Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Emily is a super freak

You know that thing Michael Jackson says he has that makes his skin turn white and everybody is all like yeah, right, Michael Jackson, you freakazoid, we all know you just want to be a white lady so stop making excuses? You know?

Yeah, well um, here's the thing about that.

A few years ago a couple of white patches of skin started showing up on my chest. I didn't think much about it at first, just mild curiosity and a hope that they weren't affiliated somehow with melanoma. But I kept forgetting to ask the doctor when I went in for my physical each year and eventually I got used the them. Then they spread slowly, each summer, a little bit more. I thought it was some kind of odd way my body tanned. Now my entire chest and my shoulders don't tan and the patches sort of sprinkle down my arms. I've never been too concerned about it. I don't even really notice it anymore. Like freckles.

And in the meantime I drive a convertible and wear nothing but tank tops in the summer.

Yesterday a colleague saw me wearing spaghetti straps and touched my shoulders. "This looks like vitiligo," she said.

So I went home and looked it up and now I'm freaked out.

I don't need a doctor to tell me this is what I have. It's pretty obvious.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to attack the pigmentation in your skin and turns it white in patches that slowly spread over your body, often to your face.

That's what's scaring me right now. I don't mind it on my body, I just don't want it on my face.

It only affects 1 percent of the population. One. A hundred people in a room, and I'm the only one with these fucking spots on my body.

My mother used to annoy the crap out of me by telling me about my future thyroid problems. "I have thyroid problems, your grandmother has thyroid problems, you'll get them too," she said. And I would tell her to stop talking about it because no 18-year-old wants to hear about how she's doomed to turn fat when she hits forty.

She never told me those thyroid problems could turn me into an albino.

It's genetic but most people who have it don't have parents who have it. My mom certainly doesn't have it. And I probably won't pass it to my kids. My grandkids, maybe, but it's one of those things that sort of sits around waiting to strike.

I'm grateful that at least it doesn't have any medical effects. It won't cause me cancer or rot my skin off or anything, it just makes me look funny. And since I'm pretty pale to begin with it's not a totally disfiguring disorder that will make people stare at me or anything, unless it starts to hit my face. It does also gray your hair and eyebrows and eyelashes prematurely.

There are steroid creams and skin grafts people use, but the most effective way for people who have it all over is to have their skin totally repigmented to match the patches. That's what Michael Jackson did. But he didn't do it to become a white lady. He did it to prevent people from staring at him and thinking he's a freak.... oh.

I already have karitasis, a skin disorder that makes you have little bumps all over your arms that feel like goosebumps. One time I met this sleazy guy at a club who rubbed my arm and said, "Oooh, you have goosebumps!" as if it was a credit to his sexy manliness. I looked him dead in the eye and said, "No, that's a skin disorder."

The sun might exacerbate the problem so now I have to be kind of paranoid about sunscreen. I love the sun. I don't want to be afraid of it. I love tank tops and the beach and my convertible. But I also don't want crazy skin patches all over my face.

So seriously, ancestors. What the hell did you do to your skin? And thanks ever so for passing it down to me.


  1. "One time I met this sleazy guy at a club who rubbed my arm and said, 'Oooh, you have goosebumps!' as if it was a credit to his sexy manliness. I looked him dead in the eye and said, 'No, that's a skin disorder'."


    And I'm a writer -- I know harsh.
    channeling bruno B

    PS-- the verification code prompted to me when I typed this post was "jigwad". I found that amusing for some reason.

  2. That can be kinda freaky, finding out about a possible health problem. You're right though -- if it is this (and I vote for a doctor visit) at least it won't hurt you.

    I used to have a big pale splotch on my chest when I was a kid, but it's gone now. Wonder what that was.

    (My verification was kafof. Also funny.)

  3. I'm really sorry to hear this... that sucks. Fingers crossed on it never bothering you more than it has in the past.

    And as long as you don't get multiple surgeries to reshape your skull, I don't think you can ever be in MJ land!

  4. Meh. You'll still be hot.


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