I’d wash my face the night before, and as I rolled over to greet whoever I’d decided to take home with me that night, shame trickled its way up my chest as I realized: I wouldn’t be what he wanted. Wasn’t this something I’d been taught all my life? Men wanted fresh-faced women with invisible pores, not some girl who’d picked at the pimples on her chin and forehead, rendering them an ugly siren’s red. They seemed like blinking lights in that moment, blaring out his disgust with me.
I tried burying my chin into the pillow, hoping he wouldn’t notice. His eyes flickered to my forehead and although I tried smiling, I couldn’t help but feel hideous. My skin felt tight, raw and exposed, as though he could see every flaw. I wanted to appear disaffected, like having acne was just another thing to deal with. Instead, I just dug my chin deeper into the duvet.
He gave me a kiss, his hand briefly cupping my face. I flinched. How could I explain to him that I didn’t want anyone to touch what I’d determined to be dirty and foul? How could I say something that didn’t sound as pathetic and pitiful as: Do you still think I’m pretty?
He gathered his things, said goodbye and softly shut the door behind him. A brief moment of fury sprung in my chest. Who was this person, anyway? Who was he to judge whether or not he found me attractive? The feeling gave way to self-awareness, knowing it was my own construction of the event that placed him in this negative light. I was jealous, really, jealous of some unnamed woman with perfect skin because that was what I believed everyone wanted. Perfection is everything: the phrase that pounded through my head every single time I looked at the red patches on my cheeks, the darkened scab from where I’d obsessively picked, knowing deep down I was only making it worse.
I didn’t see him again. It wasn’t for his lack of trying. He asked me out to dinner several times, all of them text messages I chose to ignore. I think I pushed him away mainly because I’d let him see past the carefully constructed façade. He’d seen me without makeup and gone would be the illusion that I was beautiful. I convinced myself that all he would see when he saw me next was my acne, and that he too would realize my perfection was lacking.