my interviewer sent me an email saying my scars are triggering

A reader writes:

I’ve been casually job searching for a few months and had an interview last week. The job was for a logistics specialist at a shipping company. The woman who interviewed me, Marcia, seemed distracted the entire interview, shuffling papers and mumbling her questions. I knew pretty quickly I wouldn’t be taking the position, based both on her description of the job (which was quite different from the online posting) and the general feel in the office. At the end of the interview, I thanked her for her time and consideration and offered my hand to shake. She looked at it for a long moment, then didn’t take it and simply nodded her farewell. I got home, emailed a very polite “thank you, but this position isn’t for me” note, and considered it done.

Well, today I got an email from Marcia that was beyond strange. At first, I figured I’d just think of it as proof this job wasn’t for me, but now I’m wondering if I should reach out to someone else at the company to alert them. The email read:

“I realize this is highly irregular, but I felt it would be a grave misstep on my part not to reach out to you. During your interview, I noticed the scars on your arm and wanted you to know that whatever pain you are feeling is temporary. I am certain there are people who love you and would miss you. Please find love for yourself and get the help you clearly need. If I could offer you some additional advice, I fear those scars will be detrimental to you obtaining any meaningful employment. They are highly triggering, and you should seek permanent ways to disguise them. Good luck, and God bless.” Marcia then attached two documents — a brochure for suicide prevention, and one for a church-run support group.

Not that it matters AT ALL, but the scars are from a burn I got while baking during the pandemic. I was teaching myself to make fruit tarts. Did you know the bottom of tart pans pop up, so you don’t have to break the pastry during removal? My forearm and I learned that the hard way. In my opinion, they don’t particularly look like self-harm scars, more like long scratches that are still healing. Almost like you’d get from a cat.

I was prepared to just consider this an experience to laugh about and go about my life. But I’m concerned that Marcia might be offering other advice that is equally problematic to other job candidates, or her staff. Should I reach out to someone else at the company? Or just let this be? It’s possible the fact I think this is way over the line and pretty offensive is skewing my opinion of this. Thoughts?

This is a wild overstep from Marcia and you should tell her company about it.

First, as your situation shows so well, it is very possible for scars to be from all sorts of things, not just self-harm. It is a huge overstep for a virtual stranger to assume they know anything about what scars indicate.

And it’s even less a stranger’s business if the scars are from self-harm. That’s a deeply personal and private thing that no stranger should be commenting on. (Ever, but especially someone like Marcia who clearly doesn’t understand the first thing about it, since it’s very common for cutting not to be linked to suicidal ideation at all.)

Also, “they are highly triggering, and you should seek permanent ways to disguise them” is a Very Bad thing for a hiring manager to say to a job candidate. She put in writing that she believes you have a disability and you should hide it. That’s legal liability for her company.

And then there’s the church-run support group she feels you should attend.

And she’s willing to say all of this to a job candidate, someone she barely knows. Imagine what she’s saying to people who work for her.

I don’t doubt that Marcia felt she was acting from a place of concern and compassion, but unfortunately her actions were invasive, inappropriate, and uncompassionate.

She needs better training and more oversight.

So yes, please do forward her email to her company. If they have any sense at all, they’ll want to know she did this, explain to her why she can’t, and take a closer look at what else she might be doing.

Read an update to this letter

{ 558 comments… read them below }

    1. Grits McGee*

      I’ve been trying to think of something constructive to add, but honestly… “yikes” is about all I can think.

      Marcia’s conduct throughout the interview and afterwards is so beyond the pale, any reasonable employer who’s interested in staying on the right side of employment laws would want to know about this.

    2. Erin*

      What in the world?! I feel like most companies would want to know about Marcia’s discriminatory behavior. And suggesting support groups??

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        religious ones too. that makes it worse, because it makes an assumption that OP is a certain religion or worse yet, and implication that she should be said religion.

      1. RJ*

        Same here. Wow talk about using empathy badly to overstep personal boundaries. I agree with Alison, OP. You should really kick this over to her manager. She should not be making assumptions about job candidates nor suggesting support groups for conditions she’s not qualified to diagnose.

        1. Observer*

          It actually does not sound like empathy to me. After all, Monica told her to find some way to hide the scars! Because they are “triggering”. That’s not empathy.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                This is a rare sighting; the words virtue signalling being used to describe ACTUAL virtue signalling. I almost want to frame it.

              2. I&I*

                Beware, beware, BEWARE the person who dreams of being That One Special Soul Who Said The Magic Words That Turned Your Life Around. Keep your garlic handy.

                The more charitable explanation is that or she’s got some emotional/mental health issues around the subject and thinks that the way she manages them
                is the way everyone should manage them. I’ve encountered people like that on my own sensitive issues.

                I mean, I don’t want to tell them to go sit on a cactus any less. There is no good reason to do this. I don’t like to think of how much damage she could do to someone who did have the kind of history she imagined.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            She also refused to shake OP’s hand. That is problems. “I’ve judged you untouchable.”

            1. Darsynia*

              Flames on the side of my face is the place this letter STARTS and then it gets worse from there! I sincerely hope this interviewer’s coworkers are not dealing with behavior like this daily but I think we all know the answer.

            2. Big Bank*

              I would have chalked this up to pandemic precaution, if not for the WILDLY inappropriate follow-up email. Though why she couldn’t use this very convenient fiction in the moment, instead of staring like an idiot…

              This woman should not be in charge of hiring ever, ever again. She maybe shouldn’t be a manager of people, even.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                I definitely would chalk this up to pandemic precaution but it’s likely Marcia would have said something like, “Oh, sorry, what with COVID I’m being extra careful and not shaking hands.” But that of course would assume that she’s a decent human being who doesn’t think someone is “untouchable” because they have scars.

            3. Kimberly*

              I have a skin condition atopic dermatitis and have had people refuse to shake my hands during active flair-ups. I’m usually trying to avoid shaking hands because it hurts like hell. So I’m more likely to give them a mini-workshop on the condition. (I’ve also had complete strangers offer the use of their first aid kit and even access to medical care thinking I have a burn (it looks like one at a certain stage)

              In elementary all teachers in my grade level were given a letter that explained several medical conditions. In Junior High the administration only gave it to my teachers. Other teachers saw the fissures especially in/on my elbow and the blood on my socks and sometimes at the knee of my slacks. (no shorts allowed and hated skirts). They went to the administration worried that I was self-harming. The administration told them it was a medical condition and it was under control to protect my privacy. Mom was a volunteer and heard that teachers were worried so she told the administration to just tell all staff members what was going on.

              Honestly due to the fact peanut allergy and atopic add up to touch allergic to peanuts – I never really had medical privacy. My parents explained the situation to pretty much anyone that was going to be around me regularly.

              1. But what to call me?*

                That seems like the kind of situation where it’s just easier to have the actual situation be known, rather than let everyone come up with their own explanations. Of course, it would be better if everyone would just assume that if the information was relevant to them, they’d know it, but I don’t know many people who are good at that. And I would also be concerned if I saw a kid bleeding and didn’t know why.

                Assuming I knew why and then sending them ‘advice’ like that interviewer, though? And after an interview? There aren’t enough ‘no’s in the world.

                1. Lucy*

                  Yes. I work in safeguarding children and honestly there is an obsession with information being “need to know” which absolutely ignores the number of adult professionals with child protection responsibilities a child will encounter day to day. Like, respect for dignity and privacy is very important but if a child has a bruise on her face, the police have been called and she’s made a disclosure of physical abuse, she doesn’t need to stop and explain it to every adult she encounters during a school day. Also, my colleagues aren’t doing their jobs if they don’t stop and ask her where she got that bruise – they also have safeguarding responsibilities.

                  It’s utterly ridiculous that it would somehow be kinder to keep her business private than it would to just quietly let people know that safeguarding leads are aware of the issue and are dealing with it. And yet, this is what most deputy headteachers and headteachers do say – wouldn’t want parents to complain that their private business is being discussed in the staff room!

                  I always used to say “no serious case review/safeguarding practice review ever used the phrase ‘this tragedy would not have happened if there had been less information sharing by professionals’. But school staff who don’t deal with safeguarding daily, tend to feel that the worst thing that could happen to a child or family is to have people know their business (and also have many reasons not to *want* to know it themselves – can’t be expected to offer empathy and lenience if you don’t *know* a child needs it. Much easier just to not know!)

                  Sorry – small rant there. But removing from the issue of SI, yeah there are lots of contexts that should be shared with relevant people but which just aren’t.

                  However, “a random interviewer” basically never constitutes a relevant person and should basically mind their own business!

              2. EGD*

                I have a severe facial difference, caused by a birth defect and connective tissue/lipodystrophy disorder. I look very odd, in a way that is scary and grotesque to far too many people.
                I faced treatment like this often, especially back in the 80s/90s, before realistic-looking and wearable (comfort-wise) prosthetics became available. I still look different with the prosthetics on, as I couldn’t stand the claustrophobia-inducing sensations of a full-face appliance and some of my differences still show at the edges of the prosthetic pieces. Also, as realistic as the prosthetics are, they are still obviously not real flesh, and people sometimes react to that. The prosthetics blunt my facial expressions, making my face appear somewhat flat and expressionless.
                I have often had people refuse to shake my hand, and many former employers I applied to as a young man outright told me that potential coworkers would be too uncomfortable to work with me and that they’d never be able to have clients meet me face-to-face. This meant that I was unable to get in-person office work in any of the firms I applied to just after my graduation. No one was willing to take a risk on a recent grad with no experience, especially one who looked like something out of a horror movie, no matter how good my grades were.
                I got around this by going into a difficult niche area of my industry, working freelance and conducting 99% of my client interactions over the phone and via email until I could save enough money to buy into a business whose owners I had known from my uni days.
                Currently, I’m the last of the co-owners still in the business, now a solo owner. I’ve done all right, but I’m still incredibly careful about who gets hired, as I don’t want to work with someone who would treat anyone badly over things outside their control (including things like race, gender, sexuality, identity, weight, etc).
                I would want to know about any manager who acts like the one in the original letter. Not only is she acting horribly, but she’s also putting the business at risk of a discrimination lawsuit and likely treating any of her reports who have disabilities or appearance-based differences in a cruel, dehumanising manner.
                OP, please inform the manager/owner of this business. You’ll be helping the next people who apply, and you may get a second shot at a job, once that horror show of a hiring manager is removed from that position.

                1. Happy Pineapple*

                  Sheesh, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with people who are so narrow minded. Telling you that coworkers/clients would be uncomfortable working with you because of your appearance is appalling and ridiculous. Good on you for finding a path to success despite people’s biases, and making sure your own employees don’t face the same discrimination.

                2. Aphra*

                  I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed with a comment anywhere as I am with yours, EGD. As I’m in the UK and retired, our paths are unlikely to cross but I want to wish you continued success in business and in life. You’re an example of someone who knows the type of manager they DON’T want to be and then follows through on that. Your employees and clients are lucky to have you, as are your family and friends. I’m sure they all know that.

                  I’d like to staple a copy of your post to Marcia’s forehead.

                3. EGD*

                  Thank you so much, Hornswoggler (great user name, BTW!), Happy Pineapple, and Aphra. Your kindness is so very appreciated! (I’m having a bit of trouble with the comment nesting, so I am sure this is going to look a bit odd)
                  It has been a weird life, and for more than 20 years, I was only peripherally involved with my industry, as I, unfortunately, got into a very bad situation in the late 80s and through the 90s. I gave in to anger and a desire for revenge against.. well, the whole of humanity, I suppose. I ended up addicted to heroin, and it took a long time for me to get out of that situation and back into a legitimate, legal life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but so incredibly worth it. I sadly lost friends to ODs, and I’m sure I’d not be still alive if I hadn’t taken control and ended my reliance on heroin.
                  Now, things are good, and I am the most content I have ever been. I have an odd, cobbled-together little chosen family, and am now the parent of 2 adopted nine-year-olds, at the age of 59. A sharp learning curve, as I had never been around kids much as a young fellow. Often, kids were scared of me. I am careful about meeting the friends of my own kids and their parents, as I don’t want my two to end up bullied because of my differences. The kids are the very best part of my life, and I will do whatever it takes to protect them and ensure they have good, safe childhoods.
                  I have become incredibly picky about who I allow into my little world, and I’ve become somewhat reclusive as I have gotten older. Online, I am open to friendships, but I generally don’t ever meet online friends IRL, unless we’ve been uncommonly close for many, many years.

                  I spent my youth between France and the UK, and I’ve lived for a span in many countries now. My family and I have recently moved to New Zealand, which has so far been lovely. I’m working mainly from my home office but make the gruelling flight back to France regularly.

                  The people here on this forum are grand and I have learned a great deal in the years I’ve read Allison’s articles. I’m continually impressed with the intelligence, compassion, and decency of the other participants here.

            4. Jolie*

              My first reaction was: imagine how “You’re basically untouchable and unemployable, you’re grossing people out hide yourself” would sound like to someone who did actually happen to struggle with their mental health.

          2. Worldwalker*

            Yeah, that’s more like narcissism: “The world should be arranged to be aesthetically pleasing to me, the only Important Person.

            1. GreenDoor*

              It IS narcissism! The interviewer told OP that the scars were “triggering” [her]. It’s appalling to me that the interviewer is giving this chastisement to someone she believes to be suicidal. If she really cared, she would be concerned about the “suicidal” interviewee being triggered. OP, please do report this! Can you imagine her doing this to someone who actually is struggling in some way? A

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                It’s a perfect example of how narcissists abuse language, making it about them when it should be about the other person. Also, concern-trolling, which I suppose narcissists can master perfectly.

          3. EPLawyer*

            Oh I think you are self-harming/considering suicide — please hide the marks to not disturb me. IF OP were in danger, that list bit was spectacularly UNHELPFUL and might have made things WORSE.

            1. Tad Cooper*

              Yeah, having struggled with SI in the past (no longer, happily!), the single worst thing that I was told was to cover up and never let anyone see the evidence. It was that kind of “advice” that led to my avoiding the help I needed for years.

              Whatever Marcia intended, her letter is basically a textbook example of what NOT to do, on so many levels. If she sent that to someone who was really struggling, it would almost certainly make things worse.

        2. NopaniK*

          There are two statements ive heard and they both fit here:
          1. Unsolicited advise is always a criticism.
          2. Your triggers are your responsibility, not everyone elses.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I don’t want to say this letter misuses the word trigger — for all we know, Marcia genuinely was reliving some personal trauma around suicide — but it feels like, even if this was an actual trigger, she’s handling it all wrong, and it therefore comes across as if she uses the word just to mean “felt kinda icky”.

          2. Lucy*

            2. Fits here but not everywhere, I think. Some triggers can be easily warned of so that a person can *take* responsibility by avoiding them. Which requires others to take on the responsibility of offering that warning.

            But you are correct that this one is *not* one of those! Someone else’s body *might* be triggering to someone with specific traumatic experiences (e.g. someone may have been abused by a very large/imposing person, and may have a learned response to the sound of heavy footsteps or feeling towered over etc. Taller or larger people can’t and shouldn’t have to change or hide their bodies because of that. That is the triggered person’s responsibility to manage, definitely.

      1. Rex Libris*

        I think it’s the post that the phrase “wildly inappropriate” has been waiting for all these years.

    3. Writer Claire*

      I know! My eyebrows climbed up one side of my head and down the other when I read Marcia’s letter.

    4. Sharkie*

      Are we also just going to skim over the fact that from the wording of Marcia’s email she seems like she was going to disqualify OP from this position because of the scars?

      1. MrsThePlague*

        I didn’t even think about that but we *absolutely* should not, because that’s yet *another* level of potential discrimination. This situation has so many layers of horrifying I’m at a loss…

  1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    If I were Marcia’s manager, I would consider this vital information to have about her judgment. Please escalate it. She should not be working face to face with others in any capacity if she thinks this behavior is professional and appropriate.

    1. Anonomite*

      Precisely this. It’s so wildly inappropriate. Someone should know what happened and that her assumptions were so distracting, she could barely conduct the interview. Her boss and HR need to hear about it.

    2. StressedButOkay*

      Yes, yes, yes. She clearly wasn’t paying attention to anything OP was saying during the interview – her entire attention was on something that shouldn’t be a consideration at all during an interview process. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that she’s done this with other people for other reasons.

      Her supervisor and the company should know that she’s not doing her job during the interview and turning applicants off and should know she has terrible judgement.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*


      The person in charge of recruiting processes at my current employer is a peer, and she spent a lot of time setting standards an ensuring legal compliance around interviewing. She’d be VERY upset about this and want to stop it ASAP. It’s a bad look and a liability.

    4. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

      And if I were Marcia’s manager, I’d wonder what ELSE she’d told OTHER interviewees that was also wildly inappropriate! Interviewers hold a unique position of power; interviewees do NOT want to antagonize their interviewers in any way (for obvious reasons.) An interviewee who wants that job will smile and nod while the interviewer is spewing garbage! If they get that job, they’ll STILL say nothing about the interviewer for fear of starting off on the wrong foot with their new company.

      Unless this was the first interview that Marcia ever conducted with that company, she very likely brought all of her (un)professional baggage to OTHER interviews as well. If you were her manager, wouldn’t you want to know about this behavior? I know I would!

      1. Cait*

        Honestly, this would be a fire-able offense to me. Her behavior is egregiously unacceptable on several levels and I’d have a hard time believing she 1. hadn’t done something similar to other candidates/coworkers and 2. could be trusted to not let her personal feelings cloud her professional judgement in the future.

    5. NotBatman*

      Yes. Yes. Regardless of the concern-trolling, this is an interviewer who became so fixated on a candidate’s appearance that she was unable to give a fair interview. That is completely unacceptable.

  2. Librarian of SHIELD*

    I’m trying to formulate a coherent response to this and all I can think of is Joey Tribbiani.

    “Over the line? You’re so far past the line that you can’t even see the line! The line is a dot to you!”

    Marcia crossed the line so far she went all the way around the world and is facing the front of the line again. Send this email to her company’s HR with a SWIFTNESS.

    1. It's not a moo point*

      Thank you for the delightful Friends reference :)

      And 100% agree with everyone here. I’m normally inclined to ignore the bad judgement of people I’m never going to interact with again, but this person should not be allowed to continue behaving like this while in a position of authority – please let the company know!

    2. Rosyglasses*

      You said what my brain was sputtering to try and articulate… I think it is still in the hyperventilating, wait what, wtf, omg, yikes, and bees phase of processing.

  3. MediumEd*

    Yikes on bikes. If Marcia is making these assumptions about you, imagine what is going through her head about other employees, particularly those she supervises.

    Would love an update about this one down the road if the company ever responds!

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I would also love an update. Like others, I find this so over the line. My sense of justice needs to know if there is any in the end.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        I’d love one too, but it’s an internal matter at a company OP doesn’t work for. I doubt they’ll find out what happens next

        1. Seaside Gal*

          I’d be tempted to stalk that person’s LinkedIn page to see if they end up looking for a new job after I sent the email to the manager.

        2. Big Bank*

          Maybe, but because there’s potential litigation worthy garbage in her email, they may CYA hard with the Op to make sure they feel satisfied and don’t escalate. Fingers crossed.

