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An immaculate complexion

| Wednesday, October 1, 2014


1 strained relationship

Recipe calls for a cooling rack

The relationships we maintain with others are like an epidermis. Yes, this is a bizarre introductory statement and unique choice of metaphor, but I can think of no better parallel for the ways in which we foster bonds and friendships than the largest human organ—the skin.

I’m no science major, but from my basic understanding, the skin plays a vital role on both external and internal levels. The organ defines our exterior experience, as our unique complexion allows us to be identified by others.  Similarly, the relationships we have with others define our unique experience in the outside world.  The people we choose to identify with characterize our participation within society.

The skin guards our insides, protecting us from getting hurt or sick. It holds everything together. Through our relationships, we build a safeguard of sorts; our friends and family save us from facing our greatest fears and troubles alone. Our relationships provide a place where internal love and compassion can prosper. It is through our relations with others that we become whole.

But what I’m really trying to get at here is the fact that so much goes into maintaining both healthy skin and healthy relationships. First, think about how many features we must consider in keeping a semi-flawless complexion: pores, wrinkles, moisture, oil, facial hair, the list goes on. We strive for perfection in these areas, yet the wear and tear of everyday life denies us of a completely unblemished face. Factors such as aging and stress can completely alter the appearance of one’s skin. Analogously, these factors can also entirely change the dynamics of a relationship. Just as there are features we consider when nourishing our epidermis, there are multiple facets of a relationship we must attend to as well. Luckily, we aren’t alone in our pursuits for an immaculate complexion.

Picture the cosmetic aisles of your nearest drugstore, brimming with different colored bottles and tubes. Here, variations upon variations of anti-aging creams, cleansers, sunscreens, moisturizers, and concealers, associated with claims to purify the skin, are at our disposal. Nevertheless, as a fair-skinned female who has had her fair share of sunburns, acne, and under eye circles that permanently darken with every all-nighter, I can attest to the fact that some of these products just don’t do the trick.

A week before my high school graduation, I decided to go on a run through my neighborhood. While jogging, I fell face first on pavement and scraped the bottom of my chin. The resulting blemish, an elevated gash encompassed by a purple-ish bruise, was horrific. Mortified, I ran to the nearest CVS, and scanned the cosmetic aisle for any and every product that could potentially reduce its immense discoloration and size. I tried multiple ointments, antibacterial creams and foundations of two different shades. None of these did the trick. If anything, my multiple applications of lotions and makeup only aggravated the state of my wound. Yet I put all my faith in these remedies, hoping they would be the solution to miraculously speed up the healing process just in time for graduation.

What I really needed to do was stop touching the thing and let it heal on its own.

What does this have to do with our relationships? Well, it’s inevitable that the connections we make with other people won’t always be flawless. Over time, we’re bound to run into an inevitable blemish. We’re guaranteed to face unavoidable tensions, nasty falling outs and petty arguments. And sure, there are things we can do to speed up recovery, as we strive to maintain healthy ties with those closest to us. We can have a conversation; sometimes, a simple apology does the trick. But just like CVS remedies, these things aren’t always the solution.

In situations where multiple conversations and attempted apologies only seem to aggravate a situation, sometimes it’s best to just let things be. Keep a distance. Don’t touch. Just like the skin, relationships often heal themselves over time.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

About Paige Affinito

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