Written on the Body

There’s no doubt that the tattoo is having a renaissance.

I used to have one or two friends, male and female, with the odd Thai symbol on their hips, ankles or across their backs, always covered up for the office and only exposed at work dos or on holiday.

Now, in a post-World Cup world, everyone’s boasting a sleeve or two and maybe even a Cheryl Cole full butt. (I wouldn’t know…)

One of the great things about the Tatt Renaissance is that they’re no longer taboo in the workplace, particularly in the media industry. Creative types are wearing them with pride because they instantly say something about who they are. (And I for one, find them really sexy.)

I’ve never had a tatt but I’ve started to think about having one. Where once I thought it would have to be in a hidden place, I’m now thinking it could be on show, as an expression of who I am.

Then I realised that I’ve already got one, an identity marker, written on my body. Not an appendix or C-section scar, no childhood dogbite or school jab on my arm. It’s actually a burn on the side of my wrist. It’s quite big, and white, made even more obvious by the very slight tan I acquire in the summer (I’m Welsh – give me a break).

People have tried to get me to get rid of it by using various creams and potions but I resisted for some reason. You see, it’s the scar from a huge blister I got one night.

From a hot-water bottle.


I’d moved out of the warm marital bed in February 2010 into a cold spare-room one. I’d made a hot-water bottle and hugged it for warmth in bed. Even though it was busy giving me a third-degree burn overnight, I was so exhausted it didn’t wake me up. When I did wake up, the blister was the size of an egg.


Then came the urging of friends for me to use Bio Oil to get rid of the scar – it’s the lotion women use to get rid of pregnancy stretch marks. Nope, I said, almost rather proud of my war wound. And to be honest, it has become something of a badge of honour.

I see people staring at it and if they ask me how I got it I tell them. Because for me it signifies at moment where I took the leap into the unknown, out of a warm bed of coupledom into the cold sheets of singlehood. And even though the warmth I desperately clung to hurt me at first, it’s part of what defines me. (Interestingly one of the first bits of human warmth I did cling to hurt me very badly. So you see, it’s symbolic.)

Now I smile when I see my hot-water bottle scar in the mirror. It’s on the same arm as my birthmark, which nestles weirdly below my little-finger nail. In Tudor times I’d have been burned as a witch: I’m left-handed, have a birthmark on my left little finger, weirdly foreshortened third fingers on both hands and no discernible knuckles on said fingers.

I know, right?

When I was at school I was really self-conscious about my hands and I endured a tiny bit of bullying about them. But one day, a teacher (Mr Dowling) overheard the teasing and told the assembled group of taunting kids that all of that just made me more special. They stopped the taunting immediately.

Thanks Mr D.

Ok so I have often felt I had to explain to manicurists what’s going on there but they seem to mind less than I do. In fact, they seem surprised when I start pointing out all my deformities as they push back my cuticles. They must have seen hands in a lot worse state than mine. They just want to ask me if I’m going on holiday.

Now I quite like my hands and their quirky details. And the scar that accompanies them is just another talking point and a memory jolt to remind myself where this phase of my life began. I never worry about it or try to heal or hide it. It’s just what it is.



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Fifty-five-year-old woman flying solo since 2010. Freelance writer, editor, hiker, traveller, yoga teacher. Alcohol-, child-, and hair-dye-free.

3 thoughts on “Written on the Body”

  1. Wear your battle scars with pride, I say. I have two enormous tattoos, one of a dragonfly on my right shoulder and one of a hoplite on my left calf. I got the dragonfly, a Native American symbol of regeneration, when I kicked diabetes. The hoplite is on my left calf because, having been fat most of my life, my calves were overdeveloped and people used to make fun of them if I went out in shorts. I used to wear long trousers to hide them even in the middle of blistering summers in Malta. When I started venturing into the gym, professional bodybuilders started coming up to me and saying, ‘wish I had your calves, mate,’ and I realised there are always two sides to the coin. I also have stretchmarks on my arms from when I used to be fat. A reminder not to let myself go there again.

    Liked by 1 person

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