      2. I&I*

        Given that she was allowed the authority to interview candidates, and the fact that they advertised the job inaccurately enough that the interview was a waste of OP’s time, I’m inclined to suspect she’s not the only problem there.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I’m even wondering if the job ad was fine but Marcia deliberately misrepresented it to discourage OP from being interested in the job.

    2. mcm*

      yeah, if it’s not too close to “update season” to ask for an update here for December, I would be so curious what the response from the company is! This is way egregious

  4. Bread Crimes*

    I read the title of this post, and went “oh no.”

    Then I got to what was said in the email itself, and rapidly escalated to “OH NO.”

    That’s inappropriate on so many levels! So very many levels! The assumptions about what the scars were from, what even self-harm scars would mean, what kind of temporality they must have… And then the ‘advice’, which ranges from active discrimination to pushing religion on someone! I’m gonna run out of exclamation points on this.

    Oh Interviewer No.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I read the title and thought perhaps the OP had actual self-harm scars and the interviewer was struggling with depression and suicidal ideation herself. But even then, that’s not the OP’s problem, and the interviewer making it her problem would still a problem.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I get the impression Marcia got triggered by something in her own life.

        That said, not her business to speak up on this topic to someone she met once.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yeah, and if that is the case that is very much a thing for Marcia to bring up with her THERAPIST and absolutely not with a job candidate. Wowzers.

        2. Butterfly Counter*


          I know someone who had a very severe eating disorder, to the point they were skeletal and they almost died multiple times. I know if I were to meet someone incredibly thin (not just thin, not just skinny, but INCREDIBLY thin), I would be triggered.

          But you know what? I wouldn’t say a thing and I would do my best not to let it cloud my judgment. I don’t know what that person is experiencing but I do know for sure I’m not the person who is going to turn their thinking around (even if they needed it) by sticking my nose in. It’s my own issue that I need to deal with on my own and not project my feelings onto others.

      2. Sloanicota*

        Also *even if all those assumptions were true* (so, huge reach) – Maria is still wrong in that universe, because she told OP that she was employable and needed to find a cosmetic solution for covering the scars, which is a pretty ugly thing to tell someone in the situation she’s envisioning! Which wasn’t even the right one!

    2. Duck Confit*

      I somehow missed the part about the church support group on my first read through because I was so gobsmacked by everything else. Oh noooooo times a thousand.

      1. Worldwalker*

        No. Nothing can eclipse that.

        There is someone I work with on occasion — a very respected person in our industry — who claims that John Ringo is actually a nice guy, and certain literary sh*tshows were just fanservice. I’ll leave out the details of the resulting argument, except that my position is that a nice guy could not write those, nor would a nice guy want fans who wanted and expected those.

        Let’s just say that the name “John Ringo” is no longer brought up in conversation between us.

        1. Anon for This*

          Agreed. Marcia’s letter is a gross overstep by someone who was seriously inappropriate at best and could have triggered another person’s trauma at worst.

          Those Books are so, so much worse. If you google that phrase, you will find out why. Do NOT do it on your work computer.

        2. Weary cigarette drag*

          Respected Industry Person is either ignorant or a liar, because Mr. Ringo has been very open about the writings in question coming from his “id” and that he thought it was unpublishable when he showed it to his editor. There was never any pretense that it was fanservice.

    3. emmelemm*

      Yeah, the whole thing is way inappropriate, but the church thing sent me into “livid” territory.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      Expanding on the temporality piece:

      I had a trainer ask my cohort what we should do if we see a client with healed self-harm scars.

      The answer was a resounding “nothing.” The scars in this scenario are healed, not fresh wounds. It’s generally more harmful than helpful to raise the alarm and make the client self-conscious and ashamed of their appearance when the activity is clearly *in the past*.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Even if they were fresh, the answer was to mention it to a trained on-site counselor who would make a judgment call on next steps, if any.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You need to forward that email with the attachments to the head of the company, HR, and their general counsel if they have one.

    Even a first year law student could find a zillion legal liabilities in this email.

    P.S. and this is why I tell my kid that other people’s physical appearance is none of our business.

    1. ABCYaBYE*

      I would agree with all three of the places you’re suggesting they forward the email. GC is very important because the others may not (though they should) see the legal ramifications, while the GC is going to pick up on that quickly.

      1. MrsThePlague*

        Cosigning this 100%. Between all three places, at least someone is going to pick up on the legal timebomb that is this woman seems to be.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      What if Marcia is HR?
      This email needs to be forwarded to the company’s legal department.
      I know OP doesn’t have to explain herself to anyone, but if she included the reason for the scars in her cover email (baking! such a wholesome activity!), it would show even better how ridiculous Marcia’s behavior was.

      1. Observer*

        Still forward it to all the of the people mentioned – and if there is an HR person on top of Marcia, that’s who you send it to, as well.

      2. Splendid Colors*

        I got poison oak (for the first time) in streaks down my forearms because I was brushing away some leafless twigs while geocaching… and only found out too late those shrubs were poison oak. The stems have urushiol too, and two of us in the group got really bad rashes.

        My roommate insisted they were self-harm scars and called 911 for a psychiatric emergency. Luckily, the doctor at the ER looked at them closely enough to see they were rows of (slightly gross) poison oak blisters, and gave me some good home treatment advice. But I still had to pay for an ambulance ride for a non-emergency and worry that I was going to be committed or something. (I was also lucky that I didn’t scratch my blisters and get an infection like the other newbie geocacher on our trip did.)

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Even if legal agrees with her sentiment here, they will have issues with her being dumb enough to put it in writing. They got lucky here in that the candidate doesn’t want the job* this time.

      *Should the LW tell them that ?
      Or leave that part unspoken in the hopes of being offered money to stay silent ?

      1. Observer*

        Even if legal agrees with her sentiment here, they will have issues with her being dumb enough to put it in writing.

        Yes, at least if they are minimally competent.

  6. Lady_Lessa*


    I think that the LW should do as Allison suggests. That kind of feedback is so far in left field, it might take the Hubble to find it.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        So, far away *and* no longer in the realm of visible light? (The JWST is optimized for infrared.)

  7. Witch*

    No matter what Marcia’s background is in regards to suicide and self-harm (and it’s easy to speculate), it’s just not very cool for her to say anything at all to a stranger.

    It’s also probably not very healthy or fun for her to be thinking about a candidate’s arms so much that a full day later she types up an entire outreach email complete with resources. Hopefully if there’s something going on in her personal life that can begin to explain this, her workplace already knows and can intervene there.

    1. Meep*

      The church resources and the mention of how it is holding OP back from getting a job are pretty straightforward. OP is a sinner for self-harm and no good Christian wants to hire a sinner.

      (I say this as a Christian myself)

      1. Witch*

        You think it’s a wild religious response? Huh. I, maybe naively, thought that the sin of suicide had lessened in importance to most mainstream religions in the past decade or two.

        But hey, maybe she’s coming at this from a place of unnecessary judgement.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          As far as Catholics are concerned, it is not considered a sin any more. The logic is that a person who commits suicide is not in their right minds and therefore cannot make a rational decision to kill themselves.

          About other branches, I don’t know.

          I do know that some flavors of evangelicals are odd and might fit in with what Marcia is thinking and doing.

          1. Exie*

            I’m an ex-vangelical who had a convo about mental health with some evangelical family members within the last year. At least in their circles, which are fairly typical (white, middle class, etc) for evangelicalism, self-harm itself would not be considered a sin. However, meaningful help is only available within the framework of their religion, everything else is a stop gap. Additionally, some of the emotions or experiences surrounding mental health or illness, such as anger or depression, might be considered sinful.

            1. HoHumDrum*

              IME many evangelicals think if you’ve TRULY found god/jesus then you can’t possibly feel depression/anxiety/etc, and if you’re having mental health issues the only solution is love jesus better, so while self-harm might not be a sin precisely it does mark you as “not faithful enough” and proof you need to work harder to devote yourself to jesus.

              1. Nina*

                Some of the evangelicals I grew up among think that if you’ve truly found god/jesus you stop being autistic as well, because autism is a form of demonic possession and meltdowns are the demon acting out so the best way to handle them is to restrain the person and attempt to exorcise them, which involves bright lights and shouting.

                I am autistic.

                1. Darsynia*

                  As someone who has been parallel to a lot of Evangelical Christianity in my life I’m so sorry about this. That kind of harm is so pervasive and hard to jettison. You deserve much better.

                2. But what to call me?*

                  Back when we were figuring out that I was autistic my mom had a prosperity gospel-leaning evangelical “friend” (quotes later shown to be highly warranted) who was horrified that my mom would even mention such a thing because it would bring it into our lives.

                  Because apparently if we didn’t name any of the many signs pointing to autism from infancy onwards or any of the things I was currently struggling with then they didn’t happen? Or maybe they did, but only because I was a brat who hadn’t properly found Jesus yet.

                  Fortunately she was more of a ‘believe the right things and God will do whatever you say’ type christian than a ‘exorcise the evil away’ type christian – although the second kind might have been easier for people to spot. She did manage to break up what had been a fairly reasonable church while simultaneously damaging a faith that was very important to my mom, though.

                3. Lily*

                  Oh my lord. I am the parent of an autistic child and I just… wow.
                  Sending Jedi hugs (if you want them).

                4. Ace in the Hole*

                  What an awful experience. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

                  This was the last straw for my aunt in ending her marriage with her fundamentalist evangelical husband. She put up with a lot of garbage to fit in with his church’s teachings and raise their kids in that religion… but he refused to get proper help/diagnosis for their autistic daughter. When she got to middle school and couldn’t cope anymore, Aunt finally divorced her husband and got primary custody.

                  We all knew my cousin was autistic from a young age. My sister is too, and they have almost exactly the same difficulties. But my uncle would rather believe that his daughter’s meltdowns were from bad character or not enough jesus than send her to an occupational therapist so she could actually get help. I’m glad Aunt finally saw sense, but it’s infuriating to know how much happier and more independent my cousin could be if she’d gotten support at an early age like my sister did.

              2. Dona Florinda*

                That was my experience as well: if you’re still feeling depressed, than you haven’t really “found Jesus” and the solution is to read the bible more/ pray more/ go to church more.

              3. On Fire*

                Which is bizarre, because the OT King David was “a man after God’s own heart,” but if you read Psalms, he clearly battled deep depression.

            2. Lizzianna*

              Yes, I still have family in the evangelical movement.

              The idea that mental illness is an indication that you’ve moved away from God, and can only be cured by moving back into God’s presence, is still prevalent.

              It took my family almost losing someone to suicide to realize the value of trained mental health professionals and doctors.

          2. Yvette*

            For Catholics I had also heard that because for all anyone knew the person at the last second could have regretted and repented but the chain of events set in motion could not be stopped.

          3. Ann Onymous*

            There are individuals in every religion who take their beliefs to an extreme that doesn’t align with what most adherents of that religion believe. So even though most Catholics (or even the official teachings of the Catholic church) no longer consider suicide a sin, it doesn’t mean you can’t find individuals who identify themselves as Catholic and believe differently.

      2. Khatul Madame*

        This is my take as well – supported by Marcia’s refusal to shake hands at the end of the interview.

        1. Rainy*

          I think Meep is trying to explicate Marcia’s thought process (or what passes for thought, in this case) rather than stating what they, Meep, personally believe.

      3. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        I remember as a kid being told that all non-believers were miserable and angry. My friends at school could not possibly be happy because they didn’t know Jesus. I definitely could see Marcia seeing the scars and just jumping to the conclusion that scars means suicide attempt, because they think everyone is unhappy and empty until they are “saved. I heard that multiple times in my life (and they were all promiscuous drug users). There’s no room for nuance in their world.

        *Obviously this doesn’t apply to all Christians, but the type that would send this to a virtual stranger, seems more like the type I grew up with.

      4. Irish Teacher*

        I read it differently. Given that it was a church support group and accompanied by suicide prevention information, I assumed she was either just recommending some support group that happened to have a religious affiliation or else was advocating the whole “turn to religion to cure your depression” idea. Obviously, the latter is extremely problematic in itself and even the first is at best, a MASSIVE overstep and at worst, could be really problematic in itself.

        That’s not to justify any of what Marcia did. It’s all so widely out of line and offensive, I…am not even sure what to say, but I didn’t take the church support group as indicating the LW was sinning. I assumed “church support group” meant “self-help group for those dealing with depression and/or self-harm that is affiliated with a church.”

        Though who knows?

  8. ursula*

    Ok but how does this explain her refusing to shake your hand???
    This makes everything weirder and worse!!
    oh boyyyy

    1. Witch*

      I’m just guessing, but I read that as some sort of trauma response. Marcia is either in recovery in some fashion or had an incident which left such a strong impression on her that she’s avoiding shaking someone’s hand.

      Course who knows, really?

      1. Drago Cucina*

        It’s easy to guess that Marcia is projecting from her own experience. Or, she’s just a judgmental jerk. Doesn’t really matter.

        I’m reminded of a day when I was suffering from seasonal allergies. Red eyes, sniffling, but nothing contagious. Some random woman proclaimed she was working on her counseling degree and would be happy to talk to me about my problems. I was really taken aback that she jumped to that conclusion. Hello, it’s cotton season! Half the community is walking around sneezing and sniffling.

        1. Rainy*

          “That’s awesome! So on high pollen days like this, even though I take my daily OTC antihistamine twice as directed by my GP, I still get breakthrough symptoms like red itchy eyes, congestion, and sneezing. What would you suggest?”

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          I hope you just looked at her and shouted, “Hello, it’s cotton season!” I also hope you live somewhere that cotton does not grow.

        3. TrixM*

          When I was in my first trade job, I had a bad outbreak of hayfever one day that persisted until I arrived for my evening shift.

          A senior colleague took me to one side soon after and told me “kindly” that it’s not a good look if you show up to work after smoking weed. I was horrified, not least because I was still sneezing off and on, so it should have been pretty obvious what was making my eyes red. But also if he had said something about my supposed drug use to another colleague that then made its way to a boss.

          I told him he was barking up the wrong tree and that it was allergies, and he did the verbal equivalent of patronizingly patting me on the head as he advised me to “take better care in future”, patently not believing a word I said.

          Utterly infuriating, but nothing I could challenge at the time. Thankfully it was the only time I encountered any such accusation. (I did and do consume weed, but never during the work week!)

      2. Cayman Islands*

        I read it the same way: Marcia was triggered by the sight of the scars and wasn’t able to take OP’s hand. To be clear, it’s on Marcia to manage her reactions, but I can have empathy for not having a good response to a trigger in the moment. That email afterward, though. Wow. That was not in the moment. No empathy for that.

      3. But what to call me?*

        Yeah, based on her behavior from the rest of the meeting, that seems like it might be a trauma response – one she needs a better way to deal with, but it’s understandable if she couldn’t figure out what to do in the moment. It’s possible the problem had never come up before and it hadn’t even occurred to her that she might have such a hard time dealing with it.

        The email, though – that one she had plenty of time to consider and decide what to do (or not to do anything at all), and she chose to do THAT.

    2. KRM*

      Also, she could have just said “oh sorry I don’t like to shake hands since the pandemic” and never said anything else or sent anything, and OP would not have thought any more about it except to think “that job wasn’t for me”. But the refusing to shake hands plus the follow up email just–I have no words for expression of how I feel. Everyone else says it better.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That’s what I would have assumed. I’ve had many people tell me they don’t shake hands anymore since Covid, which is perfectly fine. But no, Marcia had to elaborate.

  9. KHB*

    The letter just says Marcia is “the woman who interviewed me.” What’s her actual role in the process: recruiter, HR, hiring manager, other? I’m not sure it makes that much of a difference, but some of those (especially HR) would be much worse than others.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      This is a good point. If Marcia is not HR and OP has the contact information for someone in HR, that is probably the best person to reach out to. If Marcia is in HR, I think that makes it a bit trickier for the OP to flag and, at the same time, much more important that the OP notifies someone in the company of Marcia’s behavior.

  10. Former Gremlin Herder*

    Oh good lord, this is so wildly out of line! There is no way that was appropriate for her to do, and I say this as someone who has a really strong negative response to seeing things that I think are self harm scars or marks. I really hope you’re able to forward this to someone with authority over her who can, ah correct her.

  11. HR_Yikes*

    Big Big Yikes. Please, if you can find one (and if the company is large enough to have one), please reach out to the HR Conduct Line as well as her manager(s).

  12. Professional_Lurker*

    not to mention I strongly suspect she used “triggering” here to mean “uncomfortable and vaguely upsetting”. If that’s her understanding of the term, how dismissive is she potentially being towards employees who really *do* have triggers due to trauma?

    1. Bread Crimes*

      I mean, she could be quite genuinely triggered by this, and it would still be an inappropriate thing to put in an email.

      1. ferrina*

        Yup. It sounds like Marcia was genuinely triggered, but that doesn’t excuse her actions. Being triggered is an involuntary state; sending an email is a choice. And it sounds like Marcia doesn’t even recognize this as her own reaction- she’s projecting a lot onto the LW.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, the triggering is a HER problem, not an OP problem. And Marcia *definitely* should not have told OP anything about that.

    2. Miette*

      I came to say the same thing. If she is someone who is truly triggered by the scars, I would hope she’d have a bit of compassion for someone else who may also be suffering? But nope, she’d rather convey she thinks someone with such scars is unhireable (!) and needs surgery to fix that!

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I also think that if she were truly triggered, she would know the reaction was specific to her (and possibly other people with a similar history). The comment about how the scars will prevent the LW from getting a job because they are triggering sort of implies she thinks they are “triggering” to any interviewer which makes more sense if she thinks “triggering” means “something people will disapprove of” or “upsetting” or something like that than if she knows what it means as the actual meaning is unlikely to be the case in so many interviews as to prevent the LW from gaining “meaningful employment.”

        I agree that it doesn’t really matter anyway as either way, it is not on the LW to hide her scars on the possibility that somebody might be upset or triggered by them, but to me, there seemed to be an implied assumption that all interviewers or at least most would have this reaction, which…doesn’t really fit with being triggered.

        1. Education Mike*

          If something is triggering it’s reasonable to think lots of people would not want it in an employee, even if they’re not personally triggered. They could alienate coworkers, clients, etc. I wouldn’t want an employee who joked about traumatic topics, not because I would be triggered but because someone else might be. (And also because that’s trash behavior and bad judgment.)

          The issue is that this is OPs body, not a bad joke or racist pin. Even if someone’s body genuinely is triggering, whether it’s their pregnancy, their thinness, their resemblance to someone, etc you just have to manage those feelings yourself.

          1. Stopgap*

            Anything can be triggering. It’s not reasonable to think that lots of people would not want to be around, say, the soda brand that happened to be your abuser’s favorite.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Even if she’s legitimately triggered, that’s hers to manage *without* writing inappropriate letters to people. If she’s interacting with people the odds are that she’s going to run into a few who have scars, and it’s not their job to make her OK with that.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Exactly this. I have PTSD. When I’m triggered, it’s my responsibility to manage it and not make it other people’s problem. If Marcia was legitimately triggered by seeing OP’s scar, that’s still not an excuse for her to dump those emotions into OP’s lap the way she did.

