Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The moron in the mirror

I’m 36 years old, and from time to time, I still get a big nasty zit on my face (how’s that for an opening line?). Sometimes even 2 or 3 at once. My wife gets them too. When it happens to either of us, we always make some bitter joke about being in our 30’s and breaking out like we’re in our teens. We stand in front of the bathroom mirror and moan like our lives are over. We try to think of all the upcoming social engagements that are destined for ruin and ridicule unless God, in His divine goodness, intervenes and eradicates all manner of blemish from our faces.

When it’s me, I usually think something like “why can’t I just have a nice, attractive, pimple-free face? Is that too much to ask?”

For the past 4 days, I’ve been staying with my brother who, as most of you know, is in the beginning stages of highly aggressive cancer treatment. One of the side effects of the treatment is something called an “acne rash.” Lots of the terms that we’ve been running into during this time have been cryptic and foreign-sounding. Not that one, huh? Everybody knows what that is.

The rash covers his entire upper body. On just his face and neck alone, Ken probably has, I don’t know, 500 pimple-like marks. And – sorry to be graphic, but I want you to get this – we’re not talking about just red bumps. We’re talking white-on-red bumps. Depending on your zit-doctrine, these are the kind just begging to be squeezed.

All over his face. Hundreds.

In addition to being horribly itchy and painful, it looks, well, you can guess how it looks.

This stuff is so out-of-control that Ken’s face is swollen-looking. He has difficulty turning his head because the skin on his face and neck are pulled snare-drum tight from all the rash bumps.

Ken told me that he avoids mirrors now. He said, “I used to look in the mirror all the time, but not anymore.”

The other night, he and I went to the movies and, afterward, to pick up some take-out at PF Chang’s. People stared at him. I don’t know how much he noticed, but I noticed it every single time. I wanted to punch them all in the face. Repeatedly. I was thinking I could even the facial playing field with a couple of good bruises and a crooked nose. Maybe some of those nasty-looking yellow bruises with some crooked stitches running across them. Who’s funny-lookin’ now?

Hey, he’s my brother. What do you expect?

But then I thought about all the times I’ve stared at strange-looking people. I don’t even want to get into this, because I might reveal that I’m the meanest, cruelest person in the known world. But let’s just say I’ve done my share of name-calling and joke-making. And even when I miraculously kept my mouth shut, I thought things. Things that seemed witty and just-being-honest at the time.

Shame on me.

That doesn’t even begin to sum it up, but it’s a start. Shame on me.

And here’s something else. I’ve decided that, at least for a week or so, I’m going to quit looking in the mirror so much. I’m not all that great-looking, but I sure care about my appearance a lot. I check to see how fat I look in certain clothes. I stretch out my neck to make it look like I’ve got a better jaw-line. I suck in my gut. I check my hairline and thank God for whatever gene-combination keeps me from going bald. Then I curse Him for the same genes that give me a big nose and a funny-looking smile.

Yeah, I do a lot of mirror-looking. You probably do too, but that’s not my business. Right now, I’m concerned about the vanity-gauge in me. I’m looking to recalibrate that sucker, if for no other reason than – in some ridiculously tiny way – to understand my brother. One part suffers… like that.

So, less mirrors. At least for a while.

Again, it’s small, but I just feel compelled to do something. When you know that you need to change and you don’t do anything to help make that happen, well, let’s all be honest. That’s not just “neutral.” There is no neutral.

So if you see me out some time soon, and I look a little unkempt; if my hair isn’t right or my clothes seem wrinkled or my shaving-job looks off, you’ll know why.

And before you judge me, take a look in the mirror. Or don’t.Whatever. I think you know what I mean.


rk said...

This has been an eye-opening experience for me too, in more ways than I can count. But for now, vanity is close to the top of that list. I am taking a good look at myself (no pun intended) to get rid of some of that sin I excuse as "taking care of myself" when deep down I know I'm just vain.

King Family said...

That last comment was me, Staci. Ross was logged into my computer so I acccidentally commented under his name.

rk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny! said...

Yeah, it was about 35 that rosacea kicked in with a vengeance for me. Having my face break out all the time used to bug me. I stopped caring so much after a while; maybe that's what I needed to lose some vanity.

I can't even imagine the suckdom your brother is experiencing. We continue to lift him up to the Lord.

the katy cake lady said...

So, now I can't stop singing the MJ, Man in the Mirror. Thanks for that. Just kidding, but really the song is stuck in my brain now. I was shocked to hear that Ken has cancer. I asked Andy if he knew and he was shocked too. We have lost touch my friends. And that saddens me and Andy. We wish a speedy healing for your brother. We also want to see you guys soon. I think we are headed up to BCS sometime this summer. Let's see each other.

Jessica Lauren Roberts said...

this is Jessica-Lauren or JL- you might have heard ken or michelle mention my name at some point but maybe not! i've been blessed by your brother and his family more times than i can count-- i'm just a college kid that they provided room and board to during my birmingham rotations this past fall and spring. i met them thru the Park family. anyway, i really really enjoyed this post...about a 1.5 weeks ago i really felt the Lord speaking to me about vanity (having battled eating disorders, body dysmorphia, etc); i momentarily considered giving up make up. which wouldn't be much 'cause i'm a mascara-only girl (okay i'm a total granola-eating treehugging hippie at heart)...but the point was that little tube of black stuff was something that i counted on to give me "worth" when i looked in the mirror. anyway, all that said... i appreciate your no-mirrors-attitude. i think i'll join you. and i'm loving the unkempt look dude:)

Shane said...

"Yeah, I do a lot of mirror-looking. You probably do too, but that’s not my business. Right now, I’m concerned about the vanity-gauge in me"

This was brilliant - you do not have time to worry about others vanity, because you have yours to deal with.

All kidding aside - this is great stuff - it is eye opening to see how much we concern ourselves with ourselves.

Amy said...

I'm with you.