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The Best Versions of Ourselves

Accepted submission by quietus at 2024-05-11 17:40:52

"What’s wrong with your skin?”

My heart beats faster. I instinctively wrap my cotton cardigan tighter around me and pull the sleeves down over my wrists.

“Oh,” I say, after a quick pause during which I try to recenter myself after the surge of stress brought on by my patient’s question. “I just have sensitive skin.” I smile at the young patient perched on the examination table in my pediatric infectious disease clinic.

“My skin gets super dry sometimes, especially in the winters and when I’m washing my hands a lot, which I do all the time here!”

I spin around on the stool to grab a pair of nitrile blue gloves. Then, because I’m worried my patient thinks I’m putting on gloves to protect them from me, I say reassuringly, “It’s not contagious. I always wear gloves.” It’s not an infection-prevention policy—the glove-wearing; it’s an Evelyn-anxiety-avoiding policy. I don’t like seeing, under the bright examination room lights, the dry red rashes on my hands when I’m placing my magenta stethoscope on a patient’s chest; they are an unpleasant reminder that the rest of my body is more inflamed and uncomfortable.

What false narratives [] might we be writing about the best versions of ourselves?

Original Submission