Girl Talk: I’m A Compulsive Zit Popper

I have a confession to make: I’m a popper. Not a popper of pills, mind you. I am a popper of pimples. I know that’s gross, and I’m sorry. However, I do think that, at the very least, I owe it to you, dear reader, to hold myself responsible: My name is Sara Barron, and I’m a pimple-popping addict.

My mother was also an addict, and these sorts of things, see, they run in the family. I first noticed I had a problem just as soon as I went through puberty. I’d get delightful bursts of whiteheads on my face and, I swear to god, it was like they were talking to me. Pop me … pop me … you simply HAVE to pop me. The idea that some people get zits, and are capable of just leaving them alone seems utterly bizarre to me. If you’d said, “Sara: Here’s the deal. There’s a ripe and massive whitehead on your face. You can either A) Pop it, but then you have to run the Boston Marathon, or B) Not pop it, but then you won’t have to run the Boston Marathon,” I’d be like, “Get me some bandaids for my nipples, motherf**ker. I will be running that marathon. And I will be popping that zit.”

In short: I’m not in control of myself where these things are concerned. I never have been, and I’m starting to fear I never will be. My habit has had rather ruinous results. It’s no secret that it’s bad to pop your zits. You’ll have to speak to a proper dermatologist for an explanation of exactly why this is, but it seems to be, the more you poke and prod your pores, the worse things tend to get. I have, at various stages, been forced into the public domain with what I do believe is called, “A Pizza Face.” Parents, friends, and roommates have seen me engaged in my addiction – digging, pressing, clawing at my pores with the force of someone truly deranged – and their response is always, “Oh my GOD! YOU’RE MAKING IT WORSE! IT’S ALREADY SO BAD! STOP!”

Can I stop? Well, sure I can stop. I can stop like a mack truck going 90 down the highway. I can stop like any addict, which means the operative word is “can.” I can stop. I just don’t.

The one upshot has been that my popping predilection has harmed only me. Addicts, often, are known for damaging the lives of those around them, but not me. I’m the only one compulsively popping my pimples, I’m the only one with a face that pays the price. There is, however, one exception to this rule, for there was one time I harmed another. What follows is the best I can give in terms of an apology

Years ago, I dated a guy named Johnny. It was a casual relationship, consisting mostly of bi-weekly hangouts in which we’d eat inexpensive food, drink excessive amounts of beer and go home and have sex. One night, several months into our courtship, Johnny and I went out and skipped the inexpensive food bit of the evening, so as to get straight to the drinking. Predictably, we got drunk. We got very drunk, went back to my place, and had sex. Now, lest you’re thinking that, in light of the drinking, the sex was the problem, it was not. It was years ago, and we did it on multiple occasions, and honestly, I couldn’t tell you a thing about what happened on this particular evening. Because it’s not what was noteworthy. What was noteworthy, is that which happened afterwards.

Still drunk, I escorted myself to a post-coital pee, returned to the bedroom, snuggled back up into bed. Johnny was lying there with his eyes closed, his back to me. And there it was: Starring me in the face. His quarter-sized zit.

Here let me say that Johnny had this zit on his back, and over the course of the months we’d been together, it had been the cause of much conversation. The first time I saw it, the hypochondriac in me told him to have it checked out by a doctor.

“I really don’t need to,” said Johnny. “My dad’s a dermatologist, and he says it’s nothing. It’s been there for years.”

“How many?” I asked.

“I don’t even know,” he said. “But well over four.”

I took Johnny at his word. Until, that is, this particular night when I was so terribly drunk. I saw the quarter-sized zit I’d seen so many times before. But this time, it spoke to me, in much the same way so many of my own zits had before.

Pop me, it said. I am … a zit. I may not look like it, but believe me. I am. A zit … a zit … a massive, tempting zit.

In a drunken haze – and as the addict in me was unable to contain herself – I reached for the zit with the knuckles of my index fingers. I laid them against the zit, and started pushing.

“Oww!” screamed Johnny. “What the f**k? I was sleeping!”

Alas, a thin string of pus had sprung forth from the four-year-old zit. It wasn’t that explosive “THWPP!” you get with a whitehead. Think instead of a thin, white strand of spaghetti emerging inch by inch out of someone’s back.

“Oww!” he screamed again. “Stop!”

But I could not stop. This thin spaghetti business just kept coming, and coming and coming. It would not stop. It had been waiting for me, it’s savior, for upwards of four years, after all. It had a lot to give.

I was in a haze, of course, and although I don’t remember exactly what was said, I imagine it was something like, “Zit. It’s a zit, and … just hold on. It’s … oh my god … there’s more … there’s more … there’s MOOOOOORE …”

As this story has already outdone itself in the gross-out department, I shan’t ramble on about the smell of the whole thing. But think about it: The pus of a four-year-old zit. Suffice it to say, no one was going to bottle and sell the stuff anytime soon.

The event – The Great Popping of ’03, as I would come to call it – lasted all of five minutes, start to finish, at which point I did a clean-up job with a damp paper towel, and both Johnny and I went to bed.

“You’re weird,” he said, dozing off.

“Well, yes,” I said. “I guess that’s true.”

Sara Barron is the author of People Are Unappealing and the forthcoming book Eating While Peeing (And Other Adventures) For more info, visit her website.