Oh the joys of having teenaged girls. Whoever thought up the concept of having multiple bathrooms in a house should be canonized. My girls, I love them, I do, spend all of their spare time in those bathrooms primping and preening and popping. Yes, popping. They will stand in front of the mirror and examine every square centimeter of their faces looking for the enemy pimple and attack it with a vengeance. They use their faces as one might have when playing Space Invaders. My girls stand in front of the mirror and wait for the next zit to appear so they can squeeze the ever-loving pus out of them and then walk away from the mirror feeling victorious.
Sometimes, the times I hate most, my girls come to me with a blemish that is especially stubborn and ask for my help. When it comes to parenting, I have to admit, I’m virtually hands-off. I hug, I snuggle and I kiss but that’s all I want as far as it comes to touching these girls. But then they beg, they bride, they almost burst into tears as they ask me to please obliterate their enemy. Most of the time I give alternate solutions to these pressing pimple problems. I tell them to do a spot treatment that I spent a jillion dollars on, I tell them to wait for it to go away, I tell them anything I can think of just so I don’t have to pop their pimples. I don’t want to pop them. I seriously can’t believe that they come to me and ask me to do this for them when I used to do the exact opposite when I was their age.
When I was in the eighth grade, the pimple factory fairy came to me and sprinkled my forehead and temples with a spattering of zits that had they been freckles they would have been cute. But, since they weren’t freckles, they were disgusting. I had a colony of little angry, red bumps littering my face that I just wanted to hide. Rather than cut a set of bangs to let flop over my face, my mom insisted that I keep my bangs long so I could keep the least amount of oil from coming in contact with my problem-areas. The logic behind it was admirable but I still felt like I had the world’s worst Braille billboard on my face just asking for a teasing.
My mom did her best to help me with my acne. She bought bar after bar of Neutrogena soap that I used every morning and night with a silent prayer. When the soap didn’t work, she brought me to a dermatologist who prescribed me smelly ointments that felt even oilier on my skin than what my skin felt on its own. When that didn’t work my mom liked to think she took care of the problem for me. She popped them.
I say that like it was so calm and mild, but in truth, it wasn’t. It was more like she chased me around the house with her fingers at the ready position in front of her making her look like a demented crab with claws ready to pinch its next victim. Once she had me cornered, my mom went at my forehead with relish. I could hear my skin breaking open as she got zit after zit of spill its guts to her. The look in my mom’s eyes as she was doing this to me was somewhere between calm and crazed. She loved popping pimples. She would stand in the mirror of her bathroom and examine her skin and squeeze anything on her face or shoulders in hopes of the white gold she was looking for. Sometimes, as her knee was holding me down, she’d give commentary to what she was doing. “Oh, that was a good one. It came squiggling out like toothpaste.” Gross. I felt like my mom’s personal flesh-toned roll of bubble wrap.
Once, when my sister was in the ninth grade, she had a pimple on the bridge of her nose that wouldn’t go away. She had that thing there for months. It wasn’t a huge zit or anything. It wasn’t like that pimple made my sister look like Rudolph, but that blemish bothered my mom so incredibly much. Every night my mom would chase my sister around and try to pop that pimple. I know it embarrassed my sister to have this one-on-one time with our mom since I went through the same thing on an almost daily basis. My mom would squeeze until her arms were shaking with the strain of the pressure she was putting on herself. My sister would stand there and wait for it to be over because it was easier to endure the physical pain my mom inflicted rather than the nagging begging of “please let me just try, come here and let me just try,” that would otherwise go on all night. My mom put hot compresses on the bump on my sister’s nose and then try again. When my sister walked away her nose was white from the blood being squeeze away from the area and her pimple still intact.
Months after my mom started trying to pop my sister’s pimple, my dad finally had enough of the nightly routine. He told my sister to come to him. Gently he pushed on the pimple. First he pressed down on the top of it, then on each of its sides. He put his hands behind his back and looked my sister in the eye. “I’m only going to squeeze it once,” he said. My sister, being the perfect teenager, rolled her eyes in response. My dad placed his thumbs on either side of her pimple, but much further apart than my mom ever had done. He pulled the skin up and off her nose and quickly squeeze. Pus flew everywhere and my mom stood behind him in disbelief. She was jealous that my dad was able to pop that thing and she couldn’t. To this day, over twenty years since that has happened, she says that she would have given him the house in their divorce had she just been able to get that pimple instead of him. A house for a zit, is that a fair-trade in a court of law? In my mom’s law book it is.
So now, when my girls beg and cry for me to pop a stubborn pimple so they can look more human than freakish (their words, not mine) I begrudgingly oblige them. I don’t do anything that my mom did. First, I make them sit down and I look at the pimple. If it’s not ready to be popped, I tell them so rather than squeeze until they want to cry. I examine the pimple like how my dad did so I can see exactly where the pus pocket is. Then, I squeeze their arm to show them exactly how hard I’m going to do it and I tell them how many times I’m going to have to squeeze. Because of the torture and abuse my mom inflicted upon me as a teenager, I have become something of a zit-ologist. My girls know that I’m good at popping things but they also know that I’ll only do it as a last resort as opposed to my main source of entertainment.
I’ve become very leery of popping pimple for my girls because once, after my youngest daughter complained of a pimple hurting her when she brushed her hair since it was on the top of her head, I examined the bump and gently (seriously very gently like barely touched it gently) pressed on it, the thing EXPLOEDED all over my glasses, which I was so thankful to have been wearing. I stopped after the first geyser but after supper my daughter begged me to finish the job so again I pressed very softly and the thing exploded all over again but this time it reached the ceiling. Gross. I think because of my resistance to this infatuation they have with their skin they’ve resorted to going monkey on each other. They primp and preen each other as though they were looking for lice. I swear to god if I see either of them squeezing and then putting their fingers to their mouths I’m going to rip their fingernails for their meticulously groomed nail beds. And after writing about all of this, I'm really regretting that banana I had for breakfast.