Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Monday, September 19, 2011

When the Cure is Worse Than the Disease

Okay, it seemed bad to me!!!
And ignore the glasses!

Okay, it's a very common condition.
But I was twelve.
It was totally the end of the world!

I had acne.
I was devastated.
Looking back, it couldn't have been all that bad, but when I compared my blotched and disfigured face to that of my best friend, with her milky, creamy, clear, totally spot-free complexion, I just wanted to wear a paper bag over my head.
And did, but that is another story . . .
My mom sympathized.
She said she knew exactly what I was feeling.
But I had seen clear-skinned pictures of her as a girl.
She wasn't fooling anyone.
But she did buy me different 'cures'.
They didn't help much.
But they made us both feel pro-active.
One such cure was a thin, pink liquid that one painted on.
With a brush.
What it didn't accomplish in actual pimple eradication, it more than made up for in unique-ness.
And price.
For months, every evening, I would carefully coat my face, neck to forehead.
Then I would wait.
Now, the instructions were very clear on this point.
One applied the product to every visible surface.
Then one waited.
Twenty minutes.
While said product dried and tightened.
And tightened.
Until one's face was roughly the colour and consistency of a native signal drum.
Then, just as the wearer/owner was certain that all facial features had successfully merged into one great shiny shapeless mass, one could wash.
The relief was instant.
And unfathomable.
Okay, I don't know what that word means, but it sounds distinctly . . . deep.
Which is what the relief was.
Moving on . . .
For many weeks, the process was adhered to.
Without fail.
And also without results, but I'm nothing if not persistent.
Then, one night, I made the fatal error:
I painted myself.
Lay back on my bed to wait the requisite twenty.
And promptly committed the final, unforgivable sin.
I fell asleep.
When I woke the next morning, my pillow felt . . . strange.
Rather . . . sticky. And at the same time . . . gritty.
What had Mom done to the laundry?
And why hadn't I noticed it when I first went to bed?!
I sat up and stared down at the pillow.
It was covered with pink slivers of  . . . something.
I could see them glinting in the morning light.
Then it hit me.
I gasped and made a record sprint to the bathroom.
Then slowed and hesitated before I looked into the 'great revealer'.
Finally, I poked my head briefly into sight.
Okay, my face hadn't fallen off.
Good start.
I peeked again.
Something was distinctly wrong, however.
One more time, a little longer.
Shards of pink stuff clung to my cheeks, chin and forehead.
This time, I stayed.
Well, I guess I should wash.
Better late than . . . you know the rest.
I did so.
Then, toweled myself dry.
And leaned in for a closer look.
And shrieked.
Lines seamed my normally youthful skin.
Deep lines, following the natural and heretofore unseen creases in my skin and caused by the drying and cracking of the evil pink coating.
I looked . . . old.
At least thirty!
Or a hundred.
My life was over.
I slumped down on the side of the tub and hid my face in my hands.
Mom skidded to a stop beside me.
She had come running when she heard me scream.
Old habits . . .
She moved my hands aside and looked at me.
Her eyes widened.
"What did you do?"
"I fell asleeeeep!"
She started to laugh. "It'll be okay."
OKAY???! Was she nuts?
I stood up and moved, with her, to the mirror.
"Look at me! I look . . . ancient!"
"It'll go away."
I shook my head in disbelief.
I knew I was forever disfigured.
Nothing on earth could fix this.
I would be regarded as the freak.
The 'Seamed One'.
The . . .
"Breakfast is ready," Mom said.
Okay, my despair could wait until after I had been fed.
I followed her, glumly, to the table.
And, for a short, wonderful while, forgot my troubles in a stack of pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon and hot chocolate.
My favourite.
But meals can only last so long.
And the school bus was drawing nearer, even as we ate.
I could put it off no longer.
I got up and made my slow, unhappy way back to the bathroom, feet dragging.
Only to discover that Mom had been right!
The lines were nearly gone.
Ah, the resiliency of youth. And youthful skin.
With lighter steps, I bounced back into the kitchen.
"You were right, Mom!"
She nodded.
But she was careful not to say, 'I told you so'.

I learned from that experience.
After that, I spent very little time 'pimple hunting'.
I really didn't have that many.
And I had definitely seen worse.


  1. They always seemed to pop up at the worst possible time.

  2. I could write a book on the things I did in the name of vanity! We're silly when we're young, aren't we? I was lucky to have good skin, but my hair! A tangled mess of curls that I wished with all my hearth were poker straight. Yep, the tales I could tell! :) Great post!

  3. Great post! You completely lightened my day- I laughed so hard I was crying. Not at you ;)- with you. I so remember those days.

  4. I think I did the same thing when I was younger. And do you know what I used to dry out my pimples? Milk of Magnesia (MOM). I swear I never realized what is was really for until later. It would dry them up though. And I really didn't plan for my two comments to include tummy!

  5. The sad part is that I'm nearly 40 and still get them. They don't work very well with wrinkles and saggy body parts.

  6. Stopping in from NOBH! We are currently doing the acne dance with our 12 year old. I still use medicine from my dermatologist to control my breakouts. I always thought I would outgrow it. I was sadly mistaken.


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