I spent all of last week walking around with a black eye and a chipped tooth.  After a perfectly lovely New Year’s eve celebration, I proceeded to slip in my in-laws’ tub the morning we were to depart for Boston.  This meant that I began 2015 at the hospital, rushed home to pack and then proceeded to board a flight for Logan.  My first thought was, damn I better change this “ju-ju” which is basically a nickname for fate/luck/karma.

Now, you would think that the painful part would be in the emergency room.  No, no that was perfectly routine, especially when the resident was our age and I felt like I was being treated by my friend S, or Dr. B.  The pain begins much later when your face starts to swell and takes on fifty shades of purple.  In spite of your condition, you still need to go the grocery store, attend orientation for your new position and face everyone at your child’s preschool.  I even went to a PTA meeting where the director of the centre was gracious enough to say “and no, her husband did not do that to her face.”  She is the classiest person I know, because seeing as my son attends daycare at a private school, this was going to be hardest crowd.

At least in most of these situations you can tell your story.  You can explain the state you’re in and how truly, the year can only get better.  For the strangers you’ll never meet, you don’t get this luxury but just their stares.  After I reached a certain age my first strategy is to not care.  I’ve written many a blog post playing around with this concept and I still believe that it’s the fastest track to freedom.  But there is a difference between trying not to care and actually not caring.  When someone looks at you with such incredible pity and then with disgust at your partner you want to ask them if they kindly have something to share.

The most important lesson I gained from this whole experience, more than the proper way to step into a tub, or not letting the haters get you down, is being reflexive about all the times I look.  Because no matter how politically liberal I strive to be I still look at the woman with the religious garb or the man with the piercings when they board the bus.  In my mind I start wondering about their story.  But here’s the thing.  Till you sit down with them and have a meaningful conversation about their personal history, you don’t know their story and your gaze is empty and useless.  If this has reigned in my judgmental ways even a little, well that is a gift.

It’s been over a week and the bruises are mostly faded and the tooth has been fixed.  When this is all under the rug and I no longer have to explain myself, it will be such a relief.  But here’s the thing, I’m lucky enough to not live with violence.  I am blessed to have a respectful partner but for even those in more complicated situations than mine, I can guarantee you one thing: they are far from weak.  Some things take time to sort through but it’s probably not made easier with pity or those thoughts that you could never say to their face.



2 thoughts on “Shiner

  1. Nice post, Ei Phyu. Remember in 2005? You were with me when I broke both my front teeth? Well, I’ve just wrapped up a two year process of getting an implant, which involved two bouts of two weeks each walking around town, hosting public engagement events and going to work every day minus one front tooth…the first took me until 2 days before being a bridesmaid in a wedding. It was a humbling experience; I made a lot of jokes about why I didn’t have a front tooth and it took a lot of energy to reflect those stares you talk about. I was relieved when I got my ‘falsie’ that I wore for 18 months. I also noticed all the other people around me who were missing teeth – there are a lot of people! – and found myself smiling at them with eyes that said “we’re in the same club!”. All of that to say that I got over myself pretty quickly – I didn’t wear the false tooth at home, I took it out to eat at work and with friends and the hole in my grill became something I was comfortable with.

    Appearances aren’t everything and I often now wonder the stories behind the faces I see on the street.

    • Sorry for the late reply but yes I remember that night and actually was telling A about it while we were waiting in Triage. It’s crazy how much we care when we should just brush it off. But if everyone cut each other a bit of slack maybe it would be a bit easier for all. Love you!

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