Face of Adversity

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Teenagers have it rough. Sometimes I tell our teenager that, even though I’m a couple decades past that phase of my life, I remember it well – especially the acne.

Managing the riptides of hormones during those years was brutal, and it was even tougher when all that interior chaos bubbled to the surface and onto my face. Even when I did everything right – the face washings, the zit creams, the fervent prayers for clear skin – I still often woke up with a horrifying new friend on school picture day, a performance day, or any time I wanted to feel less self-conscious.

At least I wasn’t alone. My friends and I struggled through it together, swapping tips about the best way to camouflage a pimple with make-up. We even came up with nicknames for the various types of red monsters we tried to keep at bay.

The Third Eye: third eyeWhen a pimple sprouts up on that thin strip of skin right between your eyebrows, you have a classic “third eye” problem. It doesn’t improve your vision, but it does stare out at people, screaming for attention.

I’m convinced that bangs were invented for the sole purpose of covering Third Eye pimples. It’s probably how that unfortunate Justin Bieber haircut got its start in 2009.

The Rudolph:rudolph In acne as in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Not only is the nose one of the most painful locations for acne, it’s also the most visible. There’s no denying a Rudolph pimple because it is, quite literally, as “plain as the nose on your face.”

Because this type of pimple is so front and center, its victims tend to work overtime trying to get rid of it. All that extra attention inflames the situation which, in turn, leads to the tell-tale redness of The Rudolph. Nobody wants to join in reindeer games when they’re stuck with a Rudolph.

The Iceberg:iceberg Unlike the Third Eye and The Rudolph, an Iceberg pimple is all about what lies beneath the surface. It’s a painful knot deep under the skin that no amount of coaxing will bring out.

This beast can land anywhere on your face but is especially common on the chin and cheeks. When I was in high school and battling an Iceberg, I’d sit in class and prop my face in my hand so as to shield The Iceberg from view. (Sadly, touching your face with your hands tends to exacerbate an Iceberg, so I don’t recommend this coping strategy.)

The worst part about The Iceberg is its stubborn refusal to move. What it lacks in surface redness, it more than makes up for in longevity, soreness, and its unique ability to sink a kid’s confidence.

Regardless of which type of acne adversary a teen faces, there’s no denying that the timing seems especially cruel. It happens during one of the most emotional phases of life. And teens want, almost more than anything, to avoid embarrassment – which is hard to do when a Third Eye is staring down at a Rudolph sitting next to an Iceberg.

But perhaps there’s also some wisdom in the timing. Maybe the struggle teaches us to have compassion for others who have burdens of their own. Maybe it makes us realize that, even when we think we know everything as teenagers, there are still plenty of things beyond our control and understanding. And most importantly, maybe it teaches us to care more about what’s in our heart versus what’s on our face and to keep looking up – even in the face of adversity.

gwen rockwoodGwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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