        1. Worldwalker*

          And given the number of people who have scars of all types — I have a nice collection of my own, though they’ve faded over the years, because I used to have an iguana, and they hold onto arms like they’re tree branches — the OP is not the last person with scars Marcia is ever going to see, interview, or work with. If she can’t handle that, she should be in a different line of work.

          Someone who’s afraid of clowns shouldn’t work at a circus. Someone who’s afraid of mice shouldn’t work in a lab animal colony. And someone who has this kind of issues with other people’s bodies — and has this little control over her responses — should not be interviewing people, or working with the public either.

          1. Observer*

            Someone who’s afraid of clowns shouldn’t work at a circus. Someone who’s afraid of mice shouldn’t work in a lab animal colony. And someone who has this kind of issues with other people’s bodies — and has this little control over her responses — should not be interviewing people, or working with the public either.


    4. Observer*

      I strongly suspect she used “triggering” here to mean “uncomfortable and vaguely upsetting”

      Actually, I suspect that it’s not just “discomfort” that she’s experiencing. The behavior that the OP describes sounds like Monica was quite deeply disturbed – so much that she was having a hard time focusing.

      Still wildly inappropriate.

    5. many bells down*

      Yes, I have a very large scar on my chest – it’s from heart surgery and no one is going to mistake it for a self-harm scar – but I don’t make any effort to cover or conceal it, and it has on a few (thankfully) rare occasions upset people. I would very much not tolerate someone suggesting I need to cover it to be employable.

  13. JM60*

    I certainly wouldn’t diagnose her, but this makes me wonder if it’s triggering for her because she has been going through issues and has considered self-harm, and that cause her to assume that’s what was going on with you. Regardless, she wildly and inappropriately overstepped.

      1. yala*

        Honestly, the vibe I got was kind of maybe more of some well-meaning pearl-clutching? Like, I know a lot of Church Ladies who assume everyone who gets tattoos or body mods must be In Pain and needs someone to Reach Out With Help. That would definitely extend to seeing self-harm scars.

  14. Jessen*

    In addition to the above, could this potentially be considered evidence of disability discrimination? She’s making decisions as a hiring manager on the basis of her presumptions about a candidate’s mental health.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. That’s what I meant in the post by, “She put in writing that she believes you have a disability and you should hide it. That’s legal liability for her company.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The ADA protects you if a manager believes you have a covered disability. Marcia made it clear she believes the scars are a sign of a mental health issue.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        A scar is not a disability, but discrimination against people because of mental health problems is illegal — and the EEOC’s examples include depression and PTSD.

        As Alison notes, “I think you have a disability, and you can’t be hired unless you hide your disability” is a problem whether or not the (actual or potential) employee has that disability.

      3. Darsynia*

        Liken this to someone who is in a heterosexual relationship but refers to their partner as ‘partner,’ and interviews with someone who believes homosexuality is a liability in hiring at their company. This hiring manager sends a ‘friendly’ email letting the applicant know they’re not being considered as gay couples aren’t welcome at the workplace, and offers a brochure to a ‘getting past your gayness’ group at their church.

        This person would have discriminated against the applicant by assumption, even though they were wrong.

    2. SpaceySteph*

      I wonder if in this case because OP already removed themselves from candidacy they may not be able to show discrimination (even though the interview behavior was inappropriate and should itself count as discrimination)?

      1. Education Mike*

        You can still discriminate against someone even if they don’t want a job with you. OP wouldn’t need to do anything to show discrimination. The interviewer wrote down “I discriminated against you in our interview, FYI” and sent it an in email. That’s what makes her such a liability.

        Even if OP didn’t want to sue or wasn’t able to, this employee put their illegal biases into an email. That’s a huge liability. Anyone who didn’t get a job in the past, doesn’t get one in the future, any current employees who get a bad review or don’t get a promotion, there is now written proof this person discriminated against them.

  15. Environmental Compliance*

    My eyebrows are in the ceiling and my jaw is on the floor.

    “If I could offer you some additional advice, I fear those scars will be detrimental to you obtaining any meaningful employment.”

    I can’t actually type out my response to this as it would be too heavily censored. Holy hell.

    1. curmudgeon*

      “If I could offer you some additional advice, I fear those scars will be detrimental to you obtaining any meaningful employment.”

      Like what on earth does she expect the interviewee to do about it? Wear long sleeves all the time? Get new arms?

      1. Avery*

        Wear long sleeves and/or cover them up with make-up 24/7, I’m guessing, because God forbid your (assumed) self-harm show in a way perceivable to others! Don’t you know that looking perfect at all times is your most important duty in this world???
        (That might well be Marcia’s thinking, honestly. Gag.)

      1. NeutralJanet*

        Also, if you think someone is suicidal, telling her that she’ll never be able to get a job is a great move! No way could a mentally ill person perceive this as being told that they’re a failure and always will be!

        1. ferrina*

          I just can’t believe she didn’t realize how discriminatory and even cliche that is! That stigma is awful- “If you have a mental health condition, you’ll never have a meaningful life.” Um, no, that’s not how it works at all. What an awful mindset! HR definitely needs to know about this.

        2. Chirpy*

          Unfortunately, I can confirm, the very last thing a depressed job seeker needs to hear is that they will be perpetually unemployable for existing as themselves.

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          Not that I was impressed at all before that, but that is the sentence that made me feral.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I work taking calls for a pizza company, and the cooks all say you aren’t really a pro until you’ve got at least one burn scar from the ovens.

          1. Lisa Simpson*

            My BIL used to be a pastry chef, and back then he always had red lines a few inches above his elbow, from the oven racks.

          2. TinySoprano*

            I was about to say it’s clear that Marcia has never met a chef. Or a mechanic. Or any kind of tradie. Or heck, even a vet.

            1. RLC*

              Exactly what I was thinking! Marcia would be making wrong assumptions all over the place if she met me (cats, rose gardening, baking, auto restoration, woodworking and sewing/ironing mishaps have left me with an ever changing collection of scars on my hands, arms and wrists). The only time I ever got comments in the workplace it was from the EMTs and volunteer firefighters in my work unit and that was genuine, appropriate concern that I was not using proper safety equipment to avoid injury.

        2. londonedit*

          My mum has all sorts of little horizontal scars on her forearms because the house I grew up in had an Aga (a big range cooker common in British farmhouses/rural houses that’s always hot) and the ovens on an Aga are quite small, so she was forever knocking her arms on the sides of the oven, or on the (hot) oven door, or on the oven racks, when she was cooking. We bought her big gauntlet-style oven gloves that went up to the elbow, but she never bothered to take the time to put them on and carried on just grabbing stuff out of the oven with a tea towel! Goodness knows what Marcia would have thought of that.

        3. Giant Kitty*

          I have two parallel burn scars from the edge of a hot cookie sheet that look exactly the same as self harm scars.

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I once managed to totally forget that steam = boiled water = burns and stuck my wrist over the spout of a boiling water kettle. That was the day I found that if you don’t have to move too much a ziploc bag full of cold water + just a little ice makes for a surprisingly gentle cold pack on a big burn.

        2. inko*

          I have both SI scars and forearm scars from reaching too close to hot oven shelves. They both look pretty much the same in all honesty – which is why I’d never assume what was going on with someone else’s arms!

      2. Worldwalker*

        When my arms are sunburned, it’s easy to see my “iguana owner tattoos” 20+ years after I parted company with my long-ago iguana. They have razor-sharp claws intended to hold onto tree branches, and do the same with human arms. (heated tree branches, in what passes for an iguana’s mind) You can always tell the iguana owners — we look like we went ten rounds with a rosebush and lost.

  16. voyager1*

    I am kinda confused by Alison’s answer. I think Marcia probably overstepped, but it was from a place of empathy. However if you have scars that look like self harm scars, Marcia isn’t exactly wrong. A long sleeve shirt might be best so people don’t notice them and think things about you. We comment a lot on here about mental health and not revealing it at the workplace. I see this the same way, don’t draw attention to something that people are going to think the worst about.

    I also wonder if Marcia had wrestled with some mental health issues, hence why your scars were “triggering.” Hence why I see more empathy here from her then being mean.

    1. Exie*

      This is 100% my read, that Marcia has experienced (or has a family member/friend who has experienced) mental health and well-being issues in the past. But the fact that her email / rec to a church agency comes from a place of empathy doesn’t make it any more okay. We don’t need to ascribe hostile intent to it, for the email to be Real Bad, legally/professionally/personally.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Yeah, actually she is wrong, and so are you. People who has struggled with self harm have zero obligation to hide their scars. A person existing with scars is not “drawing attention to something” and honestly I’m pretty offended by your comment. There’s a big difference between saying “disclosing your diagnosis might put you in jeopardy because of other people’s biases” and “hide a physical component of your body that you cannot change that is likely related to a legally protected disability.”

      1. Gerry Keay*

        And yes I recognize that OP’s scars are not from self harm, but voyager1, your comment reinforces the damaging idea that people who have struggled with and survived self harm should be ashamed of that and hide it for other people’s comfort.

        1. Maurynna36*

          As someone who has lived with mental health issues (but not self harm) and been ashamed of admitting to myself and others that I needed help/was in active treatment for my issues for the majority of their life, I 100% endorse this statement.

        2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          Also cosigning this. The more people normalize and talk openly about mental health, the more it becomes something that people 1. recognize, and 2. are not afraid/ashamed to get treatment for.

        3. JimmyJab*

          Yah, I have self harm scars and it took me years to feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit to the beach – my favorite place on earth. Mine aren’t on my arms, so they are rarely, if ever, visible at work, but I’d be pretty triggered if someone told me my scars would prevent me from finding a job (mine aren’t visible like I said, but for purposes of this comment, I’m pretending).

        4. Worldwalker*

          “…for other people’s comfort” is a big part of this whole thing. Look like this — dress like that — hide this other thing — for other people’s comfort. No, take care of your *own* comfort, and if you don’t like how someone else looks, *you* deal with it. Quietly. Internally. Yourself.

        5. Sylvan*


          Also, let people move on.

          I have a couple of SH scars. They’re very old. I’m not going to treat them like I have cooties. Let’s accept that everyone’s skin looks different and move on.

        6. littlehope*

          Yeah. I have self-harm scars on my arms; I’ve been recovered for a long time, but they’ll always be there. I used to cover them all the time, but now they’re obviously old and I also give fewer fucks, I don’t bother. And most people are chill about it, but I have had people suggest to me that I have an obligation to cover my arms all the time forever in case I make someone uncomfortable. Usually the same people who think I shouldn’t take my disabled body out in public in my wheelchair because it makes them sad.
          I think those people can fuck off. Our bodies sometimes tell our stories. That’s part of my story. You can handle it.
          Now, have I sometimes chosen to hide them in certain situations because I don’t want to deal with people’s possible reactions? Sure, and that’s my right too, we all choose which bits of ourselves to hide and to show and to whom. But *I* choose. I do not have an obligation to make myself uncomfortable for other people’s emotional comfort.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            …people who think I shouldn’t take my disabled body out in public in my wheelchair because it makes them sad.

            I agree, those people can fuck right the hell off because what the fuck. Those people shouldn’t take themselves out in public.

      2. MEH Squared*

        Strong agree. Self-harm scars are not something that need to be hidden away if the person with them is comfortable with them showing. It’s even more ridiculous in this case because the OP’s scars are not from self-harm. They should cover them up just because someone may misinterpret them? Give me a break.

        It doesn’t matter if Marcia is trying to be empathetic or not–she massively overstepped and her manager needs to know.

      3. Yellow*

        Agreed. If you’re mauled by a dog as a child, is it your responsibility to hide those scars, since it might trigger someone who is afraid of dogs? Scars are part of your body. And a meaningful part of your body, for lot of people.

        1. Flash Packet*

          And if I was mauled by a dog when I was a child and am terrified of dogs as an adult, to the point of being triggered by seeing one, the solution is NOT, “Everyone in my neighborhood needs to get rid of their dogs or hide them out of sight.”

      4. Be kind, rewind*

        I agree with this completely. The fact that Marcia suggested hiding the scars was the worst part (out of so many awful parts!) of the letter IMO.

      5. Ripley*

        Totally agree. I have self harm scars on my wrist and forearm. I am not wearing long sleeves year round. My scars are a result of being ill. I am not ashamed of them nor do I feel they should be hidden. And I’ve had them for years, through lots of jobs.

        1. Flash Packet*

          Same. I have self-harm scars mixed in with cat scratch scars, burn scars (bakers and pizza cooks, unite!), clumsy-around-sharp-things scars, and a few bicycle accident scars.

          Marcia would positively pass out from the vapors if she saw my hands and arms.

    3. Julia*

      I don’t think most people see scars on the arm and think self harm. They are more likely to ask what happened.

      I have cat scratch scars on my both arms that people sometimes comment on. The most common question is “what happened.” Sometimes people will ask in a way that makes it clear they think I engaged in self harm.

      Alison has always said that people shouldn’t comment on other people’s bodies or make assumptions about the person based on their body. The core issue is the interviewer looking at someone’s body and making decisions based on that.

      If someone is having a trauma response to scars that is something they need to work on not affecting them in the work place. This is also something Alison has talked about repeatedly.

      1. UKDancer*

        My default assumption for scars is usually “cat scratch” as most of my friends with cats tend to have at least one cat related scar (more when trying to medicate them).

        1. Random Bystander*

          Or attempting to corral said cat for the hated annual vet visit. I have one cat who is completely docile and affectionate *until* the crate comes out, at which point she turns into “all pointy bits” of claws and teeth. Yes, I have scars–including three parallel scars on my forearm as a result of such efforts. I schedule her appointment when I have assistance available, try to catch her when she’s sleeping and “purrito” her, but if that fails, bandages will be required after crating her before leaving for the vet (sometimes for both me and my assistant).

          1. Merci Dee*

            My cat is also not fond of his carrier. A number of years ago I had to upsize his carrier because he wasn’t a kitten anymore, and found one that opens on top as well as at the front. The top opening has been a lifesaver, because it’s much easier to get him in that opening than trying to set the carrier on its back end so that I can just sort of drop him through the narrow front doorway like laundry down a chute. But believe me when I tell you, it doesn’t matter whether he goes in through the front or through the top, he goes from being a four-legged cat to being a 20-legged beast when he’s trying to spread out to keep from fitting through the opening . . .

            . . . . until the vet is done with his exam and shots and opens the front door of the carrier to put him back in for the trip home, and he just sashays in on his own with a little tail flip, like he’s done that a million times and the carrier is his absolute favorite place to be. ~facepalm~

            Also, speaking to scratches . . . every year when the weather warms up and I start getting some sun from being outside, the network of faint cat scratch scars on my hands and forearms starts to become more apparent. My daughter would point them out when she was small, but I told her they were no big deal because it just meant that I was owned and loved by a cat, and that I loved him, too.

            1. Worldwalker*

              One of my cats loves his carrier because it’s something he can crawl into. (he’s also fond of boxes, bags, and the space under the bedroom cabinet somehow) The other can be lured in with treats. I consider myself very lucky.

              1. SwiftSunrise*

                Our cat could be easily caught and stuffed into her carrier … by everyone EXCEPT MY SISTER.

                The rest of us just opened the door, and she’d almost walk in, with a little nudge.

                My sister? Had to allow an extra hour to FIND the cat, and break out the gardening/work gloves.

                1. yala*

                  one time I had to get my brother to help me move the mattress because my cat had gotten INTO the box spring to hide

                  now I put the carrier in the bathtub and draw the curtain the night before. The next day, I go into the bathroom and she follows me and AHA!

          2. Lisa Simpson*

            My cat needed a bath a month ago, the places where she sunk her claws into my thigh to climb out of the bathtub are just starting to properly heal.

        2. MeepMeep123*

          I have perfect suicide-attempt-looking scars on both my wrists from my cat. She did not want to go to the vet one day. Thankfully, she didn’t actually slice into the arteries.

          1. Julia*

            I have those scars on one wrist from a cat. I also scar more from cat scratches than other similar injuries. Sigh.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          We have to bathe our cat tomorrow and I’m sure I’ll be sporting some interesting ones.

        4. Tin Cormorant*

          Yep. One of my biggest scars is on my thigh where a lap cat got suddenly frightened by something and leaped a great distance off of my lap when I was a kid. I haven’t gotten scratched on my arms deeply enough to scar, but that’s luck on my part. I’d assume any other explanation for arm scars is going to be more likely than self-harm.

        5. Worldwalker*

          Try “iguana scratch”! They have claws much like cats, but apparently made of surgical steel, and they’re not retractable. Also, iguanas are not very smart. So they grab on, hard, all the time, with those claws. Yeah, I’ve got scars.

          The cat asleep in my lap is much better behaved. Though he did leave an interesting row of gouges up my back when he was a kitten and decided that was a good way to get to my head. (it took a while to get across the difference between a human and a cat tree!)

        6. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I don’t have any scars on my hands as a result of cats, but have a few spots on my back from when my cat decided she did not want her bath and climbed straight over me to get out. Not fun. (It was medicated bath too, so I had to go back and get her)

        7. Julia*

          I have two cat scratch scars on one wrist which has led to some awkward raised eyebrows and concerned faces. I do understand people reacting to those as being self harm related. That said, strangers commenting on them is not helpful.

      2. Warrior Princess xena*

        I have scars on my hands from at least 4 different things over the last twenty years, including when I somehow didn’t connect the ideas of steam being boiling water and boiling water being very painful and stuck my hand over the spout of a teakettle (do not recommend, 0/10). There are hundreds of things that can cause scars that have nothing to do with self harm. If the first thing people assume when they see a scar is ‘self-harm’, that is their problem, not mine, and I refuse to wear gloves 100% of the time to alleviate their mistaken views

    4. curmudgeon*

      Are you seriously recommending the OP wear long sleeves to hide something that regardless of origin/cause has no bearing on someone’s ability to perform a job??

      1. just passing through*

        I think they’re recommending that OP wear long sleeves while interviewing to bypass any future situations like this.

        Instead, I suggest that the OP wear short sleeves while interviewing to screen out the Marcias of the world.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Instead, I suggest that the OP wear short sleeves while interviewing to screen out the Marcias of the world.


    5. Hannah L*

      It absolutely does not matter if Marcia also wrestles with mental health issues. What she did was so incredibly inappropriate, and the company needs to be looped in.

    6. Le Sigh*

      Marcia 1,000% percent overstepped (no probably here) and her email coming from a place of empathy doesn’t make it any less discriminatory or illegal, any less ill-informed (since she didn’t actually know the cause of the scars), or any less hurtful (even harmful) to OP.

      I have been on the receiving end of well-meaning advice, complete with church-related materials — I lived in a town full of it — and I can tell you it coming from a “good place” didn’t make it any better for me. Plenty of sidewalk protestors think the things they say to patients at abortion clinics comes from a good place, when in fact often what they’re doing is making things harder and more dangerous for the patients.

      And if OP did have self-harm scars, how would Marcia know if OP was in or had treatment for it already, and this might interfere with their well-being? And no matter the cause, they’re under no obligation to hide their scars and Marcia *is* obligated to exclude that information from her hiring decisions.

    7. Ari*

      It’s not professional or appropriate for anyone in a hiring position to make assumptions about how or why an interviewee has scars. Nor is it appropriate to tell someone they should have to hide their scars just in case others might be uncomfortable by the sight.

