10 February 2011

Things That Are True - UPIs

UPIs, I called them, with a shrug and a laugh.

Back in my early twenties, when I could drink and dance until the early hours with no consequences. A blur of friends, fun, and fluids of various varieties, made right in the morning by a twenty minute nap, a shower, and a fresh coat of lip gloss.

UPI: Unidentifiable Party Injuries

You know the ones I mean: "Whoa, how'd I get this giant bruise on my thigh? It just mysteriously appeared! How funny is it that I have no idea where it came from? Man, you'd think a bruise like that, I'd remember something!" I wore them like a badge of honour. The "I was so drunk!" rite of passage.

"UPI!" I'd giggle over drinks the day after. (Not to be confused with UPOs - Unidentified Party Objects - the debris left at your house after an especially raucous and well attended party. Mostly unwanted junk, but hey! that's a nice sweater. I'll keep that!)


UPIs, I called them, ashamed and not meeting your eye.

I didn't name them until well after that awful relationship, the bruises long gone.

UPI: Undisclosable Partner Injuries

The ones I kept hidden under long skirts and long sleeves. He was smart; he hit me in the face only once. My split lip, I passed off as a cold sore. That bruise on my upper arm was a fall in the shower.

A hand-shaped fall in the shower.

Maybe that's why as summer approached and clothing might betray him, the abuse grew less physical and more emotional. Emotional hurt doesn't give anything away.

He was smart; he knew I wouldn't tell anyone. He was the only one who ever saw me like that; covered in bruises. After a while, even I didn't see them. I got really good at not seeing them. I was so used to wearing clothes that made them invisible, that they became invisible to me. I became invisible to me.

Me in 1996. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

A month after I finally stopped going back for more, I tried on my bathing suit in my new by-the-kindness-of-friends home. A summer day, the sunlight was streaming in through the open window onto my too pale, too long hidden legs. I was startled by the sight of smooth, unbruised skin from head to toe. I couldn't recognize that body as my own.

"No more UPIs," I quietly said to myself. "Ever again."


UPIs, I call them now. Enough time has passed, the context has changed again. I'm back to the shrug and the laugh.

The bruise on my shin from lunging past the coffee table and not quite missing it in my haste to stop The Imp from leaping head first off the back of the couch. "I do parkour, Mommy!"

The sore ankle from the time I, sleep deprived and not paying attention, closed the car door on my own foot.

The bursitis in my left shoulder from carrying thirty pounds of squirm the times he refused to sit in the stroller and he refused to walk.

UPI: Unavoidable Parenting Injuries

The many and omnipresent small bruises from little knees, and elbows, and heels as I cradle a restive feverish toddler in my arms. The bumps and bonks as little hands fling toys across a room, or shove a book too close to my face. "Read me a story, Mommy!"

And this week, the large and unlovely bruise on my chest from a too-vigourous game of Tickle Me Mommy, toddler heel connecting with adult sternum as The Imp shrieked with laughter and kicked his little legs trying to squirm away from The Claw.


I stood in front of the mirror yesterday to take this picture, and the memories started to sneak out of the box where I'd hidden them. Friends came over and I quickly threw on a sweater over my v-neck top so I wouldn't have to answer questions, and it all came tumbling back. And this post, originally meant to be a lighthearted look at the way my life has changed since I became a parent, oozed darkly out of me, beyond my control.

What can I say? I bruise easy.


  1. You are still beautiful. xo

  2. The struggle with parenting in the now is keeping the past at bay.

  3. This is beautiful. You are so brave!

  4. That was quite a tickle session.

    Pasts like that never really go away. I am sometimes brought back to a violent past that is well over 25 years ago. The endurance of those moments is why they're so terrible, and why those people are so wrong.

  5. What a wonderful, well written, raw post. Don't know else to comment at the moment, because my eyes are full of tears. Tears for your bravery to leave, change your life and never forget.

  6. Gah. Yea we all did some stupid things when we were young. Growing up takes a looooooong time IMO.

    Pretty sure I'll be crippled by the time Theo grow up. The most picturesque of his attacks are the bites that leave his victims and parents black and blue.

  7. I know the Unavoidable Parenting Injuries all too well. Not fun.

    I am fortunate to not have anything in particular that is triggered by my overly vigourous children / chronically sleep deprived bruising. I'm sorry you do. I'm glad that you're not there anymore.

  8. Forgiving ourselves and others will always keep us moving forward. The strength we draw from ourselves will teach our little ones to be strong in their lives.

    Your little guy will respect and love the women who come into his life.

    Unavoidable Parenting Injuries are Universal.

  9. I just came over from Mom101 to see what it means to say "I don't write often, and often I don't write well, but I can't not write." The answer is, it means that someone writes from the heart when her heart stirs her to write.

    This post is so touching that I have tears in my eyes. Don't let anyone (including yourself) tell you that you don't write well.