My girls are both struggling with styes as of this weekend. They were worsening last night. Maybe there are parents out there who have no experience with styes and no knowledge of what to do when one crops up. I am not that parent.
I know everything there is to know about styes. I know what they look and feel like when they begin. I know what to do to stop them as they are just beginning. And I know when a stye has crossed the threshold into Frankenstein land. Lucy, bless her, had the restraint to not rub her eye. She followed my instructions to a T. Jenna, however, was rubbing her eyes rather generously as I barked orders for her to stop. She didn’t understand why I was barking orders. She doesn’t know that she is likely to wake up in Frankenstein land. She doesn’t know how bad a land it is to live in. She doesn’t know.
But I do.
The first stye I ever got was in 3rd grade. I didn’t need one more strike against me. I had big hair that looked like I had been riding in a truck bed for the last 7 years. My teeth were prominent. Not rich tycoon prominent. More like open wound on your face prominent. My freckles looked like angry fire ants. And my clothing was an ensemble that went perfectly with baggy tube socks.
I didn’t need a stye.
My mother told me not to rub it. She told me what would happen if I did. But it was
I can’t describe the itching.
As predicted by my very smart mother, my eye got worse. And lucky for me, all that scratching sent the infection to my other eye, too. By Day 3, I was Grade A Miserable. I went to sleep that night holding a heating pad over my face. Sleep was the only thing that helped.
When I awakened on Day 4, I sat up in bed and swung my legs over the side to look in the mirror that faced me. I couldn’t see myself in that mirror because I couldn’t open my eyes. They were swollen shut and glued in that position by the extra-fun goo my eye had produced overnight.
“MOM!” I screamed. “MOM, MY EYES!” I was screaming like a child going blind. Like Mary Ingalls when she finally lost the last of her sight. I needed Michael Landon to wrap his arms me and apply some salve he made from cow spit out on the prairie. My mother came in and told me to take it down and notch as she assessed my situation.
She spent a few minutes helping me apply hot compresses to my gooped shut eyes. I was directed to massage the tear ducts. I felt like I’d been crying all night but instead of crying tears, I was crying rubber cement. When I got the eyes open enough to take a good look at myself, I was terrified of what I saw. It was the stuff of a professional makeup artist.
Surely she was going to let me stay home from school. She would not send me to school like this.
She sent me to school like that. Actually, she didn’t send me exactly like that. She proudly placed a plastic pair of yellow sunglasses with dark lenses over my swollen eyelids and patted me on both shoulders.
“There,” she said. “You’ll be fine. Just keep those on and no one will know.”
They might not know I have a highly contagious infection in both my eyes, Mom. But they will notice I’m wearing yellow sunglasses.
Every half hour I survived at school that day was a valiant effort and a triumph of my human spirit. I was paranoid on the inside. On the outside, my head was throbbing from the pressure of the extra stuff I was generating. It was beyond gross. At the halfway point in the day, we were lined up in the hallway of Kate Sullivan Elementary. We were lined up for lunch and we were neatly leaning with our backs up against the wall next to our classroom door. It was all very civilized until a cute little un-styed girl stared at me a little too long and decided to get to the bottom of my situation.
“Hey,” she called out, leaning over two people to make eye contact with my shades. “Who do you think you are? A movie star?”
If the movie is Godzilla, little miss.
I had comebacks running through my mind faster than I could kill a plant or burn a kitchen down. But I decided not to say any of them. Because none of them were as effective as letting her see for herself.
I raised my hand slowly to the temples of my shades and lowered them onto the end of my nose so my fat, oozing eyes were clearly visible to her or anyone else in my 3rd grade class that cared to look. Feast your eyes…on my eyes.
This little girl’s eyes grew double in size as she gazed in horror at what I’d revealed. She gasped.
“Never mind,” she said.
Yeah. That’s what I thought she’d say.
One more word and you’ll look just like me in a couple of days, sistah.
It all worked out. The stye went away 3 days later and I didn’t have any more trouble with that little girl.
(Don’t rub your eyes.)