Not can't-leave-the-house-without-makeup vain, not constantly-checking-my-hair vain. More along the lines of like-to-look-nice-'cause-it-makes-me-feel-good vain. Hardly an obsession, but when my hair needs a trim, I cut it. When my toes need a polish, I'll paint them. I prefer to put my best face forward. And therein lies today's story, dear readers.
I've always had good skin. No acne to speak of as a teen. No tanning since those silly years either. I convinced more than a few women to buy Mary Kay cosmetics from me some time ago because it appeared the products worked miracles on me. I've never shied away from accepting a compliment to my complexion, simply saying, "I'm blessed." Not bragging. Merely giving credit to good genes and a kind universe.
Then about year ago I noticed a little patch of teeny bumps on one side of my chin. I didn't pay it much mind as I assumed they'd find its way off my face as quickly as it appeared. No luck with that, so after a couple of months, I started hitting it with tea tree oil. I thought I noticed a difference once or twice, but it would come back a week or so later. Then it began spreading. The other side of my chin, next to my eye, my forehead, beside my nose. And it became angrier! Redder and bumpier, I grew displeased and it became itchy. I finally gave in and went to my doctor. She called it a "non-specific rash" and prescribed a steroid (not a fan, but I felt desperate). That seemed to help for a bit, but it returned once again. I finally found my way to a dermatologist. She glanced at me from across the room and immediately said, "It's something you're ingesting."
Really? I eat well. Haven't had so much as a nibble of fast food in years. High fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats and artificial colors and flavors rarely make it onto my plate. What am I doing wrong? Her first (and quite frankly, only) suggestion was that I dramatically reduce my gluten intake. Just shy of stomping my feet in disagreement, I spoke of my grain mill and the healthy bread and baked goods that I feed myself and my family. She gave me an antibiotic and a topical and nodded her head at my dismissal. Then said I should really try to cut out the wheat.
I didn't. I relied on the meds and the rash began clearing. I cut the dose in half as my face nearly returned to its old self. I did watch what I was putting in my mouth and wouldn't go overboard on foods containing gluten. Until I needed to make bread.
Audrey had a field trip and wished for a sandwich. My kids certainly were overdue for a loaf or two, so I happily complied. And when those golden brown loaves came out of the oven, I promptly cut off the heels and gave them a good rubdown with European butter (a British friend turned me onto it. Oh my goodness!) and enjoyed the fruits of my labor. And then I had some more. And maybe just a skinny slice before bed. It would never be better than that first day, right?
The next afternoon, there was a tingle on my forehead. And by the evening, bumps. Are you kidding me? What kind of joke is this to play on Grain-Mill Girl?
Naturally, I hope this affliction will pass after a few months of careful avoidance. But as I reconciled the ugly truth, I discovered a thick silver-lining. First, I'm grateful beyond words that I don't [think I] suffer with Celiac Disease. Completely avoiding even traces of gluten would be a full time job. Second, if there is anyone equipped to deal with said dilemma, it would be me. My culinary curiosities will lead me to innovative substitutes to wheat in my baked goods (if I can find the time to research them). And finally, perhaps my affinity for a clear complexion will trump my penchant for less-than-nutritious baked goods. Oh yes, and I learned that the gluten is all but distilled out of Scotch, so I can still enjoy my nightcap.