Monday, July 11, 2016

Pizza Faced Prejudice

It's amazing the types of random topics that are inquired about by readers. Sometimes I'll get an email and think to myself, ok where are they going with this? How could it possibly relate to beauty distortion at all? But it always does. So many things are linked to beauty distortion: from advertisements, social media, beauty products, fashion choices, healthy recipes, and nutritional information, that it is often difficult to pinpoint what is distorted in our society and what isn't. And today, I'm here to talk about (of all things...) skincare.

I recently stumbled across a woman's status on Facebook, inquiring about recommended dermatologists in our hometown. As I talked with her more personally, it was revealed that the woman was looking for skincare treatments for her young daughter who was beginning the seemingly endless battle with adolescent acne. I immediately started having flashbacks.

I know you can't imagine a face as flawless as mine to ever have a flaw (haha, NOT!), but allow me to take you back to my own personal struggle. I was a regular pizza face in junior high. Those pimples were the size of pepperonis. The struggle I had with my breakouts was real, and was easily one of the most aggressive beauty obstacles in my life up to that date. They were on my face, my chest, my back, and they didn't just look unappealing; they hurt. I experienced cystic acne; which, while not uncommon, is extremely uncomfortable. Unlike typical acne, these breakouts remain inflated well below the skin. My pimples would swell to the size of bug bites, and were hopelessly unable to be popped. Or covered. Or treated.

Like any girl at age 14, I was so caught up in being perfect. Being pretty. Being flawless. So after the ProActiv stopped working, the creams caused allergic reactions, and the face washes were a lost cause, I set off to the dermatologist to get my hands on some medication. Because developing and experiencing teenage puberty like a normal 14 year old girl is frowned upon in society, and it thrusts a whole new level of low self esteem and insecurity on girls who deal with a little bit of acne. Everybody gets a zit or two. But having more than three is a sin when you're 14, even though it's completely normal and completely out of your control.

For those of you who know me, it is clear that I am not a fan of doctors. I don't get procedures done without anesthetic even if it can be done without numbing me. I reflexively kick them during physicals, gag during throat swabs, and practically faint at the feeling of blood pulsing through my arm when my blood pressure is taken. I'll pay you a hundred dollars if it means avoiding being stuck with a needle. Doctor's visits are not my cup of tea, but I was excited. I was going to conquer my pizza face disorder if it was the last thing I did.

The doctor came into the room and said hello. I returned the greeting. It was very casual and comfortable. He read through my file and sat down before saying, "So! Tell me what's going on."

"My face," I told him, pointing at my file, "My zits are huge. They won't pop and they hurt and I want them gone."

I watched as his lip curled into a sly smile. "Do you have a boyfriend?" he asked.

I was startled. Excuse me? I did, at the time, even though I was very young (ah, puppy love...), so I responded, "Um... Yes?"

"Then what are you worried about?" the doctor asked.

I was alarmed. Did he honestly think this was about a boy? Had he not listened to my concern? I didn't say I was ugly! I didn't say that I was lonely and I certainly didn't say my acne was preventing me from landing (or keeping) a boyfriend. I had only said they hurt,  and that I wanted them gone. And for what I was prepared to pay for the medicine he was supposed to give me, I was shockingly unprepared for the clear assumption that my concerns meant nothing because I already had a boyfriend (which, as we all know, is apparently the only thing a young woman may aspire to do). Silly me. I thought we were past the 19th century.

"They just hurt," I tried again, attempting to suppress the anger now bubbling up beneath my skin.

He waved his hand at me as if to say you're overreacting, and instead chose to say, "Well, you're a good lookin' girl. Very pretty. You've got nothing to worry about."

I grew more and more uncomfortable with every word that left his mouth. I was 14! And I'd never felt so objectified in my life. Was this guy for real? Waving off a developmental and hormonal issue that could be treated simply because I was a girl? Because I was pretty? Wasn't that...illegal? I wasn't paying him for the offensive confidence boost he thought I needed. I was paying him to fix my acne.

After that day, I wouldn't be paying him for anything.

Little did I know, this objectification would follow me around for the rest of my life. Turns out, it's a common side-effect of being a woman. I had been pushed to the breaking point with discouragement, hopelessly convinced that my acne scars would remain until the day I died. It seems so dramatic now, but it was so important when I was that young. And this man had waved off my concern (and business!) because he favored the way I looked. As a 14 year old girl.

I hope I'm not the only one that finds that super creepy. Or at least super unprofessional.

You'd think today's society was modern enough to avoid this lack of feminine concern. You'd think that with the rights we have gained over time, we also gained respect. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Just a week ago a stumbled across a young woman's social media rant, who had landed an extremely successful job with the company she'd been interning for. But upon entering the acceptance meeting in a royal blue pantsuit, she was told that she would need to dress as less of a distraction to accept the job. Her blouse was not low. Her pants were not tight. Her heels were not too high. She wore no lipstick, and her hair was not curled. Her makeup was natural, her hair was combed and straightened, and she wore an outfit similar to what her male colleagues wore every day. But the way her body looked inside of it was worthy of a comment and critique. I'm still questioning if that conversation was legal, as well.

And we wonder why women get so offended. It's one thing to present yourself modestly, but we are told to dress a certain way so we won't be a distraction to hormonal men who are too immature to control themselves. We are told to put our passions and skills on the back burner to first take care of what we look like. We are told that our opinions are not to be voiced, our concerns are not to be heard, and our thoughts are not to be acknowledged. But "it's okay," because we're pretty. 

I did eventually go through Accutane treatments with another dermatologist. A female dermatologist who listened to my concerns, presented me with with options, and let the choice be mine. Not only does my face look freakin' fabulous now, but I would recommend her to anyone with flying colors.

Her clinic was 30 minutes out of town, but I happily drove up once a month for my progressive checkups, urine samples, and blood work. Yes, you heard that right. Blood work. I let her stick me. Once a month. With a real life needle. Her clinic might have been inconvenient, but it was worth the drive. She might have been expensive, but her success was worth every penny. She was a doctor, just like all the other awful and arrogant doctors I've come in contact with in my lifetime, but she understood. Under her care and treatment, I was treated like a person, not a patient. For the first time, someone in a white lab coat made me feel valued for the smiles I flashed, the laughs I let escape, and the individual I was. She never made me feel like I was her monthly 8 a.m. appointment. I was just Bethany; a girl who sang Broadway, quoted Disney, loved kids, and had a little touch of acne.

That's the way it should be.

So here's my point. Whether you work in a clinic, a classroom, or an office cubicle, make sure you aren't treating people like your patients, your students, or your clients. Make sure the way they look isn't clouding who they are. Make sure you're treating them like the person they fought to become rather than the body they live inside of. Failure to do this caused that male dermatologist to lose my business, along with the business of my Facebook friend and her daughter.

Don't make that same mistake. Sometimes we are inevitably the figure of oppression that we strive to get away from. And it's okay, because we're human (which, by the way, means we're not perfect). But don't stop checking yourself. Always make sure your intentions are golden, and that your actions reflect these intentions with respect for others.

Oh yeah. And if you live in the Northwest Arkansas area and ever need a dermatologist, shoot me an message 'cause I know a gal.

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