I’ve always been a bit of a social misfit in one way or another but certainly when it comes to appearance. I think this particular misfit calling started with the pink National Health Specs given to me at age four in an attempt to sort out my astigmatism and lazy eye. Oh and the eye patches. They made me stand out a bit. Not the pizazz type standing out. I would also regularly break my glasses (probably passive aggressive ‘accidents’) and often they were held together by a plaster. It wasn't a look that overly helped me to fit in.
Then there was my mother’s insistence on cutting my fringe a) wonky and b) half way up my (alien bone down the middle) forehead. I know everyone has those tatty old photos with examples of mother’s coiffure love but my barely-a-fringe came with me into adolescence – which also added some greasy lankness which tended to stick it down flat. Not a great foundation to launch a lifetime's relationship with hair styling.
I also suffered from tooth overcrowding in the mouth. Until some teeth were removed and braces realigned those that remained, my face was a bit mouth heavy.
It was a good that I had personality.
But even after the face was 'remedied', I never managed to be a proper girl. Several, at various points in my life, attempted to entice me into the ‘making the best of yourself club’ by showing me how much better I looked if I had my hair cut, flicked my fringe, recognised that what I was wearing was a decade out of date and wiped the mud off my face – for example. But it never stayed with me. I really, really was never interested.
I was truly more into climbing trees, making mischief and building dens and ‘nice’ clothing, makeup and styled hair would always be wasted on me. Still would be – it’s different mischief now but dressing well would certainly inhibit it.
The point in my life when I probably took most care over my appearance was a ‘gothic’ phase in early adulthood. I had purple hair for a while but the main rule to abide by was that clothing had to be black. I guess that made things quite easy for me. A self-imposed uniform with no colour coordination concerns. I had nearly got wind of the whole colour coordination (and you don’t wear three patterns together) thing by this stage. This phase did pass though.
Then, years of, frankly, wearing other people’s hand-me-downs (often with holes) later, there was that programme: ‘What not to wear.’ I am not sure how many times I had to suffer the teaching assistants’ excitement at the idea of sending me on it to save me from myself.
‘Surely I was sad that I never dressed well? Surely I really wanted to look good but just did not know how to?’ they’d bleat again and again to me. But I would insist,
‘no I really don’t care.’ And I’d continued wearing my tracky bottoms. (One time I dressed up to show them I could – and it shut them up for a whole week.)
Now don’t get me wrong. This does not mean I don’t have preferences. If you showed me two outfits and asked me which I would prefer to wear – I’d give you an answer. And I can do a reasonable job, now, of looking smart for work although taming my hair and face and trying to leave the house crease, grease and smudge free is not my favourite bit of the day. And I can really admire someone who dresses well. I love looking at those women (and sometimes men) with their colour co-ordinated jewellery, smart clothes and shoes and stuff. It’s an art form.
Point is though - it might be selfish - but I don’t have to look at me do I?