What A World

What A World: Face Value

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When is a bruise not a bruise?

By Nancy Ford

NancyFord at deskEven now, I’m not entirely sure how it happened.

One morning last month I awoke with a bruise. And this wasn’t one of those little knock-your-arm-on-the-bookshelf bruises that can be easily explained away or hidden by long sleeves.

No, this big ol’ purple blotch was right in the middle of my chin. Impossible to avoid.

WTF? I wondered aloud after catching a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, not bothering to censor my outburst with initials.

When vigorous scrubbing did nothing to remove the silver-dollar-sized mark except make it more prominent, I did a quick mental review of the night before: Did I join a martial arts class? Had I gone mosh pit dancing? Dyke fight?

As I applied foundation makeup to cover the offending spot, I quickly concocted a litany of stories to explain my colorful new look before facing my coworkers and colleagues.

—I shouldn’t have had that last shot of tequila. Those Saltillo tile floors are unforgiving.

—You should see the other six guys!

—I was listening to an old Chris Gaines CD when I realized how good I’d look with a soul patch. Since it’s such a bother to groom, I just got it tattooed on.

—It’s weird, isn’t it? I don’t even remember going to the roller derby.

—Two words: Wii Boxing.

—I was sampling a new line of eye shadow when suddenly there was an earth tremor.

—Well, she was right. The potatoes were cold. But she says she’s sorry and she loves me and it will never happen again.

As the day wore on and my makeup wore off, something else, something far less amusing began to happen. People, especially those who don’t know me very well, would walk in to my office, take one look at the big bruise on my chin, get a look of concern then pity on their faces, and uncomfortably avoid eye contact with me.

It was not a good feeling. It was a vulnerable, embarrassing, and victimized feeling. I cancelled lunches and meetings to avoid that look, holing up in my home with Take-out Taxi.

Eventually it became clear that the bruise was not one that had been generated by a collision with something harder than my face. Closer inspection, along with some careful poking of the afflicted area, made me deduce that the bruise was a suction bruise, not an impact bruise.

My chin had a hickie.

When I was a child, one of my favorite big sister things was to tell my gullible younger sister I could do a magic trick. I would then hold a Tupperware juice cup—the blue one, usually—to my mouth and suck all the air out of it until it stayed stuck to my face without holding it. Ta-daaaaa!

This was before cable, mind you.

My sister’s awe was matched only by my mother’s wrath because my magic show was almost always presented right before we went to church. “Now your mouth is all blue for Sunday School, young lady!” my mother would shriek. “What will people think?”

I don’t know what people were thinking then—maybe that I’d gotten into the Communion wine. But today, when people see a big bruise on my face, they assume I’ve been hit.

That isn’t a preposterous assumption on their part. A national poll conducted in 2006 by Allstate Foundation for The Advertising Council and the Family Violence Prevention Fund revealed that 74 percent of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. And these tough economic times are exacerbating the problem. Data released in January by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) suggests a link between financial stress and domestic violence: 54 percent of victims who called the hotline during a recent six-week study reported a change in their household’s financial situation in the past year.

Here in Houston, our gay community is fortunate to have the Montrose Counseling Center. MCC has an array of programs designed to help both men and women who have been physically and/or sexually abused, regardless of whether that abuse came from a same-sex partner, a family member, or a stranger. It also offers the only (got that? The only ) emergency shelter in Texas for folks who are survivors of same-sex partner abuse.

If you want to know more, ring up MCC at 713/529-0037 and they’ll tell you everything you need to know.

But back to the mystery of the chin bruise. Here’s my theory: in the middle of the night I got out of bed without waking and tried to revive my old childhood magic act. I don’t own any Tupperware glasses, but why else would one of those little yellow suction devices from the snake bite kit I always pack when camping (yes, camping. Don’t judge) be found resting innocently, all by itself, the next day on my dining table?

Guess I’ll never know for sure. But one thing I do know: Ambien is some powerful stuff.

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