Posted in Of Psyche

Of Caring What People Think

Toy Story Acne Meme

And above all things, never think that you’re not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you very much at your own reckoning. – Anthony Trollope

It seems people are much more fussed about my looks than I am. I’ve had acne on and off, for about four years. I never had it as a teenager, and I’ve come to appreciate my luck with that recently. If this is how you get treated when you have acne, then I’m relieved I didn’t have it at a younger, vulnerable period of my life. I mean, it’s only acne. Everyone has had a pimple or two at some point in their life. Even if they haven’t, I can’t fathom why having a few red bumps, sometimes maturing into little brown spots, on your face should be of such concern to somebody who’s not you. They’re painful, unpleasant, and I accept, unsightly. But, surely, they’re not that much of an aesthetic-cum-moralistic hurdle to cross for someone who’s not you, so much so that they avoid any and every topic of conversation to say, repeatedly, “Ew, what’s that on your face?!”

Really, I think this is a subject enough for a sociological dissertation. People, and their particular obsession with inflammation of skin. I have acne. I know, I’ve got mirrors in my house. They’re a bit of a bother for me, but I couldn’t have imagined they would be so central to the social perception towards me in the last four years of my life. Of course, people have always had issues. I was lanky-shamed as a child. I was born with a big head, big feet and a skinny body (already predicting the career of a comedian I should have) and was a tall child. And while puberty took care of my vertical elongation and filled me out to womanliness, two other things continued to plague me, for life: my hair and the colour of my skin.

With no intention of politicizing the second, here’s one particular incident: In school, there was this dastardly tradition of making students practise the marching drill for Independence Day. We had to practise going “left, right, left…” everyday, in the sun and sometimes rain, for hours. Now, I wasn’t a genius at this, nor did I complain about it too much like some children did. I mean, there are just some things you have to get on with, and I did feel proud and patriotic doing it on I-Day.

One day at practice, when I was ten years old, a couple of teachers pulled me out of the formation to admonish me. I was scared, guessing maybe I had gone left instead of right, or perhaps had not polished my shoes well enough. But no, it wasn’t anything like that. They scolded me for being in the sun so much, for how dark it has made me, and that I should ask my parents to buy me an assortment of skincare items because I looked objectionable. I went home, told my parents to do so, as if it was a school assignment, and they bought me this infamous tube of fairness cream, and a bottle of cleansing milk.

The days following this, when somehow everyone around me, including my neighbours, got to know of my predicament, resulted in further shame, as my skin-tone became a subject of common discussion. I went through the stages of shame, self-pity, vulnerability, and ultimately rage, disgust and defiance, and refused to use the skincare items. I didn’t have courage to confront my teachers, or have anybody standing up for me. But, I was proud of myself, for taking that stand at age ten on what I felt about the colour of my skin.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my hair, but that goes for anybody with curly hair. Some days it’s got personality, on other days you feel you and your hair are two different people. I’ve been so bothered with it myself, I haven’t got time to worry about what anyone else thinks. I’ve realised, maybe that’s what people want from me. I was putting up with acne for four years, but I finally went to a doctor last week, and am now on oral and topical medication. And it has been a real bother. Here’s a picture of me with my healing acne:

The Face of Of Opinions

Yes, I had to choose the one with the creepy eyes. The image is undoctored (well, apart from the topical solution prescribed by my real doctor), unfiltered, and unmake-upped. I’ve never thought of myself as pretty or unpretty. I suppose, I’m one of those few people who can feel bad when people criticize their looks, but can’t be bothered to do anything about them. Because they can’t be that much bothered about them in the first place. I enjoy makeup and skincare. I see the odd, stunning woman and envy her. But, I’ve yet to go the extra mile and do something about it.

I’m surprised that this is the third time I’m sharing my mug with you. I didn’t even know I had a fat nose until selfies were invented. And I can’t know what you are thinking. Whether you agree with the fat nose assessment, or the socially-repellent acne assessment, or the fact that overall, this is neither a pretty, nor an ugly face. I mean, I had no say in the matter. I didn’t choose this body, this skin, this hair. This voice, this amount of adipose tissue, this acne. I am sensitive to it, but my reckoning is that this is just the way things are, and I have to live with it. But, my reckoning doesn’t seem to match with people’s reckoning of me, despite what Trollope says.

Or does it? Is the process cyclical, where they make me feel bad about myself, and I accept it, and they are affirmed in their assessment of me? Or, would they stop caring, if I didn’t care at all? Ha ha, surely not. I’d like to believe the best in people, but that one seems like an impossibility.

