Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beauty is Only Skin Deep

     I'm one of those fortunate women who has good skin.  Even when I was a teenager, acne was not an issue for me.  Don't worry, I had--okay, have-- as many body-image issues as any good American girl.  They are just related to my baby-fine, thin, hopeless hair and my weight, which has roller-coastered pretty wildly since I was in high school.  My skin, though, has always been lovely. 

     So, when I got a pimple next to my nose a month ago, I thought nothing of it.  I kept it clean.  Concealed it with make-up when I was at work.  Went back to fussing over my hair that now sports a skunk stripe of grey, right down my part.  Because, I don't have bad hair days.  I have bad hair decades.  Lucky for me, my cousin married a magician of a hairdresser.  She keeps my hair and my concern about it in line. 

     The spot didn't go away.  It got bigger. And a new cluster of pimples joined it.  I started washing my face with the "blemish fighting face wash"  belonging to one of the household's adolescents.  Then, this past weekend, my face erupted.  Swelling, oozing.  It. Was. Horrifying.  I looked like the Elephant Man--if he were a middle-aged woman.  I went to the doctor's.  She proclaimed it to be "some sort of nasty staph infection," and put me on two different kinds of anti-biotics.  Six days into the ten day course of medication and I'm finally starting to see some improvement.

    For this past week, though, I've lived through a brand new experience for me:  acute self-consciousness about my appearance.  I have to say, I didn't care for it at all.  It was pretty dreadful.    I cringed when people asked, "What happened to your face?"  I found myself actively avoiding socal interactions.  As much as I could, I stuck to my cubicle-of-doom.  I didn't have lunch in the breakroom.  I blew off exercise at the Y.  I even bowed out of a party at the home of one of my closest friends. (I'm sorry Kate.  I was hideous company--both because of my mood and my face.)

     My teenage years were as angst-filled as anybody's.  As an adult, I've been in plenty of challenging situations that I could have obsessed over.  I have never felt this terrible about myself before, though.  Intellectually, I know that this is a temporary condition that will pass.  I know it doesn't change the awesomeness of who I am.  It still feels awful. 

    I have long been an advocate of "true beauty" in women.  I'm really good at pointing it out to my sisterfriends, to my daughter, to the young women I mentor.  I guess I never really understood the depth of feeling--terrible feeling--that they have about themselves.  I underestimated the power of a negative self-image.  Now I understand it.  It's formidable. 

     I don't know how to combat it, yet.  I mean, the infection is healing and I can expect that my skin will clear up.  How do I make sure that I don't allow myself to feel that way again, though?  More importantly, how do I help the women I love stop feeling that way?


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  2. I've not had skin problems, as a teenager or an adult. My family has a history of premature graying. My father turned completely gray when he was 17; my older brother inherited that, and turned completely gray when he was 18. After I had Baba, I turned almost completely gray :(

    Conversation from the other day (when Baba was down with flu):

    B: Mama, your hair is so gray.
    M: Yes it is Baba.
    B: I think it's when the doctor took me out of your tummy, the blood inside you came out and went whoosh whoosh whoosh. And now, you have no blood, that's why your hair is gray.
    M: I think you're right Baba.

    I hope your skin is healing nicely. Don't feel bad about yourself, remember: "You're fabulous".