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

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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.

Originally published: April 20, 2018
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