I was diagnosed with vitiligo when I was seven years old or so. When I was fourteen, my parents took me to a renowned dermatologist in DC. Together we decided that my condition was so advanced that depigmentation was the best option (and Dr. Stolar had helped to pioneer this treatment, so were fortunate to have the go-to guy so near to where we lived). It took about two years for me to become completely depigmented, using a topical cream. When it was all over, I truly felt at peace. The stares became less numerous (or at least less overt) and the unwelcome comments declined dramatically as well.
When I met my new dermatologist yesterday (I was there to discuss one of my other maladies, but we chatted about my vitiligo anyway), he told me that he had only met two or three other people who had been depigmented. For some reason, this little factoid has been stuck in my head ever since. I mean, this doctor is a little long in the tooth so it's not like he just went into practice. I am sure he has been in business since the Vietnam War. While I have never run into another like me (I don't need to ask the mirror - I already know that I'm the fairest one of all), I guess I just assumed that there were more out there. But maybe not too many after all. It's just a little jarring to come to the realization that you really are an oddity. I'm like one step above the six-legged calf I saw in the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum when I was a kid.
Most people who have vitiligo fight tooth and nail to retain their pigment. I can't say that I blame them, only that it just didn't work out that way for me. And really, being fair doesn't bother me. I do have to be careful in the sun, obviously. When I was a senior in high school, I actually managed to get a sunburn in December, helping the Lion's Club sell Christmas trees. I think it helps that I am now living in the upper Midwest, where winter lasts around eight months. Nobody expects you to be tan when there is snow as high as your hip. Not that anyone would exactly want to trade places with me, though. The only section of the population that seems to appreciate my appearance is: little old ladies. They stop me in the street and compliment me on my complexion. And that's about it for my fan club.
My daughter has not yet noticed that there is something different about me. She also doesn't notice that a fellow student at her school has Down Syndrome. And things like race and ethnicity have no meaning for her. I wish that children could hold onto that innocence a whole lot longer than they do. Schoolyard bullies would then be obsolete, don't you think? One day last week I was picking A up from school and when I walked in, the kids were seated at the table, having a snack. I knelt down next to the cutest kid (mine, you know) and waited for her to finish. There was a new boy in the class, clearly the chatty type, who was sitting across from her. "You're pretty. I like you," he said to me. I wondered momentarily if I could adopt him as well. My appearance might not be the norm, but at least a three-year-old thinks I'm a dish.
Alabaster Mom out.