Ever since I was a little girl I always liked to open the lid to the washer
and watch it wash my clothes. I could only open it an inch or so, and I'd
have to stand on the tips of my toes to see it when I was really young. but
there was something always infinitely fascinating about how water, soap, and
some elbow grease made all the stains go away.

That was until I had gotten my clothes back and realized there was still a
speck of chocolate from the melted ice cream that missed my mouth, the
bloodstain from when I cut my finger and rubbed it on the cuff of my shirt,
or the grass stains from running too fast and falling on the slippery

As I got older I realized that some stains never come out. No matter how
good the machine was or the new and improved detergents some marks
persisted. Initially, I was disappointed and quite possibly angry. I was
made false promises by the machine and the soaps, and they did not rid me of
these eyesores. The people around me could still see them. I felt
embarrassed that my clothes were not as prim and proper as other girls'
were. It was bad enough I dressed in a boyish fashion, but now I looked as
messy as a boy.

As the years progressed I pulled out my older clothes and ended up smiling.
It's the type of smile that is tight, but so wide that the edges of my mouth
feel like they're about to tear all the way to my ears. My hands gripped
the soft fabric maybe a little too roughly, and my eyes traced the stitches,
frayed edges, and whimsical designs involving teddy bears and hot air
balloons. Inevitably my eyes found those old blemishes and I recalled, to
the best of my ability, each memory.

I relaxed my grip and let my smile fade into something more natural,
something bordering on tenderness. My fingertips now delicately grazed the
fabric where the stain lay, and the bitterness fading into a feeling that
could not be called by any one name.

Though theses were undesirable and unpleasant markings, and a stigma was
attached to them, they were unmistakably mine.​