August 1979

A few days ago, Allie shows us lesions that can only be ringworm; Michael gives her some prescription cortisone cream and we leave it at that, but this morning, I wake up and find a lesion on my torso, where the shingles rash is still clearing up. Later, in the afternoon, napping (which is all I seem to be interested in doing these days), I think back to a summer forty years ago spent with my aunt and uncle and their young sons in their home near Rochester, New York. It had become a much-anticipated part of our summer that my older sister, Susan, and I spent a few weeks each summer with aunt and uncle, although this year (I think I was about fifteen), Susan hadn’t come alone.  My aunt and uncle had a pool, and we spent a lot of time in it, and whether that was the cause, or something else, I developed some sort of a rash on my butt and groin area, but I didn’t tell anyone about it because, like any respectable fifteen-year-old girl, I was embarrassed.

When my parents and Susan arrived to spend a few days before picking me up to take me home, Susan and I shared a room, and of course she saw the rash and immediately freaked out. That would have been okay, and perhaps evident of sisterly love, but I begged her not to say anything to our mom, at least not until we got home, which she promised to do, but five minutes later, she ratted me out to my mom, who, with my aunt, came tearing into the room and demanded to see my rash. What I mostly recall about the entire incident (besides the fact that the rash eventually went away without medical intervention), is my mother lecturing me about how I should have reported the whole thing to my aunt immediately because I could have spread the infection to her family. No, “I’m so sorry you have been dealing with this.” No, “I wish you had called me to tell me!” No apparent concern that I didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone about it or understanding that maybe I didn’t tell anyone about it because I was afraid I was going to have to show a male doctor my butt.


Here are some of the lessons Wendy learned, or had reinforced, from this episode. 

  • Your needs and feelings are not, and never will be, as important as those of someone or everyone else.
  • Whatever your fears or concerns, keep them to yourself, because you can’t trust anyone.
  • Even when the person you trust most makes promises, you can’t trust them, and shouldn’t.

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