When I first started work at Current Workplace, five-and-a-half years ago, I had my photograph taken for the ‘these are your friendly library
slaves drudges victims scapegoats staff’ noticeboard. This week, they were all taken down so the noticeboard could be used for saner things than enabling stalking and personal abuse. We were each given our photograph to take home/burn/bin/stick in a drawer. I took mine home to show to H.
It’s the oddest thing. I’ve been walking past that photograph several times a day every day for the past five+ years, and I had never, in all that time, really stopped to look at it (except to notice that my job-title has been wrong for the past two years, oh well). And now, having it in my hands, I naturally gave it a good hard stare. And it shocked me. And when I showed it to H, he sighed, and agreed, gently, kindly, but he agreed:
Oh, Gentle Readers. Oh, but the past five years have been hard on my face.
Item – My hair used to be nearly waist-length. It was magnificent hair. Now it bloody refuses to get much past shoulder-blade, because it’s so frazzled and brittle it keeps breaking off before it can grow much longer. It often looks like hay. Anaemia can cause dry, weak brittle hair, as well as hair loss. I am anaemic quite often (have blood tests to prove it) because my periods are stupidly lavish and I tend to haemorrhage with vigour when I miscarry, even when my goddamn period isn’t even late as such, yet. For the past five years I have been taking prenatal multivitamins and minerals, and despite my weirdness about food I do eat a lot of vegetation and fruit and healthy stuff like eggs and lean meat, oh, and Omega-3 supplements, so I am doing my best, I swear, and I still look like Worzel Gummidge and I used to look like Lady Godiva (though I tend to dress… more).
Item – My skin, my face, was so smooth. Porcelain smooth, clear, blemish-free, mustache-free, faintly and prettily rosy at the cheeks. I looked all of 21. I was 30, in this photo, and I looked like one of the more kitten-faced students. Nowadays, I look, on a good day, err, 35. Which I am. On a bad day (i.e. most of them), I am a bizarre cross of raddled, hirsute, and acne-blasted. Like a very tired John Waters who has just been savaged by plum-sized mosquitoes. Fucking hormones.
Item – When I was 30, before the trying to get and/or stay pregnant madness, I weighed about a stone-and-a-half more than I do now (that’s 21 pounds, or 9.5 kilos, to those not singing from the British weight-chart). And in this photo, why, yes, I do look really rather chubby. But, and this really shocked me, I look cute. I really was cute as this. I look at myself in the mirror now, and I just look tired. And grumpy. What the hell, Universe? What happened to all the endless bullshit about thinness=cuteness? Oh, it really is bullshit, is it? HA.
So in five years, I have aged, um (does sums) fourteen years in appearance. OK, so I cheated by looking considerably younger than I actually was to start with, but this? It sucks. My Mum looks young and lovely for her age. My aunts look young and lovely for their ages (except for the vegan yoga-nut who thinks my health problems can solved by fasting and enemas. She looks mummified). My grandmother did not look anywhere near 80 when she died, aged 80. My paternal grandfather is about nine hundred and seven years old and is still plays tennis, twinkling his eyes and teeth at the ladies like Gary Cooper. I was cheerfully expecting much the same for myself (well, maybe not like Gary Cooper). I had The Genes, damn it. And look, look what grief has done to me. Grief and pain and blood-loss, over and over again. And now I look like I’m scowling in pain even when I’m fine. The skin around my eyes is lined and shadowed. And I have acne scars on my neck and chin. One on my lower back that I think will be permanent. (My back was beautiful).
I’m never going to get my smooth baby-face back. But I’d like my long, shining hair back, I’d like the clear, hairless skin back, and, most of all, oh, most of all, I’d like that sweet, bright, wry, and above all untarnished smile back.