For years, whenever I’d hear about someone’s allergies, part of me was sympathetic but another, larger part of me kind of thought they were making it up. Or were just being overly dramatic in an attempt to stay inside for recess or skip the zoo field trip. This is not something I’m proud of and probably makes me an ideal recruit for the Church of Scientology, but I promised you I’d be honest in this challenge, warts and all. (Warts, now those are something you can’t make up but you can avoid if you just don’t touch toads or masturbate, right? Right.)
Whenever nurses or doctors asked if I had any allergies during routine checkups, I’d gleefully respond “nope!” as if my cellular makeup was an accomplishment I’d had anything to do with. “And let’s be honest,” I’d say, leaning in conspiratorially, “does anyone? Really?”
What I’m leaving out here is while I was Tom Cruising all my friends with allergies (JUST EAT RIGHT AND EXERCISE WHAT IS THE PROBLEM), my skin was slowly molting away from eczema. Different areas on my face, head, arms, and legs all were graced with bright red and flaky patches at one point or another. It would vary from year to year and season to season, but I could have nailed “Leper from the Bible” pretty much every Halloween growing up.
My first real job in New York was at a big international public relations firm. I had zero business being there, as I double majored in international politics and wine during college and legitimately had to google “what is public relations” before the interview. Channeling my inner Entitled White Man, I confidently told the intimidating British executive I interviewed with I had no idea what the job entailed but promised I would work really hard and learn quickly and please hire me because I can’t wait on another table at the TGIFridays in Queens. Thankfully, she took pity on me and gave me the job.
And I did work really hard, which meant practically living full-time in my tiny cubicle and learning things like how to write a press release and when’s the best time to grab the free food after a client meeting lets out. I also learned my eczema flare-ups were related to stress, as a couple months in my face looked like John Turturro’s feet in The Night Of. One of my bosses became so concerned slash disgusted she would routinely drop off creams at my desk, demanding I go see a dermatologist for the sake of my coworkers’ mental health. But no matter how many creams or ointments or oatmeal baths I’d soak in, I couldn’t get rid of it.
This all lasted until a couple of weeks after I moved to Los Angeles, when it just vanished. Like a true Angelino, I took this as a sign from the universe I was on the right path and I thanked Mercury for being in Gatorade, saluted the sun and went about building a leprosy-free life here.
Until about a month ago, when my eyes started itching and watering uncontrollably, causing the skin around them to puff up and crust off, bringing me back to my cubicle days. I’ve taken Zyrtec and Claritin and gotten a shot in my ass, but nothing seems to be working and I’m now forced to begin most auditions with “Hi, I’m Travis and I’ll be reading for the part of allergy sufferer.”
Because as it turns out allergies — and karma — are real.