Everyone has insecure moments. For some, it’s wearing a bikini. For others, it’s delivering a presentation, driving in the dark, getting a bra fitting or simply trying to open a can of tuna without slicing a limb. It’s natural, even my dog looks insecure sometimes, but it shouldn’t rule our lives, right?
I’ve made my twenty-sixth year on this planet the year I stop thinking so much about what I look like and what other people think of me. A reality check came when someone in my close family became extremely ill and I became instantly grateful for having a body that functions. I decided to stop giving mine such a hard time and crack on with life, because it won’t last forever. Faking confidence also goes hand in hand with performing more, and especially comedy. There’s little room for inhibitions when you’re doing improvisation in a room full of strangers, or performing a scene in a play which involves practising blow jobs on deodorant cans with your dad and your boss in the audience.
These days I’m definitely worrying less about choosing an outfit for work, or being judged at a party (actually can’t remember the last time I went to a party), or wearing make-up inside my house. No time for that shit when we’ve all got to dedicate ourselves to bringing down the monster on the other side of the Atlantic. Or as someone at the latest protest called him, “Wotsit Hitler.” (THANK YOU).
However. A big, raised, swollen, red, painful however. Skin is a different thing. And I can’t always brush it off.
I think it’s because while clothes are subjective, or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is optional, skin is fairly out of your control. If it wants to rebel and fuck you over, it will. It can be more inappropriate than drunk Jennifer Lawrence on a chat show. I was in a conversation over the weekend with some friends who were discussing how relieved they are to no longer get spots because, let’s face it, we shouldn’t still be getting them at this age. It hurt a bit because while they were talking I couldn’t help but subtly press down on what felt like a small grape emerging on my chin.
Two days later and my face has exploded. If you had a sharpie to hand I’m pretty sure you could map out a constellation or two. And as I stormed to the bus stop in a fury I realised it was affecting my mood big time. There were other factors of course; I forgot my headphones and was desperate to listen to David Beckham’s Desert Island Disc, I’ve discovered I have chilblains on my toes, which is making it impossible for me to wear any shoes comfortably, and of course, just the fact it was Monday. My imminent smear test was also weighing on my mind but, I can’t lie, when my chin is this angry I’d almost rather have everyone see my cervix than look at my face.
This outbreak has come at a confusing time. I went back on the pill almost a year ago to try and get my acne and my boob pain under control. It hasn’t solved the problem but I can usually guarantee two and a half weeks of clear skin (although scars are another issue) before I get my period. However this week I’m bang in the middle of my cycle (hence the smear) so that’s lovely.
Part of the problem with getting spots is the worry people will think you are unhealthy, or dirty. She must sleep in her make-up, wash her face in a swamp, or eat chocolate for breakfast (I bloody wish). Let me clarify, on behalf of anyone else who suffers with adult acne. I have a rigorous skin care routine, generally wear as little foundation as possible, try to get sufficient sleep, and partake in frequent exercise mostly from clenching my fists and tensing my core trying to resist eating a box of Cadbury’s milk tray for dinner. I’m also bemused because having committed to a vegetarian diet in the name of the planet, I’m eating more healthily than ever.
Nope. This is a hormonal issue. I’m limiting dairy (plus, guys, the cows are unhappy so you should too), swallowing evening primrose oil by the gallon, and punching myself in the womb if it misbehaves (joking). Realistically I’m stuck with it and London’s fun little pollution game isn’t doing me any favours.
There is of course a big part of me that feels guilty because I know there is more to me than my skin, and that I’m being as vain as can be. But there’s a bigger part of me that is distracted trying to make sure my enormous scarf doesn’t accidentally wipe off the concealer I have meticulously painted on to my face to disguise my new friends. Being a pasta-intolerant, non-holidaying adult is hard enough without feeling like I’m fifteen again.
How can anyone take me seriously when my skin looks like I’m losing sleep over my SATS? How many hours am I going to have to be seen in public before I can get home, clean my face and bathe in tea tree oil? I might as well have binged on pizza and ice cream all weekend if it was going to turn out like this. Massive HUMPH.
And then, as I write this, stretching out my toes to try and improve my circulation, look around at all the commuters who probably use butter to take off their make-up and still have the clearest skin, and take a sip of water as if drowning my internal organs will solve all my problems, I get some perspective.
My train has not crashed. I actually have clean water to drink. I’m not being detained at an airport right now. I have a face and eyes (albeit shit eyes with the wrong contact lenses in). People like me (when I’m not being a vain dickhead). I have three excellent types of Tupperware in my bag, a job, a roof over my head, a working body and my smear test is on the NHS for another year at least.
Spots are spots. If I didn’t get them, I’d probably have something else wrong with me, like a hairy back, or excessive ear wax. And when you’re this good at puns, something’s got to be letting you down, otherwise it’s just plain unfair.
When I saw the nurse this morning, she looked surprised and commented, “If you weren’t here for a smear test, I’d think you were at school.” LOL she so funny. My teenage skin might be betraying me, but it could be worse, she might have presumed I’m a pensioner and refused to swab my decrepit vagina. Whilst I hope my cervix is less unpredictable than my skin, and this is the last time I need to see a speculum this year, really it’s a solid reminder that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. That’s where the good stuff is, the core, the action that lets you live and laugh and lose your mind from time to time.
And maybe one day, when I’m seventy (as if I’m going to live that long) and chilling out with five hundred dogs and hot chocolate on tap, I’ll miss the simple stresses of my youth. For now, I’m going to keep Superdrug in business and smile my way through.