Today I have gotten a pimple; it is to the right of my right eyebrow, between the brow and the hairline. It has been an elephant’s age since I last got a pimple. I stare at it in fascination; run my finger lightly over its raised surface: it is not “ripe” yet. I used to believe I would have pimples for the rest of my life. As a teenager they were a big problem and always seemed to come on the day of an important event or a new date. That is a teen cliché, but knowing it doesn’t make the horror and suffering any less. The morning of the dance, the evening before the first date there it was invariably on the chin, in the middle of the forehead or, horror of horrors, on the tip of the nose. Sometimes there was more than one, seldom was the skin smooth and beautiful, blemish free. My grandmother, the one with all the answers, promised me that when the teens were past, the pimples would go, but I turned twenty and they continued appearing, if anything with greater frequency. I never remember having more than three at a time, but they were always red, angry and very visible. It wasn’t a question of hygiene, I made sure of that: I had no blackheads to speak of, it had to be hormones, my mother said.
At twenty I met my future husband. He had just taken his medical exam and was a full fledged doctor. “As soon as we get married, they will disappear” he assured me; “Sex every day will get rid of them.” We got married, we had sex every day, the pimples continued. A dermatologist told me that when I had children everything would balance out and the pimples would disappear. I had two children: the pimples continued.
I gave up. I decided that there was nothing to be done and I would undoubtedly have wrinkles before I got rid of my pimples: I would have pimples in between the wrinkles. Life continued and so did the pimples. The children came and went, and finally so did the marriage: and then the miracle happened: the pimples disappeared.
During my divorce I would have loved to blame my pimples on my husband, but they had predated my marriage. Their disappearance, no doubt, had more to do with psychoanalysis and psychotherapy (several years of it) than with anything else. The fact is that today I have had clear skin for so many years that the appearance of this one pimple (hidden from the public view by my hair) almost produces nostalgia, a visit from the past that probably is due to my French diet rich in cheese and ice cream. ‘Funny’, I think as my mind travels to different ailments and diets, ‘how diets are fashionable, allergies are fashionable but pimples have never been fashionable’. Oh yeah: “What are you wearing to the wedding on Saturday?” “Well, I thought of my black dress, my black satin shoes and a big red pimple right in the middle of my chin. How does that sound?” Not fashionable!
Allergies today are especially fashionable. It would seem that to be allergic to something is to be in, especially if that something is edible. When I was growing up I didn’t know of anyone who was allergic to anything; it wasn’t the fashion. Today everyone is allergic to something, mostly dairy products or gluten or both. That to me seems strange, especially since humanity has been eating gluten ever since it cut back on dinosaur meat (which was really bad for the health, specially getting the stuff on the table). So vegetarians and vegans are reduced to soy. I wonder if there is an overproduction of soy in the world. People with alergies don’t seem to be able to drink milk, or eat bread or cake or cookies; ice cream and sherbet are definitely out; for vegetarians and vegans meat is a no-no in any form; many don’t even consume animal products such as eggs… that leaves eggplant, squash and beans, more or less; and that, only if you did not read the book about eating according to your blood type. When I got to the part where my blood type was not allowed to eat meat, lettuce or even eggplant, I threw the book out. Not much of a menu. Vegetarians also complicate the preparation, so whatever they are eating appears on the table disguised as meat, bread or a dairy product. This is really weird if you think about it. A guy won’t eat meat, but he will eat something that looks, tastes and smells like meat. What part of himself is he trying to fool or to appease: his stomach, his mind, or his senses?
Today, I find people’s obsession with food and what they put in their mouths both tiresome and fascinating. For instance there is a book out there now promoting the consumption of “green smoothies” because someone discovered that chimpanzees don’t get cancer or pimples, or their hair doesn’t turn grey or they are more spiritual, or god knows what. So we are supposed to eat a lot of green leaves combined with fruit because that constitutes the staple diet of a healthy chimpanzee. But as we humans cannot, at the same time it seems, produce the enzyme necessary for digesting fruit and the enzyme needed to digest raw green leaves (as it seems Chimps can) we must find a way to break down the cells in the fruit and green leaves so as to digest them correctly and together: eureka, green smoothies which must be made, by the way, in something called a Vitamix Blender, the only one fast enough to actually break down the cells so that we can digest them. I find myself asking if we are certain it is the Chimp’s diet and not his life style that prevents the cancer: maybe it is the not living in cities, or travelling on subways for two hours every morning, or fighting traffic or working in a 75 story building, or trying to figure out where to buy the damn Vitamix Blender, or doing so many other stressful things every day, but… no, a green smoothie will assuage all that, certainly and we will all live happily ever after like Chimps (that probably don’t have a life expectancy of 75 mean years as we do, but anyway…”salud” with a green smoothie.
Well, so much for healthy diets. I have just downed a cob of stolen corn on the cob probably sprayed with the worst of fertilizers and some toxic pesticide because here in France corn is fed to the pigs anyway, not to humans. Of course, later we eat the pigs, so…
Along with my corn, I consumed the rest of yesterday’s baguette covered with four slabs of brie cheese and what was left of the ham, all heated in the broiler-microwave oven (another no-no), followed by a whopping serving of raspberry sherbet and a slice of non-ecologically grown Spanish melon. I don’t know, my mother never worried about what went into her mouth, ate everything she felt like and died at 91. It has always been my belief that eating well, things I like that are tasty without being overly unhealthy, is one of the great pleasures of life, a pleasure which –unlike the others whose practice is definitely limited- can be indulged in three times a day for every day of your life as long as your stomach holds out. Now that is something to consider. Anyway, the brie cheese was delicious and well worth a pimple or two at this late stage of my life.