This week, I have noticed a surprising increase in the number of people who approach me to ask “What happened to your face?” In the past, this question has been meant as some kind of insult, and it usually only pops up about once a week – typically Thursdays – when my enemies start feeling particularly wily. But this week…baby, this week, it’s non-stop face-questioning action. I’m talking everybody from professors to presidents, students to Student Life workers, ladies and lords alike – everybody you can imagine is asking, insisting, demanding to know – what happened to my face?
Seriously, is this some kind of sick joke? Am I missing something? Did some new low-budget smash-hit movie just get released where the nerdy main character always says “What happened to your face?” and now everybody thinks its hip to quote it? Because if that’s it, it’s not funny and you should stop it. Gosh.
The truth is, you don’t want to know what happened to my face. If I tell you, you won’t want to be my friend. This has been scientifically proven through a series of controlled experiments conducted throughout the week. On average, 8 out of 10 people, upon discovering what’s “wrong” with my face, will perform the following four-step reaction: 1) Stop smiling, 2) Step back, 3) Say “Oh”, “Ew” or “That’s disgusting, get the heck away from me you disgusting piece of crap,” and then 4) Turn and run as far away from me as possible. I am becoming the campus leper, exiled and invisible in your very midst. Friends (soon to abandon me) and strangers (soon to avoid me), let it be known: I have ringworm.
It’s on my chin, perched there like a miniature Jabba the Hutt, grunting and oozing with infectious joy. I have no idea how I contracted it. I consulted my trusty friend The Internet, and he informed me that “Ringworm is a contagious skin infection very common among cats and high-school wrestling teams”. You’d think these criteria would immediately rule me out, but apparently I am a cat. Or maybe a 16-year-old wrestler. Or maybe a 16-year-old wrestling cat. With ringworm. On my chin.
Doc Hitchman tells me it’s a “fungal infection”. Although the idea of mold and mushrooms growing on my face isn’t very appealing, it’s a relief to know that “ringworm” does not mean there are actual worms in my chin, squirming with parasitic delight. However, in my most reason visit, the Good Doctor made the disturbing revelation that my fungal infection was starting to be taken over by “colonies” of bacteria.
The colonization of my chin started sometime last week, when bacterial settlers traveling from Europe on the Mayflower came ashore directly above my goatee. Currently, they seem to be celebrating Thanksgiving. Memos from the colonial governor inform me that they have established contact with the local natives, and have already started to trade goods. And by “trade goods”, he means “Violently attack my chin with machetes o’ fire”.
I’m really hoping they pack up their ships and sail back to the motherland pretty soon. In the meantime, I still gotta put up with the questions. No matter who I talk to, somebody taps their own chin with a finger and looks at me curiously: “Whatcha got there?” Hey, it’s ringworm, okay? It happens. To cats.
Maybe this is a stretch, but I think everybody has ringworm. Not literally, of course. It’s a metaphor. Ever screwed up in the midst of friends & enemies? Ever lapse into autopilot as your faith fails you? Experienced failure, weakness, despair? It’s called making mistakes. It’s called being human. And for some reason, it’s like walking around with a big swollen rash on your face. We’re never gonna really find out what this “authenticity” thing means until we can acknowledge that every single person around us is just as infected as we are. As Jesus once said, “How can you talk about the zit on your brother’s face when you’ve got ringworm on your chin? Go join a high-school wrestling team or something.”
by Kevan Gilbert
Update: Three Years Later
The affliction described above was taking place on my face in February of 2005. I wanted to respond to the comments below with an official update: yes, the ringworm went away — I don’t have it anymore. It took about a month to subside, and a little while longer for the scab to go away. The doctor prescribed a cream called Lamisil, which is an anti-fungal, and there were some oral pills involved too, to deal with the bacterial infection. For those of you wondering where the ringworm infection was on my face, I’ve included a picture below. And if you’re wondering what it looks like now, in 2008, there’s only minor scarring, which is only visible from really close-up (check out the picture for delightful proof).