I have a stye. A big un. For those of you who don’t know what a stye is, it’s essentially a zit (gross) inside your eyelid (grosser). It makes your eye puff up and feels like you have a conjoined twin tightly curled up behind your lashes. Also, it hurts. That little twin is just writhing around in your lid and there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing. Crying only angers the twin. Don’t cry. Do. Not.
I started feeling it one evening as I thoroughly removed my make up, and thought, “Oh no. Not this. Please. No. Maybe if I gently massage the base of my lashes… maybe if I soak my eye in warm salt water… perhaps a hot compress?” Too little, too late. The stye had set up camp and was ready for battle.
I woke up the next day and looked in the mirror. It was alarming. And by that I mean even more alarming than usual, as a fresh-faced Tamale can be a bit jarring to even the most familiar viewer. The stye was a beast. Swollen and red, it looked like an angry grape on my face and I knew that it was gonna be a rough day. To make matters worse, because it’s a bacterial infection, it’s recommended that you throw away your make up and refrain from painting on a lady face while you heal. GUH.
Now, I am not the kind of gal who “needs” to wear make up. I don’t bust out the roller brushes to take out the trash, or slap on the liner before I dash to the laundry room. I think ladies in their natural state are just lovely and I have been blessed with clear skin (Knucks, God. Knucks.) However, I do enjoy presenting myself to the world in a certain way- a way that generally involves a dramatic transformation into an almost drag queen like creation. It’s fancy and I like it. Now, not only was I to not fancy my face up, but I had no means of shielding the good people of Chicago from the bitter sibling, raging on my lid. Double hit. I was defenseless. Down for the count.
I decided to save others the social challenge of managing their freak out once they discovered the horror of my eye “situation”. I placed a nice, neutral toned patch over the offending appendage. Once at work, I decided to draw a cartoonish eye over it, to create continuity and levity. What I succeeded in doing was creating an interesting social study. People didn’t want to call attention to it, but seemed desperate to acknowledge it at the same time. I began to play.
I would deliberately look at people to invite a returned gaze. They would initially return the eye contact, then, one after another, I watched a pattern emerge. They would register the deformity, have a reaction, be embarrassed about the reaction, and work really hard to engage me in a way that smoothed it over. It was awesome.
In the elevator, I would stand to the far left, and look down as people entered. Then, as we engaged in our normal elevator banter, I would turn to them, exposing my strange eyeball while talking. Gasp. Pause. Enthusiastic chatter. Walking to lunch, I engaged acquaintances at the stoplight behind dark sunglasses, then reveal the surprise. Gasp. Pause. Enthusiastic chatter. The students interviewing for work aide positions were highly motivated to not call out my oddity. “Hello. Please have a seat.” Gasp. Pause. Enthusiastic chatter. I asked them questions that used the word “I” and stared as they avoided making direct eye contact while answering. “I’m looking for detail oriented workers- those who cross their t’s and dot their… lower case j’s.” Frozen expression. Priceless.