The underside of a horseshoe crab is so vulnerable. Turn one over and all the segmented legs grab at the air. Thin plates cover its gills. Two short pincers flank the tiny mouth. On the outer dorsal side, the crab is well-armored, but the underside is unprotected by the shell.
As a girl spending summers at the New Jersey shore, I felt that my undersides–in particular, my scar–were exposed to all even though no one could see my belly. The straps of my bathing suit loosened when they got too wet or when I jumped too roughly in the waves, so I was constantly retying them. What if the straps came undone and the top part of the suit fell to my waist? I would suddenly be exposed, my scar available to public scrutiny. Thankfully my problem was solved when a new style of suit came into vogue.
As a seven-year-old, my new black bathing suit, what was called a tank suit, was my armor, my shell. The stretchy material was of a whole piece; the straps would not suddenly come undone! It was more like a leotard. I could make any move and the suit remained faithful. An added bonus was that the suit had three white buttons, large like a clown’s, which sat just over the scar on my belly. This placement was somehow comforting. The buttons connected me to my scar in a fun, secret kind of way. I felt powerful. The clue was right out there, but only I knew what was under those buttons! The tank suit kept my secret. We were collaborators. I loved how I looked and felt in that suit!
Everything we wear at the beach seems wonderful to me now, but how extra-special was this black bathing suit to a young horseshoe crab!
What would I have given at that age to be a girl (yes!) so that I could enjoy the sun, sand and sea as you did. Have you kept that little black treasure?
But also: How different we all are. A colleague of my teacher-wife once wore to the school swimming carnival a swimsuit of a cut that revealed a surgical scar.
And somewhere I once read, “by the time i hit grade nine i not only had a surface piercing in my scar, but had also cut a scar-shaped hole in a tank top the better to display it. hurrah for living, and for surgeons.”
Gosh, yes. Each of us is so particular when it comes to how we respond to a scar. There are so many factors that play into our feelings about it. Fascinating. We have a lot to learn from one another.
Hmm….like the Horseshoe Crab, I am relieved that your young self was able to hide/protect your weakness by attempting a certain action.
Even though they may have such a crippling weakness, they continue to exist. Similar to what I read above, you did they very same.
Yes, thanks for noticing that. Horseshoe crabs taught me how to survive, in a way.
How did the horseshoe crab teach you how to survive? In what way?
Well, they were kind of ugly but beautiful, too. That’s the way I thought of myself. They looked like tanks, armored, protected. I was, too. They were vulnerable like me. If one got turned over on its back, its underbelly was exposed–its legs and mouth and gills. I would flip the crabs over if I found them upside-down and would toss them back in the river if I found them stranded on the beach. I also had an belly issue; I felt very afraid for anyone to see my tummy with its big scar. So I was always trying to protect myself, probably unnecessarily. To know the whole story, you’re going to have to read my memoir when it gets published, The Autobiography of a Sea Creature:)
I feel you should not pay so much attention to how people would interpret your scar. i think a scar is something put on our body to remind us of an event in our life that we should only learn from. in your case i think your scar made you more aware of your personal image and gave you the inner personality you have now.
Yes, a lovely way to look at it.