Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ode to itching

I do not understand itching.
Of all the things our skin can do,
why itch?
Pain I understand.
I have learned to listen
to pain.
If I don't heed its warning,
there is a consequence.
But itching?
How is that adaptive?
It's a cruel trick our body plays on us.
You itch,
but you're not supposed to scratch.

(Enough with the fancy line breaks). The only thing I can think of is that itching is the pleasant sense of touch gone awry. It is a curse, something nice turned evil. And it is not even a very picturesque curse. Blood, gore, death, mental illness, consumption. They've all be written about, dramatized, and romanticized. Itching and rashes, not so much.

Usually not fatal, itching isn't taken seriously. But let me try to illustrate just how drastic it can be. When the millions and billions of nerves of your skin, a major organ of your body with the greatest surface area, turn on you, you are in trouble. Your whole nervous system goes on high alert and you become highly irritated in every sense of the word. Your interface with the world goes into fight or flight mode, but you can't escape.

You can't even really talk about it or get much sympathy. It is not polite conversation. Mention a rash and watch as people take a few steps away. Yes, I guess lots of kinds of itching are signs of uncleanliness or communicable diseases, hence it's pariah status. It is a lonely, unromantic affliction.

But I can write about it on the computer and can't see your reaction. Hah! So I dedicate this post to all who itch. After six distracting weeks of itching (my body's multi-phase reaction to poison ivy, ever inventive, suprising me anew with each rash du jour) and pretending I don't, I can write about it and someday, envision a world where itching is respected and incorporated into our culture and media. Someday there will be a the great dramatic novel with the charming main character who is afflicted by poetic itching. There will be country songs with clever double entendres about the urge to scratch. There will be TV sitcoms sympathetic to chronic skin diseases. People will find important messages in their rashes. Yes, I can see it now. It is time for this despised affliction to be brought to light, recognized and respected. Ignoring it and shunning it does not help it go away, but only adds insult to injury of all who itch.

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