I was cleaning my flat the other day. Keeping my stacks of diaries in order, among other things. I only went over them peripherally. And I thought, if I could just zap the self-loathing out of them, they would turn into a very slim, singular volume. Or maybe a different book, of my life. All I can think about, is all the time, energy, life force, whatever you want to call it, wasted on things that are unchangeable, things other than, but including, my appearance. It would have been a happier, more productive life without them, I’m sure of it. But, this life is unchangeable too, as are the 28 years I’ve spent on this planet. My reckoning is, to continue to use the time I have left going after things that matter, things I can change, and leave people to their acne obsessions.

What have people criticized about you?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

15 thoughts on “Of Caring What People Think

  1. My mom rags on my acne too. I put very little effort into dealing with mine (as it’s not bad at all) and she constantly criticises me for not caring and being lazy and that I should respect my appearance so I can look nice and blah blah blaaaah. Also about two weeks ago she randomly decided that my eyebrows need work. I’ve never got my eyebrows done because I honestly have no complaints about my eyebrows at all (and I’m a very self-crticial person)…guess they weren’t on fleek enough for her. If I’m comfortable enough with my own face, why isn’t she?

    1. Ah, it was my mother in fact, who finally made me go to the doctor. I took her word, because she usually doesn’t notice anything different in me! If you are comfortable with the way you look, I don’t think you should be too bothered about it. I am taking a lot of medication for my acne, and I can’t honestly say it has worked brilliantly in the last week or so.

  2. As a person who is very vertically challenged and who is an adult, I have heard every short joke in the book. Plus, I look sixteen according to most and when they realize that I’m not and have two children their eyes basically pop out of their heads. And then they stare at me like I’m some sort of circus attraction. Not a pleasant feeling, but I can’t help how I look. So I do my best to shrug off their stares. Not my problem if I don’t look how they think a 30-year-old should look. 😉
    And your picture is beautiful! I am jealous of your eyes.~Tamara ❤

    1. And I can’t help envying you looking younger for your age! I get a lot of ageist comments, basically saying I look older than I am, biological clock-ticking and so on. I get the short comments too. Just today, I was wearing a new shirt with skinny jeans and flats, and someone said, “if only it were longer.” I said, “What? The shirt?” And they said, “No, your legs. They’d make the shirt look better.” I can do something about the shirt, but not my legs! I wrote a post on being short a while back:

      And thank you for the compliment. Yes, I’ve always been slightly boggle eyed!

      1. I can’t believe someone said that to you about how your legs should be longer! I mean I have had some crappy comments aimed my way. Random strangers will walk up to me and say how I’m too young to have kids. Well, no, not really. Ha ha!
        And just last month I was trying on these strappy heels at this store and the employee asked if they were for my high school grad. :/ And I’m like, “Er…no….”

      2. I have zero secret. When I was twelve I stopped growing. And when I was like five I stopped aging in the face! Ha ha! Maybe it’s in my genes. Not really sure. I used to try and look older with makeup and stuff…until I realized how crazy I was for wanting to look older! Usually I get nice compliments from people, but there are always those who will make a snide comment my way about my looks. I just do my best to shrug those comments off.

  3. Afar a beautiful post! I enjoyed reading this. Growing up, I always got told I was chubby as a joke and I always brushed it off but now that I think about it – those comments did impact my self esteem for sure. Don’t know why desis are obsessed with the idea of being thin and white.

    1. I don’t either, and I doubt whether the obsession will ever go away. We just have to learn to accept ourselves as we are. Yes, weightism has seemed to have gotten worse with time. And because of rising obesity, people think they have an even greater right to criticize those who are chubby. The best thing about getting older is that you learn to care less, little by little.

  4. Im Indian and often I’ve been criticized of the complexion but I’ve just come to realise if you truly recognise what you want and what really matters none of the critisicm gets to you. Yes , if you don’t have a direction or very firm self esteem thoughts you’ll given in to the critiscm. Keep yourself busy, have a goal &stay focused none of other things matter!

    1. Yes! But, even if things are going well for you, and you are achieving things that matter, there are going to be a number of people who will use this to bring you down. Even when, it doesn’t matter what shade you are! It is a wider, social attitude, after all. It does feel bad to be singled out from time to time, but then, people always have issues. Always, whether they are ‘real’ issues or not.

      Thank you for reading!

  5. One thing I’ve learnt over the period of time is that people are going to criticise you no matter what you do. Even if you are going to become a nun and serve the nation , they are going to question if you have ulterior motives ! ( it’s just an instance ). Or if you are gonna hang with some boys at a party they are going to criticise. I believe letting people down by snarling mean remarks at people who are atleast trying to achieve something is some people’s job 😜.
    If that’s their job then not giving a fuck and moving forward is ours 💪💪

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