Lost in Suburbia: Getting under my skin

Tracy Beckerman More Content Now

“What do you think this is?” my husband asked me, pointing to his elbow.

“That is your elbow,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“No, these red spots,” he responded.

“Those are red spots,” I replied.

He sighed. “I know they’re red spots. What do you think they’re from?”

I took a closer look at the constellation of red bumps on his forearm just below his elbow.

“I’m certainly no expert,” I drawled, “but based on my first hand experience of having lived in the suburbs for nineteen years, and having experienced the same exact phenomenon that you are now suffering from, I can say with ninety-nine percent confidence that those… are mosquito bites.”

I went back to prepping dinner, another thing at which I was certainly no expert at after nineteen years but was willing to keep trying so as not to let my family down with anything less than the perfectly marinated steak that my husband would overcook on the grill.

My husband scratched at his red spots and insisted that I take another look.

“I think it’s something other than mosquito bites,” he declared. “I only had a few yesterday and now I have more today. They’re multiplying!”

“Well, you grilled last night and you grilled the night before that. The mosquitos had two opportunities to bite you.” I waved him away but I knew what was coming next.

“I disagree,” he said. “I think I might have come into contact with a poisonous plant, or gotten bit by something serious, or maybe, I’m having an allergic reaction to something and it’s starting as hives but is going to become systemic and make me really sick.”

“You know what? You might be right!” I exclaimed with mock enthusiasm. “I think we should look it up on WebDR!!”

The Web doctor was my husband’s first move every time he got a Man Cold and, based on the diagnosis on the Internet, he would insist that he’d actually come down with some exotic plague or disease. However, in every instance, it would turn out that my husband did not, in fact, have Arctic seal poisoning or Rocky Mountain spotted fever but did just have a cold, although a Man Cold was certainly severe enough to kill him, if I didn’t kill him first.

So this time, I thought I’d beat him to the punch.

“Well, it could be mosquito bites …” I said, as I scanned the WebDR page of symptoms. “Unless you accidentally came into contact with the poison of an Amazon dart frog. You also could be showing the first signs of leprosy.”

He looked stricken.

“It says it could also be the beginning of scarlet fever,” I continued. “Do you feel feverish?”

I felt his forehead with the back of my hand.

“Of course, we haven’t been to the Amazon and we haven’t fraternized with anyone with leprosy or scarlet fever that we know of so it’s highly unlikely that you’re suffering from any of those and more likely that you’ve just been dinner for a couple of hungry mosquitos,” I consoled him.

He looked relieved.

I was proud that I could validate his concerns and not be too quick to dismiss a medical system based on an algorithm designed by computer nerds, rather than real doctors.

“Hey, honey, would you light the grill?” I asked him. “The steaks are almost ready to go on.”

“Sure,” he replied.

“And also put some of this on before you go outside,” I said handing him the bug spray. “It protects against mosquitoes and poison dart frogs.

Follow Tracy on Twitter at @TracyinSuburbia.