Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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The Thumbs Up

I've had pretty bad acne lately. Lately, as in, the past ten years. Never a zit in junior high or high school but round about age twenty they attacked with a vengeance. And when they attack I can't help but defend myself. No, not so much defend myself as fight back, usually in the worst way possible. I've been known to use needles, safety pins and yes, once, in a pinch, I jacked up my chin with a thumbtack. Really, I can't be stopped. Much like some kind of athlete or performer, I go into a kind of zone when popping zits and you'd have to tie me up to stop me. So yeah, Britney gets in the zone to lip sync, Michael Phelps gets in the zone to be the best swimmer in the world and I excel at popping zits.

But my mad acne popping skills aren't the point here. Well, kind of...I'm getting there.

Last week I'd attacked my face and then had to face the consequences at work the next day. You know, giant scabs on my chin, periodic oozing. Sometimes, you can dot a little eyeliner on a zit and pass it off as a mole. Not these. What I mean to say here is my chin looked like a small, feral animal had landed on my face and maniacally massacred my chin before leaping off and running away.

The human resources department, also known as Janet, has been requesting we re-enroll in health care so we don't lose it. For much of October I'd been receiving this dire warning via loudspeaker, signs posted on the restroom and email. Why we have to re-enroll, even if we didn't want to change a thing about our health care, is beyond me but long ago I stopped questioning any workplace policies choosing either to do as told and make sure everyone knows about my compliance or, you know, NOT do as told and make sure no one knows of my transgression.

Stick with me here, I suppose this one requires a lot of exposition. So I was filling out my enrollment form and came to a part that confused me. Of course. These things are never easy, are they? I still can't fill out a W4 form without the assistance of at least four people. What number should I put here? If I put this will they take more or less out of my paycheck? What did you put? Is my husband a dependent? WHY ARE THEY STEALING ALL MY MONEY?!

I left the newsroom in search of The Human Resources Department A.K.A. Janet. Now, to get to Janet's office you have to pass the front desk. A security guard mans the desk full-time during the day fending off the crazies who think news anchors are speaking directly to them, the usual nutters. I don't know the security guard but I'd heard talk of his exuberance in the thumbs up area. Now, I'm not a big fan of the High Five or the Thumbs Up. I've been known to engage in a Fist Bump a time or two but I just can't get behind the High Five. I don't find much at work to High Five about and feel that a simple "Good Job" will always suffice. Still, people persist with the High Fiving, and really, that's great, you and your High Five. It's just not for me. And have you ever tried to get out of high fiving? It can't be done without looking like a Grade A douchebag. But following through with a High Five makes me feel like a Grade A douchebag so I'm always torn when this little workplace scenario presents itself to me. Mostly I capitulate and High Five about the basket of cookies a business sent to the newsroom or I High Five about how many unique users logged onto our website at work or I High Five about Jenny's birthday cake. And I lose a small piece of my soul each time. But you wouldn't know it. My mind screams NOOOOO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NOOOOO but my face says GREAT WORK, EVERYONE! HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND.

Stupid High Five.

But it wasn't the High Five today, it was th most exuberant Thumbs Up I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing in my life. Directed at me, from the security guard. Not just a Thumbs Up, a Double Thumbs Up. Let's be clear here; I don't know this man, have never spoken to him in my life. I'd just peeped in The Human Resource Department's office and Janet wasn't there. I was walking back down the hall and in doing so, was directly facing the glass doors that lead to the front waiting room where the security guard sits behind a desk. I'm walking, minding my own business when I happen to glance his way. He was ready. He looks at me all serious-like and executes one of the biggest, most intense Double Thumbs Up I've ever seen. The kind that requires him to bounce his fists and thumbs up and down really hard to accentuate the Thumbs Up. You feel me? It was such an intense Double Thumbs Up that I was startled into automatically responding with a Double Thumbs Up in spite of myself.

And then I rounded the corner. I paused to let the following conversation play out in my head: Was he serious? I think he was serious! Nah, he was just being ironic. Like, Doesn't-Work-Suck-But-Here-We-Both-Are-Doing-Our-Work-Thang-Even-Though-Work-Sucks? Yeah, it was a sarcastic thumbs up. Right? No ma'am. That was a deadly serious Double Thumbs Up. A Here-We-Are-On-The-Job-And-Ain't-Life-Grand Thumbs Up. I couldn't let it go, this intense Double Thumbs Up from a stranger.

At this point a co-worker wandered by.
"Hey! Has that security dude every given you the Thumbs Up?"
"Who? Oh, him. Nope. No Thumbs Up."

Was this Thumbs Up especially for me? Did I just unknowingly enter myself in some sort of Thumbs Up Hello Program with the security guard? I thought I remembered hearing talk of this Thumbslinger, the security guard, and his affection for the Thumbs Up but I couldn't be sure so I went in search of a few test subjects.

