Communications (Jan/Feb, 1998)

P Thwarts Romance
from Chris B.

Hey there, Ed! I've been visiting Flake since October, and I must say that I'm glad I found your site!

I'm 20, and have had the big P since the sixth grade. Let me be the first to say it: middle school is the absolute WORST time to ever have psoriasis (or any visible medical problem). Kids at that age are the nastiest, meanest, most insensitive jerks in the world.

At first, I withdrew into my own little world. My family worried about me (especially my mom) as I turned into a virtual recluse. I suffered from chronic depression (therapy didn't do jack) until my senior year of high school.

Something happened during the summer between my junior and senior high school years. Somehow I made this sudden change, and have been much happier since. I'm a friendly, outgoing chap now, and am pretty confident in my life.

However, I still drag around a lot of emotional luggage, the contents of which are my troubles with psoriasis. Mine is pretty bad. I range between 35-50% affected. I've only dated one person in my whole life, and that only lasted a few months. I honestly think that the psoriasis is a very influential factor in my dating life. It really annoys me to see women complain that they can't find any nice guys, when they'll nonchalantly turn me down. (I'm one of those rare nice guys; ask anyone who knows me, and they'll attest to it, even my ex-girlfriend. She's still my closest friend.) The only real factor against me is the psoriasis. I'm nice, friendly, in pretty good shape (of course, you can't see the muscle through the scales), and certainly an eligible bachelor.

I guess my biggest question is, how can I get someone to look past the psoriasis and see a great guy that they could possible deign to at least give a chance to, rather than immediately dismissing him? I can deal with my psoriasis in just about every aspect of my life except my dating life. I just need some advice from other people who are stuck with P. -Chris B.

*****

Ed's Reply: It seems that at Flake HQ I'm always prefacing romantic advice with the caution, "I'm the last person you should listen to because...." Then I go ahead and parcel out advice as though I knew what I was talking about. And here I am, about to do it again.

When I was your age the distinctions between "love," "romance" and "sex" were blurred. Hormones, not reason, were in charge. I didn't have psoriasis then, so I can't tell you it got in my way and I did this-that-or-anything else to overcome the problem. But I can tell you there were plenty other problems. Establishing a fulfilling relationship is difficult, maintaining one is even more difficult. With or without psoriasis. Knowing that, my best advice to you is work hard not to let psoriasis become the major problem. I can almost guarantee you it isn't. But of course it is a challenge, and unless you can position that challenge appropriately—give it its proper priority in the litany of challenges in store for you—you may get broadsided by more substantial problems when you're just letting your guard down because you think you beat psoriasis-block.

In my experience, relationships start with a basis—call it a foundation. Usually the two people involved have little control over this. It can be anything from animal magnetism to parental predetermination (out of fashion but still practiced). It can be "opposites attract" or "gee whiz! you're my mirror image!" Typically, that foundation is too insubstantial to support anything lasting. At best it's like a launch pad. It's as though you bought the plot of land with the foundation already there, but from there on what gets built is up to you. (Haven't we both known couples who have been together for a long time, but emotionally it seems like they're still living out of construction trailers?)

One thing about which I do claim some authority is the requirement for friendship before love. I can honestly say that I know of no two people who have been together for twenty years or more who would say their physical relationship is more important than their friendship. And I think it's in that distinction between friendship and physical love that the "priority" of psoriasis must be established. You write of one romantic experience which ended, you believe, because of your psoriasis, but which continues on as a sincere friendship. Don't "backspace | delete" the experience of the friendship-building because it did not overcome psoriasis-block. Knowing no more than what you have shared in your e-mail, I would say you did a lot right. Backing away from a romance and retaining a "best-friendship" is rare. It's as though the two of you started in to build a house on that pre-existing foundation, then ran into irreconcilable differences when you arrived at picking the window treatments—but you both enjoy what you've built so far.

Somewhere out there is another woman who's dreaming of the house you two built, and who doesn't give a damn about the window treatments, who would gladly say, "Chris, you pick the window treatments." How will you find her? Surely not by leveling your experience and starting over. You may not know a lot about "love," yet ... but now you know a lot about friendship. Accept the fact that it takes root whether or not you want it to, or expect it to, and then nurture it as best you can. Yes, the time will come, again, when the two of you will have to face the window treatments issue, but your chances of winning (defeating psoriasis-block) are good.

Take care and stay in touch. -Ed

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