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DISCLAIMER: The following story may contain disturbing images. If you are offended by stork bites, Mongolian blue spots, strawberry marks, café au lait spots, congenital melanocytic nevi and/or port-wine stains, please proceed with caution.


Just above my left ankle sits a large, pinkish-red birthmark (or, as Wikipedia calls it, a “nevus flammeus”).

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It’s roughly around the same size as a deck of cards, thus making it a handy reference tool when dining out.  When the waiter arrives with my order, I simply spear the piece of meat with my fork and measure it against my leg, just so I don’t eat more than the recommended serving size.

This mark of mine is also a few degrees warmer than the rest of my body, which is why, I am told, mosquitoes flock to it every summer.

“Where’s Becky?” someone will ask, only to be directed to the enormous black cloud hovering in the distance.

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“See that swarm of insects up ahead? Just push your way through. You can’t miss her.”

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When I was young, my Mom said this birthmark meant I was unique. “God put it there because you’re special,” she said. “And he wanted everyone else to know it, too.”

It wasn’t until recently–while at her house for dinner one night–that she pointed to the special marking God gave me and said, “You know, they do have lasers now that’ll get rid of that thing.”

Growing up, this mark was my pride and joy. I wore it like a badge of honor, dressing only in mini-skirts and velour short-ensembles so that my classmates would have no other choice but to notice.

“What’s that stain on your leg?” They would ask.

“Oh, you mean this?” I’d say, casually glancing at the area  surrounded in pointed arrows and five-sided stars using a permanent jiffy marker.

“It’s just something God puts on all his favorite kids. No big deal, really.”

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It wasn’t until the sixth grade, when Katey Palmer–aka. the most loathsome girl in school–took notice, that I started to see this mark for what it really was: A giant, red, aesthetically-unpleasing blob.

“What the hell is that thing, anyway?”

It wasn’t so much what she said (though I admit the “hell” part did throw me off a little), but rather the way she said it, her facial expression being one of complete and utter pre-pubescent disgust.

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Katey Palmer

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“Er, It’s a burn,” I replied, wishing I had listened to my mother and worn pants on this, a minus thirty five degree day in mid-December.

That’s when I realized that just because God thought I was special, it didn’t mean everyone else did.

By the end of the day, the entire school believed that not only had I burnt myself on the stove top element, I also was the proud owner of an experimental prosthetic butt cheek, thanks to the seventeen skin grafts following the devastating accident.

Classmate:  So, why were you sitting cross-legged on the stove, anyway?

Me:  Er, how should I know? I was only a baby.

Classmate:  Oh. –Well, how come your Mom didn’t tell you before you sat down?

In order to draw attention away from my disfigurement, I began exaggerating the severity of whatever other conditions happened to fall upon me.

When I came down with the flu I told everyone I had a tapeworm. Strep throat became Mononucleosis. Bad mood? Early Menopause. Even if people didn’t ask what was wrong, still I would make up some ridiculous story, pointing to the rash on my face and saying I suffered from a life-threatening case of Rosacea, or, after missing two days of school thanks to an unforgiving bladder infection, telling everyone that I was having problems with my prostate again.

“It was a close call, but thankfully the Doctors were able to save it.”

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If it wasn't for this team of medical experts, my prostate wouldn't be here today.

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While I didn’t mind being known as the kid with Chlamydia, or Hepatitis’ A through Q, I did mind having visible defects, conditions not listed in the “Medical Encyclopedia of Extremely Infectious Diseases”.

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I mean it.

As I grew, my birthmark began to fade and the less mortified I was about its presence.

But still, that didn’t stop me from wearing a full length unitard to the beach every summer, or arguing with the clerk at the DMV when, after finally getting my driver’s license, I was refused a handicapped parking sticker.

“Why did you give him one, then?” I asked, pointing to the amputee dejectedly rolling his wheelchair out the door, brand-new issued permit in lap.

“It’s not like his condition is life threatening. The longer I spend outside, the more chance I have of catching the West Nile virus. If I die, bet your stupid sticker that you’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”

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*****

Shortly before my twenty-sixth birthday, I was vacationing in Mazatlan with my friend Lily when we walked by a small tattoo parlor, roughly two blocks away from our no-frills budget hotel.

“We should get matching tattoos,” Lily said, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this dilapidated hole-in-the-wall with the tin roof and missing front door had Hepatitis written all over it.

