In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Sausage and I have often equated motherhood with Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole. Everything is suddenly tangibly different, and even when you’ve got used to the idea of not having a lazy lie-in and leisurely brunch on a Saturday morning for the next thirteen years, you still feel like an entirely changed person. Also post-birth I found that most passing refreshments did indeed have an invisible label attached saying ‘eat me,’ a fact resulting in my current luxuriant size, but I suppose it doesn’t do to take these things too literally.
One thing that has changed for me – I hope not forever – is the way I feel when I look in the mirror. I was lucky enough to be allowed out for a hair cut recently. I love sitting in a chair uninterrupted for an hour, but that’s where the affection ends. I’m rubbish at strangerly chit-chat. I’m crap at being honest about whether the water is the right temperature (it never is! Why can’t I just say so?). They give you tea but you can’t drink it. Most of all, I detest sitting in with a towel round my shoulders, dripping-haired, in a starkly-lit salon in front of a fricking mirror. My very thick hair takes hours to hack through and even longer to dry, giving me the seemingly eternal opportunity to study and enumerate the hideousnesses of my face. I am only lucky that the voluminous hairdresser’s gown obliterates the rest of me from view and I only have a few seconds to contemplate it.
So, my face in the hairdresser’s mirror. Skin. Imagine the ‘wrong’ noise off Family Fortunes. Somehow, both dry, wrinkly and spotty. Eyelashes – thinning, and I can no longer ignore the fact that I am going a bit grey. My eyes, which I have always relied upon as my attractive stalwart in the devastation childbearing has wrought upon my body, seem to have shrunk into my head, glimmering faintly from the depths of their wrinkles and bags. My jawline was always frail but here with a towel around my neck it appears to require the last rites, and – oh God – I seem to have acquired an actual wattle.
My grandma was a fantastic beauty when young and her mirror-glancing pout and head-tilt remained until she was an old lady. We used to mimic it for a laugh, cruel children. My sister never looks in mirrors unless her eyes are half-closed, preferring to use nearby surfaces such as glass shop-fronts and spoons to check her appearance (and then wonders, horrified, why her head and her hip-span are the same size). My mum looks herself straight in the eye. I used to look in the mirror and think ‘yeah, I look ok,’ and sometimes even ‘yeah, nice’.
I have been thin only for a couple of years in my twenties – when I was following the cigarettes and beer diet – and beautiful, never. I mean, I used to scrub up ok and I think I was reasonably attractive. I hope I still am, somewhere, beneath the exhaustion and the small kids whining and the fact that having a shower in the morning is just such a massive pain in the arse that quite often I just don’t bother. Or is this it now? Is this the older lady face we get, that made my Grandma sigh at the mirror and means that no photo of my mother older than 40 and younger than 60 exists? Am i going to have to resign myself to having a fucking wattle?
Ziggler has a little mirror that she keeps in her (plastic) jewellery box. Sometimes, she takes it out and sings to herself. Often, she kisses her reflection. She, of course, is entirely beautiful, and she is full of self-love.
Eventually the hairdresser unravelled me from the towel and let me leave the stare of the mirror. And as I gave my head a good rumple just as I was out of view, I wondered if I’ve accidentally used a bit of my self-love up in loving my ravishing children, and what I could do about getting it back.
At least, I thought, as I headed home, at least for a day or two, there’s no doubt I’ve got lovely hair.