Scars Are Tattoos with Better Stories

By Mollie Smith Waters

Header imageTattoo Artist Greg James

I collect magnets. I have a wall in my house that has a magnetic board where I display them. Most of the magnets are from places I’ve visited, and over the years, I have purchased or had sent to me magnets from six of the seven continents. Some of my magnets simply have slogans, and one of my favorite states, “Scars are tattoos with better stories.” I do not have, nor have I ever had a desire for, any tattoos. Instead, I have multiple scars. For me, my scars are a symbol of honor, a badge if you will, of a life well-lived.

For me, my scars are a symbol of honor, a badge if you will, of a life well-lived.

My first, and biggest, scar is on the inside of my right wrist. Unless I hold my hand up and angle it just right (or show it to someone), it’s not really a scar most people notice. I got that scar when I was five years old. Everyone who knows me will tell you that I’m truly one of the clumsiest and most accident-prone people you will ever meet. I can walk across a room and fall down without provocation. The big scar on my wrist comes from a fall. I got it during spring break of my kindergarten year in school. My great-grandmother used to collect glass Coca-Cola bottles that she would return for the five cents deposit. She would sit them on the steps leading down from her back door until she got enough to return them. One day during my break, it rained, and that night, there was a freeze. The result was that one of the bottles broke, and a jagged piece protruded from it. The next morning, I walked down the steps of my great-grandmother’s back door, promptly fell, went head over heels, and felt a tear as my wrist slipped right under that jagged piece of glass. The cut was so deep that my main artery was shaved. Every time my heart beat, blood would spurt everywhere. I was lucky, though. My step-father and grandmother rushed me to the emergency room, where I received fifty-five stitches and had a week-long stay in the hospital. After that trip, my daddy would never ride anywhere with my grandmother again; I don’t remember the journey, but apparently, he never forgot it! That scar doesn’t remind me of the fall or nearly dying; it doesn’t remind me of pain or the hospital. Instead, that scar always makes me think about my family, who in a moment of panic, did everything they could to save my life.

1. Vintage coke

Another scar of mine is hidden in my hair on top of my head. I got it during spring break three years after the first one. I was playing hide-and-seek with some friends. I had hidden under our trailer, and the girl who was “it” snuck up unawares. I jumped from the surprise, and managed to crack my head open on a piece of jagged metal in the process. I put my hand to my head, and when I pulled it away, I had blood everywhere. When I went in to show my mother, she panicked and managed to lock us out of the house in the rush to get to the hospital. We had to walk to the doctor’s office. Luckily, I only needed three stitches. That scar always makes me laugh when I think about it. I could never play a game of hide-and-seek again without looking up first. Plus, the scar reminds me of how my dad always joked that the incident was what resulted in my not being “quite right in the head.”

The third scar that proves to me that scars are better than tattoos is the one on my lower abdomen. That scar is from the C-section that saved both my life and my son’s. I had a difficult pregnancy, and without going into too much detail, we were both on the verge of death when my nurse realized how dangerous our situation was. I was put under anesthesia during the panic that ensued, and when I woke up, I didn’t know if my son had survived or not. Of all my scars, that is the one of which I am the most proud. It’s a testament to motherhood and a reminder that my greatest accomplishment in life is my son.

While I have other scars with great stories, too, the final one I’ll mention here is the most recent one I’ve acquired. This scar is on the outside of my right wrist. That poor wrist has caught trouble over the years! I got this scar because I needed to release pressure on my tendon due to excessive grading. I’m a teacher, and while my condition is more commonly referred to as “gamer’s wrist,” you can get it from writing too much as well. I’m oddly proud of that scar. It’s the most visible, and the ugliest one, but I feel like I won it in the hard fought battle of educating the many students I have taught over the years. My life would not be complete without my profession. I believe in what I do for a living, and teaching has blessed me with some of the greatest moments of my life.

2.grading papers cropped

So, yes, I’m pretty scarred up, but I like each one. To me, they are much more beautiful than any tattoo I could have ever gotten. I have nothing against tattoos; I just think scars tell more about you than tattoos ever can. Scars show you’ve lived.

*Mollie Smith Waters, a frequent contributor to Porchscene, teaches composition, literature, theater, and speech at Lurleen B Wallace Community College in Greenville, Alabama.



 Coke bottles image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to

Tattoo image is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to Greg James (tattoo artist) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  

Grading papers image: Deborah Fagan Carpenter





2 thoughts on “Scars Are Tattoos with Better Stories

  1. Love this!! As a grade school teacher in the 70’s, I asked one of my groups to write their “autobiography” based on a scar or scars of their own choosing (or creation, in case none available, too personal etc). We all had fun!

  2. Thank you Mollie! This one touches home for me!

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