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Jose's Tattoo/Hepatitis Parlor

Naturally, I was leery. But seeing as it was only noon and we still had a few hours to kill before happy hour, I agreed.

After flipping through pages of various Day of the Dead skulls and Mexican gang symbols, we both settled on an inking of our astrological signs written in Hebrew.

Neither of us knew anything about the Hebrew language, or where Hebrew was, for that matter. But seeing as Lily was Asian and I was a Scottish/English/Hungarian medley, it only made sense for us to get our astrological signs written in Jewish script by shady looking Mexicans.

Lily wanted her tattoo to be placed on her left shoulder blade to cover a scar that, while invisible to the human eye, she believed was the only thing stopping her from leading a normal life.

“Do you see that?” she’d ask, whenever a guy would smile at her–something that because of her exotic features happened often, yet she only ever noticed when wearing a tank-top. “He was looking at me like I’m a Chinese Edward Scissorhands or something. What a prick. ”

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Just like this, only in asian female version.

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Not that I was in any position to judge. I wanted mine above my right ankle, thinking it would distract people from the eyesore on the left.

Rather than be known as the chick who may or may not be related to Mikhail Gorbachev, I would be the chick with the really cool Aries tattoo, written in that “Even Cooler” foreign language.

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I guess it would explain my ushanka fetish

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The non-English speaking tattoo artists took us to separate rooms and got to work.

Once the painful inking process was over they bandaged us up, then took our pesos and pushed us out the door before we had a chance to check out their handiwork.

It wasn’t until we got back to our hotel that we understood why.

Sadly, they were nothing like how we imagined they would be. While Lily’s tattoo looked like a four-year old had taken a jiffy marker to her back, at least it wasn’t legible.

After removing my bandage, I walked over to the full-length mirror.

“Who’s Jason?” Lily asked.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Permanently inked on my leg, in what looked like some type of fancy handwriting font, was the unmistakable name of some guy.

.

..

*Update- I have just been informed that the writing is Arabic, not Hebrew. Now, some of you are probably wondering how I could spend so many years oblivious to this fact. Well, rest assured that it has nothing to do with my borderline genius IQ (obviously). It’s only because I don’t actually know anyone who can read Arabic. Or Hebrew, for that matter.
Also, I can’t help it if I trust too much.
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Comments

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  1. February 9, 2011

    If I wore underwear I would have had to change it after finishing that–in a good way.

    Please post any additional imperfections. Because, truth be told, Denny finds them….perfect.

    • February 10, 2011

      Don’t worry, Den(ude). I only ever imagine you changing your underwear in a good way.

  2. elizabeth3hersh #
    February 9, 2011

    Bschooled!! I have one of those too! And it’s on my left leg!! How about that? Mine is on the front of the leg though and much smaller…still, we have something else in common! These things tend to fade with the passage of time (a lot of time). Somehow, I discovered a similar birthmark on the back of my head about ten years ago. I panicked and thought I had some horrific disease. I ran to the dermatologist and simply was not convinced that it was a mere birthmark. I was insistent that something was terribly wrong. He called in his two other partners and all three stared at the back of my head and came to the same (previous) conclusion….a benign birthmark. Several months ago, I noticed my oldest daughter has one, too, on the back of her head. I always found it curious that my mother never mentioned it. Although my dark blond daughter was born with a headful of black hair, I was born nearly bald and it must have been visible. The moral of the story? A birthmark is sometimes just a birthmark.

    P.S. The script looks more Arabic than Hebrew which would be a good thing if you were ever held captive by jihadists.

    • February 10, 2011

      HA! I knew it!

      I read somewhere that birthmarks are hereditary, that it’s common for the mother and child to have one in the same area. I actually have a few birthmarks, which I find odd since nobody else in my family has them. I guess it makes up for the fact that I’m the only one who doesn’t need glasses.

      I’m glad you said something about it being Arabic. But now I’m worried about what will happen if I ever do end up being held captive. If these Mexicans were wrong about the language, I can’t imagine them being correct that it was, in fact, my astrological sign.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a racial slur against Jihadists.

  3. February 9, 2011

    I want to laugh and to cry. That’s hilarious. I bet it makes an awesome convo starter. With or without Jason, I’m sure men think you’re beautiful. Now just date a guy named Jason and it’ll be kismet.

    This is one of your best ones yet!

    • February 10, 2011

      Thanks Lisa.

      I actually did date a Jason once, mostly because I felt like I had no other choice.

