Recently, a woman who was traveling ran into a surprising problem: A little kid was scared of her face.
The woman explained that she had recently had an accident that resulted in “significant facial scarring,” and on the recommendation of her doctor, was leaving the area uncovered:
“I sustained very bad injuries to my face this month. I’m in the stage of healing when the scar tissue has formed, but it’s still very tender ‘new skin’. I’m going to have very obvious facial scarring for the rest of my life. The injury starts about an inch above my hairline, goes down over my brow so that on part, hair will not grow. It continues down my cheek where it is deepest; I’ll always probably have an indentation in the fullest part of my cheek. Then it continues to my jawline.
“In some ways it’s OK. I’m happy it’s just cosmetic damage.”
However, the woman didn’t really think that anyone else would have much to say about her facial scarring. Or if they did, they’d at least keep it to themselves … right?
She went on to say that she was flying to be home for a family event, but she wasn’t really looking forward to it.
“This week, I had to fly home for a family thing; it was a plan I’d made long before my injury. I wasn’t really looking forward to the pity or people making a big deal of it; I’d rather it not be acknowledged.”
Her doctor had ordered her to avoid dressing the wound so the skin could heal.
“I’d also met with my dermatologist who said that I was at the stage of scar tissue formation that I no longer should be dressing the wounds; the skin was healing and instead I needed to be applying topical cream and Vaseline to keep the site clean and moist.
“It also looks a bit ugly; the building scar tissue is very red and tender, and with the Vaseline over it, looks slick and shiny.”
So she’s on the plane, getting set up with her headphones before taking off, and then she takes a nap. She wakes up and realizes that the kid next to her is upset.
“So I get on this flight; I have the window seat and I put on my headphones and drift off to sleep when the plane is still boarding.
“I wake up to this kid, maybe 4 years old, sat next to me, throwing a tantrum. I didn’t catch the first part of it and I honestly couldn’t understand what he was yelling about…
“His father said to me, ‘Can you cover that injury?'”
She tried being patient, at first.
“I said that my dermatologist recommends I don’t, so no I don’t think I will.”
Apparently, this wasn’t enough for the dad. He got angry.
“He started snapping at me saying ‘there is no need to be so rude. That injury is graphic and it’s scaring my little one.’
“I said ‘this is my face. The only [expletive] face I’ve got. It sucks being told I’m so ugly I can’t show my [expletive] face in public.'”
It seems like the dad suddenly felt bad. Maybe he hadn’t really thought about what he was saying, but it was too little, too late.
“He started to backtrack saying ‘just until it’s healed’ and I said ‘it’ll always be with me. Maybe teach some [expletive] compassion and respect instead of telling a girl half your [expletive] age what you think about her face. That’s rude.'”
And to be honest, her point is pretty fair. It’s not up to any of us to offer any kind of commentary on what someone else looks like, and even then we should only do so when asked directly. It seems like the dad decided that he and his child would just move to another seat.
“He actually got up after that and I think went to a stewardess about a seat change because a young couple came to sit next to me on a few minutes instead. I’ve gotta admit I felt so low that I put on my sunglasses and had a quiet cry for a few minutes.”
The woman who has the scar was so upset, she went to Reddit to find out if others think she should have behaved any differently. After posting her question, she was hit with an avalanche of responses assuring her that she behaved in a totally acceptable manner.
One commenter said, “People that are that heartless shouldn’t be allowed in public. Jfc. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
Another added: “That father is teaching his son a horrible message, that looks are everything. I’m so sorry you had to go through this.”
Another commenter followed up: “Agreed. This dad could have made this a great teaching moment. He instead chose to make it a how to be an [expletive] moment. Good for you for standing up for yourself.”
Another noted that the dad was really, really overhyping the situation and blaming the victim:
“The whole ‘that injury is very graphic’ complaint has me baffled. He’s acting like she was wearing a Halloween mask or watching an R-rated film. He—does realise that OP [the original poster] didn’t choose to have a severe facial injury to frighten children in public. Right?”
Several commenters really emphasized that this could have been a valuable teaching moment for the kid:
“This would have been a great time to teach the kid that sometimes people get hurt on their face and it changes how they look, and point out how OP is still very much beautiful with her eyes, hair, whatever… and if the kid remains curious or scared maybe when OP woke up, ask her to talk with them and the kid can ask how she got the injury (if she’s ok talking about it), if it hurts or if she thinks it’s scary etc. Normalize this for the child. Teach them it’s not something you need to be scared of or shy away from, but a very normal everyday thing for some people. Talking with OP would also reiterate that she’s not a monster but a person, and make the child less scared.”
Another person added that this is hardly the first, or last, time the child will encounter a difference in someone else:
“Came here to say this. Throughout that kid’s life, he is going to see all kinds of people with scars, skin conditions, deformities, amputations, etc. and it is not those people’s job to cover up their bodies for not being aesthetically pleasing enough. It is 100% a parent’s job to teach their child that these people are not scary and how to be polite towards them.”
And this is a really important point. Our children are citizens of the world like anyone else, and they’re going to encounter all kinds of people. There are a lot of great, gentle ways to talk about differences with your children, and they’re truly never too young to begin to have those conversations.