I have never been beautiful. And, of course, my appearance has deteriorated over time. It is something I have become used to. When I look in the mirror these days, and that is not very often, I am not surprised by what I see. Nor am I disappointed, as I have given up hope of catching myself in a good light.
Let me tell you what I see. First, the shape of my head is noticeably irregular, with a medium-sized bump just in front of the crown. Next, my forehead is lined. It always has been, ever since I can remember. People used to say I must be a deep thinker. Only some of them were being kind. Now the lines are deeper, but the traces they follow date back to my school days, when they did not go unnoticed by bullies. My eyes are large and green; some might say they are intelligent eyes, that they are insightful or sincere. I have learned not to set much store by what other people say.
I have meagre lashes, but it is usually boys who have the lavish kind. My nose is straight and my mouth is full. My hair is mousy, fine and thin. I used to buy shampoo for flyaway hair, when I believed in such nonsense. When I was young, I wanted thick, straight blond hair, like my friend Lizzy’s. We all want what we can’t have.
There is perhaps nothing so far to complain about very much, you might say.
And so I come to my moles: the unnatural, crawling growths that spread themselves over the side of my face and the underside of my jaw. If you could see me now, you would probably recoil. I have noticed that even the most educated, the most sympathetic person has difficulty in hiding the innate disgust my moles excite in them. Ah yes. Disgust is not too harsh a word, I can assure you. And the others? Those who make no attempt to hide their feelings towards me? They cannot help themselves, but stare in horror at what they see, as they sit on the bus clutching their shiny, plastic bags full of new things or as they push their wholesome choices around the supermarket. Young children are the worst. I do not admire their honesty, as their obsequious parents do.
My moles. My nevi. How can I describe them? I should say they are more or less dark brown in colour, although there are two above my left eye that are noticeably lighter. My husband called them Castor and Pollux. All have a rubbery, soft texture and, apart from one large mole near my ear, are hairless. The one near my ear has short, thick hairs that bristle untidily. My husband had a name for this one too. He loved me too much. He couldn’t help it. None of us can choose whom we love.
What more can I tell you? That I am ambivalent to my nevi? That Castor and Pollux are my favourites? That I like them for being different? You may think this kind of reasoning is strange and I wouldn’t blame you. I can only explain it as a truth, a principle that has grown inside me as my moles have swelled and spread; have become part of my life. Now, I am not sure I could be separated from them.
There was a time when I believed my mother loved me. A time when she called me beautiful and, because I was not yet self-aware, I let myself be preened and cosseted in exchange for the comfort I felt from the warm glow of her approval. I did not notice how she suffered. I did not recognise the mortification that lay beneath her smile.
However, a story must start somewhere nearer its beginning, and so I will go back and show myself more clearly to you, before I reveal what I have done. I expect that you will judge me.