Saturday, May 01, 2004

I'm a little ashamed of this, but I just woke up and realized that I'm having a really difficult time adjusting to being ugly. I'm ashamed of it on two levels. First of all, it feels a little vain to admit that until two weeks ago, I was not and did not think I was ugly. And it feels even more vain, not to mention superficial and anti-feminist, to admit that I really care that I am now. I should be worried about much more important things: the war in Iraq, world hunger, the fact that I may go deaf. And instead, I'm actually fretting about the fact that I look like a toad.

Since I started taking steroids, the following things have happened to me. I have lost my cheekbones under a layer of fat. I have developed a double chin. I now devote five minutes every morning to hunting down and plucking hair on my face and chest. I have gone from a person who got the occasional pimple to someone whose face, chest and back are covered in acne. The itchy rash on my chest, which I've had for years and which used to be limited to a small patch between my breasts, now extends from my belly button to my shoulders. I may be imagining it, but I feel like I have more fat around my stomach.

It's probably unrealistic to expect myself to react with equanimity to my sudden transition to ugliness. For one thing, the changes in my appearance just reinforce my basic feeling that my body is falling apart, and vanity aside, that's a lousy feeling. But also, it's probably silly to pretend that I was immune to the subtle and not-so-subtle rewards of being a reasonably-attractive woman. I knew those rewards were illusory and temporary, but on some level it didn't matter. And on some level, even though I haven't noticed any difference in how people treat my ugly self, I feel diminished and a little humiliated by the changes in my appearance. I've found myself wanting to explain to random acquaintances that I'm taking medicine that makes me ugly, like I need to provide some sort of excuse for my sudden hideousness.

My friend L. says that I should do something to make myself feel pretty: get a facial, schedule a spa day. The thing is, I can't really afford it. One of the annoying ironies about getting sick in a country with crappy medical care is that you end up broke at the exact moment you want to pamper yourself. And I'm not even sure it would make me feel any better. L. also thinks I should make an appointment with the student counselling service, and I'm thinking maybe that's a better idea.

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