Wearing my heart on my sleeve
Wearing my heart on my sleeve
At A Glance Author Marchiafava Contact email@example.com Artist Me Studio Home
I stumbled onto this site accidentally, when looking for information on tattooing. I thought it was interesting (having had some experience in scarification), and I enjoyed some of the first-hand accounts. Then I realized that I should write in as well, giving yet another opinion on why we do what we do. First, a little background information is probably in order. I am eighteen, and have been experimenting with scarification for a couple of months. It started innocently enough, with me drawing designs on my hands and arms. The only problem? They washed off too quickly. There are tattoo's of course, but they're permanent, and I'm not ready for that. Then I noticed a red line down my arm I got from playing with my dog. It was slightly raised, but had been there for a couple of days. This was the first thing to spark my interest as a temporary alternative to tattooing. I had been going through a bout of depression (surprise) for a month or. . . four, and it ended with me in the bathroom one day, severely pissed off at the world, but more at myself. I grabbed a pair of scissors from the drawer (real smart) and cut a long line into my arm. To my surprise it started to bleed. This was the first time I had actually cut myself purposely. And I bled from it.
This is the part most people would have a problem with. I would like to think of them as the uptight Christian variety, but truth be told we are a very small minority. 'Why in God's name would you cut yourself?' is a question just about anyone would ask. I wondered what it was about it that intrigued me so much. It wasn't like getting drunk, or smoking; this was much more damaging to the body. I guess for me, it is about self-control: to be able to take a knife to your skin, and damn all consequences by slicing into yourself says a lot about yourself. Maybe it's saying 'you're insane' but I think it's more than that. How many people can do what we do? Physically cut themselves? I had tried before, when I was much younger, but like most people, the first initial pain made me stop before any blood was shed. I was afraid, afraid of the pain. But when I cut myself this time, I bled, and the funny thing was that it didn't hurt. It felt good. Not physically (I'm not into the pain that much), but spiritually. I had overcome a fear that most people can't. They might say it's not a matter of "can I?" but "why would I?". This was a question I asked myself as well. While I was pondering it, I stumbled onto a movie called "Fight Club". In it, Brad Pitt burns Edward Norton with Lye. Chemical burns are supposed to be the worst. Anyway, while it's burning Ed, Brad continues to talk to him, telling to focus on the pain, and that it was life. This, actually made sense to me. What is pain? An experience, just like hate, or lust, or love (the emotion that started it all). To feel the cut in my arm, was like feeling life: nothing feels so pure. It was a single emotion, amplified by itself. I took the scissors and cut another long cut into my arm, going through the other, in the shape of an "X". This was a couple of months ago, and the first one is still slightly visible, though I'm fairly confident that it will heal completely. Since then, I have made over 20 cuts, each healing within a week. At first, I was stupid, and made two more cuts (in another "X") on my other arm. This was about two weeks after my first cuts, and both of them are still fairly visible. This "X" was squarely on my left bicep, whereas the other "X", was on my right forearm. When I went to school, I got quite a few odd looks. I have always done good in school, and hang around with good kids, most of which are on the honor roll. I had always thought of them as open-minded, easy going kids, but this new-found activity of mine seemed to prove to me otherwise. Most didn't notice (The cut on my left arm was just about totally covered up by my shirt sleeve), but I did get a couple questions about it. I told stupid lies about wrestling with the dog, or helping my brother moving lumber, and crap like that, each person getting their own lie. No one seemed to believe me though, which was surprising: these are close friends, questioning the truth. I've never done anything like this before, so why would they assume I would purposely cut myself? Now granted, I did, but there lack of trust really hurt. Soon I started to get aggravated by their questions, wondering why they cared, and why they thought it was any of their business. I started moving my cuts higher up my arm, and I've learned to humorously change the subject when someone brings it up. Here's a tip for anyone out there who's in the same boat: the more humorous, and sarcastic your explanation, the more likely the person asking you about it will drop the subject. An example: when one of my friends asked how I got the cut on my arm, I replied "Huh? Oh, I started worshipping the devil over the weekend; Tomorrow I sacrifice a baby". That usually shuts them up, and following your standard rules for jokes, they aren't allowed to ask again (if they do, make up something even more outrageous). My cuts have become more and more elaborate, and more and more private. I have a feeling that my family just wouldn't understand. My mother is open-minded (so is my brother) but this goes beyond their comfort level. That's okay though; not everything we do has to be accepted and endorsed by everyone else. It's upsetting though, because now I have to make sure I have my upper-body always properly clothed, to hide my handiwork.
