Monday, July 14, 2008

looking for lisa

While moving home recently, I stumbled across some writing from when I was sixteen, and indeed, hadn’t thought about since I was sixteen. One in particular I had forgotten I had written, but remember what drove me to write it like it was yesterday. My then-boyfriend’s habit of buying FHM every month, issues slowly stacking up under the bed, was really starting to nark me. I, frankly, found it hard to believe that he really wanted to know what Lisa Faulkner had to say about being in Holby City (he didn't watch it), and indeed, he was more interested in seeing what she looked like in her underwear. In fact, it upset me so much that I can pretty much draw every single one of the photographs in the “article”. I spent a good two years after this trying to work out how I could pass my A levels, solve the corruption that came with globalisation and look like a girl would look like, if she was in FHM.

I still can’t go out without my make-up on (even at Glastonbury) and preferably not without my hair straightened or a body coated in head-to-toe Johnson’s “Holiday Skin™”. I panic and skip my meals if I look in the mirror and the tops of my thighs touch. I regularly check my skinny jeans (which I never wear) to make sure I can still pour myself into them without lying down to do the top button up. When I was a teenager, I was so fraught about this kind of thing that I picked up every high-achiever’s favourite sickness, the big A, and spent my late teens waiting for my body to successfully menstruate again. Fun, huh? The minute it did, I got acne. Brilliant. (That's gone now, thank god, but I'm typing this while I've got my facepack on.)

The bizarre thing is, in order to counteract this daily obsession, I deliberately cultivate a very scruffy, bookish, outwardly tom-boyish appearance, for fear that anyone “serious” might rumble me for being a primping, preening girlie. So I spend ages plucking, waxing, styling, glossing, painting and blow-drying, only to throw on six-year-old jeans and an ink-stained t-shirt, ’cos god forbid anyone finds out I actually care what I look like. I want to curl up and die of embarrassment if my boss catches me reapplying mascara in the toilets after work. In my line of work, the comma, not the kohl, is key. I rail against the body fascism of everything from Cosmopolitan to Playboy in front of my friends and colleagues, and then pinch my stomach fat and have a cigarette.

All of this is stupid, but to try and stop thinking this way now is like telling me to stop drinking. I know it’s not all that good for me, and I probably do it far far too much, but, er, if I don’t do it, something bad might happen… I mean, it’s normal, isn’t it?

One of my best friends has recently had a baby daughter. Bemoaning the fact that even at four weeks old, we can’t help but praise her beauty and cuteness, I asked my friend what she thought she could do to stop her daughter getting screwed up over trying to be pretty. My friend was very sensible and stoical. Nothing. She’ll try to reinforce her daughter’s sense of her self, and how clever, resourceful, kind, funny and sensitive she is, etc etc etc, and try to limit comments, both praising and damning, about the physical appearance of herself, her daughter and all other women in general…and hope for the best.

Until she buys her first copy of Cosmo and starts finding phantom cellulite that she’s far too young to have, that is.

Fact remains, if you’re female, it doesn’t matter if you’re intelligent, articulate, charming, talented, good, vivacious, strong, creative, kind, determined, principled, organized or witty. Blah blah blah. Of course, all those things help. But if you don’t look like Angelina Jolie/Kate Moss/Lisa Faulkner/Jessica Alba/Jenna Jameson sometimes it feels like it doesn’t really matter all that much.

And even if you are beautiful, FHM and the men of Great Britain might only rate you at #56 in its list of #100 women, anyway. So, tough.

I look nothing like Lisa Faulkner, so that edition of FHM hurt like hell, because if my boyfriend thought she was pretty, what did he think of me? I now know that, although my ex-boyfriend found Lisa Faulkner attractive, he no more wanted me to look like her than he wanted me to star in a primetime BBC hospital drama series. But it still hasn’t stopped me trying to look a little bit more like her, and a little bit less like me, even though I know it’s basically impossible.

What a stupid, crushing bore. There are books I could be reading while I do this. Or worse, books I should be writing while my GHDs heat up.

I am not ill. I am not lonely. I am not impoverished. I have a job I love, and wonderful friends and family close by. I have a lovely boyfriend. I even occasionally get chatted up in bars or bookshops by people who’ve forgotten their spectacles or had too much to drink. But I’m still plagued by the worry that all of these things will disappear if the tops of my thighs touch when I put my feet together. I don’t care if smoking gives me cancer. I care if it makes me look old. It means more to me that I get wolf-whistled in the street than if my boss tells me I’ve done a good job.

But then, I can at least say to myself, “Darling, you’re excellent at copywriting,” or “Wow, you know a shitload about Hemingway”, but I can’t ever look at myself and think “Hey, did you used to be in Holby City?”


At 15 July, 2008 06:30 , OpenID sashagoblin said...

You know, love, that makes a *lot* of sense. And I thinkI'd picked up on most of it, even though we've never talked about it. Which we should at some point. Soon. (I don't just mean ED, I mean *everything*).


Much love & respect. thanks for saying it..

At 15 July, 2008 07:34 , Blogger darling vicarage said...

aw, thanks goblin. (wow, my friends are great...and really quick)

At 16 July, 2008 18:47 , OpenID sashagoblin said...

:o) *hugs* we do try...

...and i'dreally like to see you atsome point, if you'rearound??


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