Last night, there were two suspicious red areas on my chin. This morning I have three raised acne bumps and one hurts like hell and looks like it means business. Big deal, you say. I. Am. For. Ty. Eight. Years. Old. 48. More than two scores. Nearly a half century. Almost half a Ben Franklin. I have slowly made peace with fact that this is a time of transition. Perimenopause, life assessment, aging parents, raising a teen, facing old emotional baggage. And on a good day, I can spin much of this into an almost noble undertaking, as if I’ve chosen personal growth, rather than getting dragged to it kicking and screaming by Mother Nature. But acne? Really? There is no spinning that. It sucked when I had it as a teen and it sucks now. Do you know what’s even more mortifying? I have a bathroom cabinet full of acne products, and only one belongs to my teen-aged son.
But it’s more than that. Not only was I not told about this possibility, I was told the opposite by the dermatologist who treated my scar-inducing cystic acne when I was 20. He said I’d have beautiful skin at 50. I guess he assumed the excessive oil production causing the acne would have declined by 1) the passage of time and 2) the drug I was taking, Accutane*, which cuts down oil gland production. His prediction meant very little to me at the time — at 20, I could hardly imagine being 25, never mind 50. But over time I came to depend on the promised beautiful skin. As I got into full-on perimenopause and my hormones were acting like drunken citizens during Prohibition, I clung to the fact that at least I wouldn’t have to deal with acne. Maybe my body was sweating randomly and plaguing me with odd aches and pains, but dammit I was going to have amazing skin!
I should have realized to not take his predictions too seriously. He also confidently and inaccurately predict I would only need two Accutane treatments. “Hardly anyone has needed two, and no one has needed three.” To be fair, Accutane came out in 1979 and I took it first in 1984. Probably no one knew how many treatments it should take, especially for my super freak acne.
But here I am all this time later with acne that isn’t quite Accutane worthy, but is more than just a dainty “blemish” — a stupid word if ever there was one. I never thought I would actually be able to say a positive thing about having acne as a teen, but as severe as mine was, at least plenty of kids had some kind of acne, and it’s an expected teen thing. Now I get to go to work meetings and try to be professional with a bunch of angry red bumps on my chin—or on my nose or in my ear if I’m super lucky! That’s wicked fun, let me tell you. I almost envy the women who are sweating and ripping off their suit jackets. I happen to work with a lot of people in that age group, so it’s not as freakish as if you worked in say, a start-up with 20-somethings. Although, now that I think about it, they might have some acne. I should definitely check that out as a career move. At least until get my fabulous skin at 60.
*I just want to acknowledge Accutane has since become a generic drug and has had come controversy around side effects: severe birth defects and suicidal depression. I had a positive experience with it. My doctor told me flat out, “If you get pregnant on this drug, your child will have deformities and may not even have a head.” I was scared into compliance, and it did not affect my son who was born a number of years after I stopped taking it. And as far as depression, it was the really bad acne that was depressing me, and when it cleared up (after three tries), I was a new woman. Well, at least until now.