Okay, that wasn't really her name. I came up with that name when I needed a character for a Prune Bran sketch, but I directly modeled Maria after this woman.
Maria was probably in her late 30s. She was a skinny, bitter, feminist smoker who ate herbal yogurt out of a canvas bag with a Darkover logo on it. Our room was nonsmoking, but she smoked anyway, although she always opened the window a crack and held her cigarette outside. One of her jobs in life, it would have seemed, was to tell us teens how "it really is" in the real world. Her slant on it was more frightening than a 1950s VD film, and we didn't take her alarmist commentary very seriously. But one comment stuck with me. She pointed to my acne, and had advice on how to treat it.
"They tell you that goes away when you become an adult," she said, holding her clove cigarette out the window. "You know what?" She then turned to me, and pointed at me with her bony nicotine-stained finger. "They LIE!!!" she punctuated, spitting out the bitterness of a thousand spurned dates.
That image still haunts me to this day.
I had real bad acne as a kid. My mother's approach was to tell me to wash it all the time, but that only seemed to make it worse. My face was so oily that within hours after scrubbing it raw, you could lubricate all the moving parts of a large bus with my face. My oil came from everywhere, and my acne covered most of my face, neck, shoulders, and back down to my legs. It would come out my scalp and my hair would soak it up and hang damp on my head like I was constantly living in a tropical climate. My doctor said I needed to see a dermatologist, but my father simply told her that I was just dirty all the time. So with acne I suffered. I had a lot of scars on my face, near the jawline, but the real damage was my shoulders where it looks like I was horribly burned in some spots.
And I still do. Not NEARLY the level I used to, thank God, knock on wood, and sacrifice the lamb. But the gravely voice of Maria hissing, "They LIE!!!" still rings in my thoughts as I get waves of acne from time to time. Right now is such a wave. I think it comes from stress, which might explain why it was so bad as a kid.
The worst ones are the ones just below the skin. These "sub-dermal" pimples are like hard lumps that sit under a thick layer of skin. They can't be popped, in fact, if you try, they just spread outwards under the skin until one small bump becomes a large, hard, red patch. If I leave them alone, they usually go away in a day or two, and then everything looks unchanged.
Unless it gets banged real hard by some guy rapidly opening a door into your face. That happened this morning, and now most of my right cheek right next to my nose looks like it's swollen. The actual impact of the door wasn't really bad, it was a quick jerk, then a smack, and the door edge hit my glasses which in turn drove the nosepiece hard into the small sub-dermal pimple. There is no pain, just a large hard lump, my glasses are slightly askew because of it, and everyone is telling me I look like have a sinus infection.
Everyone and their perfect skin.
Damn you, Maria. Damn you and your herbal yogurt to hell.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000434.html