Pretty Girl, Ugly Skin
Last updated: June 2018
Almost a decade ago I was working as a call center representative as a part time job as I attended classes at Alabama State University. At this time psoriasis covered about 90% of my body and honestly my disease was at its worse. In the past, I could hide my disease with long sleeves and pants, but around this time psoriasis had found its way to my hands, which was virtually impossible to cover. No matter how much I tried to hide my psoriasis, people knew it was there. Most would look but never question, and I attempted to avoid the conversation at all cost.
The unkindness of strangers
One day I was at my part-time job and decided to take a break. It was in the summertime, which gets very hot in Alabama. Of course, I had on long sleeves and pants, but I wanted to feel the sun rays hit my face. I went outside, stood by my car, and started playing with my phone. A gentleman (and I use that word very loosely) walked up to me and attempted to engage in conversation with me which went something like this:
“Hello, How are you? How long have you been working here?”
“For over a year. You?”
“Not long. I do have a question… What is that on your skin?”
At that moment my heart started beating fast, my palms started sweating, and my thoughts ran rampant. I must say I was not prepared for the question he asked, but nothing could have prepared me for what he would say next. I mustered up the courage to attempt to explain my disease:
“Well, it’s called psoriasis… It’s an autoimmune disease that affects my skin—“
He quickly cut me off, “Look, you are a real pretty girl, but your skin is ugly.”
He followed his statement with some other rhetoric that I can’t really remember because in that end my mind went in a deep ocean of thoughts. I was hurt, mad, confused. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and asked him to get away from me. He then attempted to talk about one of his family members that had health issues, I guess it was an attempt to leverage his initial comment.
I went to the bathroom and cried. Even now when I think about that moment, those feelings resurface. Some other co-workers had seen our interaction, although they were too far to actually hear what happened. One in particular asked me what was wrong. She just knew something had been said, which in hindsight makes me think I had been the topic of conversation among co-workers.
I wish I could go back then with the strength I have now. If I could go back and say something to my 22 year old self back then I would give her the courage to defend herself. I would tell her not to cry but to stand strong. I would tell her to learn how to explain what her disease is in 30 seconds to prepare for moments like those.
I would tell her she is beautiful.
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