I have ichthyosis, a rare, severe skin condition. I was born with it and there is no cure. While it’s medically challenging – I get itchy, am in pain a lot, and am prone to infection – the social challenges are far harder.
I have NOT missed the stares and comments from strangers since I’ve been wearing a mask.
I have not missed the curiosity and fear from children.
I have not missed the sniggers, finger pointing and double takes from adults.
I have not missed holding my breath before getting in a taxi, anticipating whether a taxi driver will refuse me service once they see me.
I have not missed the refusal of a chair at a music venue because I only look sunburnt, not sore enough to be unable to stand for a long period of time.
I have not missed navigating drunk and drug affected people who comment on my face even more arrogantly than sober people do.
I have not missed the ridiculous questions (okay, some of them are pretty funny!).
I have not missed the tiring interruptions to my day because of someone’s rudeness.
While I’m heavy with tiredness from living in a pandemic — the uncertainty of work and the grief from everything that is no longer — I have a profound sense of lightness too.
I am proud of my appearance, and confident too. But I have not missed feeling like I shouldn’t be, because of someone else’s awful behavior.
There’s a comfort in blending in – everyone has a level of uniformity now. And while my skin experiences a little discomfort from wearing a mask for more than 20 minutes, it’s been a relief not to be stared at as often.
Of course none of my masks are plain. They’re all bright florals, and I’ve had fun integrating them into my outfits. And they’re an excellent conversation starter.
It really has been a privilege to go about my day not being stared at for the last six months or so.
And if you’ve never experienced the situations I’ve listed above, please remember your privilege.
How about when all this is over – *gestures wildly at the shit-show of 2020* – people stop staring at those of us with facial differences, skin conditions, and disabilities? I know my friends from these communities feel similar to me.
When *all of this is over,* there are some things that I hope we will keep. The options to see doctors by Telehealth. Making IRL events digital and more accessible. The slower pace. And being able to go about my day without being singled out, harassed or discriminated against because of my face.
Image: A woman with a red face and dark curly hair tied back,. She’s smiling. She has dark brown eyes. She’s wearing a purple jacket over an orange top with pink, lilac and yellow spots on it. On her lapel is a yellow care bear brooch with a sun in his tummy. The bear is waving.