      1. Sylvan*


        Everyone has different skin. Some people have scars, some have birthmarks, some have skin conditions. Probably most of us don’t make it to adulthood with completely unmarked skin. It’s not appropriate to comment on.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      The part about scars being an impediment to gainful employment, though, is 100% grade-A hogwash. They might be only if your potential employer is wildly prejudiced against scars.

      Also: Even if this is true then Marcia’s fitness to interview people–people who might by chance have scars–is questionable. You can’t have someone interviewing people who has issues with certain ways people might look.

    9. Llellayena*

      Why do you need to treat self harm scars any different that scars from something else? Especially since they might not actually BE self harm scars (as was specifically stated in the letter). If we treat these types of scars as just the same as an accidental injury (a burn like in the letter, running hands first through a plate glass door (my uncle)…) doesn’t that reduce the “stigma” of mental health issues associated with cutting and/or suicide?

      I don’t see that this is any different than someone photographing an employee’s stoma bag (real letter, look it up) or commenting on post-mastectomy results (also a real letter). You don’t comment on people’s bodies.

      1. Avery*

        I think the perception is that self-harm scars are different because you could intervene in some way to help the person… which of course ignores that 1) they might not be self-harm scars at all, as in OP’s case, 2) they might be scars from long ago and not a sign of any ongoing self-harm, 3) even if the person is actively self-harming, the odds of your intervention actually helping versus just making things awkward aren’t great, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing (pretty sure we had a letter like this about someone with an eating disorder and a well-meaning but Unhelpful coworker, which would be comparable), and 4) referring somebody to a church-run agency and suggesting that scars make them unemployable are still hard nos in the employment field for legal reasons if nothing else.

        1. Observer*

          This is SOOO important. This keeps on coming up- There is almost always at least one person who says “But you have to say something! The person might need help!” And totally ignores that the “might” is carrying a heavy load, and worse, even if the person DOES need help, your (a perfect stranger) saying something has not chance of helping.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            Yup. Part of bystander training is often identifying whether or not you are actually capable of helping in a situation. Like, if you don’t know actually how to do CPR, don’t just start smacking on someone’s chest and breathing into their mouth. You’ll just do more harm.

          2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

            THIS. One of the foundations of administering Metal Health First Aid is that you consider your relationship to the person before you initiate a conversation with them. The type of conversation Marica thought she was having will do no good. The only time you should do something like this with a stranger is if you encounter them in pubic and they are in visible crisis, like a call 911 crisis. Otherwise your intervention, as a complete stranger, may actually do harm.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              “Metal Health First Aid”

              Thanks for this … my brain has now gone off to imagine that you’re of the opinion that amateur helpers offering first aid to strangers by blasting them with loud heavy metal music is not helpful :)

              1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

                I was like… What? Then I saw the typo and laughed out loud. TY for the tiny lift of my spirits today!

            2. J!*

              Not only was the type of conversation Marcia THOUGHT she was having not going to be successful, the type of conversation Marcia ACTUALLY had could do significant harm. Telling someone who were actually in the throes of sucidal ideation that they’re unemployable, and that they must have people who love them (when you don’t know whether that’s true or if they feel like it’s true) seems like the absolute wrong thing to do if you’re trying to help.

          3. Worldwalker*

            Yeah, as someone who has fought with the Black Dog, as Winston Churchill called it, for my entire adult life, I can say that having an interviewer tell me I was unemployable would send me right into the pit of despair with rocket assist. That is just one of the many ways that this letter is Awful with a capital A (and probably a capital WFUL too) but that’s the one that really leaped out at me.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Hi, Avery — I remember that letter you referenced in point 3. (I think it was in January 2020.) I wish the OP in that case would send us an update, because it was very similar to this one: the coworker was being offensive and possibly damaging under the guise of “caring.”

      2. Worldwalker*

        Your uncle? My BIL has the same, from when he put his arms through a glass storm door when he was a kid.

    10. Kit*

      I am covered in old self-harm scars and it’s not my job to anticipate and ameliorate other people’s emotional responses to the appearance of my skin any more than it would be for someone with scars from an accident or attack.

      Your comment is frankly absurd. “You don’t have to disclose your disabilities or illnesses if you don’t want to” does not mean “you have to hide any sign of disability or illness from employers or potential employers for their comfort.”

      I have worked mostly in jobs where long sleeves are not allowed for safety reasons. No one has ever, at any point, remarked on my obviously self-inflicted scars at work.

    11. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      there are SO MANY things that can fall into that category. And it’s always a case of “don’t bother us good Proper People with your /divergence/”

      Don’t be gay/black/female/scarred/neurodivergent/pagan/whatever in public! Don’t make us Proper People SEE that kind of thing! My eyes, my eyes!

      pff. it is the personal choice of someone who has scars on their arms to cover them or not, as they see fit. It is not someone else’s place to freak out at being forced to be aware of someone Potentially Different.

    12. Koala*

      “Marcia isn’t exactly wrong. A long sleeve shirt might be best so people don’t notice them and think things about you”

      WHOA, yikes, people shouldn’t have to hide themselves because others are making assumptions about a person’s appearance. This letter is a textbook example of how assumptions can be wrong, first of all, and second no one should be discriminating against someone for their appearance or past. People “thinking things” about somone with scars is a them problem and they should change the way they operate and think about others, not the person with the scars.

      1. ferrina*

        Truth! No one should be condemned to wear long sleeves forever because they have scars- that’s just ridiculous! Bodies are bodies, and bodies have histories. Accept that.

        See also: the previous letter whose coworker told her to cover up her arms. Spoiler alert- the person complaining about her arms was 100% in the wrong (we got an update on that too- felt so bad for the LW having to deal with that jerk!)
        See also also: The previous letter writer whose coworkers were upset by her masectomy. Your discomfort with someone’s body is your own to deal with. No one has to go out of their way to hide parts of them that you don’t like.

      2. knitcrazybooknut*

        Everybody makes assumptions about people, every day. But the social contract says that we don’t say those assumptions out loud, and some of us learn that our assumptions are wrong, and are massively grateful that we DIDN’T say what we were thinking.

        1. Video killed the radio star*

          “Everybody makes assumptions about people, every day. But the social contract says that we don’t say those assumptions out loud, and some of us learn that our assumptions are wrong, and are massively grateful that we DIDN’T say what we were thinking.”

          Yes, this! Someone who used to run in my friend circle had very obvious scarring on their arms – most likely from self-harm. I say most likely, because I don’t know, because *I never mentioned them because I try my best not to be a garbage human being!* (I’m not saying I always succeed. But I do try).

    13. Observer*

      but it was from a place of empathy.

      Empathy? What is empathetic in telling someone that they are not qualified to get a job because of their scars?

      A long sleeve shirt might be best so people don’t notice them and think things about you. We comment a lot on here about mental health and not revealing it at the workplace. I see this the same way, don’t draw attention to something that people are going to think the worst about.

      Which is not really relevant. If the OP had written in “I have scars that look like they might be from self harm. Is it possible that people might illegally discriminate against me about that? Would it make sense to try to hide them?” That would be a different question, and at that point, it’s worth considering whether the OP would be better off hiding the scars or not. But it is TOTALLY not within the appropriate realm of a hiring manager to pass judgement on the matter.

      I also wonder if Marcia had wrestled with some mental health issues, hence why your scars were “triggering.” Hence why I see more empathy here from her then being mean.

      It doesn’t really matter why she did this.

      If you are correct that she’s dealing with her own issues, that STILL does not make her reaction “empathetic”. It just makes it a situation where she’s dumping her mental health issues on someone else, without telling them that that’s what she is doing.

      1. Worldwalker*

        All of this.

        Whatever the problems Marcia has, they’re all on her. It’s up to her to deal with them, not dump them on other people.

      2. inko*

        Yeah, this is not empathy. Empathy is feeling for someone else. Marcia’s response was allll about Marcia, even though she clearly thought she was being helpful. Marcia can’t escape her own perspective enough for genuine empathy.

        I also suspect Marcia is dealing with something of her own, but so are a great many of us. It doesn’t justify her behaviour at ALL. Triggers in the moment distracting her, sure, it’s unfortunate but I can believe she couldn’t help it. Banging out a screed of horribly misguided advice several days later is a different story.

    14. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Yeah, NO. NO, NO, AND NO AGAIN.

      You need to learn to control yourself; intent doesn’t matter, impact does. Nobody should be hiding scars to make others more comfortable. This attitude needs to go, I don’t care about empathy.

      1. ferrina*

        intent doesn’t matter, impact does

        Co-signed. True empathy means aligning your impact with your intent. If you truly care, educate yourself and don’t be a jerk (and don’t expect people to change/unreasonably hide their bodies for you!)

    15. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Empathy would be concern for the LW, not telling her that she needs to permanently hide her scars. I’m sure Marica THINKS she was expressing empathy, but she was so far away form that it tired into judgement and fear.

      1. Lizzianna*

        Exactly. Marcia may be expressing sympathy, but she’s not expressing empathy. Empathy would require her to get to know OP, and not just lob advice at a stranger.

        Empathy involves listening and learning and it doesn’t make assumptions.

    16. Allegra*

      For me,
      – looking at a person’s proffered hand for a long moment and then refusing to shake it (!)
      – writing phrases like “Please find love for yourself and get the help you clearly need” and “those scars will be detrimental to you obtaining any meaningful employment…and you should seek permanent ways to disguise them”
      – adding “God bless” and specifically referring a church-run support group
      all indicate to me that Marcia is coming from a place of judgment and not compassion or empathy. Under even the most charitable reading, it’s pushy and moralistic.

      And even if it WERE kindly meant, which I find unlikely, people with scars or indeed any other physical difference are under no obligation to hide them for other people’s viewing comfort, no matter the source of the scars. It’s discriminatory to take a physical difference or perceived disability (mental health) into account during the hiring process, full stop.

      1. Darsynia*

        I have tried about five times to write what amounts to this exact comment, thank you for articulating it so well!

        In a very real way, this hiring manager’s reaction tells me that they’re unprofessional and giving advice as though they aren’t. This is inappropriate behavior on multiple levels and reflects incredibly poorly on their place of work even, and this is very crucial, even if it had been well received by the OP. It’s bad EVEN THEN.

      2. just passing through*

        I’m not sure why referring someone to a church-run support group, rather than some other kind of support group, indicates less empathy in Marcia. Both religious and non-religious people are capable of engaging in both empathetic and judgmental behavior. If Marcia had been in an appropriate situation to express this type of concern for someone (i.e. NOT AS AN INTERVIEWER! NOT AT WORK! NOT MAKING ASSUMPTIONS!), “you might find St. Whatever’s support group helpful” and “you might find the community center support group helpful” would be equally appropriate (or inappropriate). In fact, she was not in an appropriate situation to bring up any such thing, and she showed her lack of empathy by her other behavior throughout the interaction.

        I’m concerned at the anti-religious bias in this comment section. The number of commenters who assume that Marcia must be like this because she is religious, and that all religious people must be like this, rather than that she uses (and quite possibly misuses) her religion to engage in this behavior, makes me, as a practicing Christian who finds Marcia’s behavior horrifying, feel quite unwelcome.

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          It’s because Marcia has no way of knowing what religion, if any, OP practices, and yet she offered a religious pamphlet. Many people do not like to be proselytised at, or get involved in organizations run by other religions. Especially because many such organizations are known to discriminate against LGBT+ people and have right wing beliefs.

          Telling someone about Christian-run organizations is not a neutral act–how would you feel attending a support group run by another religion? And if you are just now finding out that people don’t like religion being thrown in their faces inappropriately, then you have a blind spot about this topic.

        2. Loredena Frisealach*

          Most of the comments about religion were about a specific strain though, evangelicals, and from ex-evangelics with bad experiences. It’s not a blanket condemnation of Christianity!

        3. Parakeet*

          While the comments here can occasionally be a throwback to the atheist/skeptic blogosphere of a decade ago, Christians and Christianity are dominant in US society, and sound as un-self-aware as every other dominant group does when they show up complaining about bias and whether they’re being made welcome enough.

        4. Allegra*

          Hi, I’m actually a very religious Jew, which is in fact why I find someone saying “you need help to fix yourself”, coupled with handing out a church pamphlet a particularly ignorant and judgmental act. She’s either assuming LW is of her religion, or that her religion will fix whatever (she perceives to be) wrong about the LW. (I think we can assume she is Christian from her “God bless,” so it seems unlikely the selection of a church resource was accidental.) I don’t find the attitudes inherent in workplace proselytizing to be an example of someone coming from a place of compassion or empathy.

          1. AbruptPenguin*

            I came here to say the same thing. Also a religious Jew. No anti-religion bias here. What I am against is proselytizing in the interview process, and the assumption that everyone is Christian (or wants to be, or should be).

        5. Irish Teacher*

          I don’t think people are being anti-religion here. I think it’s more that we don’t know whether this is a support group for people dealing with self-harm that simply happens to be run by a church or whether it’s a “turn to God and He will heal you and if you don’t recover, it’s because you aren’t praying enough” typed group and I think that a lot of people aren’t inclined to give Marcia the benefit of the doubt, given some of her other reactions.

          She doesn’t seem to have much understanding of self-harm, eg, she appears to think that healed scars are indicative of immediate suicide risk and appears to be afraid to touch somebody who might possibly have self-harmed at some point in their life and therefore, she might not be the best judge of which groups would be supportive.

          I don’t think a church group is necessarily a bad thing and I would have absolutely no problem attending a group run by Muslims or Hindus or other religious groups (apart from groups like Scientology or some of the evangelical churches that believe suffering is due to lack of faith), but we don’t know the LW’s beliefs and nor does Marcia. She may belong to a faith that opposes its faithful taking part in groups led by other churches, for all we know. Or she may have had bad experiences with Christians. So even if it IS a group that happens to have been organised or funded by a certain church and has nothing specifically religious to it, it still probably isn’t the best choice to recommend to a complete stranger.

          But I think most of the reactions are coming from the overall pattern. If Marcia seemed empathetic overall and perhaps had mentioned that she or a friend or family member had had a history of self-harming and found this group helpful, I think people would be less likely to be suspicious of the nature of the group.

        6. Kella*

          Offering religious-based resources carries with it an assumption that the person you’re giving to either is from the same religion or that you expect them to be fine with interacting with resources that use a value system they don’t share. Christianity is not neutral. There are plenty of sects of Christianity that are not okay with non-Christians participating in their events, or a non-Christian attending is seen as an invitation to attempt conversion. As a non Christian, I have no way of knowing which kind I’m being invited to unless you tell me. Choosing to not tell me indicates to me that you aren’t prioritizing my ability to feel safe and comfortable in your community, and so I’m going to assume it’s one of the judgemental, conversion types of events, not the all-welcoming kind.

          If you’re going to invite someone to use resources from a religious community (assuming that it’s appropriate to do this at all), that needs to be accompanied by an acknowledgment that your faith might not be theirs, or that everyone is welcome, or that the hosting organization is a church but the content is not religious etc.

          And while it might be jumping to conclusions to assume that Marcia’s reaction was due to her faith, that idea comes from somewhere. It’s based on real experiences commenters have had of being rejected and judged for things like a mental health condition, a disability, a chronic illness, a physical abnormality, specifically by religious communities. The presence of Christianity isn’t the only factor being considered here. It was Church Resources without context + bad boundaries + “You need to hide your problems until they are fixed.” If you are acting in a way that assumes everyone shares your religion, or being disrespectful of boundaries, or encouraging people to hide their disabilities/telling them they need to be cured, then yeah, that’s a problem. If you’re not doing any of those things, then comments about Marcia’s religious leanings are not about you.

      3. Hrodvitnir*

        Perfect, thank you. Nothing about how this is described sounds like someone struggling with being triggered, and everything sounds like someone who views vulnerability as an opportunity (or to be kinder, and obligation to “help”) to bring them into the fold.

        Sure, it could be that they were triggered. But I doubt it, and it’s still not OK.

      4. yala*

        Yes, this EXACTLY.

        It’s one of the reasons I’m really confused that so many people are guessing Marcia has dealt with this trauma herself. The phrasing seems so much more judgmental and distant than I feel someone actually triggered by self harm would be.

    17. Dr. Rebecca*

      If anything about a person’s body or appearance* bothers you, that is entirely a ‘you’ problem.

      *Apart from, idk, hate based tattoos or someone actually flashing their privates at you.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Yeah, if you have a tattoo like Charles Manson did, that’s not a ‘you’ problem — that’s absolutely a ‘them’ problem. And a ‘run like hell’ problem.

    18. I should really pick a name*

      How would this change the advice?

      Regardless of her motivations, the email was highly inappropriate, and exposed the company to legal liability.

    19. MeepMeep123*

      Whaaaaaaat? First of all, there are any number of reasons that someone could have scars on their wrist, as the OP demonstrates. I have perfect suicide-attempt-looking scars on both my wrists because I have a cat who didn’t want to go to the vet one day. I bet the number of cat owners is far greater than the number of people who engage in self-harm.

      But also, how empathetic is it to refuse to shake someone’s hand? Or to tell them that they’re unemployable because of their alleged mental health issue? I mean, if she was truly empathetic and truly feeling sorry for OP, wouldn’t she have treated them like a normal human being worthy of respect? At least, when it comes to shaking hands?

    20. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      This isn’t what empathy looks like. Empathy requires sharing which you can not do if you jump to conclusions based on a single data point. Empathy does not tell someone that they are damaged, unemployable and in need of help. This is from the opposite of empathy, judging, superiority and disdain in one pat herself on the back package.

      Would you tell someone thin to wear a padded suit so people don’t think they have an eating disorder? Or someone with thin hair to wear a wig so people don’t think they might have trichotillomania?

    21. Rainy*

      I am not going to wear a fucking long sleeve shirt because I have a scar on my arm that people sometimes mistake for a self-harm scar.

      Your attitude is marginally defensible because being a baker or a pet-owner isn’t a protected class, I guess, but marginally defensible is a pretty low bar. Seriously, do better.

    22. Chirpy*

      It’s misguided empathy, at best, and could be really hurtful to someone actually struggling with depression, so it doesn’t matter what her intentions actually were. This response was not ok.

      In my experience, the people who are ok with showing their real self-harm scars are more likely to a point where they’re in a better headspace and are (or at least trying to) accept this is their body now, and those who hide them tend to be the ones still struggling, so demanding someone cover up is not helpful.

    23. Francie Foxglove*

      “A long sleeve shirt might be best so people don’t notice [your scars] and think things about you…don’t draw attention to something that people are going to think the worst about.”

      Maybe people shouldn’t think so much about scars or other physical attributes. Or about people they don’t, or barely, know. “Great minds talk about ideas. Average minds talk about events. Small minds talk about people.”

    24. Some Dude*

      I think it is a leap to assume they are self-harm scars, a bigger leap to assume that self-harm scars = unemployable, and a huger leap to assume that their input would be helpful. As someone who has struggled with really dark times myself, someone telling me my struggles with depression were hideous and made me unemployable would not help bring me to a good mental state.

    25. octopodes*

      Many other commenters have already said most of this, but this comment is so tone-deaf and offensive that I have to add my own voice to the chorus. I have very noticeable self-harm scars on my arms, and it is not in any way my responsibility to manage how OTHER PEOPLE feel when they see them. Marcia’s comments do not come from empathy, they come from a personal discomfort that she’s trying to force on OP.

