How to Apply Makeup

“My scars are too deep, too wide, too fucked up to be smoothed over.” So writes Nicole Shawan Junior in this moving, deeply personal essay about their experience with dermatillomania, a cousin of obsessive compulsive disorder.

At Smith, these wealthy, mostly white, women make me realize I’m piss poor. I try to believe the American meritocratic promise: despite the racism and classism that grip my neck like a vise, I’ll escape poverty as long as I earn top grades while among these women who’ve attended top private schools their entire lives and have trust funds larger than Mama’s life earnings. But this shit is making me hate myself.

I go to Gillett’s third floor communal bathroom, stare at my reflection in the mirror, and pop the zits that are increasingly showing up on my face, chest, back, and arms. I’m obsessed. I pick my pimples while picking at my intelligence, personality, my socioeconomic class, my Blackness: You don’t belong here. Why did you say that in class, dumb ass? Why didn’t you check that professor? Why couldn’t you just let that racist-ass statement go? Why didn’t you call out that classist statement for what the fuck it was? Why can’t you just shut your ghetto ass up?

Published: Feb 24, 2022
Length: 25 minutes (6,300 words)