My sweet face

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.


17 responses to “My sweet face

  • Lulu

    Fucking PCOS. It makes me ugly, too. The acne, the hair, all of it. I am still really young but totally ugly. I always say I’ll never have any good skin time, since I’ll go straight from acne to wrinkles. BOOO PCOS.

    BUT I have to say that through reading your blog I’ve decided I love you, and I think the chances of me loving someone who maybe looks younger but isn’t nearly as witty or lovely or strong as you…are not so much.

  • Bionic Baby Mama

    illness sucks. sometimes i look at pictures of my mother with her sisters and am shocked by the reminder that she used to look like them, not like the much older version of them.

    when i first met sugar’s mom, i thought she was…. well, i’m not going to say it on the internet, even under an assumed name. her mother looked better, how about. BUT. things changed. her meds changed or something, she got healthier (and got rid of the unfortunate hair dye), and now she looks great. my point is that not everything in this department is permanent. you tell that H he needs to be cooking you steak regularly, FOR YOUR HEALTH.

  • Bumbling

    I don’t remember any of those faults. Granted, I didn’t examine you in minute detail, but you looked beautiful – with amazing hair – and I didn’t notice any scowls. Well, apart from deliberately directed ones…

    I have no doubt that grief and blood-loss have changed you, inside and out. But we don’t all see what you see.

    So it’s a diet of steak, spinach and, um, irn bru? from now on… (the Scot in me never dies)

  • Betty M

    I absolutely don’t discount the effects on the self of hair and skin issues – radical hair thinning and skin stuff have been the most miserable side of my lupus even though medically they receive a mere ho hum not important – but if I were to pick what I want you to get back first it would be the smile.

    And your hair sounds fabulous even in this year’s version.

  • Erica Douglas

    Oh, honey, my heart is breaking for all you’ve been through in the last five years. I hope the next five years put lots and lots of smiles on your face.

  • Laurel

    Well, it sounds as if you have lived through about fourteen years’ worth of *stuff* in the past five. The smile–well, you can’t unlearn life experience, and I guess the older we get, the more all of us have reasons for a little tarnish. No question you’ve had much more than your share, terribly and unfairly so. But I do so hope that in a few years you will have relief from the anemia, the hormones may have evened out [I have inherited AWFUL skin, so I feel your pain there; but it does seem like its condition still varies drastically depending on season, time of life, hormonal stuff, etc.] and you will feel less at war with your physical self.

    Perhaps then you will be able to say that your smile isn’t tarnished but … I don’t know… has a nice patina? Urgh, no, that’s not right. But sometimes there is a beauty and joy that comes after going through awfulness, and I wish that for you, inside and out. I don’t think you will always be in this hard, aging place.

  • a

    I don’t think you can get the tarnish off the smile, but I think you can get the sweet and the wry and definitely the bright. Aging sucks in general, but when it’s sped up due to stress and unpleasantness, it’s so much more demoralizing. And the hair…sometimes it just takes a trip to a good hairdresser.

    You can’t go back in time, but your smile probably has a much more interesting cast to it than it did 5 years ago – because you clearly treasure the moments that make it appear.

  • wombattwo

    Well I’ve got to say, I think your hair is fabulous as it is. Though if it was waist-length, I can only say wow, that must have been gorgeous. Jealous!
    Re: weight, well I’m of the opinion that everyone has a weight that they look best at, and sometimes being skinny doesn’t suit that particular person. Take, um, Sophie Dahl for example. She was gorgeous, voluptuous, curvy. then she lost that weight and just looks pretty ordinary in my opinion. Admittedly very doe-eyed still, but ordinary.
    I’m not sure if you’re into things like this, but sometimes going to a spa, having a facial, pampering yourself makes you feel better, especially from a “I look old and tired and my skin is crap” point of view. Just a thought.
    I wanted to say something deep and meaningful about grief, and beauty being about far more than appearance, and sometimes that the oldest souls are the most beautiful, but I don’t know quite how to put it, so I’ll just send virtual tea instead.

    • Hairy Farmer Family

      Yes. Spending money on one’s appearance is seldom money down the drain when it’s not something you generally make a habit of. I have found that a massage, a haircut, (mine is slightly better behaved in breakages terms than yours, but still a fully-fledged comb-eater), some nice-quality new clothes, attacking the eyebrows avec tweezers, new jewellery and some make up (which I then proceed never to WEAR) can all make a difference to one’s sense of self. Superficial, yes, but I’ve had the sense that some of it does permeate down into feel-better factor.

  • manapan

    Oh, honey. You’ve lived through more in the past five years than anyone should ever have to. I’ve been reading long enough to have a general idea what you look like, and in my head you are adorable. Cuter than a baby mouse with a tiny piece of cheese! And I bet the people lucky enough to know you in real life would agree.

  • twangy

    (I thought you looked much younger than your years.)

  • Korechronicles

    Coco Chanel said something about nature giving you the face you have at twenty and then it’s up to you to merit the face you have at fifty. I think the thirties (can I remember back that far? Wait. Wait. No, nothing there) are when experience begins to show on both face and body.

    Life, while absolutely teeming with magic moments, is interspersed with sheer gruelling hard slog. Like your reflection in the mirror now shows the hard work of grief and pain, you can trust me when I tell you that eventually the joy will return. And it doesn’t matter which incarnation you are in at the moment, you are already and always beautiful.

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