      Existing in my body, with the scars that come with it, is not “drawing attention” to that.

    26. NotAnotherManager!*

      Everyone else has already covered the ridiculousness of encouraging someone to cover their self-harm scars to placate the Marcias is the world, so I’ll offer a different perspective.

      I have multiple, round scars on my forearms from having pre-cancerous moles removed. Until a busybody coworker made a comment about my “burning [myself] with cigarettes”, it had never occurred to me someone might mistake them for self-harm scars. And she would not shut up about it until I complained to HR after repeatedly asking her to stop did not work. People just generally should not be commenting on other people’s bodies. Our medical history, whether physical or mental, is none of their concern.

    27. But what to call me?*

      Even if Marcia did have good intentions here, there is nothing empathetic in assuming you know what’s “clearly” wrong with someone and what they “clearly” need. Even if you have the kind of relationship with someone to have this kind of talk with them, you don’t approach it like that. That’s putting yourself in the role of the expert on them and all their problems. Even if you happen to guess right on both the problem and its solution, you’re putting them in the role of helpless little thing who needs someone wiser (in this case a stranger who sees as an indication that they’re incapable of employment) to come save them. Most people justifiably don’t take well to that.

    28. inko*

      You know what, this comment is bad enough to deserve a but more pile-on. This comment is horrible. You CHOOSE whether to reveal your mental health issues in the workplace. You make your own decision based on your comfort levels and the likely outcome. And you do not tell anyone what to do about their scars. Ever. Not in any circumstances. Like, is this clear enough? Don’t do it.

      Marcia is not showing empathy and neither are you.

    29. CaVanaMana*

      Even if it was true empathy, which it wasn’t, empathy isn’t necessarily good or always appropriate.

      As someone who chooses not to disclose my own mental illness, I would never criticize someone who chose to, advise someone not to nor would I think of them as at fault or in the wrong when some jerk treats them badly because of stigma. You seem to be suggesting that we do those things. That’s awful.

    30. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      A long sleeve shirt might be best if I decide it is. It is not your place, nor that of anyone else, to decide it might be best FOR me.

      Some people are comfortable talking about their mental health history. Some are not. Neither you nor Marcia are the person who gets to decide which of those camps each of us fall into.

    31. Kella*

      I may not go into the details of my medical issues at work in order to avoid potential discrimination or scrutiny. That is not the same thing as trying to hide the fact that I have a medical condition, like making sure my braces are never visible, taking medication only when no one is around, avoiding leaning on the banister when I climb the stairs. Expecting someone to hide their disability *is* a form of discrimination.

    1. Stopgap*

      What kind of update are you expecting, considering that LW doesn’t work with Marcia, and Marcia’s company presumably won’t tell LW about their disciplinary measures?

  17. goddessoftransitory*

    Holy cats on motor scooters, this is some of the worst “professional” conduct I’ve read about in a good long while!

    There was nothing about this interview that was handled appropriately, unless you count Marcia not actually bursting into tears or tripping you on the way out of the room. Absolutely let her company know that they have an employee that is sabotaging their business credibility and opening them up to all sorts of legal no-goodness!

    1. Ann Ominous*

      I am imagining a herd of holy cats on motor scooters joining a tribe of yikes on bikes to collectively protest Marcia’s email and behavior.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        And also quite a few trikes are joining the parade, this post is so much WTF?!

    2. Hrodvitnir*

      Honestly, if she’d burst into tears and said she couldn’t handle it, that would be unprofessional but reflect what a sudden overwhelming panic attack might look like.

      This, IMO, is worse. Something akin to contempt, followed up by intrusive attempts to bring OP to Jesus. It made me furious to read – and I was 100% sure there was going to be evangelising by the time I finished reading the description of the interview.

  18. Panicked*

    As an HR manager, I can honestly say that few things surprise me anymore. This shocked the hell out of me. The absolute audacity of that woman is so outrageous that I would look at terminating her if she was my employee.

    OP, PLEASE please please escalate this and do not stop until you hear back from someone with some authority. That woman is opening them up to such huge liability; she’s very lucky that you are not a litigious person.

    1. Properlike*

      Yes. All I could think about was, “Guess there’ll be ANOTHER job opening at that company soon!”

      There’s still time to become a litigious person, right?

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      For some reason, this letter makes me so mad! “Absolute audacity” is exactly the right phrase.
      If I was the OP, I would be down the throat of this company so fast, and Marcia getting fired would be the only outcome that would satisfy me. I really do think she deserves that.

  19. greenland*

    Everything about this is so so awful but I can’t get past the part where she looked at OP’s hand extended for a handshake, saw what she assumed were self-harm scars, and then *refused to touch OP to shake their hand.* Absolutely the least compassionate thing she could do in that moment.

    1. littlehope*

      The rest of it was bad, but that was the most shocking thing to me. Just…how startlingly rude and cruel and bizarre.

      1. greenland*

        I can’t stop thinking about this: imagine if she HAD been right in all her assumptions and the scars were from a recent suicide attempt. How would the interviewee feel if they noticed a pointed look at their scars and refusal to shake their outstretched hand?? Cruel is absolutely the right word for it.

    2. Overit*

      And as a self professed Christian, she has a righteous obligation to show compassion amd grace.
      I would have been so tempted to throw some pointed New Testament verses back at her.

    3. Cayman Islands*

      My take is that Marcia had a trauma reaction (was triggered) to the sight of the scars, and people in the midst of a trauma reaction don’t make very good decisions. To be clear, she should handle her trauma reactions better, but I find her trauma reactions inappropriate while still having empathy for having a trauma reaction in the first place.

      1. Worldwalker*

        If she has this kind of reactions that are interfering so strongly with her job performance, and putting both her employer (liability) and the person she’s interviewing at risk, she needs to be in a different job.

      2. Lizzianna*

        I mean, you can have empathy for someone and still want them to be held accountable for their actions.

        If you are correct, and Marcia really did have a trauma response and truly doesn’t understand how far she overstepped, it would be a kindness for her to learn that, because she may not realize how much her trauma is influencing her life. If that’s the case, I hope she this is a wake up call for her and she gets the help she needs. I also hope she does not do this to another person she perceives as needing her “advice.”

  20. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    If I roll my eyes any harder they’re never going to come back down. Or, I’ll start seeing things behind me. Geez Loueez. My keyboard will explode if I could type what I’d really like to say.
    Now when I think about the time an interviewer insulted my clothing, I’m going to follow it with, “but at least they didn’t” and tell this story. For the record my clothes were great… she needed to say something to make herself feel better.

    I would definitely let the company know about this horrendous ‘follow up.’ For all we know they might just file it in the ‘oh no not again’ file, but it’s still worth mentioning.

  21. NieMojCyrk*

    Yikes on bikes! What version of reality is she inhabiting where she thought this was a good idea to send???

  22. sc.wi*

    Definitely pass on to HR. If I worked for that company, I would not want Marcia interviewing any candidates at all.

    Just wild.

      1. sc.wi*

        Hard agree. The company will need to take a hard look at all of Marcia’s responsibilities. Even if she’s not a manager, I think that email indicates she needs substantial training and oversight even to deal with customers/clients.

  23. Cranky lady*

    Yikes. I almost can’t imagine that someone this out of touch with decent hiring practices hasn’t been flagged by HR/senior management before. Almost. Report to HR but don’t hold your breath that they even recognize there is an issue.

  24. TypityTypeType*

    Gah — What if this were someone who IS in recovery from self-harm and specifically hoped their scars would go unremarked? How about an unusually thin or fat candidate getting an email from Marcia with info on eating disorders? How about a veteran who gets a brochure on PTSD?

    Even assuming nothing but good intentions on Marcia’s part, she could do someone some real harm, and her employers need to know.

    1. Morticia(she/her)*

      If I were the person at her company who was notified about this, I would immediately audit all her outgoing mail for more nonsense like this.

  25. Poison I.V. drip*

    I have a scar on my shoulder from falling off my bike that for some reason people have mistaken for a bullet wound. I’ve decided to lean into it as something that enhances my mystique:)

    1. Rainy*

      I have a set of surgical scars from emergency surgery earlier this year, and when they stabilize I’m going to get a tattoo to cover three of them. The one through and under my navel stays visible: I call it my Rasputin scar because I was disembowelled (a tiny bit, but still!) and lived.

      1. Captain Swan*

        I have multiple scars all over my legs from being hit by a car while riding my bike as a kid. The scars were a result of all the surgery to put all the bones and vessels back together again. I don’t actively try to hid them but it makes for interesting reactions when new coworkers see the scars for the first time. Usually when I wear an above the knee skirt in warmer weather so I’m not wearing tights or hose with it is when folks notice. Generally, it’s a quick comment and then business as usual. If they started treating me differently or sending me therapy suggestions after seeing the scars, well then we would be having a serious discussion.

        1. anon at Cal Poly Humboldt*

          My ex had a scar on one shin that looked like someone scooped out a bite of his leg with a BIG spork. When he was snorkeling as a teenager, a wave threw him up against a barnacle-covered rock where one of the broken barnacles *did* basically scoop out a piece of muscle.

          I got a round bruise on one breast when I crashed my bike and fell on my handlebars. Also tore the skin off the knuckles of the other hand that got caught under the other handlebar, and scraped up my shins on the gravel that made the wheels lose traction. One of the doctors at my clinic got a little overzealous and insisted that the only reason I could have a bruise in that place was intimate partner abuse. My emergency contact was my thesis advisor (because I didn’t really know anyone else in town yet) and she was *thiiiiis* close to calling the police and reporting him as physically abusing me. I was terrified that she’d ruin his reputation and get him fired by making a false accusation, which of course she interpreted as being afraid he’d beat me up for snitching on him.

          I don’t remember how I managed to convince her that I had a witness to the bike crash, who had offered me use of his company’s first aid kit when I wiped out across the street. Luckily I did, or my advisor’s name would’ve been dragged through the mud for nothing. (And what if I’d been punched in the boob by some rando I met at the pub? Or a new boyfriend who hadn’t been in my life long enough for me to list him as an emergency contact?)

  26. I Speak for the Trees*

    Wow… just wow! First off, I am sorry you had to experience that. I understand. Though not in a job interview, I’ve also had someone express concern about self-harm after seeing scratches. Mine, however, were from a particularly wild, orange kitten I’d just adopted. Note: we were only playing, it just got a little rough because he didn’t quite understand my lack of fur.

    But, yes, you should alert Marcia’s manager, for the sake of the company, the sake of other candidates, and even for Marcia’s own sake. I am sure that she did find it triggering, as did the person who reported my scratches. However, in both cases there were perfectly normal explanations for the sort of perfectly normal scratches that might be encountered many times in life. Marcia likely needs to learn to cultivate some different responses

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I have a cat for whom violence is a preferred form of communication. Lots of scratches.

      But her tummy is so fluffy I just can’t stop.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I survived Mac’s kittenhood with the help of a set of claw clippers. Things got better once he began to understand the difference between me and a cat tree.

    2. CreepyPaper*

      As the owner of two not quite adult cats who are at the ‘Mother’s limbs are rather fun to maul, let us proceed’ stage of their lives, I can very much relate. I did get pulled aside recently by HR and asked if everything was okay and all I said was ‘kittens, Gina, we’ve got kittens’ and she lit up and squealed and cat pictures were shared.

      Marcia however was way out of line and what strikes me was that this was to an interviewee! Not even an employee! I can understand concern for an employee (not the way she did it, there are Better Ways) but someone you’ve interviewed and might never see again? Just… no.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        See, THAT is how you mention something you think could merit it–privately, one time, ask to see kitten pics if it turns out everything is simply feline.

  27. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, if she’s this wildly inappropriate with the people under her at work, they likely fear for their jobs if they try to say anything to those above her. You could be the outsider with nothing to lose who says “Hey, this person you employ is being wildly inappropriate. Probably not only in this one instance that I, the outsider, know about. Here’s a copy of the email and brochures she sent.”

    Normally I am of the school “This is not your circus and monkeys, and you are allowed to give the company you don’t want to work for not another moment of head space.” This is the rare instance where I think reaching out could alert them to something that is a) a problem; b) that the people in a position to act don’t know about.

    And I commend you on your admirably clear and dispassionate take on the problem.

  28. Eleanor Rigby*

    Perhaps not the point, but what could Marcia even have in mind as a permanent way to disguise the scars? Tattoos?

      1. Grits McGee*

        Long sleeves would be the most reasonable suggestion for covering up, but is it what one would consider permanent? I have to wonder if she was referring to something like plastic surgery or major skin resurfacing treatments….

      2. Agile Phalanges*

        You know body modifications like people getting implants in their heads to give them horns? Or cat whiskers? Same, but with sleeves sewn on at the shoulders. Apparently.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Long sleeves forever, no matter the weather. That’s what people have unironically recommended for me to cover up my self harm scars that are 18 years old and will never fully fade.

      1. littlehope*

        Yeah. I have self-harm scars on my arms; I’ve been recovered for a long time, but they’ll always be there. I used to cover them all the time, but now they’re obviously old and I also give fewer fucks, I don’t bother. And most people are chill about it, but I have had people suggest to me that I have an obligation to cover my arms all the time forever in case I make someone uncomfortable. Usually the same people who think I shouldn’t take my disabled body out in public in my wheelchair because it makes them sad.
        I think those people can fuck off. Our bodies sometimes tell our stories. That’s part of my story. You can handle it.
        Now, have I sometimes chosen to hide them in certain situations because I don’t want to deal with people’s possible reactions? Sure, and that’s my right too, we all choose which bits of ourselves to hide and to show and to whom. But *I* choose. I do not have an obligation to make myself uncomfortable for other people’s emotional comfort.

        1. Ari*

          “Our bodies sometimes tell our stories. That’s part of my story.”
          I LOVE the way you phrased this. ❤️

    2. Gummy Bear*

      I used a tattoo to cover mine, because random people who didn’t know me at all felt inspired to comment all the time. All the time. I was unsurprised about this letter, and I appear to be the only one, but I am deeply familiar with “concerned” people not understanding boundaries.
      My confidence increased significantly, but I can’t stress enough that it was entirely my choice and in my mind an act of reclamation, but no one should feel obligated to hide them.

      Also, even with the tattoo and the scars being 15 years old a nurse noticed them and chose to comment on it….while I was in labor….

      1. MrsThePlague*

        In labour? I’m just…at a loss. Also, I’m so sorry that this is/was a normal enough occurrence for you that this letter didn’t surprise you. Congrats on taking that act of reclamation, and I hope that feeling continues for you!

    3. Willow*

      Long sleeves or makeup or cosmetic surgery. My parents got me surgery as a teen that made them much less noticeable.

    4. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I wonder about this because the only time I ever had someone pull me aside, express concern and hand me pamphlets (and still not anywhere nearly as obnoxious or out of line as Marcia!) was when I did use makeup to cover a bad bruise.

      I had gotten hit hard in the face by a flying object quite by accident and wanted to avoid all of the “omg did your husband beat you up” comments and employed my arsenal of professional theatre makeup to cover it up expertly, but there was still some swelling that gave it away.

      “I only noticed your bruising because I work in this field, but anyone who can cover a bruise that well clearly has lots of practice in hiding bruises.”

      1. starsaphire*

        We joke a lot about the hushed conversation and the pamphlets in the ladies’ room, but, honestly, it’s never anywhere near as invasive as what Marcia pulled.

        And yes, I’ve had that conversation too. (I actually DID walk into the corner of a cabinet. Bloody things were hung too low and far too close to the edge of the kitchen island.) But I honestly appreciated the flyer and the pat on the shoulder and the “I’m here if you need help.”

        Marcia, on the other hand, would have sent me stratospheric with rage.

  29. Pants*

    Wooooooooooooow….. Just wow. I need eye drops because my eyes are permanently stuck in saucer size.

    I’m well aware of baking burns and scars. I’ve accidentally caught the oven rack and/or element more times than I can count. I guess the burns could look like self-harm scars. I’ve never really thought about it like that. I’m a cat lady and have scars from various kitties, one of which definitely does look like I had intention to take my final bow, but no one has ever mentioned anything.

    OP, I’m sorry she misjudged you so incredibly. Baking treats and intentional harm are so far apart on the spectrum! I’m just flabbergasted. So much so that I used the word flabbergasted.

    How were the tarts though? Good enough recipe to share? :-)

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          I work in an animal hospital AND I do a lot of baking, so I have scars both from animals and baking! Burns from oven racks leave hellacious scars.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I found some little Nomex strips that fasten onto the edges of your oven racks. They’re not perfect, but they’ve saved me a lot of burns.

            1. Pants*

              I have those, but then I can’t slide my trays as easily. I burn myself for convenience, I guess? How’s that for skewed priorities?

      1. Miette*

        LOL same.

        Also, as a person with very pale skin tone (and avid home baker), when I get a scar it takes forever to fade, so I empathize with OP.

        1. Pants*

          Ditto. I have that skim-milk coloured skin with the translucent blueness. I’m also a hopeless klutz. I bruise, scratch, and scar at everything. At this point, I consider it proof of life.

          1. Rainy*

            Same. I have frequently wondered despairingly if the klutziness is actually gene-linked to the paleness.

            1. Pants*

              Maybe? Weird thing is, I was a damn gymnast as a kid! How did I tumble and not die? Thankfully due to those gymnastics years, I am adept at the tuck-n-roll when I fall. It’s saved me from broken bones a lot. Yay muscle memory.

              I do know my paleness makes me invisible to automatic sinks. A friend of mine finally pointed out that the sensors probably don’t register my pale ass.

              1. JustSomeone*

                Oh my goodness, THIS is why I always have such “bad luck” with automatic faucets? Until this moment in time, I thought the things were just universally on the fritz 60% of the time!

                1. Pants*

                  I was only clued in about 6 months ago. It makes so much sense! I just thought it was a crappy superpower. Invisibility to automatic faucets.

                2. Rainy*

                  I wear big chunky rings and it helps, but yeah, I am also invisible to many sinks and hand dryers and MOST automatic paper towel dispensers.

          2. Miette*

            OMG you’ve described this complexion so perfectly. Honestly, when I get a bad cut or burn it can take as long as 2 years for the scar to fade–so long that I often forget the original injury.

    1. UKDancer*

      I have also burnt myself a few times while cooking so I sympathise. It’s a thing that happens when booking for baking.

    2. Nea*

      A lot of people have cooking scars – I’ve got an element-shaped one across the back of one hand and while I was at the ER a bunch of nurses came over and showed me their cooking burns in solidarity.

      That Marcia went right to self-harm as opposed to a more innocent explanation is just… I don’t have anything printable.

      And yes, I would also like the tart recipe.

      1. Kit*

        Heck, I have (mostly faded) scars on my arm from some accidental contact with baking sheets 20+ years ago – burn scars take forever to heal! I would at least understand people thinking those were from self-harm, given their location on the inside of my lower arm… but no, I just had a bad habit of resting my arms on the table too close to cookies fresh out of the oven.

        I’m also desperately curious about the tarts! If you update us, OP, inquiring minds want to know!

      2. Worldwalker*

        My first job, in high school, was in a local diner. Our short order cook had hands with probably more scars than skin. Hot grease, hot grills, hot burners, just hot everything. It’s an occupational hazard.

