Saturday, 30 June 2012

I feel bad about my upper lip

Nora Ephron wrote a book called,  I feel bad about my neck.  I came across this title by accident. When I read this week that she had died of leukemia at age 71, I went looking for her autobiographical novel, Heartburn.  Nora wrote my favourite movie of all time, When Harry Met Sally. I watched it again recently and it still holds up.

(For the record, it's never been about the deli scene for me, it's always been about the scene with the wagon wheel coffee table.

Anyway, when I was trying to find an ebook version of Heartburn, I came across the collection of her essays titled, I feel bad about my neck. At first I was confused and thought it might be to do with a neck injury. Then when I read the bit after the colon: "And other thoughts on being a woman." I suddenly got it.

No matter how hard you try to disguise the ageing process, no matter how good you are at the art of 'ageing camouflage,' there are a few body parts that just won't play ball. The neck is one of them. The knees are another. (See Elle Macpherson and Cindy Crawford.)  And I have noticed of late that the part above the upper lip is another giveaway.

If you are unlucky, you start getting lines in the bit above your upper lip. It's like the lines in your lips start leaking into the rest of your face. It's quite distressing. Some women are doing  botox or fillers to rectify this unsightly imperfection.  (See Patty Newton on Celebrity Apprentice.) But that only makes things worse because then they end up looking like they have a duck bill.

No matter which way you look at it, the ageing process is particularly cruel for women.  And the more we try to fight it, the more ridiculous we end up looking. 

But whatever your age, life as a woman is an elaborate game of camouflaging your least favourite body parts.  When I was younger, I was very skinny: Calista Flockhart skinny.  It sounds fun, but it really isn't because people are always gasping in horror and saying, "You should eat something!" Or, "Oh my god! Are you anorexic?"

 But I was just scrawny. I developed a way of dressing that camouflaged how skinny and flat-chested I was: boatneck tops, men's jeans (because I didn't have any hips) and there was alot of blousiness going on; not to hide fat, but to make me look like I could perhaps be bigger under all that blousiness.  You just never knew, I could have had giant boobs under all that voluminous clothing.

When I filmed one of my first video clips as a musician the stylist had to pad me out with three thick long-sleeved tops so that my arms didn't look like Kermit the Frog's. I was quite the freak.

Then I had some kids and things got better... for a while, then a whole lot worse.  Now there are all sorts of things that need to be camouflaged and accounted for: pouffy stomach, ham hocks, upper thighs at the back, knee joints, slip-sliding-down-the-back-of-my-thighs bum, turkey neck, pouchy under-eye bits, that upper lip thing, fatty bits where your bra cuts in under the arms, celery stalk ankles, muffin tops and back fat.

It's really quite exhausting putting an outift together that does the job. Which is why women take so long to get dressed in the morning. There's so much to be covered and to do it without looking like Mama Cass in a coverall kaftan arrangement is a dark and delicate art.

It's like a well-practised magic trick: create a distraction here, to hide what's going on over there.

Whenever I go shopping and have to undress in a changing room, under fluorescent lights and at close quarters with my reflection, it astounds me that men have been known to put secret spy cameras in women's change rooms for their own grubby gratification.  Honestly, what array of fright night do they uncover when they are going through their footage later?  It cannot possibly be alluring. If someone inadvertently caught my undressed image on their Peeping Tom camera I can only say that it would be a fitting  punishment for their crime. ("My eyes! My eyes!")

Sometime last year, one of my good friends sent me an email with the title:
"Oh my god! I'm pregnant!"

When I opened the email, all that was in it was a photograph of my friend in her (until that moment) favourite dress.  It was a smart jersey wrap dress; one that she had always considered made her look quite foxy. Then she saw the photograph; she is standing at a particularly unflattering angle and looks honestly about 5-6 months pregnant.  After she had mentally counted back over all the times she had worn that dress to functions and parties and then felt retrospectively mortified, she sent the photo to me. Purely for my own amusement.

Laugh? Did we ever.

A problem shared is a problem halved indeed.

So RIP Nora. I feel bad about my neck too. (Amongst other things.)

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