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Pink Elephants

April 22, 2009

Walking through the world with a glaring black eye is an interesting social experiment, to say the least. It’s kind of like walking around with a huge, neon ZIT in the middle of your forehead, except a hundred times worse. There’s just so much that a black eye seems to signal about you:

 

I’m abused.

I’m frightened.

I’m alone.

I don’t love myself.

I don’t know any other way.

I’m afraid to leave.

 

When I woke up this morning, I wished for nothing more than the ability to stay home, stay inside and keep the doors and windows closed to the outside world. I didn’t want to face people with this stigma on my face that shouted this internal monologue out as loudly as if it were spoken for the population to hear—especially since of course, it was incorrect. I couldn’t stay home, of course, couldn’t stay hidden from the world. I had things that wouldn’t stop for a Technicolor shiner—dropping the kids off at school, a final fitting on a bridesmaid’s dress, running packages to the post office, going to the grocery store, picking the kids up from school, taking them out for ice cream, and dropping Autumn off at tumbling.

 

My internal monologue went a little more like this:

 

No, my husband didn’t hit me. You notice that this is my right eye? He’s right-handed…

Dude! Don’t look at me like that! It’s a sports injury!

Jeez, lady…if you want to know, just ask…

Ummm…may I help you?

It’s just a black eye.

Kinda purty, isn’t it?

 

I found myself wishing I could just wear a placard that explained I was not the hapless victim of spousal abuse, but rather the slightly battered victim of the volleyball court. I felt sorry for my in absentia husband, who could quite honestly care less what opinions strangers were forming about him—his skin is a lot thicker than mine, I guess. I was finally, quite simply, appalled at the ability of people to turn an all-seeing yet all-blind eye to the black eye, and pretend that it simply did not exist.

 

These are people that I see, for the most part, day in and day out. Parents of my children’s friends at school, the post-office clerk, the grocery store cashier that see me on a regular basis. The reaction was similar all-around. Normal greetings, eye contact, smiles that slipped, but were quickly caught and frozen—it wouldn’t do, I guess, to act as though anything were wrong—and a quickly wrapped transaction or conversation. Not a single “oh, my goodness! What happened?!” or hint of recognition that there was that pink elephant in the room. (I mean seriously—it’s not like you didn’t notice it.)

 

I understand courtesy, of course. If someone has a scar or a limp or something of the nature, let’s not draw attention to it and embarrass them. But for heaven’s sake…can we act like we care? This day raised every protective instinct I have. It made me think: how must women who are actually abused feel in the same situation? When they are shown no concern for the bruises that cloak their faces, it shuts them up in a room where all they feel is shame, frustration, and helplessness. They are pink elephants in that room, topics of whispered conversations hastily shut down when they approach, subjects of poorly concealed pity that vouchsafes no form of actual impetus.

 

I know that I’m thankful this bruise is a temporary scarring, and not one that will crop up over and over again, to be dealt with in shame and silence.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2009 10:18 pm

    Human beings are certainly interesting, aren’t we? I can’t believe no one asked you what happened. I had a black eye waaaaaay back in high school and finally started wearing sunglasses so people would stop asking me what happened.

    You bring up many good points in this post. Thanks for making me think.

  2. April 22, 2009 10:47 pm

    I would probably have told them all about getting the black eye by rescuing those old people from that nursing home fire…that geriatric woman just couldn’t help but accidentally elbow me as I carried her through the flames…

  3. April 23, 2009 2:50 am

    I had a shiner like that 7 years ago, from our pit bull who was a puppy at the time. I bent down as he jumped up. I know the uncomfortable tension that instantly materializes when they see the bruise.

    My one son, about 20 at the time, said I should let a little drool come out of the side of my mouth and dangle an arm at my side as I walk w/ a limp so I would get help carrying the groceries to the car. Some help he was!

    I would usually bring it up, saying my puppy’s head was harder than my face. I felt I had to let others know I wasn’t abused.

    Hope it heals fast. Is it pretty tender? (grimacing face)

    HUG

  4. April 23, 2009 10:49 am

    Oh goodness…I can relate. I farm and usually have my fair share of bruises, bumps, etc. The shiners are especially “lovely”; it’s odd how people will tiptoe around a shiner…like it’s not there even though you catch them sneaking glances. Is there so much abuse people look the other way? Please God, surely not!

  5. hintonrae permalink*
    April 23, 2009 12:48 pm

    I can always count on my blogging friends for some good stories, chuckles, and perspective. I thought, teachin4th, about merely laughing and saying “you should see the other guy…you know, Kembo?” but figured most women wouldn’t know who I was referring to. And I’m glad to know that I’m not the only clutz, Cee, Gerb, and Sandra, who winds up with suspicious bumps, bruises, and shiners. Gerb, you reminded me of the fact that had I still been teaching my high school kids, their reaction would have been fiercely opposite. Most high school kids are so open…so unfiltered. They wouldn’t have hesitated before swarming the desk…”OMG! What happened to you?! Who BEAT YOU UP?” The entire school would have been surreptitiously texted with various versions of the story within five minutes, and the whole thing would have made the school paper, undoubtedly.

    It also reminded me of Lawson and his need to tell everyone in Mrs. Green’s class The Story. When I went in to pick him up yesterday, one of his friends caught my attention, and then, in a loud stage whisper in the quiet classroom, said, “So. How was the volleyball game?” It tickled me. I love kids.

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