About Face


Acne had me feeling like some comic book freak until a mild-mannered superhero came to my rescue.

“Lowell, can you stay a few minutes after class? I’d like to talk to you,” Mr. Taylor, my tenth-grade history teacher, asked. He addressed me directly, which drew the attention of the other students, something I didn’t want, but I answered with a reluctant nod that I would stay.

My schoolwork had suffered in the past few weeks. My sense of self-worth had practically disappeared, and I had developed an inferiority complex. I had a bad case of acne and had become self-conscious because of the blemishes on my face. There was no way I could hide them. I imagined everyone was looking at me and saying, “Look at that ugly, pimple-faced kid.” I didn’t feel there was any place for me, in or out of school.

I tried not to associate with anyone. What did it matter if I didn’t get good grades in school or participate in the sports I used to enjoy? Even my church duties became unimportant.

I felt especially bad about letting my grades drop off in history because I liked Mr. Taylor. He wasn’t a trained philosopher or psychologist, just a good teacher who was genuinely concerned about his students.

I stayed in my seat when the others left the classroom. Mr. Taylor came and sat in a desk opposite me.

“Lowell, your schoolwork has fallen off lately. You have gone from a B student to a D. But I don’t care about that as much as I care about what’s happening to you.” He paused, waiting to hear a comment from me, then continued.

“Maybe we could find a solution to get you back on track. Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you,” he said.

“Mr. Taylor, you see this acne on my face. I want to stay away from people. I don’t want anyone to see me. I really want to do as well as I can in school, but I don’t want to draw attention to my looks.” I stopped and waited for Mr. Taylor to speak.

“Do you think Coach Forsberg would say, ‘That kid has pimples, so he can’t play for me.’ No. If you can’t play for Coach Forsberg, it will be because you don’t put forth the effort. Do you think Coach Worthington is not going to let you high jump because your face doesn’t look just right? He doesn’t care if your nose is in the back of your head, as long as you are a good high jumper and can help the team,” said Mr. Taylor.

“Do you think if you work hard in my class and earn an A or a B, I’m going to say, ‘That kid has acne, so I’ll give him a D?’ Absolutely not, nor will any of your other teachers,” Mr. Taylor finished.

I gave what he told me a lot of thought. With my present self-conscious attitude, I wasn’t realizing any of my goals. I left the classroom with a determination to raise my head a little higher and test out his ideas.

I wasn’t a great football hero, but I made the team. I high jumped in track, and my grades improved. I even did my church duties again. I wasn’t a loner anymore. I had friends.

I was still conscious of my appearance, but I wasn’t letting it rule my life.

“Let what’s on the inside outshine what’s on the outside, and you’ll come out a winner,” Mr. Taylor used to say.

Thanks, Mr. Taylor.

[illustration] Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw