| Self Portrait
Her father’s curls, which despite tantrums
at the hairdressers, mother kept shorn, citing
Julie Andrews and Twiggy as cropped haired
beauties. At 16, she entered a hair growing
contest with Rapunzel. But her adult locks were
neither curly nor straight and refused to learn new
styles painstakingly copied from magazines,
‘Lazy hair’ the stylist at Vidal Sassoon labelled it
like a teacher issuing a bad school report.
Now middle aged she owns £100 straighteners
powerful as industrial laundry irons. Nevertheless
needs conjurer’s props of hats and scarves to repel
damp that still spins her hair into candyfloss.
Her father’s skin too, waking up one morning
at 13 to find the acne fairy had paid out generously,
coating a glaze of grease over her face like candied fruit.
Class mates who had blossomed into Jenny Agutter
were entertained by her lunchtime application of
phlegm green mask followed by the monstrous
peeling of her face like a Roald Dahl witch.
At 30 her epidermis became hysterical, defending
itself from so much as a dirty look by throwing a
tough carapace over every injury. Until her upper
body is littered with scars like botched tattoos.
For years she ignored her boyish breasts like a mental
double mastectomy. No attempts made with push up
bras to put them on display for fear of glimpsing
an extra bump. Jumped as if touching another woman’s
when she brushed them with her hand. And like a
Victorian prude never looked at them. Then at 40
nature gave her a boob job confirming unfortunately
that she has her mother’s breasts. Attempts at self
examination find their touch loathsome as dead flesh.
Envies women who joyfully pet theirs like puppies,
because hers are a pair of time bombs waiting to go off.