"Psssst! MAX! RYAN!" I stage-whispered to a couple fellas in the newsroom. "C'MERE!" I motioned for them to follow me.

"So listen, I'm testing the security guard's Thumbs Up and I need you to pretend like you're checking if Janet's in her office then walk back down the hall and tell me what the security guard does." Neither boy seemed surprised at my workplace shenanigans and did as I asked. I waited around the corner, anxiously watching their faces as they walked down the hall to see how they reacted.

"So? Did you get the Thumbs Up?"

Neither got a Thumbs Up.

It was about this time, AFTER we'd been talking for five minutes, that Ryan decided to inform me that I had a little something on my face. A little something. I thought he meant, like, a piece of fluff or shirt lint so I leaned in and told him to brush it off.

"Um, no? You have blood running down your chin."

I bolted for the green room and he was right. The zit I'd mangled the night before had begun oozing blood. Oh, I wish I was kidding, you guys. I'm deadly fucking serious. Here I'd been gallivanting all over the goddamn building raving about the Thumbs Up and running Thumbs Up tests and a good chunk of coworkers had probably observed my bloody chin and said NOTHING! I'm not talking a small trickle either.

I spent the next half-hour with a wet blob of Kleenex attached to my face, blotting the blood like I'd cut myself shaving. Then a well-intentioned co-worker gave me a small, round Band-Aid. So that might have been my most embarrassing day at work, ever. Wait, no, this was. But it's over with. I hope. Maybe I've unwittingly entered myself into some sort of demoralizing Thumbs Up Hello Program? I'll keep you posted.

Reader Comments (17)

this is the funniest thing i have ever read. seriously, sitting her laughing. partly because i know ryan and can see his face. as for the acne, check your birth control. chin zits are usually hormonal. see ya monday!

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I thought maybe he just liked your new bangs.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkacy

i agree. this might be the best blog post i have ever read. so f'ing hllarious!!! and relatable...i was a waitress a few years ago and had spent an epic night picking zits the night before (like you, i could be an olympic champ, maybe not my proudest skill) and was going about my business from table to table...i walk in the kitchen and glance at my reflextion and see blood running down my cheek. MORTIFYING....i tried to stop it, but it kept bleeding for what felt like hours (but probably more like minutes)....

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpeach

Oh my god. And I thought my squeezing was bad.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I hate high-fives too. I work from home now, but when I was actually in the office my bosses were always high-fiving each other and occasionally us employees when we got new contracts. It was embarrassing, but you can't really not high-five your boss. A thumbs up would be just as bad.

Mostly I wanted to tell you that I just spent a lot of time laughing so hard I cried (instead of working) reading this and the post you linked to (Flow Knows), which was also really horrifying. There is no other more terrifying fear than knowing you're leaking . . . possibly onto your boyfriend's parents' couch. I'm sorry those things happened to you, but just think of all the good you're doing by entertaining us all with it!

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBailey


I used to have HORRIBLE acne, like all over my face--the literal pizza face, cystic, constant acne! I went on Acutane for a few years and it helped A LOT, but that stuff is pretty much poisen and you can only take it 1--3 times in your ENTIRE life! So, I used EVERYTHING possible--over the counter, Rx's, creams, gels, pills, topical treatments, Neutrogena Acne Kit (worked pretty well actually, at least for the first year!), Proactiv (made it 100 times worse to the point where people actually said "what's wrong with your face? Yeah, horrible), generic Acne kits, Murad Acne whatever the heck it is......combos of other acne products, etc, etc, etc.....and then one day, I picked up some Oil of Olay Regenerist Cleanser and Olay Regenerist Serum (Fragrance Free) and took a very SERIOUS skin evaluation. I found out that my skin IS acne prone, but also extremely sensitive, prone to wrinkling and the DEFINITION of COMBINATION--super oily t-zone, super dry cheek bones....I got a list of ingredients to make sure I no longer put on my skin, started using OIL FREE face lotions/moiturizers, even went ORGANIC with most of my skin care, and only washed my face once or twice a day.

And the funny thing is, when I STOPPED using ANTI-ACNE products, my skin cleared up! So I'd try that.

I give my face the moisture it needs, but I don't over moistiruze--I ALWAYS wash my makeup off at night, and now use mineral makeup, NO ICKY CHEMICALS from powder and foundation on my face anymore--it's helped tremendously!

My best advice is to try different NON ACNE products, use Q-TIPS to squeeze your zits (it's more sanitary and cleaner) and switch to mineral makeup. Wet N' Wild makes a great one for only $5.99 a jar, it's actually pretty nice!

