‘But You Don’t Look Sick!’ Is Still Part of My Life

‘But You Don’t Look Sick!’ Is Still Part of My Life
"But you don't look sick!" I can hear my mother’s words as clearly as if she’d said them to me yesterday rather than more than half a century ago. Given that I contracted every infectious disease suffered by anyone within a 50-mile range of me, as well as those of my schoolmates, and given that she would be locked away with me in our tiny flat for the duration of my illnesses, self-preservation was her likely motivation. In any case, she did her utmost to convince me that regardless of how sick I was, if I looked better, I must feel better. At my tender age, it wasn’t often worth the effort, although I began to see that it made my mother happy, and that in itself made me feel better. As the years went by and my illnesses continued and lingered (one year I missed more days of school than I attended), I saw the situation in a different light. I worried that if anyone saw me when I was feeling and looking my worst, they may not care to see me if or when I was feeling my best. My mother’s words and my growing interest in people-pleasing — especially people of the opposite sex — encouraged me to heed her advice. My rationale was that you never knew when an opportunity might appear. If one did, I’d be ready. For example, I once answered the door to a handsome paperboy who had come to collect his route money. He may have interpreted my fiery red cheeks as embarrassment at being seen in my freshly laundered bathrobe. In truth, I was too sick to care. But in no way did he detect the 104-degree fever burning inside my flu-r
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