The One Question I Don't Like Being Asked as Someone With a Sun Allergy


I wear a dress almost every single day.

I have to cover my skin, and in the 90-degree heat that Michigan deals with for almost 25 percent of the year, dresses are my only viable option.

I am constantly, I repeat — constantly being asked where I’m going or why I’m dressed up.

In college, when the typical summer uniform was a pair of athletic shorts and a sleeveless top, I was always covered wrist to collar bone to ankle. I usually was wearing a brightly colored maxi skirt and a long-sleeved blouse. It seemed like a daily occurrence that — as I struggled to manage a head scarf and a sun hat — someone would ask me where I was going.

Home. I was going home. 

I couldn’t study at the library because of the florescent light. I couldn’t do much in the way of socializing because a walk across campus could leave me sick for hours.

I was going home where I’d close my blinds, study, and then drink tea and eat vegan banana bread as a “reward.”

I don’t wear maxi dresses as a stylistic manifesto or because I’m headed somewhere exciting.

I wear dresses so I don’t pass out from heat exhaustion while trying to keep every single inch of my skin covered, even though it’s so hot and all I want to do is lay undressed on my cold bathroom floor.

I wear dresses so I don’t have to worry about my sunscreen wearing off.

I wear dresses so I can feel some semblance of femininity when I’ve used three layers of sunscreen and wiped off every trace of makeup from my face. I wear dresses because 100+ sunscreen is more than 30 percent active chemicals. And once I’ve coated myself in that white, sticky mess, even the thought of eyeliner makes my skin crawl.

I wear dresses because they help me feel sane. Normal. Safe.

I wear dresses because my skin makes me.

I’m not going anywhere special and when you ask “really?” when I say I’m just in a dress to cover my skin, it simply adds insult to injury.

Because I don’t go much of anywhere in the summer. Maybe a dinner date after 7:00 p.m. with my boyfriend, who can recognize my symptoms before I do, and will make sure we don’t leave until the sun has set enough that I can tolerate the few minutes outside to get from my car to the restaurant. Maybe a picnic in the park after dark. Maybe a hike if I’m willing to feel sick for days afterwards from the inevitable reaction.

So please don’t ask me where I’m going.

I’m simply trying not to feel sick.


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