never get over. And there’s an added bonus: I’ve always felt that the scar helps weed out the good people from the bad, their reactions to it usually saying so much more about them and their values than they do about me.

Today I am happy with my scar—I’ve learned to revel in its rarity. I still feel a little anxious when revealing it to someone new, but it passes, it does not paralyze. It’s who I am, I figure, and if a mark on my body, one that saved my life, is something you can’t wrap your head around, then you can take that little head of yours elsewhere.

As for shock value as it rests on the belly, you can just put those basic BB’s back under your tee shirt. For once in this sphere, I proudly win.

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