Just before Christmas Finn got contacts. For the first week or so I helped him put them in. One day while I was grabbing his eyelashes with one finger and pulling down his bottom eyelid with the other, I got a close-up look at his face and I nearly dropped the Acuvue lens. Sprinkled around the top of his nose I saw several whiteheads. I shuddered.
“Mom!” Finn yelled. “What are you doing? You’re poking my eye!”
He was right. His contact was sitting firmly on his eyeball, anchored in place by my finger, which I had forgotten to remove while I contemplated his inevitable journey through Clearasil, Buf-Pufs, dermatologist visits and shame.
I took my fingers out of his eyes and held his head in my hands. “Let me see your face,” I commanded. I counted about ten bumps in all. I ran my finger over them, and I could feel them under the surface of his skin. It was undeniable; acne was trying to force its way into my ten year old’s body. I vowed to protect him. I’m convinced that with enough chemicals and willpower, a boy can successfully
avoid suffering from more than a couple of full fledged pimples during adolescence.
As a preliminary step, it was important to know whether Bill would be on my side or not in the fight. That night I asked, “Honey, you had acne when you were a teenager, didn’t you?”
“Of course,” he said. “Doesn’t everyone?”
“Well there was one girl in my class with long blonde hair who always had dates and I never saw her with a pimple. She was very popular. She was an only child, too, so I figured she and her mom spent a lot of time on skin care after school.”
“Why are we talking about zits?” he asked, finally looking up from the deposition he was reading. “Last night we forgot to be the tooth fairy for Drew, and now you’re switching to pimples. I think you should stay focused on the problems we already have, not problems we’re going to have in a couple of years. Let’s take them one at a time.”
“Well, Finn is showing signs of pre-acne,” I said. “I think we should attack it now.”
“I have never heard of ‘pre-acne’ in my life,” Bill said. “Is that a condition unique to the Tiny Kingdom?” As if kids don’t suffer from pre-acne in Lower Alabama, where he was raised. I thought about and decided against having Bill examine Finn’s whiteheads; they were too subtle for a man who’d already declared himself skeptical of the existence of such a condition to see.
“So you definitely think Finn is going to have acne?” I asked, getting to the meat of the matter.
“I’m damn sure of it,” Bill said.
“Even if we start a quality skin care regime now and prevent any acne from ever forming?” I asked hopefully.
“Not a chance that will work,” he said firmly.
“All right then,” I said. I knew where he stood. Finn and I would engage in Operation Acne Attack alone.
It’s always important to make sure that the troops are fired up to fight the enemy, so the next day I called Finn down to the computer to show him some pictures of people with acne so he would know the monster we were up against. Now, I wasn’t going to show him the best case scenario, like Hillary Duff with a small blemish. That wouldn’t grab his attention. I wanted to show him something horrific, like this.
“Gnarly, dude!” Finn said after he looked at the screen. “I’ve seen people like that. Do I have that?”
“Not yet,” I said solemnly. “And with God’s help, good cleansing and probably a top-notch dermatologist, you won’t have that. But we’ve got to make a plan, and we’ve got to stick to the plan. Cool?”
“Cool,” Finn agreed.
“Most guys don’t have to start paying attention to their faces until they’re a little older, but I guess you’re just really masculine for your age,” I said.
“I think that’s probably right,” Finn agreed.
“So, we’ll keep this quiet, just between you and me. Your friends don’t need to know what you do in the bathroom, because that’s where you go to do private things anyway, like fart and pick your nose, right?”
“Right,” Finn said.
“And let’s not mention it to Daddy, either,” I continued. “We’ll make it a surprise. He’ll expect you to wake up one day with a lot of zits and it will never happen!”
I decided to start slowly. I bought Finn some Cetaphil and made sure he had a good supply of wash cloths. I showed him how to wash his face, especially around his nose. His hair is longish (it’s part of being a drummer) so it kept getting in his eyes as he washed. I only knew one solution to this problem. You see, women have to pull their hair back while they wash their faces, like this.
Instead of using a satiny blue headband to hold back my hair, though, I just twist the front part up into an old plastic clip and start washing. I got Finn a clip and recommended that he do the same, but I told him he might want to lock the bathroom door while he washed his face to avoid having to answer awkward questions from other family members who didn’t fully appreciate the challenge we were taking on.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” Finn said, laughing. “I would never put this clip on my head if I thought anyone could see me.”
Three weeks passed since I had seen Finn’s skin up close, as he’d been getting his contacts in easily without my help. I checked his face, and to my horror, it appeared that he had twelve bumps instead of ten. I tried not to let Finn hear the panic in my voice as I said,” You know, sometimes guys have to try several cleansers before they find the one that is right for them. I’m going to get you something a little stronger and manlier.”
I got some Clearasil Icewash at Publix, figuring that we needed to add a little salicylic acid to the mix to annihilate the spots. Finn started using that when he showered instead of the Cetaphil.
Last night we conducted another check. His skin seemed to have cleared up some– I could only count five little bumps. On the down side, his face was getting a little dry and he complained that it itched, so I called him into my bathroom to give him some Oil of Olay.
“You can just keep it in your bathroom and use it when your face is dry,” I said. “I have plenty of other moisturizers.”
“Cool,” he said, and he walked out of the bathroom clutching the bottle of Oil of Olay, just as Bill walked in the room. It felt very deja vu but fortunately Bill didn’t notice his son carrying a bottle of women’s face lotion.
Glamores 1, Acne 0.
And the fight continues.