I started to put my thoughts down for Wicked Flaws because I have lived my entire life with my flaw (Or, the one most prominent to me, I should say.) My flaw is not something I discovered, something that happened slowly, or something that I became. I came into this world exactly like this. I have never known life any differently. I was born with a Sacrococcygeal Teratoma, an extremely rare birth defect affecting around 1 in every 40,000 births every year in the US. (That’s 0.0025%……If this were the lottery I’d be floating on a giant raft in my pool shaped like a mermaid shell right now.) The teratoma (tumor) begins to grow in the tailbone of the unborn baby. The SCT will take over more and more of their little body and blood source until they die, or are born by emergency cesarean when they are just old enough to breath. By the time I was born, the day before Halloween, 1990, my SCT was the size of a grapefruit, and my parents had been counseled for the worst. But I had a heck of a team going to bat for me: the head of pediatric surgery, countless doctors, and the greatest technology the turn of the 90’s had to offer. So with many up all nights, monitors beeping all day, sticks and pricks and one wicked huge scar, I was able to leave St. Louis Children’s Hospital far earlier than expected. I may have left without a tailbone or my tiny little right butt cheek, but I did get to take a few things, like two ecstatic parents, and a name settled on by both of them. “Colette” is a French name, it means “Victorious Warrior.” My battle was not over, but I had a name that would give me strength. I like my name, which is good because as you can guess, I was one of those kids who NEVER found their name on a gift shop mug or pencil.
No, my battle was far from over. Kids can be awful. So can teenagers. And even adults. Growing up is hard, and going through the world as somebody who is different has made me see the worst in people sometimes. The taunting was hurtful and mean when I was younger, but it became truly vicious as I reached that awful middle school and high school age, when all that seems to matter in the world is if your crush likes you back, or if your parents will lift your grounding this weekend so you can go to that hockey game. I had AMAZING parents. If there is one truly invaluable thing I have been given in this life, it’s them. I was reminded constantly at home that it is your choice everyday to be a victim or a victor. There was no room for self pity in our household. My father would remind me of the babies in the hospital nursery who were not as lucky as I. My parents somehow both lovingly wiped tears and pulled me up by my bootstraps, something I can only hope to master as a parent.
Luckily back then we didn’t have social media bombarding us with all the perfect bodies of the world every time we look at our phones. But that didn’t stop me from longingly thumbing through Marie Claire, knowing I’d never look like Christie Brinkly in her one piece. (But honestly, will any of us?! That girl’s got it goin on.) My mama was a master at helping me shop for clothes that did a good job disguising my missing cheek. When I made the high school dance team I was terrified of our tight, shiny uniforms, so Mama, the amazing seamstress she was, created a prosthetic cheek for me out of a piece of foam and a pair of dance lollipops (briefs kind of like underwear that go under a dance or cheerleading uniform.) This far precedes the butt-enhancing garments that would come out years later, someone totally stole her idea!
Swimwear was always a terrifying, vulnerable concept, but luckily the late 90’s and early 2,000’s bore a remarkable amount of swim skirts (not entirely sure it’s a bad thing that those went out of fashion…..). For much of my life, I tried desperately to hide my scar, and with it, my insecurities. But people talk, they always have and they always will. People knew. A birthday party of little girls at a pool ran around pointing at me chanting “EWW” over and over as I cried and begged them to stop. High school boys laughed and talked about it in a very audible whisper. “HALF ASS” was written across the back window of my car in the high school parking lot, which was as hard to remove from my car as it was my crushed confidence. Ex-boyfriends, and even my best friend, turned my weakness on me before all was said and done, and that betrayal of trust hurts in a way I can’t even describe, you have to just feel it to know it. But it was just that, a weakness. And I decided a weakness can only harbor energy when you allow it to hurt you. So I stopped hiding.
I had learned the hard way you cannot change the cards the world has dealt you, you just have to play them the best you can. You can’t ask for a new hand because the person next to you got a better one. I stopped trying to hide how different I was. In this era that glorifies perfect bootys, I stopped trying to hide my very imperfect one. I laughed at myself at football games, saying “Someone better give me their blanket, or I’m gonna sit lopsided all night on these bleachers!” I wore bikinis without skirts (I know, the swim skirt was SUCH a good era, too…..). I banged on friends doors in the dead of the cold Purdue winters yelling “Open the door! I’m freezing my half ass off out here and I don’t have much more I can stand to lose!” I surrounded myself with people who loved me exactly as I was.
I can’t tell you, however, that everyone was supportive and wonderful and threw roses and glitter on me everywhere I went. There were still mean comments. There were still guys who were turned off. I still got comments like “weird” “gross” and “eew.” But the difference was, it legitimately didn’t bother me anymore. Because honey, I can hide my missing butt cheek if I wanted, but you can’t hide your ugly personality. I can’t change the body I was given. There was a time I really wanted to, but I’ve outgrown those days. This body got me where I am today, exactly as she is. That in itself is pretty wicked. I’ll leave you tonight with the words of one of my favorite literary characters. Because if anyone can inspire us to embrace our Wicked Flaws, it’s Tyrion Lannister.
“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”