      We lasted a couple of months before I realized that laser surgery would be much less painful than continuing the relationship.

  4. February 9, 2011

    OMG! I was laughing so hard reading this. I too have a birth mark. It is a dark brown blotch about the size of my fist right above my buttocks. I learned to have people to stop asking questions and to leave me alone about it is to respond once they ask “EWW what is that?!” by (in a very nonchalant way) “It’s my shit stain.” (sorry for swearing on your blog, I hope you do not mind)

    Great story I am so glad I had read it :D

    • February 11, 2011

      Ha! Yes, I love how nonchalant people can be.

      I remember seeing another kid who had a birthmark covering half of his face, once. I felt so bad for him. It took everything in my power not to run up and show him my leg, just so he would know he wasn’t alone. I’m glad I didn’t, it would have been like someone coming up to me and saying they could feel my pain, then showing me a freckle under their arm pit.

      Thanks for the comment, TOT.

      ps. Don’t worry, I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I have an expletive-friendly blog. But that’s probably because without them I would only have a dozen or so words in my vocabulary.

  5. February 9, 2011

    lol! Well, it’s destiny, isn’t it? You will end up with a Jason. :) (or you can make up a really tragic story of the Jason who perished and who loved your unique birthmark so much you had to commemorate his memory of a special place he loved)

    I have a small birthmark on the front of my left leg. And until I read this, I’d forgotten all about it. I might have to honor it a little more now – seeing as your Mom said God put it there because I’m special :)

  6. Bearman #
    February 9, 2011

    I think there was some dude who woke up the next day in a drunken stupor wondering who the heck Becky is.

    That is Arabic and not Hebrew. It means “lady doesn’t even know what the he’ll this says”

    I had a birthmark on the right side of my chest about 3 inches below my nipple. It is a brown discoloration that isn’t raised or anything but I always called it m third nipple.

    • February 9, 2011

      We are slowly building an image of what you look like Bearman :)

      • February 11, 2011

        I’m almost scared to ask where his fourth nipple is…

    • February 11, 2011

      Ha! I love how you clarified that it isn’t raised. Did you call it that because that’s what the doctors called it?

      I hope my tattoo doesn’t say that. If I had a tattoo that said “lady doesn’t even know what the he’ll this says,” not only would I not understand it in Arabic, I also wouldn’t understand the English translation. Because, well, what the hell’s a he’ll?

  7. February 9, 2011

    Silly me, at first glance it looks like “Jew” :(

    • February 11, 2011

      Jew, Joaan, Jasji…as long as I end up marrying a guy with one of these names, I’m covered.

  8. February 9, 2011

    I had a birth defect when I was born. The wife said she would overlook it as long as I payee all the bills, did what I was told and father enough kids so I could never afford to leave her. But that is another story.

    I hate it when mothers and fathers lay to their kids to make them feel better.
    Like Katey Palmer mother told her when she was pregnant with her, she was raped by a tire pump and the Doctors have yet to find a way to let the air out of her little baby. So remember sweetheart you’re just bloated and not fat.

    I had a friend (will now two you and him) that got a tattoo to cover up something. I ask him what it was and when he went to show me I declined. So I told him “just tell me” anywho it turned out he said to be one that changes depending on the mood he’s in. Sometimes it’s an eagle and others it’s a fly. I took his word.

    So I leave room for other bloggers to post replies I’ll break it down
    Good Post
    Cute mark
    Nice leg
    Fat ex classmate
    Bad tattoo

    • February 9, 2011

      Sorry I forget to tell you I have a friend that like to remove tattoos from people after his is through I’m sure you can get one of them handicapped parking sticker.

      • February 13, 2011

        HE removes tattoos? Your friend isn’t Hannibal Lector, is he?

  9. February 9, 2011

    Actually, your birthmark looks like an island. You ought to have tattoos of little palm trees and iguanas put on it. And maybe one of David Hasselhoff in his swimming trunks.

    • February 13, 2011

      Wow. In three sentences you managed to turn my unsightly blob into vision of beauty and wonderment.

      You must kick ass at Rorschach Ink Blot tests.

  10. February 10, 2011

    I want to see a photo of you rocking one of those velour short ensembles

  11. February 10, 2011

    Oh wow! My dodgy tattoo says “and the Argonauts”. How weird is that?

    • February 13, 2011

      HA! That’s so weird!!

      Because it’s true.

