Wednesday, July 10, 2013


A few years back, when I was living and teaching in Waltham, Mass., I happened to look in the mirror and discovered that I had a rash all over my chest.  It looked angry, like it was supposed to say, “that’s what you get for using that baby powder.”  It was late in the evening and I was in a panic.  It was not the first time I was in a panic. Over the years, I had some moments that can only be described as “total meltdown.” Like the time I ate munster cheese and my throat closed.  Doctors would describe it as an allergic reaction. I could only say, it was frightening not to be able to breathe or swallow, and additionally to think you are going to die. I drove myself to the hospital and when the resident looked at me (there were no real doctors available), she said, “Wow that’s really ugly.” 

It happened again when I was having some testing for an eye infection and they gave me a shot which had some kind of iodine dye as its base.  Hives, all over my body.  Big ones, like the size that bees would use for a vacation hotel.  And speaking of hives, it happened again when I put on a pair of nylons that must have had some foreign substance woven in the stocking.  Yep, hives, and not limited to my legs – they were all over my arms and chest, with a few on my face.

In addition to the hives and throat closing, my legs were pins and needles for about a year.  I knew my legs were there because I could see them, but as for feeling them – they felt like they were asleep. For a while I figured it would simply go away.  But after the first 6 months, I figured I would never have a normal relationship with my feet.  It did eventually go away. But not before I had some fluid injected in my spine, which must have had some iodine.  When the nurse saw my face she started to yell for me to get up. When you have this kind of test, if you raise your head – even a little, you get a debilitating headache. So, on top of the hives, I had a headache and legs I couldn’t feel in order to actually stand on them.  Not to worry, I know most of what I am allergic too and I can feel my legs.

However, once when I was teaching at American University, I tried to duplicate the hair color my cousin Honey discovered.  Don’t worry, it had no iodine and I did not have an allergic reaction.  But my hair was purple.  It was way before having different colors in you hair was fashionable. Cindy Lauper, take note.  I tried to remain calm. When that didn’t work I called the emergency number on the carton of the dye. Have you ever wondered about those emergency numbers?  Well, here is how the conversation went. I’ll skip the hellos.

Me:  Please help me, my hair is purple.
Them:  Purple huh.  What color did you use.
Me:  Richest Brown.
Them: Oh yes, sometimes that turns purple.  But don’t worry it will fade in 6 to 8 weeks.
Me: But I have to go to work tomorrow at a major American university. I cannot go with purple hair.
Them:  Well, you can try coloring over it – but that sometimes makes it worse.
Me:  So your answer is, no you can’t help me.
Them:  I never said that.

I hung up and called my friend’s beautician who gave me some suggestions, among which was, have a professional color your hair next time.
This blob is not a whine or a kvetch.  I went to the doctor yesterday, and when I opened my shirt, the intern working for her said, “Wow, that’s really ugly.” I don’t get hives and I am careful about hair coloring – my husband does mine.  But ugly is still ugly.  Some things just never change.  We’re just sayin’…Iris

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