July 7, 2006
So I woke up the other morning and there it was, staring right back at me from the mirror: Krakatoa. Vesuvius. Mauna Loa. St. Helens. Technically it was a pimple, but "pimple" just doesn’t begin to describe it. Neither does blister, pustule, bubo, boil, protuberance, or "the ague". The word "carbuncle" comes close. It was, simply, a monster zit.
I’m supposed to be too old for this sort of thing. When I was a teenager it was understandable. Turn thirteen and your body suddenly becomes your worst enemy. And every group of teenagers has at least one in their midst whose face turns into a pepperoni pizza. That was me. Every sebaceous gland on my head got infected at once. I even had zits in my ears. Vanishing cream was no good since it was made with oil, so for every zit it got rid of it produced three more. And scrubbing my skin ’til it bled then subjecting myself to the stingfest of those little pads dipped in rubbing alcohol didn’t do any good either. I think that scrubbing your face raw sends pimple-causing bacteria the message, "Free Buffet-Now Open!"
In health class we were told that it was a myth that eating junk food caused zits. I think that was the only time in health class we were ever told junk food wasn’t bad for us, but they also didn’t explain why we always got the worst breakouts after eating chocolate-dipped potato chips washed down with root beer. And we were always told not to pop our zits because this would cause scarring. As if a few small scars would be worse than big red pustules. There was also something deeply satisfying about popping a pimple. First there was the excruciating pain, of course, but then there was that moment of immense relief when what felt like a bowling ball popped out of your pore followed by pus and some blood. I hope you’re eating while reading this because I’m planning to market lurid descriptions of pimple popping as a new diet plan.
But I digress. My mother finally decided to take me to a dermatologist. Everyone I knew told me the dermatologist was going to dip my face in liquid nitrogen. Actually all he did was prescribe some antibiotics and a cream that wasn’t made with alcohol or oil. I didn’t ask him about liquid nitrogen because I didn’t want to give him ideas. In science class I’d seen what happened to a banana dipped in liquid nitrogen: it turned into concrete and shattered when hit with a hammer. So I kept going back to that dermatologist for a few months and avoided reflective surfaces. I went in for one appointment when he’d been called out of the office and another dermatologist saw me instead. As soon as she–she was a she, which didn’t really bother me; I’d just gotten used to my dermatologist being a he–looked at me and said, "Why are you seeing a dermatologist?" So I became her first patient ever to ask her if she’d like to go to the prom. I think we both made each other’s day. She turned me down, which was probably a good thing because I didn’t want to spend prom night explaining that I was dating my dermatologist. Instead I spent it eating chocolate- dipped potato chips and drinking root beer, but that’s really another story.
The important thing is my face didn’t look like the surface of Io anymore, and still doesn’t, except for this one huge blackhead which is pulsing and quivering and of course I have to give a presentation at work. No one will hear anything I say because they’re going to be staring at my cheek and thinking, "When’s that thing gonna blow?" All I can think is, will I ever be old enough to not get zits? And I’m starting to think I should see if I can find some liquid nitrogen. And a hammer.