|Nov-Dec '09 | briefing | mail | interviews | articles | psorchat | don't say this | flaker creativity | flakers' jargon | spouses corner | other places | archives | send mail | ed dewke | search | acknowledgments | legal stuff | Flake: Confessions of a Psoriatic | ©2009 FlakeHQ, Inc.|
Getting P When You Are Older Is Harder
My brother told me to write my story to you. He has had psoriasis for 10+ years and visits this site. I started getting the sores about a year ago. Thing is, I had a pretty active dating life which is now pretty much wrecked by my flaking. My brother never felt as bummed about his love life as I do now. I say its because this disease screws you up when you're older. When you catch it younger you probably get screwed up, but then you get used to it or get over it in a way. I might get to the point where I just get numb about it, but I can't imagine ever feeling the same with a woman after what happened to me. I've dated several girls who have known each other. That isn't a weird thing coming from a relatively small school like I do. My last girlfriend was from the school, too. But it was between her and my previous girlfriend that my flaking started. In my scalp, on my back, on my abs and on my knees. When we got to the clothes off phase she saw my sores and freaked something awful. Of course I told her what it was and that it wasn't contagious but she was hung up on the fact that none of my previous girlfriends had mentioned how "messed up" my skin was. I explained my skin was normal for them and that was a mistake. She said they were probably all laughing at her right now.
Am I going to have to go to another school, or start dating girls who don't know me from before? Or are all women from now on going to treat me like a leper? My brother says you can set me straight. Your turn.
Ed's Response: If your brother has been reading FlakeHQ for some time, Ethan, he may recall my saying that psoriasis is like a third person in any personal relationship. It may or may not have to participate actively in the intimacy, but it's going to be there, no matter what. I've also said that you, the person with P, must share how YOU relate to your disease and then describe that relationship to your partner — preferably before she experiences an uninformed reaction. Remember, if she's not psoriatic, the only things influencing her otherwise natural reaction is her compassion and her intellect. Depending how "into the moment" she may be at the "clothes off" stage, neither her compassion nor her intellect may be functioning at 100%.
You spring something like "lots of lesions" on a partner when they are expected to immediately "embrace" them and that partnership may be doomed. I've heard from lots of flakers about their personal and intimate issues and every one of them has taught me more than I could possibly teach them. For example, I've not dated for 38 years, with the exception of one year after I had already started flaking. I've come to call that my "year of living dangerously." Like you, at the very last moment I surprised one or more of those dates with the extent of my psoriasis. I assumed my passionate disregard for their shock would yield easily to the promise of the moment. Sometimes I got lucky, but not always.
Perhaps the saddest part of your story is the way YOU have reacted to her horror and loathing. Neither your compassion nor your intellect were working at 100% at the time (and I'd pretty much put money on that assertion if you confirmed that her clothes were already off). Now you have been traumatized and it will take real work to dissolve the psycho-social residue of that trauma. You may have to try very hard with the next woman your are interested in to be up front about your P. One thing I've learned from other young men in your position (how old are you, anyway?) is that by talking about their disease as though it were a third party, explaining how that party must be tolerated and ignored when necessary, they eventually instilled an understanding in their partners. Intimacy doesn't happen so spontaneously the first time with a partner for these other correspondents, but when it does happen they are more likely to find their partner a compassionate individual with some tolerance for this disturbing "third party."
I must (to fulfill your brother's expectations) conclude with just one more observation about your traumatic incident. As you worded it, you may have aggravated rather than helped your situation. If you really said to her that your "skin was normal for those previous girlfriends" her defense instincts may have subconsciously responded in exactly the opposite way you intended: "Then why the hell couldn't it have been normal for me?" Then, in her mind, she starts elaborating on why all the others got to have the "smooth-skinned Ethan," but she's picked to play with him when he's wearing his alligator skin. Just a thought, Ethan: Next time you may want to plan how you'll play out that gentle pre-intimacy sharing of the true extent of your skin problems. -Ed