WHAT SHOULD I USE? Since the initial cuttings, my "instruments" have also changed. I now mainly use my Swiss army knife, making sure to wipe the blade clean before using. Usually I will run it under hot water as well, and use some soap on it, but the cuts I make are fairly shallow, so there isn't as large of a risk for infection.
WHAT CUTS HAVE YOU DONE? Aside from your occasional "X" or horizontal lines, I also carved a simple design across my chest, which looked like nonsensical block letters, and the occasional word. last week I had the word "why" cut into my chest, because it's the question I seem to come up with most, when pondering life. That and because it was shorter than "how come". That has completely healed though, leaving no trace. Which brings me to my favorite cut I have done so far: a small heart on my left peck (where you would usually put your hand if you were to pledge allegiance). I chose a heart, because I have always admired people who are honest and loving. The idea of "wearing you heart on your sleeve" has always appealed to me, but I thought the chest was a better place. It's relatively small, about the size of a quarter, but it turned out really well. I started with straight cuts, making it a blocky outline. Then, judging on which parts weren't bleeding, I filled in the curves by making repeated cuts over each other. The end result, was a very rounded, thick outline of a heart. I scratch it every once and awhile, which has rubbed away most of the scabs, leaving just the light outline of a heart, as though I was born with an odd birthmark. I am truly proud of it, and surprised by how well it turned out, but I haven't shown it to anyone; people just wouldn't understand. Besides, I like keeping it all to myself.
WHERE? In my experience, the body offers plenty of variety in scarification. The upper arms (biceps), seemed to cut the easiest, and bleed the most, with shallow scars lasting about a week or two. Forearms, seem to bleed less, but the scars last much longer (months sometimes), and are more visible to people. The chest, one of my favorites, is much tougher to cut, and rarely bleeds (when making the heart I had to repeatedly cut the same lines). Usually, when cutting on the chest, you have to wait a couple of hours just to see the lines, but they usually last a week or two. The stomach seems to be the hardest to cut, and barely bleeds. I attribute this to the involuntary flexing of muscles, but I haven't had a good enough cut to speculate on how long the scar would last. Thighs are much like biceps, and again are easily concealed.
BUT BLOOD MAKES ME QUEASY. . . I also had my fair share of experience with branding. It started out with putting out matches on my fingers and hands, but grew quickly from there. I found a little pin in my house of a star, with a small circle at each point, and a big circle in the middle. It also had a slight groove that ran around the edge of the star, creating a small border. I decided this would be a good object to test branding with. First, I heated it up with matches, and then pushed it against my right thigh. Unfortunately, it landed crooked, so some of the star was not visible. I heated it up again, and decided to try it on the left thigh. However, I pushed down WAY to hard on it, causing a severe burn, that spread out in a circular patter, completely covering up the star. Disappointed, I moved onto my right forearm. I heated the pin again, and pushed down lightly. Seconds later I took it off to look at the end product. Success! It was perfect, and all the little details were clearly visible. Much better than the horrible burn on my leg. Sadly, since then the burn is almost completely gone (this was done way before the scarification), though the burn mark on my thigh is still clearly visible. It doesn't seem to be infected though, and I think it should clear up completely. Other than occasionally putting a cigarette out on the palm of my hand, I have not experimented with burning anymore.
So, is this sort of physical abuse wrong? I no longer think so. The human body is a remarkable thing, able to heal very quickly, with no long term damage. No real harm comes from scarification, other than a few scars. And, as Brad Pitt said in the movie Fight Club, "I don't want to die without any scars". Scars show experience, that you've lived life to the fullest, and experienced a wide range of emotions and sensations. I don't know if I'll ever give myself a permanent scar, but I can say that I do really like my little heart, and plan on maintaining it for the time being.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 10 Jan. 2000