Blushing problem

February 7, 2009

I have a blushing problem.  It starts at my chest, creeps up my neck to my ears, then spreads across my face like a passing shadow. 

Except there’s nothing passing about it.  Once my face turns crimson, it sticks around long after the inciting event.  I wish I could tell you this only occurs after someone points out my zipper is down or I have broccoli in my teeth. 

It’s the non-traditional blushing I find unsettling.  Run into an old friend in the grocery store, my internal furnace roars to life.  Concentrate too hard on a story I’m writing, my ears start to burn.  When I think really hard, the tip of my nose sweats. 

I pretend I am in control of my faculties, but clearly this is not the case.  It seems that my body has an agenda of its own. 

It is difficult to hold an ordinary conversation when I can see the glow of my face reflecting off the other person like a red headlight.  Even if I try to ignore it, others inevitably notice. 

Sometimes it’s easier when someone just points it out.  At least then I can make light of it.  “Oh, I blush at everything.”  Or, “Gosh, it sure is warm in here.”   

And blushing begets blushing.  Once I feel my face pinking, I am humiliated by it, and the color sinks to a deep crimson, closer to purple than red.  My ears get it the worst. 

During the nastiest of such spells, I have felt physical pain.  I once burst out in a staff meeting, “My ears are on fire!”  Which did nothing to minimize the scarlet in my face. 

There is a coffee table book about spontaneous combustion that told terrifying tales of people bursting into flames while doing everyday things like sitting on the toilet or reading in a rocking chair.  The book was complete with crime scene style photographs of the gruesome ashes that remained. 

I would bet my malfunctioning thermostat that every one of those people experienced moments where they were certain their ears were on fire.  Until one day, they actually were. 

I used to think this was a problem I’d eventually outgrow.  But at age 32, I still blush when asked if I prefer paper or plastic.  I have resolved myself to the fact that some day, when I’m just sitting in my rocking chair minding my own business… Poof. 

People will wonder what could have generated such a powerful heat.  Maybe my zipper was down, or I had broccoli in my teeth.  Just don’t put my story in a coffee table book.  How embarrassing.  It might make me blush.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus February 7, 2009.