My Courageous Struggle With Preauricular Sinus

For me, the weekends are the hardest. Not because I’m lonely, like Charlie Rich, who sang that he made it all right from Monday morning to Friday night, but oh–those lonely weekends.

Charlie Rich on Thursday, getting ready to be lonely.


No, I’m not lonely on weekends, if anything I have the opposite problem. Wherever I go there’s a walk-a-thon, a bike-a-thon, people tramping around, blocking public ways better used for normal non-charitable activities. If I go indoors, there’s a raffle, a silent auction, people raising money . . . always for other people’s problems.

But not mine.

I am one of the miniscule .001% of Americans who suffer from preauricular sinus. Translated from med-school-ese, that means I have a hole in my ear.

What’s the big deal? you say. Everybody has holes in their ears.

Not like mine and my fellow preauricular sinus-sufferers, they don’t. In addition to the big hole in the middle, we have little holes near the top of one–or both!–ears, where the cartilage meets the face.


We try our darndest, we victims of PAS, to hide our condition. We comb our hair so as to conceal the little hole, or we wear bike helmets indoors. You don’t know the pain, the suffering that we bear when we’re talking to somebody–a friend, an acquaintance, a friendly clerk at our helpful service-oriented Registry of Motor Vehicles–and suddenly hear the words “Hey, I never noticed before, but you have an extra little hole in your ear.”

“If you name begins with A to Z, line up to the left. If you have an extra hole in your ear, your license is revoked.”


“Where?” we’ll say, hoping to deflect our inquisitor’s attention while a meteor crashes into the earth, destroying all human life. It never comes.

“Right there,” your interlocutor will point out helpfully, “where the cartilage meets the face.”

“How about those Red Sox/Celtics/Bruins/Patriots?” we ask, depending on the season, but no one is fooled by this transparent ruse.

My mom told me that the little hole in my right ear was nothing to be ashamed of. That the Good Lord made me special, and she thought I was special, and I would always be special to her.

“Well, of course,” I replied cynically. “If you’ve got an extra hole in your ear, it’s kind of hard to blend in with the crowd.”

“No one will ever notice–it’s so tiny!” she’d say.

“But you just said it was what made me special,” I’d say, using the brutal logic of which pre-adolescent males whose minds have been broken on the Baltimore Catechism are capable. “That’s all that makes me special?”

“Someday Lassie will teach you to read, Timmy.”


At this point mom would take me in her arms and hug me, like Timmy’s mom on Lassie when his collie would outscore him on a long division pop quiz, or correct him on the principal exports of the Benelux countries. “I’m sure you’ll grow up to be a successful, accomplished person,” she would say. “You’ll just have to find a girl with very poor eyesight if she isn’t going to notice that . . . thing.”

You are so going straight to hell, kid.


Once you get to college and you meet smarty-pants pre-med students who get straight A’s in biology, the Jesuitical evasions become more difficult. “You know,” they say as you line up a shot on the pool table in the basement of your dorm, “that little hole you have in your ear is caused by the first and second pharyngeal arches.”

“You don’t say,” you say, as you nonchalantly stroke the 14 ball into the corner pocket.

“Yeah. It occurs in all vertebrates during embryonic development. In mammals it usually becomes part of the structure of the head and neck. In fish . . .”

The room becomes so quiet you can hear a quarter drop in the soda machine.

“Yes?” one of the guys waiting his turn on the disgusting couch that’s a breeding ground for all manner of insects will ask.

” . . . it develops into gills.”

“Ew!” Jeri, the girlfriend of a pre-med student will say as she walks through to the kitchen. And you scratch on the 8 ball.

“Dude,” one of the stoner kids who’s on academic probation will say. “You’re like the Creature From the Black Lagoon!”


This moniker will stick, of course, since young men compete with each other for the attention of young women, and will cling to any edge they can grasp on their way up the slippery rock face of evolution. Better that I procreate than this loser, they will say from deep within their subconscious–or even pre-conscious–minds.

Once the Star Wars movies came out, the prospect of a fish-headed humanoid became more than a vague presentiment in the minds of my generation. There was Admiral Ackbar, like a goldfish out of water, my worst nightmare! I was afraid to go to Petco for fear of the comparisons, invidious or not. “Nice,” someone might say. “Is there a Star Wars convention in town?”


So contrary to your first impression, preauricular sinus is a serious and debilitating handicap, for which there is no Labor Day telethon, nor a single comedian who’s ever ended his act by saying “But seriously, folks, there are guys out there tonight sitting at home, watching this show, because they’re too ashamed to come be part of the studio audience, all on account of stupid little holes in their ears.”

So you’ll just have to do something on your own for bitter, disfigured, disillusioned guys like me. You’ll have to dig down deep, and give so that we can finally, someday, do something about those unsightly ear holes.

The little ones, not the big ones.

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