Also, most of us have an AREA (your chin for you--my forehead for me; or lately, around my nose) where we break out more than others--only put the anti-acne stuff on THAT part of your face--or on the zits individually--not your entire face.

Another huge thing, I've noticed that ANY SPF (aside from the one in my mineral makeup) makes me break out--it's horrible, but it does. So I let my SPF in my mineral makeup be my sunscreen on my face and limit my sun exposure. I'm not advocating not using an SPF on your face, just know that it CAN cause some people to break out.

I also keep a skin diary and I would reccomend the same for you; I know you're super busy with a job, husband and kid--but sometimes, just like some people keep a food diary (I don't), a skin diary, I've found, is extremely helpful! The skin diary keeps track of what products you use, how many times a day you've touched your face, how many times you wash it and what products make it break out more than others. When I did that, that's when I noticed that SPF was a major culprit of my breakouts, so I stopped using it.

When I DO get a bad breakout now--which is during PMS or extremely stressful times--stress does it to everyone--I play up my EYE makeup, wear exceptionally beautiful jewelry (not expensive, most of my jewerly is fake & has cost me not even $10)--and make sure my hair is at least fixed and together--that way it takes the focus off my face a little bit. And I know this sounds ridiculous, but orgasms HELP me tremdendously. I'm not saying sex is the cure, but you've heard of the "orgasmic glow" and I think it's true. Not that you need to be having sex all the time, but chemicals, hormones and other things are released and re-balanced with an orgasm, seriously, I've read about it. It's something to think about.

I think we've ALL had acne at one time or another, and some people get it as adults. Also, having Violet could have triggered it since being pregnant and having a baby messes with your hormones entirely! Nothing you can do about that, she was totally worth it, right?

Oh and I know people say it doesn't matter what you eat--fatty, sugary foods--but I disagree;for me, when I eat more FRESH foods--fruits, veggies, drink water, my skin DOES look better. Not that sugar and fat CAUSE acne, but I don't think they help it either. Just saying.

I hope you realize that you're not alone, I feel your pain and so do so very many others! Your brave to share this story, and I commend you for it. I hope my tips have helped! Good luck & hang in there--pimples are not, we are ALL beautiful, especially you!

Many Blessings,
-Sarah Liz :)

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Liz

Oh & about the Thumbs Up & High Fives--I don't mind high fives, I don't like thumbs's seems childish to me, but whatever.

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Liz


November 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercitizen

Another adult acne sufferer here. Tried all kinds of stuff, proactive, OTC stuff, you name it. Crazy enough the only, and I mean ONLY thing that has made any difference is olive oil. Yep, the stuff you cook with. I bet you have some in your kitchen right now.

I saw this method linked from a blog however long ago and, while I am not acne free, it's exponentially better than ever. My husband even notices.

If you're like me you will be gagging at the idea of purposefully rubbing oil on your face, but if you can stomach through it, it's worth it.

(make sure you use fresh oil)

November 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWindyLou

try these green series, called "normaderm" --->, it helps me A LOT! and definitely! don't touch any, I'm saying any of these fucking zits :), the more you touch the more will be appeared, dermatologist said to me the other day a few years ago, and I fought with myselef :) hardly but worthy and as SarahLiz said try not to eat spicy and salty food for a while
and despite those unforeseen circumstances this is so good and funnies seen zits problem :) best!

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterana_jo

Sounds like you and I could spend a fun Friday night in front of our magnifying mirrors. I can't stop myself either.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSadie

You're like a modern day Lucy Ricardo at work.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

had the same kind of hard core situation... but instead of blood it was a big old booger sittin right there in the ole nostril...huge! and I had been talkin to everyone.

November 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermama

I think this is where you really shine as a writer Monica. This is your voice, completely raw, unique and while truly deeply funny, also tender in its raw humanity, And fyi, you are (obviously) not alone:

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLL

I'll see your thumbtack and raise you a cuticle nipper!

I am going to send you in the same direction as LL:

Probably the most errr, intriguing (as in train wreck you can't take your eyes away from):

The best part? There are 4 parts!!

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

This is hilarious :)

I had the opposite thing happen once: I fell off my bike (yes, I AM an adult), landed on my chin (yes, OW) and had a HUGE angry red mark on the lower portion of my face. The next day one of my coworkers says: Do you have a pimple? Do you need a bandaid? I was like: No, I almost broke my face. I don't think a bandaid will help.

I guess it looked like I had a really big pimple :)

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShauna

I've got the adult acne as well, going on birth control has helped quite a bit, but I'm interested in trying some of the other suggestions here. Just had a bad breakout me-self with a couple oozers, I don't have much self control when it comes to picking and end up making things 10x worse often enough. I'm the only one of my friends it seems that struggles with acne, not fun.

November 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenters'dizzle

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