This is Zara Hartshorn. How old would you say this woman is? Thirty? Forty? Maybe even fifty? That’s Zara’s problem, she suffers from a rare skin disorder called Lypodystrophy. Symptoms of this disorder include the accelerated deterioration of the fatty tissue beneath the skin and the skin itself growing in excess. This gives the sufferer the appearance of being much older than they actually are. So, now that you’re armed with that knowledge, I’ll ask you again: How old would you say this thirteen year old girl looks?
That’s right folks, at the age when most little girls are looking forward to first proper dates, holding hands with boys and their first kiss (I’m trying to assume we’re still in the 1940s and that most thirteen year old girls aren’t getting pregnant by guys with cars) Zara has no current hopes for these types of things. Instead she has to put up with her schoolmates calling her “monkey”, “hag”, “granny” and “old bag”. Where most girls her age get to go to friends’ houses and talk about pop stars or try make-up, the children Zara goes to school with have long been warned by their understanding parents to stay away from the girl so they “don’t catch it”. Where most girls go shopping (shoplifting these days) and are stared at by guys for their increasingly short skirts, Zara is stared at by adults because of her wrinkled face. Everyone treats this poor girl like crap as if it’s her fault she has this condition and, if she tries to speak up, she has a beating waiting for her at school.
Zara knows she’s not alone though. Her mother Tracy and all her siblings suffer from the same hereditary condition. While Tracy managed to get a facelift when she was thirteen, the symptoms soon resurfaced and then she had scars from the surgery to deal with too. Fortunately medical techniques have been improved since then and Zara could lead a relatively normal life with similar surgery, but Tracy can’t afford the surgery on her single income and the national health service wont cover it. Let me put that into perspective for you. The free health service in this country has absolutely no problem using the money I pay them in taxes to give a woman breast implants because she says her current size depresses her (I know of two people in this town alone that this has happened with) or to get rid of excess skin folds from people who’ve dieted irresponsibly. Yet, when it comes to a girl with an incurable condition that is causing her to be bullied constantly on top of all the vast array of emotions that thirteen year olds have to deal with (emotions that have caused suicides in the past), they can’t help.