  12. February 10, 2011

    This is my favorite post that you’ve ever written B. I love you more than ever; as your friend, your partner and as your doppelganger especially. It was amazing to finally sneak an insightful little peak into your character as well as onto your flesh.

    I’m thinking of getting a tattoo of your exact nevus flammeus just above my left ankle just so I can be in solidarity with you. Because I’m cool like that and because your birthmark is just the kind badass freaky that I can get down with. So to speak. I’ll also use it while I’m dining. Only instead of portion size (since I eat more than you) I can use it to show how well done I prefer my steak. Or my salmon.

    And I used to lie for no reason about what was wrong with me as well. I still do, sometimes.

    Best. Post. FUCKING EVER!

    • February 13, 2011

      Thank-you, Scott.

      Even just your saying that you would get the same tattoo that I have is enough for me.

      Just kidding. I’m really going to need you to get it.

      Oh, and if were going to be partnergangers (I’m trying to come up with the “next big portmanteau”) I’ll also need you to stop ordering salmon. While I do understand the health benefits of this iron and omega-3 enriched delicacy, for some reason the smell automatically triggers my gag reflex.

      Or, should I say, Gaflex.

      ps. I think we should go into the portmanteau business. It’s seasy! (aka. so easy)

  13. Amie #
    February 10, 2011

    Oh it’s not that bad…Kids can be so cruel…I have a red heart birthmark next to my bagina coarse I didn’t show it at school…okay maybe once but then your labled

    • February 13, 2011

      HAHA!

      Do you mean like a “Backseat Becky” kind of label?

      (If so, I have no idea what you’re talking about.)

  14. February 10, 2011

    Ah. Jason strikes again. Everybody just calls him “Hepatitis J” and marvels at his fluency of whatever the hell language that is. (I think it’s actually just botched cursive. Pronouncing it fluently is even harder than writing it.)

    I don’t have any birthmarks and therefore will be sitting outside with the uncool kids without distinguishing features. We’re not much too look at but we do get away with an awful lot of armed robbery. We’re mostly average height with average complexions and have impressive degrees in socioeconomics or accounting. We still get invited to lots of events and no one really notices if we do or don’t attend. Sometimes it throws off the catering order which plays hell with the vegans. All in all, it’s an existence.

    Glad to see you’re back in business and more heavily-marked than ever! Welcome back!

    • February 14, 2011

      Thanks CLT,

      But really, you have no idea how much I wish that I was more like you growing up. Being a nondescript accountant gives you a certain amount of freedom, to fade into the woodwork to the point where even you forget that you exist.

      Okay, maybe that’s not such a great thing. But at least you don’t have to worry about STDs.

      Had I not been cursed with such a visually repulsive discoloration (that’s what my friends call it–all in good fun, of course!), I might not have ended up out on the streets, strung out on crack and selling my body for enough money to get laser surgery.

      Oh, who am I kidding.

  15. February 11, 2011

    You know you could have showed us your anomaly the other day…what gives? If I were you I would have Voorhees tattooed on the other ankle.

    BTW, that’s not a birthmark on Gorbachev’s head, it’s a tattoo of the Philippines.

    Funny shit B.

  16. February 11, 2011

    This reminds me of a fish in my parents’ pond that was all white except for an orange cap on its head. We called it “Gorbie.”

    I wish I had accidentally gotten a tattoo in Arabic. It would really piss off my Jewish mom.

    • February 14, 2011

      Haha!

      I swear, every time I saw the real “Gorbie” (which wasn’t very often, seeing as he didn’t frequent any of the Saturday morning cartoon channels) I was convinced that I was Russian. I even asked for a ushanka for Christmas one year.

  17. February 12, 2011

    I suggest you tattoo the “god says you’re perfect marking” with all those arrows and stars just like your picture above indicates. It would be magical. And it would give Jason a new best friend. You’re my hero.

    • February 17, 2011

      Hahaha!

      Forget about my leg, I’m going to get a t-shirt that says “God says I’m Perfect.” How magical would that be!
      Because it will have a unicorn on it.
      And it will be made of undissolvable cotton candy.

      See? I haven’t even gotten it yet and already it’s working its magic! I’ve never even used the word undissolvable before!

