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©March 2001

Carol Jane Remsburg




Lament of Dry Skin







It happens every year and every year I forget until that maddening itch descends upon my shins.  What is it?  It isn't just winter, it's Dry Skin Season and normally running at full throttle by the time I realize I don't have anything but dregs of lotion leftover from the last year.  This happens at 2 AM when the thought of rushing out to a 24-hour Wal-Mart isn't appealing.


When I was a kid I used to think the worst itch in the world was given by the bite of a mosquito.  No amount of Bactine®, rubbing alchol, or even witch hazel stopped that itch.  And, being a kid, I couldn't keep myself from scratching it until it hurt.  Pain does kill the itch but only for so long and then my mother went into fits over infections and how a "young lady" ought to have better self control.


"Just don't scratch it and the itch will stop all on it's own," said Mother in her most imperious tones.


It was worse than the much-lauded Chinese Water Torture because once my dear mother caught you scratching—she watched you.  You couldn't furiously rub the flat of your hand on the bite site to work up enough friction to relieve it.  Nope, you'd get pegged.  Mother's watch was nearly worse than the itch.  However, a little time would pass and so would the itch. 


She was right as always because once daubed with witch hazel or anything out of the fabled medicine cabinet and I would leave it alone—the itch subsided.  Miraculous!  I learned that at seven but the wait sure was hard.


I've since discovered that there are other things that itch and can nearly drive you mad.  There could always be the agony of Poison Ivy or Oak, but my malady is simple dry skin—aged 40 dry skin.  Little kids and their bug bites need not apply.  This is major league itch, the type of itch that doesn't go away.


Dry skin stays with you, it just turns everything into overload during the winter months I'm holed up indoors with dry heat.  Don't talk to me about humidifiers, I haven't ever found one worth it's salt or aggravation.  I find the strangest part of all this is that I live in one of the most humid climes in my region—or without my region for that matter.


Extreme dry skin isn't like having the disease of the month.  There is no glamour in having dry skin.  There is no pity.  There are no assurances only commiserating nods from your fellow afflicted.  There is also no cure—outside of a transplant grafting 17 year-old skin over the distressed parts, hormone therapy, winning the lottery and moving to a better clime along with keeping a staff that would attend to my "oh-so delicate skin."


Oh, there are ways that help.  Drinking gallons and gallons of water do help.  That also makes my kidneys scream (remember they are 40 year-old kidneys).  There is nothing that Lubriderm®, Vaseline®, or anything in Bath and Body Works® that actually cures dry skin.  The applications of any and all do help a bit and I will lavish my body with them until any sudden movement might make me slip and fall down.  Again, not a good omen for a 40 year-old body.  Things aren't as supple as they used to be and my bones are becoming more brittle by the moment.


Anything with Vitamin E and Aloe and Cocoa Butter has been applied to my skin without huge success.  I've even tried more differing home remedies and even Bag Balm® for cows.  Ah, but Dry Skin rules during winter months in a way that even a full blown blizzard on the horizon can't divert.  It itches.  That dry skin itches in a way that is maddening.  Running rivers of blood and shredded flesh seem the only answer—even when we know that isn't the answer—but the thought of it dangles temptingly just out of reach. 


It's just during those dark, wee hours of the morn that I find myself awakened by my already busy fingernails strafing that surface of skin that I'd liberally doused only hours ago.  It's as if that skin were the corner wanton woman screaming for service—an entire division of servicemen wouldn't put that itch out.  No, not that 40 year-old itchy, flaky, dry skin.


Maybe next week I'll find a new ointment, a new form of Vitamin E, a lotion, or maybe something special to drizzle into the tub before I soak.  Who knows?  It's just the lament of my dry skin wishing for the next season when I can put the itch behind me until next year. Meanwhile, I've a feeling that Mother is still watching.



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