Commentary

Snow: It’s OK to say, ‘Thank you for not asking’

April 20, 2013 

There was once a popular song called “What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?”

Since I can’t recall a single line of the lyrics, I can’t answer the question for you. I suppose it would depend on the circumstances in which one encounters the naked lady.

My problem is what does someone say to curious strangers after you’ve had a bout with your dermatologist who removed a skin cancer from your face?

Although a minor operation, I left the Cary Skin Center with a bandage so big it looked as if I had been attacked.

For a few days, I didn’t venture into the public arena. But the hint of spring was too irresistible to stay inside.

For the most part, folks outwardly ignored my condition. But a few wanted an explanation.

Sometimes I would simply reply, “I’m having a face-lift,” and let it go at that.

Once, for my own amusement, when asked, “What happened to your face,” I replied, “What do you mean?”

“The bandage?”

“I’m sorry; I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I responded and walked away.

In retrospect, that doesn’t seem very amusing.

I have a longtime friend who, when asked any question she deems too personal, routinely replies in her deep Southern accent, “My deah, if you’ll forgive me for not answering your question, I’ll forgive you for asking it.”

I lost my cool only once.

It occurred in a supermarket checkout line.

A burly fellow, after receiving his change, turned, saw my bandage, and asked loudly, “What on earth hoppen to yer nose?”

Somewhat irritable at the end of a bad hair day, I said, “It came from sticking it in other people’s business.”

“Humph!” he said disgustedly as he gathered his groceries and departed.

It’s a given that when a little boy of about 5 looks up and says, “Mister, you sure have a big boo-boo,” you just smile benignly and reply, “I sure do.”

On a serious note, removing skin cancers is one of the new industries in the medical profession. The populace is finally paying the penalty for too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will encounter skin cancer during a lifetime. Treatment of non-melanoma lesions increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006 alone.

My rugged handsomeness has now been restored by a skillful surgeon, a “stitch man” as adept as Betsy Ross and a doting wife who for a week daily changed the bandages. It takes a village.

Still, I want to leave a thought with you. My temporary facial impairment provided only an infinitesimal taste of what those with permanent disfigurement or other disabilities endure daily. So when they cross your path, remember to give them a smile and a cheerful greeting.

Now, a word to all you young things who lie on the beach for hours in your itty-bitty bikinis or you boys of brawn who like to show off your tan or your biceps at pool, on golf course or athletic field: Use protective sunscreens, wear head cover and limit your time in the summer sun.

Otherwise, you too, may eventually have to confront the stares if not the questions of the curious.

Incidentally, you might reward those who stare but contain their curiosity with, “Thank you for not asking.”

Sports an abscess?

It seems the unfolding sports scandals, both in college and professional sports, are endless. The latest incident involves Rutgers University, where the men’s basketball coach was fired for abusing his players during practice. In the fallout after video evidence of the abuse surfaced, the athletic director also lost his job.

Some years ago Washington Post sportswriter and author Cal Fussman, commenting on the national sickness, wrote, “Sports is the clean white bandage we have placed over a festering abscess at the core of this country. Why should we be surprised when a little puss seeps?”

How true.

Chuckle

Today’s chuckle comes to you courtesy of poet Ogden Nash:

The cow is of the bovine ilk;

One end is moo, the other milk.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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