Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stare-down with the pustulant prof

So I'm sitting in my favorite Indian restaurant in the Big City when I notice that the man at the next table seems to be staring. At me. Persistently.

I take a discreet look behind me to see if there's something fascinating happening just over my right shoulder, but no: his eyes seem to be glued to me. Is he trying to see down my shirt, or is he wondering about the red blotches all over my neck and chest? Maybe he's a dermatologist trying to diagnose me from a distance. Or maybe he's afraid I'm contagious.

We went to the Big City to shop yesterday and all day long I kept wanting to apologize: "I may look like the carrier of a nasty skin disease that will slowly and painfully eat you alive, but I couldn't give it to you even if I wanted to, so please let me try on some clothes!" My husband assured me that my poison ivy wasn't particularly noticeable, but I certainly noticed it, especially when I tried on that very scratchy sweater that intensified the itching until I wanted to tear into my skin with an ice pick.

Today I'm wearing a blouse with long sleeves and a high collar so I won't frighten horses in the streets (if there were any horses) or send my colleagues backing slowly out of the department office in search of a decontamination suit. Maybe I should get our PR guy to issue a statement referring vaguely to a "skin-rash-related incident" and encouraging people not to panic. It would certainly liven things up around here.

Fortunately, the blotches are beginning to fade and the itching is growing less intense. By the time classes start, I ought to look less like an oozing mass of pustulance and more like an English professor. I suspect that some students consider those terms synonymous, but for those students I have good news: I'm not contagious--so go stare at someone else.

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