        1. Pants*

          I think all cooks in diners lose all sensitivity to burn-pain or something. They could stick their hands in molten lava and keep on cooking.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I understand about the cats. When my dog was a puppy, he loved to nip and had sharp little needle teeth (he still likes to nip more than he should, despite every training method I could find!), and he was excitable, so if I was holding him and he wanted to get down and bark at something, he would scratch me up pretty good! Baking scars are also a part of my life! No one has ever suggested self harm!

  30. stephanie*

    Maybe someone else said this… but if someone is currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, or recovering from feeling that way in the past (which could take a lifetime, by the way), the LAST THING they need to hear is that they are going to be permanently stigmatized by their scars.
    This is a lie. And it’s terribly damaging to someone who might give anything to get rid of those scars… or even wants to keep them as a reminder and help to someone else going through the same thing.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      That was exactly my thought. I’m struggling to grasp how she thought it was appropriate to give that feedback. Just awful.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      SERIOUSLY. If you suspect someone is struggling with suicidal ideation, telling them “nothing will ever get better, this will be hanging over your head forever” IS NOT GOING TO BE HELPFUL, MARCIA.

    3. Gerry Keay*

      Yup, I *further* injured myself as an adolescent by trying to get rid of my self harm scars because people were so unbelievably cruel about them, and yes, this type of concern trolling was part of that cruelty. This whole this is just so bad, and honestly if they were self harm scars, it would be even worse.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Marcia’s email had the potential to be really harmful. She is actually pretty lucky it went to someone with just baking scars. And the religious support group thing was not good either.

    5. Anonomatopoeia*

      Seriously. There is observing and offering empathy WHEN APPROPRIATE, which is not anywhere in the scenario here (but like, if an employee disclosed a past attempt and somehow scars came up organically), and then there is taking an action that is VERY LIKELY to be either triggering to the person you think might be suicidal, or to invalidate their life choices, and that is a very special brand of Bad Ideas. Good grief.

  31. Health Insurance Nerd*

    Just, wow.

    While I realize that the LW scars were not a result of self-harm, I shudder to think about how much damage a message like this could to someone who did self-harm and what effect a message that basically says “no one is ever going to hire you because of your scars” would have.

    This may be an overreaction because I find this letter to be so upsetting, but if I found out one of my managers sent an email like this I would seriously consider firing them. I honestly don’t care how well-intentioned that email may have been, it’s not anywhere in the neighborhood, planet, or solar system of ok.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Unfortunately, since it was just someone they interviewed with, the OP will likely never know.

      But if there’s anyway to get an update (OP knows someone in the company?) I want one.

  32. I'm just here for the cats!*

    What on earth??? Burn scars do not look like cutting scars. I have friends and family who have self harmed and I know what they look like and that’s not it! I also have a very close friend who has burn scars on 80 percent of her body from an accident when she was very little. People have judged her so many times. Like people have thought something was wrong with her or that she wouldn’t be able to do a job just because of her scars. I think there was a shift manager who didnt want her working the register because of the scars.

    PLEASE say something. Find another email and please pass it on.

    One part of me says you should show up to that church (because she most likely is a member) and give her a piece of your mind. Or maybe reply saying that this was uncalled for and that you are a victim of an accident (even if it was a cooking accident) and do not like the implication that you are being denied a job because of your scar.

    1. ABCYaBYE*

      There’s part of me that would consider replying to Marcia too… but I think raising it to others above her and stating the same – that you don’t like the implication that you were denied a job because of your scar – makes more sense. You need others to see the bad behavior, not give the one committing bad behavior the chance to correct it, because it’ll happen again.

    2. Kit*

      Some of my scars from lacerations do look like burns. In particular, hypertrophic scars from lacerations often look like burns. So this is a “depends on the person and their skin” thing.

      That’s very beside the point, because Marcia was inappropriate regardless, but I don’t think “mistaking a burn for a cut” was her big error here.

    3. Nea*

      The church is more likely to support her because she had to learn that kind of behavior somewhere, and I hope it wasn’t the office!

      The people to tell that you don’t like the implication that you are being denied a job over an accidental scar are the company’s Head of HR and general counsel, who will hopefully break the sound barrier in their haste to deal with it.

    4. Middle Name Danger*

      People do self harm by means other than cutting – I have burn scars that are evidence of that from more than a decade ago.

      1000% agree it was an outrageous oversight even if the scars looked exactly like someone else’s self harm scars though.

    5. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      To be fair, one can self harm by burning too.

      Or one can just have scars from cooking, falling, living life … Marcia needs to keep her mouth shut and behave more professionally even if the scars look like really obvious self-harm scars!

    6. Overit*

      A friend of mine has a scar on her wrist from an oven rack and every doctor she has seen since then has leapt to the assumption that it is from self harm and questioned her to that belief.

    7. Francie Foxglove*

      I would love to see Marcia pull this on someone who’s former military. “Yeah, I got these in Afghanistan. Pulled my buddy out of a burning tank right before it blew up. You were saying?”

      1. Observer*

        Well, I suspect that she’d react much like the intern who wrote a petition to change the dress code reacted when told that the person who was given an exception was a Vet.

        The intern did NOT step back and think that they had messed up. Rather they blamed the company for that because “how were they supposed to know!” You think Marcia would react any differently?

        1. Francie Foxglove*

          Yeah, you’re right. “We would have factored that in to our argument!” But knowing that the exempt person was a vet should have left them with *no* argument to make. Marcia: “Well, they still *look* like self-harm scars. Cover them up, unclean one!”

    8. Sylvan*

      Not all self-harm is cutting. I agree with you, overall, I just want to say that there are many behaviors people engage in.

    9. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      There’s a lot of variety to self-harm scars, depending on the specifics of a person’s experience, how their body scars, what sort of care they receive, etc. Please do NOT assume you and your experiences know what they look like in everyone – you know what a specific subset of them look like, for a specific subset of people. You likely wouldn’t recognize my own, because they were caused with uncommon tools you probably haven’t encountered before – but if you were to start doubting them simply because they didn’t conform to how others you know of look, you would not be helping me, and you would likely come to a misunderstanding of me.

    10. MissCoco*

      I have a quite prominent recent scar on my wrist, and I’ve noticed that very few people know what self harm scars typically look like (though they can look a variety of ways), and inner wrists seem to be a very emotionally/culturally loaded place to have scars.
      I don’t hide my scar and I’ve noticed some raised eyebrows or surprised faces at times.

    11. Giant Kitty*

      I have two thin parallel scars on my arm from a fairly recent burn on the edge of a hot baking sheet, that look exactly the very old, very faded self harm scars on the same part of the arm of a friend who has admitted to cutting decades ago.

  33. MEH Squared*

    I agree with all the other commenters who are just floored by Marcia. I have a plethora of scars on my arms (some self-harm, but most are not. Plus, I’m keloid so I scar twice as badly as other people), and I am in a place of my life where I’m at peace with all of them. I would be stunned by what Marcia said and furious. Not because of what she thought of me (I would not care), but because she might say that to someone in a vulnerable place. Absolutely contact someone at the company about this email. It’s inappropriate, gross, and potentially harmful.

    1. MEH Squared*

      Just wanted to add, not harmful to you, OP, but to anyone else she might have/would do something similar.

  34. ABCYaBYE*

    Wow. In addition to all of the great comments above, something to flag for the business (HR, management, ownership, General Counsel) is if someone like Marcia is going to be triggered and jump to conclusions about someone this easily, perhaps she isn’t in a position right at the moment to be doing what she’s doing for the company. Giving her the benefit of the doubt that she’s working through some sort of trauma, if she can’t make it through an interview without this kind of discomfort, she’s not able to do her job and hire the best people for the company. That’s a problem and EVERYONE at that company needs to know so they don’t find themselves fighting legal matters that they’re going to lose.

    1. Serin*

      What WOULD be the correct thing to do if you were an interviewer and you found yourself having a literal post-traumatic reaction to something you saw on an applicant’s body? I mean obviously answer no. 1 is “not this,” but — excuse yourself, leave the room, and ask someone else in the company to apologize profusely and say you were taken suddenly ill?

      1. Bread Crimes*

        That seems like the most professional way to handle that sort of trauma reaction, if it’s at all possible in the moment. Like, I don’t know, if you have a severe phobia of the “can’t even be in the room when the name of that is said” type, and a candidate shows up wearing earrings displaying the phobia trigger. Excuse yourself rapidly, maybe with a desperate comment as you flee about a medical issue, find a colleague who can go make an excuse for you about the sudden emergency and handle the interview… Something like that.

      2. Walk on the Left Side*

        I was thinking about this as well as I read through the comments. I have to say, as an interviewee, I would not bat an eye if my interviewer had to excuse themselves after a few minutes with a generic phrase like “I am so sorry, but I’m suddenly feeling quite poorly/ill/unwell.”

        Having dealt with significant anxiety responses in work situations in the past, that seems like a very natural reaction to have in a situation like this. If I were giving the interview and had something trigger that kind of trauma response, I’d excuse myself as either “feeling ill” or needing to go to the restroom, and let HR and/or the hiring manager know I am not able to continue the interview for health reasons.

        I would also recuse myself from the candidate feedback process!

        IMHO that’s what it looks like to own your trauma response in an interview: get yourself out of the situation and tell someone else who is responsible for the process so they can handle it instead.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I want an update on this one so badly. I suspect the company will not reply if OP contacts them, but I’d love to know if OP did contact them, and if I’m wrong about the reply, what the response is.

  35. Jenna*

    OP – I agree that you should let Marcia’s company know, and just IMO I also think you should reply to her email letting her know that your scars are from a cooking burn. Not because it’s any of her business, but because she should know that she can be wrong about assumptions she makes about strangers. She seems like someone who could really benefit from being called out (and hopefully embarrassed by) her own lack of awareness.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I think that the LW should make sure, when she sends the email to the company big wigs, that she mentions that the scars are from cooking.

      As far as telling Marcia, I would hesitate because she might think it proof of self harm, if the LW is blaming the oven or cooking dish. I tend to be cautious about evangelicals because I know how some of them think and I hope I didn’t think that way, when I was one of them.

      1. Llellayena*

        I actually don’t think she should mention that at all. Where the scars came from (even if it was based on a mistaken assumption) has no bearing on the inappropriateness of Marcia’s comments. I think it should be something like “Marcia saw my scars and decided that they had to be from self-harm and sent me this email with these attachments. This is obviously inappropriate and could be interpreted as ADA discrimination during hiring.” Remember ADA discrimination is based not on whether there is a an actual disability but a PERCEIVED disability. So if you think someone is limping because of a permanently bad knee and don’t hire them for a physical job, it doesn’t matter if they actually only had a temporarily stubbed toe, it’s ADA discrimination.

        1. Rose*

          Agreed. No need to explain what the scars are from; it is completely irrelevant. By saying “but the scars are from COOKING not self harm”…to me seems to send the message that this kind of comment might somehow be “OK” if the scars were indeed from self harm.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Exactly this.

            It would be like replying “and by the way, I’m straight” when someone is being homophobic. It makes no difference to the offence of the offence.

  36. Kit*

    I’m covered in extremely obvious (and obviously old) self-harm scars. I can honestly say it has never affected my employment whatsoever. I never think of them and nearly everyone I have ever met (one exception for an ex-girlfriend’s dad) has politely pretended not to notice them for the past twenty years.

    This interviewer was being a huge weirdo.

  37. Anne Elliot*

    Not for nothing, but my long term job as a older high schooler and university student was working for Pizza Hut, where, all shift long, I reached into a big hot metal oven with a pair of pliers to pull deep dish pizzas out. At any given time I had a dozen small burns on my forearms from over-estimating my reach and touching one or the other arm to the hot metal edge of the oven. If anyone had assumed I was harming myself I would have burst into flames of mortification and outrage. Were I the OP, I would definitely report this, because it is completely outrageous.

  38. irene adler*

    I hope her managers are not of similar mindset to Marcia. Might just get more of the same from them.
    Although that should not prevent the OP from reaching out to them.
    Love to read about the update-should they respond.

  39. Skylight*

    Marcia: “I realize this is highly irregular, but I felt it would be a grave misstep on my part not to reach out to you.”

    She was right about it being irregular, but the grave misstep IS reaching out!

  40. Mimmy*

    She put in writing that she believes you have a disability and you should hide it. That’s legal liability for her company.

    This came to mind even before seeing this sentence in Alison’s answer. In legal terms, this is known as “regarded as” having a disability, which offers legal protection under the ADA. Marcia’s comments are wildly presumptuous and, quite frankly, discriminatory. I hope you do decide to alert the employer; if they are decent, they will want to know that this was your experience as a job candidate.

    1. Anon Archivist*

      The legal liability here is a big issue and I am happy Alison mentioned it. It was my first thought as well. This is beyond the pale in terms of “no okay”. And I would want to know if a staff member was doing this.

  41. Raw Flour*

    I am absolutely livid, on behalf of OP and of those with or without self-harm scars who have been treated so intrusively.

    I don’t think Marcia is by any means the only person to ever do this, unfortunately. (Some behavior I’ve read about here… I believe, and sincerely hope, is unique.) Everyone would do well to remember that others’ scars are NOT for us to comment on, or for any colleague/boss/acquaintance to comment on. Setting the latter group on the right path can be awkward, but IMO it is necessary.

  42. ADHSquirrelWhat*

    I’m stuck wondering what ELSE Marcia thinks should be stuffed into the closet. Don’t be Improper out where Good People can see you! Don’t go doing Weird!

    It’s the same language as all the other “if you weren’t flaunting (by not hiding) X” ……

  43. ChemistryChick*

    Jesus H. Christy.

    Please do follow Alison’s advice and tell her company. This is just…so so bad and wrong and Maria has no business being part of a hiring process, much less managing anyone at all.

  44. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot did I just read?! This lady should never be un charge of hiring, EVER. I am the proud owner of many scars from random childhood mishaps and bites/scratches from my career as an animal caregiver, and people have assumed that they’re self harm scars. It’s offensive that random people make these assumptions, then try to “help” me.

    No. Just no.

  45. Daniel C*

    The side effect of the healthy trend to give more importance to mental health is too many people diagnosing and self-diagnosing traumas.

    In the case of self-diagnosis, I’m not convinced that current trend is actually beneficial. Many mental diseases are worsened by feedback loops. When someone is self-diagnosing, they might give time lower chances to cure things. By feedback loop, they reinforce frustration and convert it into trauma.

    1. SereneScientist*

      Irrelevant to this leter, Daniel. The LW is writing about someone else making an assumption based on their physical appearance, not self-diagnosis.

    2. Willow Pillow*

      Or the medical system hasn’t caught up in the ability to assess and diagnose those (self-diagnosing) people. There isn’t a crisis of self-diagnosis or over-diagnosis, there are just that many people who fell through the proverbial cracks.

    3. But what to call me?*

      Or people now have access to enough information to figure out that they might be experiencing an actual diagnosable problem, as opposed to the previous method of sweeping it all under the rug because how dare they be such a lazy oversensitive whiner. Finding the name for something can be a powerful tool. It’s great when you have access to good mental health care that can help you be really really sure if it’s the right name and what to do about it, but that’s a luxury many people don’t have access to.

      But all that aside, what does self-diagnosis have to do with this letter?

    4. Bit o' Brit*

      I’ve seen far more of the opposite happen, where self-diagnosis gives someone a framework for how to approach treatment or management of their condition. And for some conditions access to official diagnoses has no meaningful effect on available treatment/management options, so it’s not necessarily worth pursuing.

      Using a diagnosis for clout online has been a thing for decades, and I do think that’s harmful whether the diagnosis is “official” or not. But the people who aren’t doing that, who are privately and quietly discovering that their struggles fit a pattern that has a name, are gaining the language to find help.

  46. QuinleyThorne*

    Nothing constructive to add here, but the bit about the church brochure reminds me of the time I had a doctor tell me that the reason I had depression was because I had not let Jesus into my heart and my mental illness was Satan manifesting in my body to keep me from praising. If church is Marcia’s thing and works for her that’s fine, but if that faith isn’t shared by the person she’s trying to help it’s going to come across… badly.

      1. QuinleyThorne*

        Fired from that clinic, last I heard. Turns out I wasn’t the only one she’d given that speech to.

    1. The Crowening*

      OMG. What is it with these people. I had a therapist once who told me my anxiety was caused by Satan. Eye roll. (I had not sought religious therapy, I wanted a clinical approach and that… was not it.)

      1. QuinleyThorne*

        While knowing other people went through this is validating in an “it’s not just me!” way, it’s also incredibly… well, depressing :/.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I had a high school counselor who once told me that I was considered a high risk student because I was an atheist who struggled socially. Going to church would help me fit in, and make school so much better and more enjoyable, didn’t I know? The nail that sticks up and all that…

          Yeah. I long for the day when these experiences will be uncommon and forgotten.

    2. just passing through*

      I’m so sorry you were told that–how appalling!

      This conversation is making me realize how fortunate I am that my church takes a very very different approach to mental health–and I very much hope that nobody is going around emailing our resources to job applicants while telling them they’re unemployable…. SO MANY YIKES.

      (In other words, I agree with you; even if the church support group is a great thing, sharing it in the context she did–and with the appalling comments!–is actively harmful.)

  47. Looking for Librarian Work*

    Wow. No. Just no! I have a medical condition that has required multiple brain surgeries over the years and has left resulting scars. Although I do not think anyone would ever consider my scars to have been from something self-inflicted, one never knows.

    You should most definitely contact the company as others have stated, and Marcia might want to find another line of work that is not so heavily public-facing.

  48. Anonymosity*

    Plot twist: OP reaches out to company, company fires Marcia and offers OP her job.

    But seriously, I am aghast. OP is not obligated to say anything, but this is so legally and ethically egregious that they really should. I desperately hope for an update.

  49. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    This letter let’s me use a favorite phrase from reading AMA: This situation (and Marcia) is banana crackers!

  50. HermioneMe*

    If you are not able to get contact info for HR and/or higher ups, maybe consult a labor law attorney and ask them to just send a letter to the company hierarchy to put the “fear of God” in them. That way you’d be sure to get their attention. (You don’t need to sue them .)

  51. WhatTheWhat?*

    Ya know how AAM has “worst boss of the year”? I think we need a “worst interviewer of the year” category. Yikes

  52. ca*

    Oh boy, this is so not ok. THIS.IS.NOT. OK.

    I hope you follow the advice given and direct this wildly inappropriate email to someone over Marcia’s head!

    I so wish she had interviewed me. I had a nasty tangle with a coil of barbed wire as a child, and as a fair-skinned ginger haired adult, my decades old scars are still immensely visible. They go all up my left side, from my hand up my arm, over my shoulder and up my neck. And even though they have faded, the second I get flushed, my skin goes beat red and the scars glow white! She woulda dang near fainted at the sight of me, especially if I was having a hot flash lol.

  53. morethantired*

    I have a large, vertical scar on my wrist from when I broke it a few years ago and needed surgery. It could easily be mistaken for a self-harm scar. It has never affected my job and no one at work even noticed it. Even in my personal life, no one has ever said anything about it unless I brought it up.

    I’m glad Marcia put this in an email rather than saying it out loud in the interview because now you at least have it documented and can alert the company easily.

