Monday, August 10, 2009


On the way to my son’s dermatology appointment he said “She’ll just shrug when she sees me and she’ll say it’s not so bad.”

His acne, that is, and I knew he was right. The doctor was going to say it was improving and that patience was required. My son would probably be disappointed, because he wanted the bomb, the cure, the magic. Like back when there were no STDs – just VD and it could be taken care of with a pill.

I sat in the waiting room wondering what skin conditions had brought those people to the dermatologist. Their faces looked fine. A bad rash? Scabies? The heartbreak of psoriasis? Bumps, scars, fissures, pits, scrapes, nits, protrusions, cysts, melanoma? One of those ghastly conditions pictured in a medical book? Every time I get an itch I consult that book so I’m well acquainted with the photographs.

I’ve had my share of skin problems. Acne. Contact dermatitis. Poison ivy. Rosacea. Hives after a night of adventure when I was 18: I woke up writhing, with welts all over my body for the first and only time in my life. I was sure it was brought on by doing it with a boy I’d just met at a bar, or using a fake i.d. to get into the bar, or drinking mass quantities of alcohol at the bar. This is the punishment I deserve, I decided, for screwing strangers and guzzling Singapore Slings.

The doctor prescribed some new cream for my boy and we walked to the pharmacy, where I looked around and wondered exactly what had brought all these people to the drug store. What, I considered, were their stories? Would I really want to know? Or would it be too upsetting?

After the little box of balm was paid for, we stepped into the sunshine. My son was blinking and looking up at the blue sky day. I was pretty sure he wished he didn’t have to go to school.

“You know, here I am worrying about my acne, just a normal part of life,” he said, “and there were all those other people coming in for their problems. They probably had worse problems than me. It makes you think, huh?”

He smiled and that cute little dimple of his appeared among the zits. I thought to myself (but didn’t say), “Gosh, you are a handsome young man!”

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