I live in the Southern Hemisphere and summer is fast approaching. Yay! That means little sun-dresses and shorts and tanktops! But this is where I am running into my problem. See, I suffer from eczema—all over my hands, legs and arms. It's not weeping or icky, but it is quite red and raw.
A while ago a friend of mine was complaining about how a guy with a rash on the back of his knees was wearing shorts at one of her lectures. She was of the opinion (and assumed I was too) that a person has a rash of some kind it should be covered up, especially if this person is using public seating or such things. Now, I'd be happy to cover up but due to the ridiculous sensitivity of my skin, covering it can (and has) led to nasty infections. Plus, I don't really relish the idea of wearing long sleeves or stockings or wound dressings when the temperature starts to get hot. So Auntie, what should I do? Is it common courtesy to cover my eczema? I don't want to gross people out! Or should I be able to leave it open?
Well, let's test that theory! Suppose for a second that your friend is right—that people with rashes are, in fact, responsible for keeping them out of sight. Where, then, does the line get drawn? Is there any point at which it's not okay to make someone responsible for sparing us their hideousness? Who else has to keep themselves hidden out of "common courtesy", because the sight of them would gross people out? What about people with acne? What about nasty scars, birthmarks, or tumors? What about burn victims? Amputees? People with deformities or birth defects?
I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this: namely, that the victims of unsightly afflictions don't need any additional burdens, and that they certainly don't deserve to be stink-eyed by everyone else for daring to leave the house uncovered. (And also, that your friend is an unsympathetic weenies who deserves a quality walloping with the Punishment Salmon. Despite what she may think, she is not owed a world in which only beautiful people enter her view.)
Which means that you should wear whatever is flattering and comfortable for you, whether or not it exposes your eczema, and whether or not the sight of your skin makes people look twice. Their comfort is not your concern; you're a human being, and you have the same right as anyone to enjoy a closet full of strappy dresses and the feel of sunshine on your skin. And in return for a lovely summer spent wearing the skimpiest tops and the shortest shorts, all you have to do is let this experience do its work to make you a better and more empathetic person—and remember, the next time that someone with a less-than-attractive epidermis wanders into your view, that he's not doing anything wrong.
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