Judging While Being Judged

Come mid-January, eager and anxious girls flood the roads connecting all of the sororities at my school for recruitment, in perhaps what is the most important week of their first year at college. Behind the scenes, my sorority sisters and I wait patiently on the stairs of our house until the doors open and a wave of “potential new members” come through the doors. We move and act like one singular body, and we sell our role as a sisterhood.

My sisters and I are all coordinated like a dance, and everything from what we have to say to what we are wearing has been planned and perfected since weeks before recruitment actually began.

Much to my dismay, not everything could be so “planned and perfected,” least of all my skin. I was having a guttate psoriasis flare up since early October, and since it’s onset, the red, flaky spots on my skin had not just expanded, but exploded all over my scalp, arms, back, torso, legs, feet, and even hands. They had become painful against my clothing, and I left a trail of dry skin behind me wherever I walked. With long, stressful, and tiring days at the house preparing for recruitment, my psoriasis had only gotten worse.

Luckily for me, winter weather meant I could hide my skin extremely effectively under scarves, sweaters, and boots. I had been doing this since the onset of the flare up, but I could not hide during the coming days.  Everything from our shoes to our lipstick color was decided for us, and in the later, more formal rounds of recruitment, we were required to wear dresses.

Everything about recruitment is superficial, and how can it not be? When you have five minutes to talk to girls in some rounds, and less than an hour to talk to a girl in a latter round (if you’re lucky), it is impossible to make a judgment that does not weigh heavily on superficial factors.

There is a culture of perfection at my school, especially in sorority life, and as a perfectionist myself, the last thing I wanted to do was show off vastly imperfect skin to girls in an environment of superficiality and judgment.

Yet, the dress was unavoidable, and tights were out of the question. I put on my white dress and prayed that nobody would notice the red plaques that covered my bare legs. I know that everyone always thinks their own imperfections are much more noticeable than they actually are to others, but even so, every lingering glance or nervous inquiry about what was wrong with my legs felt like a personal insult when I was at my most vulnerable.

I think that it is very easy for others who do not have guttate psoriasis to downplay it’s significance in the patient’s life because it does manifest in a superficial way. Yet, much of our daily lives, not just sorority recruitment, is based on superficiality, and I think that accepting this helped validate the importance of guttate psoriasis in my life.

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