A few days ago, I was comparing hand scars with a 70-year-old friend of mine. “See this one?” asked Gerry from inside his old-man sweatpants. “That was from a screwdriver back when I was your age.” Because we are men, it turned into a contest of sorts. “Well, check this one out,” I countered. “I pulled a piece of my knuckle bone out of it!” I think I won, but only because he’s got forty years on me, and his have faded with time.
This is why I want a pterygium, otherwise known as Surfer’s Eye. Guys are weird. It’s as if there’s a direct correlation between the amount of discomfort a man can endure and their manliness. Take cauliflower ears for wrestlers, for example. “Hey, I’ve smashed my ears so much they look like a swollen, diseased fruit of some kind! Awesome! I am more of a man than you!” Weird.
Pterygiums, for me, are to surfers as cauliflower ears are to wrestlers: a point of pride. Horrible, disgusting pride. They’re ghastly – white and filmy, creeping from one corner of the eye, spreading outwards slowly, like a wing from a parasite slowly covering the eye. Visible blood vessels wiggle around in them like tiny tape worms. While the causes are still under some scrutiny, they’re usually attributed to excessive exposure to sun, wind and dust, and more common in white people that live in hot climates that spend a lot of time outdoors. I’ve spent a lot of my life outdoors, working in windy, dusty environments and getting things in my eyes. I lived in Saudi Arabia, for God’s sake. Where else is hotter, windier, or dustier? You know how much heat, wind, and dust is in the desert? Lots, that’s how much.
A lot of surfers have them, and I’m quietly jealous. John John has two milky eyeball growths, one for each eye, while my eyes sit as clear and painless as a summer sky, blissfully free of the awesomeness of a pterygium. For all my staring into the sun and throwing dust in my eyeballs, I just can’t seem to get one.
The sickening eye invaders aren’t all good, though. Although it’s not always necessary to have corrective surgery, they can be painful and may eventually interfere with the (luckily) afflicted’s vision. And there’s not really any cure, other than surgery, which doctors don’t usually suggest unless you’re running into things because the pterygium has grown over your cornea. And once they do scrape it off your eye like a piece of melted cheese off the bottom of a dumpster, chances are good that it’ll come right back, and with a vengeance.
There are, however, a few small things you can do if you, for some weird reason, don’t want to have a pterygium. They’re pretty easy. Wear a hat and sunglasses, and never go outside. And for God’s sake, don’t go surfing.