Disfigured Dating Disclosures

My cousin Tom has become an unofficial advisor to this blog, responding to my request to him about which on topic ideas would be interesting. With characteristic aplomb, he suggested I post on dating. As you might expect for someone in my situation, dating in cold weather months was always my preference if only because my legs were covered.

Seriously, I always felt some mixture of anxiety/trepidation/vulnerability about “disclosing” my potential defect of a leg and probably spent more time than I needed to thinking about the timing of if or when to say something. At a certain point, I had to realize that either my burned leg was controlling me or I was controlling it. Like so many other things in life, secrets are powerful because they can control you. The only way to be free of a burned leg is to essentially admit that it’s there. What I found is that usually after over-analyzing when/where/how to say something about it, when I did mention it, it was — ta da — a non-event. I think most people understand that nothing is perfect. As they say, that’s why pencils have erasers. Or as William Safire put it, “Only in grammar can you be more than perfect.”

If someone thought my burned leg was so god-awfully ugly they weren’t interested in me, it wasn’t mentioned. For those who were interested in me, it was something that came with the package. Telling a potential date about my leg eventually became a routine disclosure as in, “Hey, did I mention that I was in an accident as a kid?” or some variation of that line. No matter how you try to cover up a secret, it won’t won’t stay under wraps a long time. For me, it was better and easier to say something sooner rather than later. As my mother used to say, “You get used to hanging if you hang long enough.” In the same way, I got used to providing my disclosure. I would be interested though to hear from others what they thought when they first knew of my burned leg and how it may have affected them. Thoughts anyone?

When I met my husband many years ago, I will confess I liked the fact that he had a big ole gouge on his head from a surgery. Trust me, it was a conversation starter. To my way of thinking, it made him immediately interesting because I was sure he had a relatable story. And he did. It’s easy to develop a soft spot for physical imperfection in others when it is looming large in yourself.

Over the years, I’ve taken a number of classes from Sonia Choquette (www.soniachoquette.com) and one of the things she’s said that has always stayed with me is this: “The physical is the least interesting part of a person.” This is, of course a belief that develops over a lifetime. I wish I had that thought in my arsenal years ago.


  1. Physical defects are so much easier to handle than mental ones! And easier to see… I don’t remember the first time I saw your leg or when we discussed it. I do however remember once thinking how much it must have hurt and in the same moment thinking how gutsy you are to have gone through it without bitterness!


    1. Eva — I think your reaction is typical of others I’ve talked to. Most tell me they never thought of a burned leg when they thought of me and I agree. It wasn’t something that defined me. As time went on, I came to understand that the people bearing the burnt leg cross were my parents much more than me. They never talked about it and carried a burden. I actively told people who couldn’t help but stare at me — I felt uncomfortable for them but oddly not for me.


  2. Unofficial advisor, not a title that commands a lot of respect but I’ll take it. Your comments about your husband’s imperfection reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend many years ago over a beer. We were both less successful with dating then we would have liked, and both had the idea that one day we would find this beautiful woman that was being overlooked by the other guys because of a slight imperfection. For me it was a deformed hand, for my buddy it was a limp. In this day drream we saw ourselves as these broad minded guys able to look beyond this small imperfection and thus land this hot babe way out of our leauge. Probably speaks to our lack of self esteem but thought of it when you said you liked the fact your husband had a cosmetic inperfection. So if your husband is anything like my friend and I, you might be that perfect woman the others overlooked.


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