Monday, February 1, 2010

the inevitability of failed perfection


I was one of those pre-teens and teenagers cursed with severe acne. I never really thought of it as a serious condition until I made my first dermatologist visit in grade eight. She closely studied my face before responding, "Well... this is really bad, isn't it?"

For years, I made countless trips to that same dermatologist office being prescribed numerous ointments and pills. The acne weighed me down and shred my self confidence. Every time I looked in the mirror I'd see the ugly facade that masked me. Every time I met someone knew, or had a crush on a guy... I knew all they'd see was the vast amount of pimples and redness that plastered my skin. It was a painful experience - both physically and mentally. I'm an extremely impatient person and the thought of waiting at least six weeks per treatment to see results frustrated me. I hated how my dermatologist constantly told me, "it has to get worse before it gets better." I hated how my parents constantly regurgitated that same line to me. I hated the routine I fell into - the swallowing of pills at particular times before and after meals, the application of the numerous tubes of ointment that were to be used at specific times of the day. I didn't just have it on my face. It was on my arms and my back. I was prescribed specific ointments to apply to those areas at specific times of the day as well.

Makeup became my best friend. I was obsessed with caking on copious amounts of liquid foundations and powders to cover my face. My dermatologist would scold me when I popped a pimple, telling me it would scar. I didn't care. I had no patience to deal with said pimples, and they were much easier to cover with makeup once they were popped.

In high school, I would make routine visits to the bathroom and my locker before, after and between classes to check my face. Ten minutes at the end of every class was designated to haul out my foundation and mirror to retouch what had come off. No matter how hard I tried, the acne would always beat me down. I couldn't run away from it. I strived for this ideal perfection that I never could really obtain.

My acne is gone now, but I still see that pimpled face teenager when I look in the mirror. I'm cursed with the scars that my dermatologist warned me would appear from popping the pimples. Makeup is still my best friend. I'll spend forever getting ready for the day, applying my makeup; at the end of the day, I'll look in the mirror and see that my makeup has diminished. I'm still striving for that perfection that really is unattainable.

I think we're this way with a lot of things. We all want to pick the apple at the grocery store that isn't bruised... We all strive for this idealized perfection.

When I was a child, I would colour the pages of a colouring book like most children do. When I'd accidentally scribble outside of the lines, I'd get frustrated at myself and tear out the page to start over. How many times do we get frustrated at ourselves and want to wipe the slate clean? A lot.

I was asked by my professor to document a performance piece themed around "failure". Here, I sit at the table... blinding myself. I give myself thirty seconds to colour the page of a colouring book. Once the thirty seconds is up, I tear it out - recognizing (even without looking) that I have failed my goal to stay inside the lines since I'm unable to see. It's essentially an infinite project of striving to reach that goal of perfection... a goal we all strive to achieve throughout our lives... will we ever realize that perfection doesn't actually exist?

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