    1. Mouse*

      Comments are way too harsh on this one.

      If the interviewer wrote in and said “I had to interview someone with horrific scars on their arms that I think may be self harm” I’m certain at least some commenters would suggest a gentle followup. Maybe it wouldnt be professional but who cares about professional if someone may be on the brink.

      What if the interviewer wrote in and said “I was the last person to see a job candidate alive, they had self harm scars but I didn’t say anything in case it was unprofessional”?

      It is really, really easy to say “that’s not my problem” when you see someone who is depressed or self harming. It is even easier to say it’s not your problem if you arent 100% certain of what you’re seeing.

      That interviewer probably went home agonising over whether to say anything, whether it would be professional to followup, and how to do so. I bet she lay awake worrying that LW might be on the edge. How she ended up trying to resolve it may have been the complete wrong direction entirely but the criticism of her for trying to do something *just in case* is unfair. (The cricitism of it affecting an interview or someones employability is a diff story though).

      I have self harm scars on both arms. Maybe that alters how I view this.

      1. nnn*

        1. Self harm isn’t linked to suicidal ideation, as Alison says.

        2. I seriously doubt commenters would recommend an interviewer follow up like you’re saying. Maybe one or two because you’ll get that with anything but they’d be roundly disagreed with. It’s much more likely followup would feel invasive than helpful. That’s always been the consensus in posts I’ve seen here in parallel situations (like the one recently about a dangerously thin grad student).

        3. The OP said the scars look like cat scratches, hardly horrific or traumatizing for the viewer.

        1. Mouse*

          1. Massive over-generalisation. Not true for everyone.
          2. I dont know if I agree that unusually thin is the same as visible injury.
          3. Self harm cuts can and often do look like cat scratches.

          I’m not disagreeing that the interviewer got the followup completely wrong, but comments here often live in a world of hypothetical employment perfection where every work issue can be resolved with one blog post.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            lol this is so rude to other people in this comment section who have also self harmed and who don’t agree with you. I don’t think this is bad because I’m somehow more detached from reality than you, I think it’s bad because an untrained stranger will never be the right person to intervene during a potential mental health crisis, and laypeople have the capacity to do immense harm by trying to “help” in these circumstances when they don’t know what they’re doing.

            If the interviewer had written in for advice, I would tell them not to say anything, and I imagine many many other people in this comment section who have also disclosed past self harm would say the same thing. You critique massive over-generalizations while also making massive over-generalizations.

            1. anon at Cal Poly Humboldt*

              Rose thorn scratches also look like cat scratches. My thesis advisor had cats AND climbing roses trying to take over his yard, so his hands and arms always had some kind of scratches. I’d get scratches during blackberry season…

          2. JSPA*

            1. Things that are not correlated, can of course still co-occur. I’m having a hard time figuring how a recent burn mark and a recent serious suicide attempt cut could be visually conflated, though. (An older scar, perhaps… but then there’s no immediacy to the situation.)

            What are the chances that the interviewer is the best or only person to speak up? (Essentially zero.)

            What, besides the interviewer’s own demons, are served by going straight to the insistent assumption that not just self-harm but immediately dangerous self-harm, are the One Clear And Blazingly True explanation?

            If the interviewer had said, “I apologize for my distraction, I lost a dear friend through not recognizing marks that looked eerily like the marks on your arm. I hope all is well with you, and that you can forgive my lapse”–I think we’d be reacting quite differently.

      2. Bread Crimes*

        “If the interviewer wrote in and said “I had to interview someone with horrific scars on their arms that I think may be self harm” I’m certain at least some commenters would suggest a gentle followup. Maybe it wouldnt be professional but who cares about professional if someone may be on the brink.”

        …and if commenters did say that, they would be rightfully yelled at by an awful lot more commenters. See various discussions of eating disorders in other comment threads for lots of very helpful explanations of why that kind of ‘gentle followup’ from a stranger is extremely unlikely to help and far more likely to harm.

      3. emmelemm*

        If you see self-help *scars* on someone’s arms and wrists, and let’s concede that you know that they are, in fact, from self-harm, they’re SCARS. Which means they happened some time ago. Which means the person is probably not harming themself *right now*. Which means timely intervention on your part is really not necessary.

      4. Rainy*

        There was a letter some years back from someone who had noticed a big scar on their newly hired colleague’s arm, was convinced it was a self-harm scar, and wrote in asking about whether and how they should give their colleague a bunch of resources about suicide and self-harm and offer to help/listen/whatever, and commenters were pretty unified in sharply pointing out that lots of things cause scars, and saying something–especially something indicating that you now regard them differently as a professional–just because of a scar is neither kind nor professional.

        When that LW updated, he said that he’d decided not to bring it up, and only a short time later the new colleague had mentioned that she had had a bad oven burn that scarred.

      5. CommanderBanana*


        The interviewer doesn’t know this person at all and doesn’t know how, when or why the scars are there (and having worked in a bakery, when I see someone with forearm scars my first thought is that they worked in a kitchen). The interviewer is also not a mental health professional. Her response was insanely over the top and IMHO, even if they were self-harm scars, extremely insensitive and inappropriate.

      6. ABCYaBYE*

        The thing here is that it is all of it. Not just the email, but the weirdness in the interview, the lack of shaking hands… all of it. The email included information that was wholly unnecessary. I understand wanting to reach out a hand to help someone who might need it, but this isn’t the time or place for it. And the way it was done, especially telling someone that their scars are triggering and they should cover themselves better, is so grossly unprofessional.

      7. Worldwalker*

        There is absolutely no situation in which a person who is self-harming will be helped by telling them that they are untouchable and unemployable. None.

      8. Observer*

        If the interviewer wrote in and said “I had to interview someone with horrific scars on their arms that I think may be self harm” I’m certain at least some commenters would suggest a gentle followup.

        Unlikely. And if someone DID make that suggestion, there would be a LOT of people pushing back, for all of the myriad reasons that I’m not going to repeat here.

        Maybe it wouldnt be professional but who cares about professional if someone may be on the brink.

        As has been repeatedly noted in this letter, and on other letters, even if someone were on the brink, jumping in would not be the right move. There is simply no way for someone in Monica’s position to help out in such a case.

        And that would be true if the ONLY thing that Monica had done was to express support and offer appropriate resources. But she didn’t. She offered specifically religious resources for someone whose history she does not know. AND she actually told the OP that there is something wrong with them. That as long as anyone could know about these scars it was going to interfere with their inability to be hired! If you are really worried about someone being “on the brink” you do NOT tell them how unacceptable they are!

        What if the interviewer wrote in and said “I was the last person to see a job candidate alive, they had self harm scars but I didn’t say anything in case it was unprofessional”?

        This has nothing to do with being “unprofessional”. It has everything to do with the fact that even if Marcia’s response had been as close to perfect as possible (ie Actual self harm scars, no religious stuff, and no criticism and implications that the OP is untouchable – ONLY sympathy, encouragement and information on appropriate resources), it STILL would not have helped. Because, as people have REPEATEDLY pointed out, it just doesn’t work that way.

        But the question is totally disingenuous. As already noted, it’s simply not possible to square Marcia’s behavior with pure, albeit misguided, desire to help the OP out.

        1. just passing through*

          I agree that Marcia’s behavior clearly showed that she was not interested in thinking about what would actually be helpful for the OP.

          However, the assumption that religious resources cannot be “appropriate resources,” in a (non-work) context where it is appropriate to have this conversation at all, is bizarre to me. Someone who has found meaning in a particular religious tradition is going to recommend that as a way for others to find meaning, just as someone who has found a particular self-help book useful is going to recommend that for others. Obviously not everyone is going to agree about whether it’s useful, but that doesn’t mean that the person sharing it is doing so disingenuously or hurtfully.

          After which, I want to reiterate that Marcia’s behavior was in fact both disingenuous and hurtful.

          1. Raw Flour*

            As somebody who has found meaning in a particular religious tradition, I do not agree that it would be appropriate for me to recommend it to others to find meaning. People always know that religious options are out there; if they require some variety of lay ministry from me, they’ll let me know, not the other way around.

            1. just passing through*

              I’d like to amend what I said. If someone asked me for help or advice about a difficult situation, it would be impossible for me to personally offer them help that isn’t influenced by my faith, i.e. what I believe to be true about the spiritual life, and I would be upfront about that with them (and respect it if they said they didn’t want it!); but the situation at issue here is clearly someone who hasn’t asked for help of any kind, so the two situations are not really even related. I was responding to a question that was not at issue here.

          2. JSPA*

            1. Her only connection is the work connection.
            2. If a friend shared, “this group is [specific- religious-group]-based, and leans heavily on the wording of that tradition, but we had people there of all faiths or none at all, and everyone seemed to benefit to some degree,” there would be no problem. But if you leave out the awareness and the caveat, it’s like assuming that a random friend will fit into, be comfortable in, and not be squicked out by borrowing a pair of underwear. Not because it’s gross, but because it’s personal, and not one- size- and- style- fits- all.

          3. metadata minion*

            “Someone who has found meaning in a particular religious tradition is going to recommend that as a way for others to find meaning”

            That’s very not true for many people. For me, that would just be *weird*. It would be like me saying “You’re trying to find a career path? I’m a library cataloger; you should do that! It makes me happy!” unless they actually expressed interest in my career and whether it might fit them as well.

            I shared some religious resources with someone just recently, because I knew they were of the same religion as me and were specifically looking for that sort of community in the context of religion. That’s the sort of situation where this makes sense. In any other context, you’re combining your well-meaning efforts to get the person help with proselytizing, which is at best obnoxious.

          4. Observer*

            However, the assumption that religious resources cannot be “appropriate resources,” in a (non-work) context where it is appropriate to have this conversation at all, is bizarre to me.

            What is bizarre is this statement. No one is talking about religious resources in any and all circumstances. We are explicitly talking about a work related situation where it might be appropriate to provide resources (eg when pointing someone to an EAP). In other words, in the very rare occasion where it is workplace appropriate to mention resources, religious programs are almost by definition not appropriate.

            In general when that kind of (very rare!) situation comes up, what needs to be provided is not “my faith tradition”, but creditable resources that apply across the board.

          5. Just saying*

            And if the person you’re sharing religious resources with is Jewish or Atheist (I’m sure there are others!), and your resources are from a religion with a history of aggressive proselytization, they are likely going to find your suggestion somewhere on the spectrum of rude to offensive.

            If you didn’t know that there are particular groups that have long histories of trauma based on proselytization and attempted/forced conversion, and who might find a statement as simple as “this religious tradition provided meaning for me, maybe it will do so for you” to be disingenuous and/or hurtful, well… now you know.

            Unless the self help framework being recommended also has thousands of years of brutal history and complicated cultural baggage behind it, no those things are not comparable.

            1. anon at Cal Poly Humboldt*

              A lot of Unitarians are “recovering Christians/Catholics” and would find a referral to a religious program offensive.

          6. Rainy*

            If someone isn’t of your religious background and tradition, I feel very *very* confident in saying that they don’t want your religious resources. In fact, a lot of times even if they are, they probably don’t want your religious resources. Your intent may be benign, but your intentions don’t dictate how your actions are received.

      9. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        People are criticizing Marcia because of her blundering amateur reaching out that could have made things worse, if LW had been as depressed as Marcia mistakenly thought.

        Someone needs to tell Marcia “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Even if she had been right about the LW’s scars, the the first thing you (anyone) think of may not be the right thing to do, and may in fact cause additional problems.

        This is why we have fire drills — so in case of an actual fire, you’ll know where the fire exits are, whether to evacuate and if so how, and which sounds and flashing lights are the alarm signal.

      10. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

        Have you read any of the letters where people wrote in asking “what should I say about my coworker/report’s self harm scars”? Alison’s advice is pretty much always “nothing”.

        It must have been horrible to have harmed yourself, and I am very sorry you had to deal with that, but would random people hassling you about your injuries and scars at random times really have helped?

      11. Irish Teacher*

        The thing is that her letter was the exact opposite of a gentle follow-up though. I don’t really think a gentle follow-up is necessarily a good idea anyway, especially based only on “she had scars on her arms”. But refusing to shake somebody’s hand and telling them their scars were “triggering” and would be “detrimental” to their chances of getting a “meaningful job” so they should hide them…is pretty far from gentle.

        If she just wrote ““I realize this is highly irregular, but I felt it would be a grave misstep on my part not to reach out to you. During your interview, I noticed the scars on your arm and wanted you to know that whatever pain you are feeling is temporary. I am certain there are people who love you and would miss you. Please find love for yourself and get the help you clearly need” and sent the support information…well, I’d still think it was a risky thing to do but I would agree with your second last paragraph and think it an attempt to help gone wrong.

        However, the refusal to shake hands and the implication that her scars will prevent anybody from employing her and the comment that they are “triggering,” which basically accuses the LW of being insensitive to other people’s mental health needs, to me take this into another category.

      12. morethantired*

        Like Marcia, you are making this about how OP’s scars make you feel. At work, it is not for us to be so concerned with the bodies of others that it becomes a distraction or preoccupation to the point where Marcia wouldn’t even shake their hand. Don’t comment on people’s bodies at work. Ever.

      13. Flash Packet*

        Good gravy. No. Just… NO.

        Imagine how both you and the person will feel when they say, “Holy wow, you thought these were self-harm scars and you were *triggered* by them??? These are from the fire which took my two children, my spouse, my pets, and my house from me. Thanks for being so callous and making my body all about your own issues.”

      14. But what to call me?*

        Even if she did reach out *just in case* LW might need help, that wasn’t a *just in case* kind of letter. Just in case would be along the lines of ‘I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, but those scars on your arms look kind of like self-harm scars to me. I don’t know if that’s what they actually are, but here are some resources that might be able to help if you’re struggling with anything along those lines. Feel free to disregard this if I’m reading too much into it.’ Still not appropriate for the context, but it would acknowledge that Marcia doesn’t know anything about OP or those scars while still letting her express her concern just in case that concern happened to be true. I doubt a letter like that would have gotten such a harsh response.

        The letter she actually wrote expressed absolute certainty about what caused the scars, what that must mean for the rest of OP’s life, and what OP should do about it. And then went on to tell OP that they must hide these scars for other people’s comfort or they will never get a job (once again making assumptions about people Marcia doesn’t know, namely that every interviewer would react to such scars the same way she did). Even the kindest possible interpretation of the letter, where Marcia 100% believes that all of those things are true, still has her being very condescending.

  54. Colorado*

    I have self harm scars, very visible self harm scars that I am very insecure about. I’m an older lady now and this would have sent me way back into my earlier days of self harm. I don’t like to over use the word triggering but this would have put me in a dark place for her to so blatantly call them out in an interview where you’re already nervous and have the lower hand. I think you should report her to the HR of the company.

  55. Cathy Gale*

    The pandemic has made me even more sensitive to the experience of my friends with disabilities — as well as the experience of people I don’t know, who have disabilities. I had a previous coworker tell me she was glad a person recovering from extensive burns quit working for our institution before I was hired, because she and several other people found him malodorous. I can’t … even…
    I would be tempted to make a case out of this, because the chances Marcia has also turned down someone for specious reasons are very high. I would probably ask one of my lawyer friends to write a letter about it so the company would be far more likely to take it seriously. If more of us did this, maybe there wouldn’t be such a high number of PWDs or recovering from serious illness/injury who are out of work. It’s disgraceful.

        1. Cathy Gale*

          Precisely that, the ointments used while his skin was continuing to grow back. It was just really cruel.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Fresh burns can smell because the dead skin rots, according to my father who was badly burned during WWII, but I’m sure treatment is very different now and I’m also sure someone with fresh burns would not be at work.

  56. Vivian Pickles*

    I work at a movie theatre, and once a customer complained that we hadn’t included a content warning on a film that featured a person with scars. Setting aside the fact that content warnings are up to the local classification board rather than movie theatres themselves, our marketing manager pointed out that it’s not appropriate to send the message to our employees nor our customer base that scars are generally triggering. Many people have scars for all kinds of reasons, and they shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of them – and that includes if they’re as a result of self-harm.

    1. TrixM*

      And you simply can’t cover everyone’s potential triggers or sensitive areas anyway. I get incredibly bothered by the bare mention of a not-uncommon childhood activity that everyone mentions with nostalgia if they did it. I haven’t seen movies like ET “just in case”.

      But if I watched some kid-centric show and X occurred, I’d hardly call up the show creators and berate them about the lack of warnings.

  57. Sparkles McFadden*

    Another entry to say please, please, please send this to HR for that company. I can guarantee that this manager is being inappropriate and intrusive with anyone she’s already managing. Forwarding that email will help the people already there and anyone else who might interview with that person.

  58. La Triviata*

    I can only chime in on the “yikes”. This is wildly inappropriate and Marcia overstepped by about a mile. The Letter Writer needs to contact someone in the company and let them know about this. She may not only be opening them up to legal liabilities, but discouraging people who would be good employees from being interested in working there.

    And, on a divergent track, if the job description she was telling our LW about was so different from what was being advertised, is she shaping job descriptions to what she thinks they should be? I’ll admit, it’s possible whoever wrote the description may have tried to make it more appealing, but people being interviewed should know what the job entails.

  59. Beth*

    I love (sarcasm) the line, “I realize this is highly irregular.” Such a note of “Sorry not sorry.”

    Marcia knows she’s in the wrong. She admitted but didn’t stop herself. Definitely let the company know.

    1. Raw Flour*

      Seriously, there are almost zero ways that line can have a positive follow-up! Either it’s something horrific as in this letter, or inappropriately asking someone out on a date, or some kind of unsolicited criticism. Maybe once, somewhere, a prospective manager has sent a follow-up of “I realize this is highly irregular, but I’d like to send you a gift basket as thanks for interviewing with us today.”

  60. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — Even if Marcia meant her email to be helpful, that’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card for bad behavior. And this was very, very bad behavior.

    Your letter didn’t say whether Marcia was the hiring manager for the position you interviewed for, or if she was in HR. But whatever her role, I do think you need to report this to someone senior enough to take action. I would suggest the HR director (assuming that isn’t Marcia) or Marcia’s own manager, if you can identify who that is.

    If all else fails (I hope it doesn’t!), there’s always GlassDoor.

    Thanks, and please send us an update.

  61. Trek*

    I would want to make sure that Marcia knew that she was wrong in her assessment of the scars. I can only imagine if you had joined the company that she would have told people that your scars were self harm scars behind your back.
    I think I would respond back to her and say the burns on your arm are from fruit pies and you are not understanding what help she is offering or wanting you to seek in regards to scars from pies. Then I would send her email to all leadership you can find, HR, and legal if it exists and state ‘You have a manager making wild assumptions about applicants and from what I can tell actively not hiring employees because of these assumptions. Not that it’s anyone’s business but I have a few scars from baking not from self harm.’ Maybe cc a lawyer or state you are sending to a lawyer for review.

    1. TrixM*

      Telling her what the cause is doesn’t tackle the issue that *even if* the scars were due to self-harm, it’s still wildly inappropriate to comment on them, much less in such a bigoted way.

      And that is the main issue – unless someone’s grooming at a job interview is inappropriate/insufficient, or it’s a performing arts job (maybe) – literally anything about anyone’s appearance is not appropriate to discuss in that context.

