Dear Taylor Swift, I Actually Don't Have a Belly Button

Jessica Schiffer

Consider this my official plea to stop the madness that is Taylor Swift belly button trolling (now a full-time sport in certain corners of the Internet). As you probably know by now, the singer favours a crop top (or about 500 of them), which has given the world incredible access to her belly—a belly that had appeared mysteriously button-free until January of this year, when it made its debut while vacationing with the ladies of Haim.

Working in digital, I’ve experienced these Swift suspicions even more than the average guy or gal, and this morning, once again, I was greeted with the news that her very real belly button #broketheinternet. This most recent investigation into Swift’s central region opened with the question “Everyone has a belly button, right?” Ha. Ha. Ha. Cue a little punch in the stomach, quite literally, because I, Jessica Schiffer (who is sadly not Taylor Swift) do NOT have a belly button.

Growing up this way leant itself easily to rumours of my being from Mars (false, I’m afraid) or enduring a shark attack (ok, I may have promoted that one). It gave boys who would later reveal crushes on me, but lacked the tools to navigate those feelings, the perfect ammo for tearing me to shreds. While chastisement is not a successful flirting tactic in any case, it seemed even more common on my end—after all, I was prepubescent and fairly ignorant of the much harder disabilities many people have to live with. From my perspective—and given the reactions everyone else seemed to be having—lacking a belly button was almost certainly the worst thing in the world.

So where, you might be wondering, did my belly button go? Well, I very low-key ALMOST DIED when I was born. I had what’s called an omphalocele, which is essentially the opposite of yoga, despite its name. I know nothing about biology, but here’s the short story: My insides (a pretty arrangement of intestines and liver, with a few garnishes here and there) were on the outside. (Editorial note: Don't google it). As you may have guessed, I didn’t die—in fact I was only in the hospital for two weeks, a feat according to my doctor. This made my parents very happy (until I turned 13).

But, though I never had a death wish, I spent a good part of my life resenting my stomach region like it was the dark mark of a certain Harry Potter. This was never truer than when it came to summer dressing.

First came the struggle with bikinis, which seemed to do nothing for me other than invite the stares of strangers and make me feel disgusting in my own body (which I actually didn’t mind otherwise). Though one-pieces are all the rage right now and I actually find them more aesthetically appealing, I definitely didn’t back then, and neither did any of the other tweens and teens I was spending time with. A one-piece at that age didn’t feel sleek or mature; it felt stilted and babyish. A tankini seemed equally odd, leaving me with no other option than the bikini and the side of aggrandizement that it came with.

Next came the crop top, a trend that shows no signs of dying out. As the poster child for summer dressing, and with so many renditions available, I’ve been dying to give it a try for years, but honestly, I’m still hesitant. The bikini, for some reason, seems surmountable, but the crop top—which inherently feels bolder, since it’s not simply worn on a beach or by the pool—seems like a very loud announcement. I might as well be wearing a sign that says, “Hello, world, meet my scar—offer up your strange glances and rude questions, please! Come one, come all!” And, boy, do I not have the energy for that.

I wish I could say that I was so unbelievably confident that such reactions wouldn’t matter, but being the very human that I am, I’m just not. They still grate me, and—though there are issues in the world of much greater import—our obsession with Swift’s belly button grates me too. Thus, I’m asking you, dear world, to please lay off her midsection a bit. Both for her sake and for those of us out there who are a little tired of being linked to Kyle XY. Let her run free, impeccable abs ablaze, and do me a solid by turning down your crop top–induced shame.

Do you have any birthmarks or scars that you're embarrassed about too? Tell us about them in the comments—this is a judgment-free zone!

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