Welcome to Part 3.

To recap: a boy was mean to me, and I’m still discussing that.

We’ve talked a lot about the kid who asked me “Why don’t you wash your face?” and we’re going to stop now, because he doesn’t matter.

You see it wasn’t his coarseness that upset me. It wasn’t even him that upset me.

What upset me was that I was ritualistically abiding by every doctrine of dermatology and getting nowhere.

I had the gels and washes and scrubs. I never ate chocolate or put a palm on my face. Not mine. Not others. I had a Job-like devotion to all things skin-care, and I received a Job-like response in kind, doing all that was asked of me and still coming home to a room full of dead kids.

The doubt began to set in.

At numerous (and fairly insensitive) inquiries about my face, I developed a case of “Productphobia” (noun): the fear of friends discovering that, despite your best efforts, you still don’t look great.

During sleepovers, I would disappear to a different bathroom to apply my medicine, hoping my cheek could last the night without sprouting a companion. When friends came to my house, I would hide the creams in the cupboards. (which sounds grosser than it was.)

My aversion to cosmetics became so irrational that even my friends’ use of acne products made me wince.

In my ideal world, there would be no mention of scrubs, soaps, or pads. Teens in need would meet in secluded corners of the park to exchange cash for pore cleanser, no questions asked.

Applying cover-up in public would be tantamount to burning the American flag in front of Kid Rock, our nation’s greatest patriot.

The President himself would travel to every CVS in the nation and deliver the speech, “Mr. Merlo, tear down this Beauty Aisle.”[1]

Imagine my horror, then, when my friends and I were watching TV, and I experienced my first Proactiv commercial:

[Black text on all-white screen. Cue relatable, sympathetic voice]


What is this?

“Dirt. Oil. Clogging up your pores.”


[Violent close-up of customer’s “Before” nose]

“Soooooooooooo not attractive…”

Oh, the humanity!!

For an endless thirty seconds, my friends and I sat in silence, eyes fused to the screen. No one moved. No one breathed. The AC shut off and the cat died where he stood.

There was not one twitch or sniff for the entire commercial, for my friends feared that I would interpret any and all movement as them saying, “Hey buddy. The faces on T.V. look like the face on your face.”

And they would’ve been right. The faces on T.V. did look like the face on my face. Better, even.

It felt was like watching footage of the Hindenburg burn, only I was also a blimp. And I was sitting next to a bunch of fucking hang gliders, which never explode. They just don’t have the fuel for it.

So there we sat: John the Hang Glider, Aaron the Hang Glider, and Zach the On Fire, all trying to distract ourselves from my face…

We’re almost there. Follow the link for the final installation of this bloated series wherein I discover that 2000’s-era Proactiv is just as evil as 1920’s-era Listerine. The Modern Leper (Pt.4): Mouthwash and Shame-Marketing.

[1] Larry J. Merlo is the current CEO of CVS Pharmacy.


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