And by scars, I'm talking inside damage. I'm talking heartbreak and sadness and disappointment.
At this point, you could probably walk down any big city alley, find yourself a dead pigeon and call it my heart. You could pick it up by the tail feathers and toss it in the air, and then slam it hard with the baseball bat in your hands. And whatever kind of pigeon blood goop mess you end up making, you could go ahead and call that my heart.
I've been battered, hit hard by my years. I've been poisoned by all the goodbyes floating under my bridge. I've been pounded against the filthy walls of dying romance and I've been stuck hard by the quick, flashing shanks of heartbreak and pain.
And yet, despite all that, despite my years in the dungeons of love (or maybe even because of it), I'm still standing, people. So I know the value of a scar or three.
Nothing can outshine a pretty face on the surface — and that's the problem. Toned bodies, tight asses, yoga arms, six-packs that look like an alien has been busy building a godd*mn railroad behind your belly — these are the things that so many of us peasants in the house of love have been dealing with for the last decade or so.
Beauty isn't even beautiful anymore. It's dirty smut. It used to be that a person's eyes could make us weep. If we saw a certain stranger's imperfect face in the right kind of light, in some kind of Parisian twilight, or even some dusky Cleveland afternoon glow, we fell head over heels. Falling in love was easier in years gone by. People weren't so fussy; we weren't knocked off-course by the physical so much.
Then again, what do I know?
It's quite possible I'm submitting an idealized notion at best. Maybe I hanker for a time when falling in love was easier for everyone. Maybe I dream of a day when just being 'good enough' was better than being perfect in the eyes of a potential mate.
And maybe that's never how things were at all. Perhaps love has always been tricky, and maybe searching for Mr. or Mrs. Right has always been a wild crap shoot riddled with personal taste and need.
Maybe I'm (gulp) old-fashioned? Lord have mercy on my soul. I can't fight it anymore. It is what it is. I've seen the abs. I've looked in the mirror and damn near cried. And through it all I've wondered, again and again, if I'm even good enough for anyone. And then I punched myself in the face and woke the hell up.
Scars are better than smiles. We all ought to pull back now and then to remember that. And by scars, I'm talking inside damage. I'm talking heartbreak and sadness and disappointment and loss.
My life hasn't been easy. I mean, in comparison to a lot of other people's lives, it has, but when I look back on my four plus decades so far, I can scoop up any number of three or four years at a time and show you long stretches where things were really hard. Most people can do that, I suspect. Most of us could lay out our own tales of deep human suffering in some form or another without having to think it over much.
As I get older, I'm coming to terms about what's really attractive in another person. I'm not saying that a stunning body isn't a turn-on, because c'mon, it always is. But there's got to be more than that if we want true love, no?
The way I see it, time starts running out on us long before we realize it. So many of us — whether we're in a relationship we end up taking for granted or we're out there going it alone, waiting for the right one — we fail to respect the value of scars. We turn up our noses at experienced souls and battle-worn minds because we know they can be difficult to understand.
Scarred-up people have been through pain and it would be a damn lie if I left out the fact that sometimes they're impossible to connect with. Hell, I ought to know; I'm all kinds of messed up.
But beneath all that I still believe I'm a legendary heart. I have to believe that. And in that light, I have to believe that me being in love with someone who brings a lot of their own scars and demons is kind of perfect in all of its trillion imperfect ways.
Maybe I'm a whacked-out glutton for punishment, huh? Or maybe I'm just a romantic at heart. Or maybe, just maybe, the two are one and the same, and somewhere along the line we all sort of forgot that about love.
So, what then? Are you supposed to go out on the town and hunt yourself down a person with "scars"? Nah, I guess not. That would probably never work; they might find your ass hacked-up and tossed in the marsh out by the airport.
However, if you DO find yourself attracted to someone for all the textbook reasons — drawn in by their smile, seduced by their wit, their laugh, the kindness, the way they look at you on the Sunday morning pillows — try and keep an open mind. There may be way more than you bargained for up in that pretty little head.
You might find yourself, slowly but surely, falling hard for a person because of where they come from or what they've been through, rather than just what they look like, bank accounts, university degrees, job titles, or whatever.
I'm no one. I'm a fool at best and no kind of guru ever did the things I do. Still, I'm a true believer when it comes to true love, for better or for worse. And I suspect there's a real and special kind of love available to people who love people who are kind of hard to love.
Call me crazy, but I think the best thing that could ever happen to any of us is that we fall for someone with emotional damage or someone haunted by big parts of this life they've been through, and we end up sticking it out, even though it can be so obscenely difficult a lot of the time.
Truth be told, when "scars" find one another and stick things out, I figure they're among the luckiest people alive.