The Rear View


A Rear ViewI went to the theatre last night with a friend. We went to see a new play that had no reviews…. Enough said. But dinner afterwards was at Joe Allens in Exeter Street. Thirty years later, I could not remember where the loos were, but it all came flooding back as I descended into the brick walled room….. The drunken evenings, the cocaine in the toilets, the Bloody Marys, me and my friends at twenty something, rolling out of Rumours, the cocktail bar round the corner and staggering noisily into dinner at Joes. It was an institution and one that had slipped out of my thoughts completely.

As I sat down, I looked up into the room and there, a few tables away, still utterly resplendent was the beautiful Michelle Paradise, thirty years later. Time had folded and we were both still wearing red lipstick. Neither of us works in the industry where we met, but we have moved on into similar fields: the endless fascination with empowerment.

So the introduction is that I looked good. I had made an effort to go to the theatre: excellent haircut, slim, wearing a skirt I have not worn for 12 years, and a tight fitting black V necked T shirt.

As I brushed my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror I wondered what my new haircut looked like from the back. With an electric toothbrush still whizzing it’s way gaily round my jaw I turned to hold up a mirror to see the back of me. I have a certain way that I look at myself in the mirror. I lift my chin, slightly pull in my checks, tighten my belly and smile slightly. All of this is an attempt, mostly successful, to diminish the pain of looking at the parts of me that do not behave as I desire them to.

I will digress here… When my children were small, and my daughter had really long hair, I had this ongoing story about Invisible Pigs in velvet waistcoats and smoking hats that had combs dipped in honey. Every night they would dance around Isadora’s bed whilst she slept, tangling her hair with the honey dipped combs. It was a funny story that trailed along with us for years and if Isadora tripped over, she had fallen over an Invisible Pig.

I now know that the Invisible Pigs have a new remit: Adjust the flesh on my body in areas that I cannot change, flex or suck in. Make sure the changes are permanent, depressing and true to type.

So I return to last night, the tooth brush whirring away but slowing down as my gaze swept across my 51 year old rear view. Damme, frankly. Not what I want others to see or know is going on as I gaily trip out of the room, walk away, storm off, turn to do something else or present my back whilst I work, cook, read, or any number of other daily tasks that require my attention to be turned away from the gaze of the person looking at me.

I jest, in a way, I do.

I do not enjoy the ageing process, tis true, but I am doing it quite well considering all the drink, drugs, mayhem, smoking, sunbathing and hooliganism that my life has largely consisted of. It is just that when I look at the front, as long as I am concentrating, I have quite a lot of control over it all….. my mirror face is good. But the back, my back, the chocolate mousse under the arms, the bra lines, the waist, there is no way that I can bend it to my will.

Coming back to the mirror, I exhaled, released about thirty muscles down the front of my body, took a long hard look at me now, shrugged, put down the mirror, released the toothbrush from it’s slavery and went to bed thinking about time, thirty years ago and the horror of 51 year old under arm flesh.

The only good news, according to the delightful woman at Rigby & Peller, the Queens Brassier Constructors, is that all women have it…. But that does not make me feel any better about it. A long flared coat is the only way forward……