In sixth grade health class, the teacher told us teenagers got pimples during adolescence until their bodies adjusted to the influx of hormones fleshing our stick bodies into shapely forms. Five to six years. That’s how long the teacher, my mother, and Seventeen magazine pronounced our humiliating confinement to uncontrollable and unsightly facial blemishes. Every morning I frantically tried to conceal a giant, red mountain on my cheek or nose, I consoled myself with the thought, “at least this has an end. By twenty, my skin will be perfectly clear.”
Today, I’m 32 years old. And I’m staring – gaping, really – at another giant, red mountain growing painfully on my chin. It’s got a regional cousin on my cheek that’s threatening to expand west and south.
Only recently did my dermatologist gently admit, “no one ever grows out of getting pimples. We only tell teens that to placate their insecurities and maintain self-esteem during those awkward years.”
So, much like eating carrots would give me perfect eyesight and bread crusts would give me perfectly smooth and shiny hair, the “pimple promise” was a lie. I’m nearly blind, my hair has an unruly and frizzy life of its own, and I still get pimples. The worst part about the latter is they have no true, guaranteed remedy. I can stick contacts in my eyes to see the cute boy across the room; I can conquer my hair with heat and a straightener; but I can’t tame the beast that ravages my skin, threatening to explode like Mt. Vesuvius at any time. No amount of concealer and powder can erase this thing. I could give Michelangelo a run for his money as I stand in front of the mirror for half an hour, dabbing layers of cosmetics on blotchy skin, but let’s face it – you can’t level a mountain without explosives and I’m not about to blow up my face.
Instead, I contend with the truth that we never outgrow our awkward phase. Puberty haunts us for the rest of our oily, pimple-stricken lives. In only hope that when I die, the mortician has enough “light” and “fair” foundation to paint over any protusions marking out new towns across my cheeks and chin.