Category Archives: Eczema


Last week was busy. How busy? Collin’s parents were in town. My aunt was in town. Five of Collin’s high school/college friends were in town and staying at our place on various evenings. My future brother-in-law graduated from law school. Bridal Hootenanny member Liz had a birthday. I had my first wedding dress fitting since I bought it back in October. We had to get the invitations for our wedding ready to mail. Collin ran in the Pittsburgh marathon. All that, and a circus. [That’s not a metaphor.]

I was tired all the time and hit my emotional limit at least once every day. I popped my anxiety pills like breath mints and got too drunk on Friday night. I had random crying jags. I snapped at Collin a bunch of times. I looked like shit. I developed an ugly rash on my arm (I think its the same kind of
atomic eczema I had after the bar exam). I slept fitfully even though I pretty much collapsed into bed each night.

I don’t want to feel that way the week of my wedding.

But it will be very much the same kind of week: many people in town, a full calendar chock-a-block with social obligations, a lengthy list of tasks to be accomplished, and emotional energy running high.

I need to develop a strategy to deal with these pressures with more aplomb than I did this week. And I’m too tired and worn down at this point to develop it properly. I know I need to get as much done ahead of time as possible. I know I need to get more comfortable delegating responsibilities and being assertive about my needs. And I know I need to schedule downtime during wedding week. But even with these strategies I feel less than confident I’ll have the wherewithal to withstand wedding week.

So, marrieds: how did you hold up during your wedding week and do you have any crucial tips for me? People I know in real life: Will you slap me in the face if I need to snap out of it during wedding week? (Without leaving a mark that might show in photos?) Everyone else: what strategies do you rely upon in stressful crunch times?



I may be showing my Jersey roots here a little, but I’m astonished there isn’t more talk of tanning on wedding blogs. I thought almost every light-skinned bride took on a strict tanning regimen before her day in the white dress, especially if her wedding was in the summer.

But the Internet seems to be quiet about it, which leads me to believe I’ve misunderestimated the appeal of tanning to brides-to-be, or everyone is ashamed of intentionally giving themselves skin cancer.  [Actually, given the advent of spray tanning, it can’t be that last thing.]

I am not ashamed: I tan. I have a good excuse, which is that sun exposure dramatically improves my eczema.  But dudes, I also always like the way my skin looks when it is a little tan. I’m not gonna lie. (You can take the girl out of Jersey…)

But this summer I am going to try to avoid getting any more tan than I normally am (I go to the tanning salon about once a month). Usually in the summer I let myself get a deeper tan, feel awesome about how I’m golden and have little to no eczema, but that only lasts about a week.

Because wherever I have eczema, my tan fades faster. So I end up with a speckled look. I don’t usually get dark enough for other people to notice it, but I notice it, and it drives me nuts. So I don’t want it in my wedding photos.

But now I worry that I will look too pale, even though my dress is ivory instead of pure white. I bought my dress in August, when I was a little tan. I don’t know if I will look washed out in it. I guess I’ll find out at my fitting in a couple weeks.

I’m also worried about losing the ability to tan as needed when my eczema acts up (as it tends to when I’m stressed).

So, fess up, folks: I can’t be the only white chick worrying about being too pale in her wedding dress, right? Is anyone else tanning?

Dead is the New Sexy

Collin was just driving me home from the doctor, who was all, “Yeah, you have ATOMIC eczema… that will be 25 dollars.”  Tragically, he had his eyes on the road instead of where I was pointing and mumbling, “Holy… um… holy… UM HOLY POINT POINT POINT.”  So you’re just going to have to take my word on this one…

But I swear to god I saw a woman in a bridal gown lying upside down on the steps of the Mellon Institute.

I think she was being photographed.  I mean… I didn’t see a photographer.  But… why else would that be happening?

She maybe was just some poor bride who finally fell down after trucking through the ceremony, the reception, the after party, the after after party, the post-wedding brunch, the brunch after party, the brunch after after party, the brunch after after after party, a Monday at work where everyone kept asking her why she hadn’t changed since Saturday morning (how rude), happy hour, running back to the office to grab her brief case and a few cruel steps away from the bus stop tripping on the concrete steps and dashing her wifely brains out.  But I guess it’s OK because she didn’t die single?

Which brings me back to the photo shoot possibility: assuming there WAS a photographer hiding behind a column or something, why is “dead bride on concrete steps” something that should be the subject of a photograph? Maybe I don’t get art.

