2015 will be the year of no apologies about my skin and cream. That’s my resolution.
For years – almost my whole life – I’ve apologised about my skin interfering with others. And now I will stop.
The need to apologise has stemmed from others being outwardly inconvenienced by it – vacuuming where I’ve walked, wiping surfaces down after I’ve touched them and not feeling as though they could kiss or hug me because they don’t want to get me on them. I often apologise because I get cold when the air conditioner is on, or if I can’t sit outside because it’s too hot or people are smoking around me. And sometimes I get looks as though I am being a princess, so sometimes I just put up with the discomfort. I apologise for my needs, and for inconveniencing others.
I spend a lot of time wiping up after myself. It’s a little about etiquette and leaving things nice for others, but a lot about apologies. I see how gingerly people touch things that I touch, I’ve heard them complain, and I want to avoid that. Years ago, when I was at primary school, Mum used to give a woman a lift to work. She complained because the seatbelt – that absorbed my cream – left a mark on her top. Mum was upset and probably even angry, and the lady stopped getting a lift. I worry about the impact of parents complaining and resenting the cream that their kids with Ichthyosis have to use.
I worry about them writing about it on social media – commenting about how it soaks through their clothes and gets on furniture. These comments are there for everyone to see, to form an opinion about. And I get how Ichthyosis has turned their lives upside down. But these kids may feel like they have to apologise for a medical treatment that they use to stay alive. Comments and actions from others when I was a child have stuck with me. And these comments weren’t on social media, these comments were spoken, so they could evaporate. But they never evaporated and I remember them decades later. They still hurt.
The need to stop apologising for my skin and cream came to me with a bang at Stella Young’s memorial. That lady has taught us so much in her life and death – a big reminder for us that we get proud by practicing. I met Stella’s family for the first time that day. At the end of the memorial, I hugged Stella’s sister. She was wearing a gorgeous pink blazer, and I left a face imprint on the side of it. My cream darkened the fabric. I apologised to her, and she said “don’t worry about it, I’ve probably got my own makeup on it anyway”. And then I felt so stupid. Because Stella – her sister – never apologised for getting in the way. In a letter to her 80 year old self, she wrote:
“I stopped unconsciously apologising for taking up space. I’m sure you can scarcely imagine that now; a world where disabled people, women in particular, are made to feel like we’re not really entitled to inhabit public spaces.”
If Stella’s sister is reading this, I want to retract that apology. I am not sorry for getting my cream on your blazer. I am not sorry because Stella stopped apologising years ago, and so will I.
And my love, he keeps reminding me not to apologise.
I said sorry, and he shook his head.
“No sorries” he told me, waving his hands to suggest the conversation was finished.
“Stop apologising for what you can’t control.” And I loved him so hard.
I am not apologising for my skin and cream in 2015 and all the years after that. And you shouldn’t apologise for your skin or cream or whatever else makes you different either.