      Alison’s “emergency response” test is a good one for a complete stranger – unless you would otherwise call emergency services on their behalf, there is nothing about anyone’s appearance you “need” to discuss with them.

  62. CCCC*

    I broke my wrist a few years back and had to get a plate/screws. I have a scar running from the base of my hand along my forearm about 3-4″, and it was very discolored for about a year. People would occasionally see it, stare, and look at me horrified for a moment. If they asked, I’d tell, but generally I just let people be uncomfortable. Interestingly, it was only relatively young folks like myself with this reaction; middle aged people didn’t really blink twice, and a couple older people complimented my surgeon.

  63. Becca*


    I actually have a baking scar that looks a bit like a suicide attempt (vertical and relatively long but also slanted in a way that wouldn’t necessarily be associated with that) and a prominent self harm scar that people probably don’t realize is from self harm because it’s not on the inner forearm as usually depicted. Nobody’s ever commented on either except when I started a new job while the latter was fresh (it was a nasty one, very bright as it healed and ended up being hypertrophic, so I don’t blame them for that). Well, a coworker did joke about the former when I got it but 1. he knew I got it at work and 2. I was pretty accident prone (I didn’t burn myself too often but it was a running joke that I would cut myself on anything and everything except the actual knives) and I actually did have another burn at the time that intersected with the long one and looked like a classic self harm scar, so I didn’t mind much, although I recognize some people would so i wasn’t great that he joked about it.

    So yeah. Point is, you probably can’t tell and shouldn’t assume, except maybe if you’re close enough to someone that gently expressing concern and love has a good chance of helping (and perhaps the usual advice of post some resources in a public area if applicable when you aren’t close so that it isn’t obvious that you are thinking of a specific person and because it could help somebody else entirely).

    I wish I had something more actionable than “yes, tell her employer,” but I really hope they take you seriously! Somebody who actually did have self harm scars and was in the process of learning to accept them might have a serious setback over this!

  64. Selina Luna*

    I have a friend who does have scars from self-harm… and this is wildly inappropriate even for that situation. You have no way of knowing how old such scars are, how they were caused, or whether your note to them would be MORE triggering. Geesh.

  65. Magda*

    This behavior is outlandish and wrong on so many levels.

    Please report this to her higher ups and definitely give is an update please.

  66. Michelle Smith*

    If you are in the US and this is an employer subject to the ADA, for the love of everything PLEASE mention to the employer that you know her statements are illegal and hope that this is resolved amicably without the need for legal action. They need to appreciate how deeply illegal this is and understand that they could be sued into oblivion if you’d chosen to do so. I’m stepping away from the keyboard now. I think this is the most upset I’ve been over an AAM post.

  67. I am just here for the free pizza*

    I am so totally disgusted. I bet she has done something like this before to other interviewees. Please contact the company. She needs to be stopped.

  68. sofar*

    I had to laugh because I have the same exact scars (and they DO look kind of like self-harm — two slash-looking lines next to each other). They are burn scars on my inner arm caused by a Hello Fresh cooking incident. Nobody at work has mentioned them, but it is SHOCKING how many people see fit to say stuff like, “I know what those are, my fill-in-the-blank-family-member self-harmed, and I want you to know I’m here for you.” I guess it makes them feel like they “helped?”

  69. TrixieD*

    Ooooh, of all the “I hope there’s a follow-up” posts, I really hope there’s a follow-up. I don’t expect the company to share their personnel decisions with you, but I’d love to know what the response is when you notify HR of that woman’s dramatic overstep.
    Interviewing woman: BOUNDARIES. Do you have them?

  70. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    I’m kind of floored by this, but then again not because hiring managers might have always had all sorts of prejudices about all sorts of things that give them a unfounded reason they won’t hire you: scars, weight, tattoos, age, birthmarks, hairstyles, hair color, voice, gender, etc.
    The “outreach” was beyond though.

  71. Not A Manager*

    Hi, LW. I just wanted to pop in to say that my forearm and I also learned the hard way, many years ago, that the bottoms of tart pans are removable. I hope you continue to heal well.

  72. BL73*

    For sure forward this email to the owners of the company and even further if needed. I DO have self-harm scars and while they’ve faded over the years, I know people can recognize them for what they are, or at least what they look like.

    I am a manager and do very well at my company, FYI. Not one single person has asked me about them at work, but I did have a friend ask once and I was very honest that I went through a bad time when I was younger and I’m not ashamed of who I’ve become.

  73. Going Anon*

    I agree that Marcia is way out of line here.

    I also realize I’m not entirely sure where the line is.

    I’m a college prof. I one time had a student with a lot of what looked like self-harm scars, ranging from very old ones to ones that had fresh scabs. I talked it over with someone from our counseling services without naming the student, and ended up sending the student an email that was basically a statement that I’d seen the injuries, let them know that there are these mental health resources on campus and provided a link, and told them that there was no need to respond if they didn’t want to, but that I felt obligated to let them know. And then I never mentioned the scars again.

    I’m still not sure if that was overreach, but as it was consistent with what the counseling center suggested for me to do — and was in my first year in the role, so a situation I had not in any way been prepared for — I went with it.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I think as a teacher, whose job it is to look out for students (many of whom are still teens even though they’re in college) it’s not overreach. And you checked with counselors first.

      But for an adult job applicant, nope.

      1. 1LFTW*

        I agree. Going Anon offered resources to someone who might need them, while also respecting that person’s privacy.

    2. Lucy*

      No, this is a supportive safeguarding response. You did the right thing. No guarantee it would have been taken well but it was absolutely appropriate to reach out and try. I work in child protection (with visible old scars) and have some awareness of this from both sides – but expressing concern and signposting to support is absolutely fine, especially in a role like that of teacher or tutor. Implying the person can’t succeed at a job or course because of what the injuries imply is totally different!

    3. rinathin*

      I used to moderate a Discord server for a computer science class (meaning you often have very techy competent barely-adults in an anonymous environment) and this is how we handled students who mentioned self harm or suicide. It was obviously a joke in poor taste in some cases but we still wanted to maintain a safe environment, not to mention the cases where it may not have been a joke, so we’d privately message the student with resources and leave it at that.

    4. Kermit’s Bookkeepers*

      I think that a teacher-student relationship allows for the kind of advisory behavior you outlined here, which it sounds like you did according to the guidelines provided to you by your counseling center. The only thing I would have advised you to differently would have been to frame your message to the student as, “I recognize your scars may be due to something very different, but in case these are self-harm injuries…”

      That differs from this letter in the instance that a) an interviewer-interviewee relationship has no such advisory capacity b) Marcia very demonstrably discriminated against the letter writer in a hiring situation because of it (and advised, incorrectly, that others would) c) Marcia made a pretty wild leap in her diagnosis of these injuries, and finally d) she suggested the letter writer go to a religious organization for help. These are all WILD oversteps, if not outright illegal.

  74. HufferWare*

    Love how she’s so “compassionate” that she treated you like a freak during your interview. I don’t know the last time an AAM letter made me this angry. I hope Maria gets fired immediately and then burns her arm trying to bake herself a conciliatory treat.

  75. TallGuy*

    …holy cats.

    (I am also looking at my own very suspicious scar across my wrist. For the record, it’s a burn from literally 15 years ago because OP, you are not the only one to have a mishap with a baking sheet of some kind.)

    The only thing is that…what was Marcia’s position within the company? I feel like replying can work if it’s a larger company (i.e., there’s someone above Marcia), but I also feel like a lot of logistics companies can be small, right? So if she’s the boss…I’m not sure how effective it’d be.

  76. whoawhoawhoa*

    I have been on the receiving end of a number of comments about my hands. I have granuloma annulare on both hands. It doesn’t hurt, doesn’t itch, is not contagious. It’s just “unsightly” (bright circles on my hands) to some other people. I work in kitchens, usually away from customers, but at a recent employment situation I would occasionally have to step in when the front of house was busy to ring up customers. I learned to put on gloves before I went up there because I would regularly be asked if they were burns. No, it’s just a side effect of another medical condition I have, and it takes up to two years to fade on its own. I’ve tried steroids, they don’t work. Next up is visiting the dermatologist, but I’ve dealt with them this long, may as well wait for them to disappear on their own.

    Anyway, story aside, Marcia needs to back the eff down and stay in her own dang lane.

  77. Mary Anne Spier*

    There’s probably no way to get an update on this but SWEET FRUIT TART JESUS I need Marcia’s comeuppance reported back.

  78. Tim*

    Ban news folks, have you ever seen those big semis with Christian symbolism all over them?

    The company probably very much supports her and will see no problems with this.

    If I were the recipient of this letter it would go directly to the EEOC

    1. Observer*

      You are making a lot of leaps of logic here.

      People can be deeply religious without being stupid and even without failing to understand the limits of religious practice in mental health!

  79. Lucy*

    Oh God. I have old self harm scars that I don’t hide – probably I would in an interview (if I wasn’t automatically in long sleeves at an interview anyway) because of this kind of perception but I shouldn’t *have* to. This is such a stressful thought. I work with vulnerable young people and have often wondered, knowing how contagious self harming behaviours can be, if maybe I should hide them, but actually, what is contagious is the idea that a bad coping mechanism is in some way useful (that it makes things feel better or makes people take you more seriously), or that it can’t be overcome, not just the appearance of the scars. Specifically when working in mental health or with vulnerable people, I think I’d feel differently about visible active/ongoing SH scars (eg in my role it would be tough to talk to teenagers about positive coping mechanisms at a time when I didn’t have them/use them myself) but that would still never be something for an interviewer to pass on!

    For the majority of people who will be triggered just by seeing them, they have their own that they have to see every day anyway, and therefore have had to build a bit of resistance.

    I resent the idea that my existence, and the evidence of my having overcome mental ill-health is inherently triggering others!

  80. Jasmi*

    Can someone help me look for my eyebrows? They shot up so far they must have slid off the top of my head

    Seriously though, what is wrong with this interviewer? Whatever she thought the reasons for your scars were, it was very much not her business and not her place to tell you to cover them. If she is the hiring manager I think you may have dodged a bullet (or possibly an asteroid) by not taking the job.

  81. Luna*

    I will commend Marcia for obviously caring about what she considers self-harm. Her assumption was wrong, hence you don’t assume, but she cared. The last part of it, with the God bless and church-run group brochue, that kinda bugs me… but it might be because it involves religion, and I overall don’t like religion having anything to do with… well, most of your life, unless it involves something at the place of worship, for example.

    And I can understand that scars can be triggering to some people, especially those that have struggled with self-harm themselves or thoughts of doing it. Phobias and triggers can be irrational.
    But at the same time, I feel like we really shouldn’t stigmatize scars so much. Regardless of where they came from, they are there, they can’t be removed or removal costs a lot, takes a long time, and might even be painful? I’m not sure about the last part.
    Personally, I think scars are okay. They show a story of survival, even if the story is “I learned the hard way that tart forms are actually two pieces and not one.”

    I do feel torn here about what to do with Marcia.
    Respond to her email with a thank you for thinking about you, but correcting her stance and telling her to not do this again? Or to really go and inform HR or a manager about this? The latter seems a bit much to me.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I disagree, I think she should absolutely be reported for her comments.

      The reason is: they did not come from a position of caring AT ALL. They came from a position of moral self-righteousness and a firm belief that their view of the world (that anybody with any scars should cover them) is the only right way to see it.

      The comments about not getting a job, refusing to shakes hands, telling them to cover them up? That’s not caring, that’s bigotry.

    2. Svennerson*

      The reason to inform HR is this is a strong legal liability for the company. Simply mentioning it to Marcia/correcting it does not necessarily mean she’ll listen and respond to it (“they must hate my religion”/”just angry they didn’t get the job”/etc), and so if she does do it again and the recipient is a little more vindictive, there’s an ADA lawsuit waiting to happen.

      It’s not (at least, it shouldn’t be) about some measure of vindictiveness towards Marcia, it’s about letting the company know that there is a major landmine that might be tripped, and ensuring someone will put focus on disarming that landmine. Maybe Marcia has shown extreme excellence in just about every other duty of her job, and is genuinely traumatized by self-harm in the past to the point of overriding usually strong judgment, and the company just needs to carve out a plan/script for Marcia with firm warnings for deviating should such a situation happen again. Somehow I doubt it, just because this is a case of extremely poor judgment, but the company will have the best context to continue from there if given the direct description.

    3. Observer*

      I will commend Marcia for obviously caring about what she considers self-harm.

      It’s actually FAR from obvious that she cares about self harm. Keep in mind that she refused to shake the OP’s hand! That is NOT “caring”. She also told the OP that they need to hide the scars because they are “triggering”. Again, that is NOT caring.

      Or to really go and inform HR or a manager about this? The latter seems a bit much to me.

      Why is it “much”? Even if you were right about her intent, as others have repeatedly noted Intent does NOT outweigh impact! In a recent thread about stupid things people have done at work someone told the story of a person who threw an AX at the person who asked for it. They did not MEAN to do harm, but they were fired IMMEDIATELY anyway. Because “I didn’t think” or “I didn’t realize” is not going to do anyone much good if someone winds up dead or “just” seriously injured.

      Marcia’s behavior is much like that of the ax-thrower. Someone who over-steps boundaries this badly presents a danger to the people she deals with and a major risk to her company.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Thank you so much for your comments on this post. I’ve had enough people concern trolling me over my perceived health due to appearance to last me several lifetimes.

        It’s not caring to hassle someone about their scars. It’s not caring to judge them as having a mental problem that needs uninformed opinions asap.

        It’s bias, and a negative one at that.

    4. Rainy*

      Do not thank nosy assholes for being nosy assholes.

      Ever. At all. Don’t thank them. Ever. Because the thank you is all they will hear. They will not take the correction on board. They will do it again. Because all they will do is hear the thank you and conclude that they have “reached” you.

      Do not thank nosy assholes for being nosy assholes.

      HR/Marcia’s manager needs to know she’s doing this to candidates, even if only to explain why good candidates keep withdrawing from consideration.

  82. Bobby Pins*

    I would just like to offer some of my own experience to echo the people who have encouraged you to let the company know about Marcia’s behavior. I recently accessed some mental health support provided through work via an outside organization. During the assessment call the counselor Fiona got very stuck on the idea of trying to diagnose me with autism and ADHD. This was despite only having met me for 30mins over the phone. She wouldn’t let the subject drop despite me telling her that being dyslexic I had had all the tests as a kid. She then demanded to be given an exact date of these tests that happened 20+ years ago. She only stopped when I made something up, or so I thought. After this interaction she then sent me an email with a bunch of YouTube videos on the subject so I could “explore the topic”. I don’t need to explain how grossly impropriate that was. Thing was I didn’t complain at that point and although I was cross, I let it slide being I had stuff going on. Also honestly complaining not something that feels natural. What resulted was that when I went to log in for my first counseling session I has been assigned to Fiona.
    I ended the session straight away, asked for the details of how to make a complaint and refused to engage when she asked why. I am pleased to say I received a swift and unequivocal apology from the provider.

    All this to say Marcia whatever her intention was way out of line, and you will be doing no harm letting her company know this how she behaviors as representative of them.

  83. Saffy_Taffy*

    It’s so wild I’ve had little anecdotes about these really unusual topics repeatedly this week.
    So, I have a history of self-injury. And in the early aughts I was briefly caught up in the MLM company Cutco. Slingin’ knifes. They encourage you to make a giant list of everyone you know by name and then bother each and every one of them, which led to me calling my family Physician’s Assistant and trying to set up an appointment to sell her knives.
    And this woman wrote me a long, emotional letter saying she couldn’t “contribute” to my self-injury by letting me sell her kitchen knives. She equated it to an addict selling drugs, and to a conman working in a bank. She called to make sure I got the letter, so for an hour I had to listen to her repeat everything she’d written. She also felt that since I’m overweight, and since kitchen knives are used to cut food, it was a “double whammy.” I think she said “double whammy” three times.
    Anyway, it was nuts, but my point is: when I told her boss, he was mortified. On my side completely. She had to go to some kind of crisis/mental health training, and I think it helped her. I never had to interact with her again, but I think the training made her a little less… whatever the word is.
    So yeah, speak up about it. She deserves to be better.

  84. That One Person*

    I really hope you forward this OP. I think people have enough to be self conscious about in life without adding every little nick and scratch to the list, regardless of their origin. As well some of us knew it was “shameful” so we already hid the habit. If she’s seeing scars they’re either not self-inflicted, or the person’s likely found peace and is trying to accept themselves and such a remark could be detrimental to someone on a road to recovery already.

  85. Brimful of chai*

    As someone with facial scars from a repaired cleft lip, and unique hands (ectrodactyly), I am unfortunately not too surprised by Marcia’s reaction. I have had a range of odd responses from people, from folks not being able to make eye contact or look at my face at all, or people who can’t stop stealing glances at my hands. People can be weird about scars and other physical differences.
    I’ve actually had people insinuate that my mom did something, like drugs or alcohol, or some other form of neglect, to cause my birth defects. I’ve also had people assume I was in a terrible accident or that I was burned somehow equilaterally on both hands. Some of these conversations occurred during job interviews, or shortly after being hired. I only wish I’d had AAM to rely on for advice on how to handle those situations!

    I guess it’s human nature to try to fill in the blanks, and in Marcia’s case, she must have some sort of trauma around self-harm and/or scarring in general. Of course that does not make it okay for her to have reacted the way she did, and I agree that OP should report her behavior to the management. The way she acted was *wildly* inappropriate.

  86. TartPanSchmartPan*

    Hi OP – just wanted to add some solidarity on the fruit tart burns. SAME thing happened to me when I first used that tart pan. In my case I was also grabbing it from an odd angle so the burn line was on the underside of my arm in a spot that could have been suggestive of a different cause.

  87. Jessica Fletcher*

    If Marcia said this to someone actually suffering with depression who was self-injuring, she would cause significant psychological damage. She might tip them into suicidal ideation. I wonder what damage she’s already inflicted on her own colleagues.

  88. How DARE Marcia*

    I hate So. Much. about this. As someone who had a history of self-harm (over a decade ago) and now still has some scars (albeit ones that I like to think aren’t too noticeable?), this makes me SO furious. As it is, my scars are something I spend my life self-conscious about and worrying other people are noticing (and doubly so for work-related events). If this had happened to me, I have no doubt it would have triggered a gigantic shame spiral that would have put me in not a great place, so EVEN IF this person’s scars were the result of self-harm, Marcia’s “helpful follow-up” response is Not Helpful in the slightest. Fire this woman.

  89. VARecruits*

    I love to cook and have some pretty obvious scars/marks because I am also a klutz. I also happen to be a recruiter and would lose my ever loving shit if I found out a hiring manager or colleague did this. Dear lord.

    I also have a cat. There are times where between the two things I look like I’ve been through some type of horrible accident. I’m literally looking at my arms/wrists now and there is no way this woman would have hired me either.

  90. Calamity Janine*

    i’m not sure i would be able to resist a reply via email in which you express your extreme sorrow in apparently triggering her lingering trauma of the day her childhood ended, when the oven-hot tart pan barbarians rode down from the mountains in order to slaughter her whole village (and she was only spared due to being away picking berries for dearest mama to make dessert that evening, of course), which was the start of her grim journey into the hero she is today

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