Or maybe I hallucinated the whole thing.  That’s somehow the least upsetting possibility.

They Look Like Good Strong Hands, Don’t They?

I try not to indulge in insecurity about my appearance.  Admittedly, it helps that I generally think I look good.  But worrying too much about my appearance feels like an exercise in insanity: Beauty standards are warped. There will always be someone better looking.  And good looks are fleeting.

But when it comes to my hands, I really, truly fail with my dreams of Beauty Mythbusting. I’ve written before about my skin problems.  The first place I ever suffered from eczema was on the knuckle of my right index finger, now I have it all over both hands.  Years of dry, itchy, raw, cracked skin, plus the side effects of the steroid creams I use to alleviate those symptoms, mean I have the hands of a much older woman.  Plus I have to keep my fingernails filed down to the quick, which isn’t the most glamorous look.

I really delighted in this post a few weeks back on Shakesville, because I saw Sarah Jessica Parker’s un-retouched hands and thought “those look just like mine!”

And Melissa McEwan described those hands as “beautiful and remarkable,” and not for the first time I wished I could be more like Melissa McEwan.

I mentioned the other day I have a scar through my eyebrow, and that I love it.  I never ever think of it as a flaw in my appearance.  Why can’t I feel that way about my hands?  I remember reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle as a child, and when I read these words in the final chapter:

Even as she stood there, holding my hands, a strange look passed across her face.  Slowly she turned my hands over, gazed at the palms, then touched them with her fingertips. “And your hands?’ she asked in horror. “They are so . . . hard.”

I knew this meant to show the reader that Charlotte had grown as a person; her experiences were showing on her skin.  We’re not supposed to be horrified like her mother.  We’re supposed to be proud.

Then again, I didn’t get my rough hands leading a mutiny against a villainous sea captain, so maybe that comparison doesn’t hold water (excuse the pun).

Still, I wish I were more comfortable with my hands, and not just for all these philosophical reasons, but for the simple fact that getting engaged (if you have an engagement ring) means showing your hand to EVERYONE.  Every time I see someone new and they ask to see the ring, I have to shove aside embarrassment about how my hands look.  This weekend I’ll be seeing most of Collin’s family for the first time since the ring arrived, and my hands are in worse shape than usual: picture SJP’s hand up there but with a bunch of scratch marks all over it.

I will probably try to rely mainly on the procedure of taking of my ring and handing it over to anyone asking to see it, even though that can be a little awkward.  In the meantime, I hope I someday learn to love my hard, hyperlinear hands.

My Skin: A Beginner’s Guide to How Much It Sucks

I suffer from the skin condition eczema. I have a particularly bad case, if all the dermatologists who have said, “You have the worst eczema I’ve ever seen!” are to be believed.1

Not to mention all the random people who remark with horror/concern/morbid curiosity, “Oh my, what happened to your [arm/face/hands]?” “Did you burn yourself?” “Has Collin been splashing you with acid when you’re out of line?”2

It flares up with stress. You know what I imagine will cause me some stress? My wedding. And I’d really rather not have red, cracked, peeling skin on my hands and face the day I get married. Or any day, really.

This morning I woke up and the skin around my eyes had cracked along all my little expression lines, oozing in some places. I put on some skin cream, it burned. I canceled my plans to go to a baseball game because I didn’t want the unseasonably cold wind to further stress my skin.

I’m not going to be able to cancel my wedding if (when) my skin acts up that day. So I guess this means I have to go back to a dermatologist, have my exceptionally effed-up skin remarked upon and possibly photographed, and say, “Please help me fix my skin for my wedding.” And if the dermatologist were a cartoon character, his head would start making cash register noises and his eyes would scroll through ever-increasing numbers of dollar signs before—KA-CHING—landing on “SALE” tabs.

I’ll shell out big bucks for steroid creams with unpleasant side effects. I’ll take rose oil pills and pray for at least a placebo effect. I’ll pretend because eczema is a disease and because it causes physical discomfort that this isn’t mostly about vanity.

And if I turn evil, I’ll pitch to the dermatology practice that they should really consider setting up a booth at the Bridal Expo.

1Last time I saw a dermatologist, I had my hands photographed for use in educational materials. If someone shows you an illustration of hyperlinear palms, they could be mine!
2This is an actual question asked by my actual gigantic, scary, detective-in-West-Baltimore cousin in the presence of my actual fiancé, who may have actually shuddered with actual terror.