  18. February 12, 2011

    ….LOL..oh my where to begin. K, i am not one to laugh at birthmarks or scars or anything like that. But going from birthmark to claymidia..oh my….JASON in arabic on your ankle….hahahaahahahahh…sorry trying not too smile. ”Hey babe what is that tattoo on your ankle…who is jason”….”Oh i didnt mean to get that..i gotta real toasted in mexico one night and got a tattoo in arabic to distract from my birthmark, see look right here” “wait you have a birthmark,,how did happen and why the name Jason and why in arabic, nevermind wheres the scotch”….i imagine thats the conversation heehehh your too much…I will tell Jason you said hey..zman sends

    • February 17, 2011

      Trust me Z, you don’t want to know the conversations I’ve had about it. I didn’t realize how many people actually look at your ankle. The worst is when someone from your past sees it and then goes and tells your asshole narcissistic ex-boyfriend, who just so happens to be named Jason.

      Or, so I heard.

  19. February 12, 2011

    Welcome back B! Hope you had a wonderful vacation. You must have done because this post was hilarious. You had me at prosthetic buttock. :D

    But I gotta say, shit, Katey Palmer didn’t put out for me until well after our second divorce. I think that there was something really wrong with her. Maybe you frightened her with your deformity. So I don’t know where she got that t-shirt. Or why she’s wearing it. And I dont’ remember that skirt either. Whatever, I drank a LOT back in those days when you kids were, uh, kids.

    First glance I thought that tattoo read “CLAW”. My advice: socks. One sock anyway. After some wasted Google minutes I failed to turn up the reference volume from which you might have chosen your Aries tat design. Perhaps the tattoo ‘artist’ was dyslexic. You know, life gave him melons? Poor guy. He was probably drunker than you and your Asian friend. What a great mix, alcohol and tattoos. There are lasers for that you know.

    • February 17, 2011

      Ha! Good idea about the sock, David. I thought about just wearing two tensor bandages, but then I remembered how my friends and I used to make fun of another friend, who somehow managed to sprain both of her ankles every weekend.

      Then again, considering that she was six feet tall her feet were the size of a toddler’s, I guess it wouldn’t take much.

      • February 18, 2011

        Yeah, the bandages would just make people feel sad for you. Whereas the true tattoo story would make them envious of your bravado.

  20. February 12, 2011

    BTW I like the new header. What the hell is that on that lady’s head sitting next to the sexy computer?

    I can’t admit how much time I just wasted trying to ID that adorable piece of hardware. FAIL.

    What I really wanted to ask, B, is this. Do you really put hot sauce on everything? I ask because that is my habit. Scroll to the bottom of this post.

    • February 17, 2011

      OMG, what is that? Oatmeal? Does that make it edible? Because I’ve been trying forever to find something to make oatmeal not taste so oatmeal-y.

      Please, I need to know. I won’t be able to sleep until I do.

      • February 18, 2011

        Oh oops, I put a link right to the photo, not the post. Sorry. Not that the post explained anything. But I asked you 2 questions and you answered with 1. What the heck?

        It IS oatmeal, with yogurt, banana, and Sriracha hot sauce. I have a really dorky breakfast routine on weekdays. Oatmeal + flax meal + banana + yogurt. Sometimes + hot sauce.

  21. February 12, 2011

    Cried and then died, I did. I am writing this from the beyond. Thank you for killing me with laughter.

    • February 17, 2011

      OMG…Will!

      Does this mean you’re also writing blog posts from beyond? Because if so, I’m converting to your religion.

  22. February 14, 2011

    If I change my name to Jason, will you tell people you got the tattoo because of your hot, burning love for me?

    If you agree, I will also get a tattoo that looks like it may say “Jason.” But, I guess then, you’d have to change your name too.

    • February 18, 2011

      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, E. I was at the tattoo shop trying to convince the artist to change my tattoo to “Elizabeth”. When you said that you were willing to get a Jason tattoo just for me, I realized it was the least I could do.

      Sadly, it looks like we may have to compromise. Would you be willing to change your name to Jasibeth?

      (Let me know, I have a tentative appointment booked for Tuesday.)

  23. February 15, 2011

    My youngest has a similar mark on his arm.. always looked like I hadn’t quite managed to get all the dirt off him!

  24. February 20, 2011

    Kind of looks like it says “Jew.” Are you sure you weren’t in Brazil, not Mexico, being tattooed by a hiding Nazi? You could break this case wide open.

    • February 22, 2011

      Hmm…good point. I was drunk most of the time.

      All I know is I was in a country where the men think that “Hola” means “Please cram your tongue down my throat”.

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