In which I assess my newly single self
WHEN YOU ARE newly single, you find yourself taking stock. Do I have a beard? Am I insane? Do I really want to get naked in front of a strange man for the first time, again? Do I really want to be putting both legs over my shoulders like a pretzel in order to have a Hollywood wax?
The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. I think my body is putting less effort into growing my eyebrows and putting its back into making the rest of my face hirsute. I find myself wondering, as I paint on M2 Beauté brow serum each night, whether there is a time in a woman’s life when she isn’t battling the elements. It would have been nice (and restful!) to have just had a week, perhaps, when I was not suffering from acne, lack of body hair and breasts, greasy roots coupled with split ends, greying tooth enamel, open pores, weakening eyesight and hearing, cellulite, sun damage, grey roots, desiccated skin, too much leg hair and then too much breast, Captain Pugwash tramlines at the side of my nose, broken capillaries, strange speckles on the backs of my hands, thinning lips, wrinkles and a concertinaed forehead. I could go on but perhaps my memory is failing me as well. I could mention, too, the misery of the menopause, but for me it never happened. Just as I never went through puberty – not really, just one scant period when I was 18 – so I never noticed when my hormones left the building. Not one hot flush.
I’ve been rebuilt, pretty much. Breast reduction, hand rejuvenation, face-lift, blepharoplasty, laser eye surgery, tooth veneers, brow tattoos, filler and Botox, and now, today, two state-of-the art hearing aids. I’m thinking about having a new treatment that regrows your gums. God only knows how much black dye has been slathered on my scalp (my roots now have to be retouched weekly) or Clarins fake tan applied to my limbs with a mitt. Some people are transsexual, I seem to be transracial: I’ve become darker over the years. The locals here believe I’m a Michael Jackson tribute act.
And in the same way I’ve been wondering why on earth I’ve worked so hard for more than 30 years, with not one day off sick, so too have I been wondering what all this harvesting and honing has been for. It’s as though I’ve been studying for an exam, but with no certificate at the end; not even a marriage licence. Men have never found me attractive, despite all of the above; David is (or was, more like) only keen as he’s worried he won’t get anyone else before he dies. My personality is offputting, too: a combination of Monica Geller (hyper-clean) and Eeyore when he’s having a really bad day.
I am now at the hearing clinic. I’m handed my hearing aids. It’s a defeat, in a way. Being deaf and nervous because I’m deaf is who I am. I will no longer be the person who walks away when someone is speaking to me. I will no longer turn to my dinner companion and ask, ‘What did he say?’ I am taught how to put them in. They will turn themselves up gradually over the course of the next four weeks as I become used to hearing but already I can hear paper rustling, workmen outside. The audiologist stands behind me and speaks: I can hear her without lip reading! We download the app to my phone so calls go straight to my ears. There is even a party setting, so I can hear in a crowded room. And a music setting: it has been years since I listened to music. The only downside is that I now hear my voice as others hear it. Much as I hate my reflection, I cannot stand the sound of my own voice. I remember what the artist Tracey Emin told me. ‘Liz, I had to get over not liking the sound of my own name. You have to learn to do that, too.’
I’ve always been a tad pessimistic (I can now hear the hollow laughter). When I had collagen very painfully pumped in my lips in the mid 90s, the nurse told me sternly not to kiss a man for 24 hours. ‘Fat chance!’ I told her. Now no one will ever have to talk dirty loudly to me again. Question is, will any man want to whisper it?
“MEN HAVE NEVER FOUND ME ATTRACTIVE. I’M LIKE EEYORE WHEN HE’S HAVING A BAD DAY”