Posted on May 29, 2014
A year before we had children, I visited my mom and stepdad on their small horse farm. We were out in the pasture meeting a foal when my mom looked down at the shin I was scratching.
“That looks like ringworm.”
“It’s these worms that burrow into your skin and lay eggs. When the eggs hatch, it makes your skin itch. You get it from cats.”
“What? Ew!” I suppressed my bile and galloped hysterically to my husband, who was guarding my sister against a mean goat.
“Mom says this is ringworm and that I have worm eggs in my leg.”
“No, Summer, ringworm is a fungus. You just put some athlete’s foot spray on it, and it goes away.”
I trotted back to my mom, who was placidly brushing a horse where I’d left her.
“Mom, Andrew says it’s just a skin fungus and will go away with foot spray.”
“Yeah.” She tossed her head authoritatively. “I know.”
Ever since I was able to talk, my grownup relatives have warned me against worms. Eat raw potatoes, get worms. Roll that bread into tiny dough balls and eat it, get worms. Stop sharing drinks with that kid or you’ll get worms. Worms were so prevalent a diagnosis that sometimes they couldn’t help issuing them in dire prognoses, even when they knew better.
Internet medical sites are the same way. You type in that you have a headache and chills; the site suggests making out your last will and testament. Stub your toe too hard and want to know if it’s broken? Put in your symptoms; get diagnosed with bone cancer. A cough is probably a hernia, and more than likely the splinter you can’t quite remove is worms. Permanent worms.
Basically, you are standing in a field with an itchy leg, surrounded by strange horses, and there is no hope of ever going hoseless to church or on a date again. Your hair looks great, your dress fits nice, but below it all, your skin is crawling.
*Or, why I won’t use Doctor Google.