In grade 6 I got lucky and hit puberty early. For me, puberty brought on a generous helping of acne. It was great because nobody else seemed to have acne yet and because I was so far ahead of the game I got to hear all about it from the other kids.
My grade 6 school picture shows only a bit of acne but there was a whole lot of tears and face scrubbing leading up to this.
I was already a freak because I was constantly reading giant books, writing poetry and short stories, acting in school plays, and generally not trying to fit in. I was terrible at popular indoor sports like; volley ball, soccer, and floor hockey. I was always picked last and constantly ridiculed for playing poorly no matter how hard I tried. I frequently spent the better part of gym class crying in the change room.
The addition of acne brought on some next level shit in the bullying department. I became known as; Zit Farm, Zit Face, Pimple Face and pizza face. I was accused of rubbing grease on my face and told to lay off the chocolate and French fries.
Every day I would go home with a heavy heart and hurt feelings. I just wanted to curl up and cry or go to sleep and never have to face the kids at school again. I was so ashamed of myself because of my acne and couldn’t understand why I was the only one.
My Mom was horrified that I’d developed the angry red marks all over my face.
“I just don’t understand where these zits are coming from,” she’d say.
“I never had acne when I was growing up. Why do you have it? Don’t you wash your face?”
My Dad told her gently and repeatedly that he’d had acne so it was likely due to his genes. He even apologised to me but I still felt overwhelming shame about my face and just wished I could melt away for good.
My Mom made it her mission to rid me of my acne. She bought me various facial cleansers, skin buffs and wipes and spot treatments. She had the best intentions but I felt it hard to hold back tears when she’d pull me in close on a daily basis to get a better look at my skin, ask how I thought the latest miracle cure was working, inevitably mutter that we’d have to try something else and nudge me in the direction of the bathroom with orders to, “go scrub your face.”
As puberty progressed so too did the volcanoes that pushed up through my epidermis and eroded my visage. The kids at school got meaner and my Mom grew more frantic about my affliction. There was no where for me to hide. I longed to cover all mirrors and began to keep my head down, hoping no one would see me, wishing for a safe place.
My Mom kept leveling up from the drug store, to the cosmetics counter, and finally to endless doctors appointments to try bigger, badder, stronger cleansers, creams, toners, lotions, potions and pills.
It was bad enough that I couldn’t exchange my face for another. It was bad enough the kids at school kept tormenting me. It was bad enough my Mom accused me of not scrubbing my face enough, of not caring about my skin, of being ugly. It was bad enough, it was bad enough, it was more than enough and there was no escaping my face.
Mercifully by half way through grade 7 almost everyone’s skin was as bad as mine or worse so the kids stopped teasing. I managed to find a group of friend who thought my weirdness was cool and I finally began to fit in for not fitting in. I discovered make-up and fashion and my Mom eased up.
I still get the occasional pimple but age seemed to be the cure for my acne. I’m still extreamly self conscious though and my self esteem, on a good day, hovers somewhere between crap and shit.
I assume people won’t like me or they’ll mock me or I’ll say the wrong thing. I always say the wrong thing. I’m ashamed of my ugly face, and unwashed hair, and too thick thighs. I’m ashamed that I’m still ashamed of myself. Years of therapy and I still haven’t fixed me.
Most of all I’m embarrassed and ashamed of partially blaming my Mom for my low self esteem. She was just trying to help. She bent over backwards to find me help for my face. Even worse, she’s no longer here to defend herself. I’m speaking ill of the dead and I loved her with all my heart, I still love her with all my heart and I feel such shame for the blame that I feel.