Baby, baby

Going a bit retro today. Back to 1989, in fact. Here I am at one year old – back when my mum used to dress me in cute ensembles from Peter Jones by Sloane Square (pretentious, non?). I’ve been thinking about how we change as we get older, and how we adapt. I don’t just mean physical changes, but also our changes in needs, desires and ambitions. I’m always self-conscious about posting photos of myself on this blog, but I’m slowly coming to terms with it. These photos are from different points in my life, so I guess they’re relevant to what I’m writing about.

One of the biggest differences between me now and me a few years ago is simplicity. The self-consciousness of changing from child to adult was daunting and once I stepped out of the safety of tomboy clothes and the four walls of my bedroom, I dealt with it by being (very) loud and covering myself in make-up, accessories and bright colours to try to distract people from what was underneath. As a teenager, all I craved was to be wanted – for people to want to be my friend and to want to be around me. Not many photos of me have survived the handful of years since then, and that’s probably a good thing. The awkwardness of craving attention and approval is something best remembered hazily, without any hard evidence. The arrogance of adolescence has turned into the panic of realising that I know nothing in the scheme of things.

A friend said to me recently (having not seen me for many months) that I seem less ‘breathless’. I know what he means; I’m not trying so hard anymore. I’m not struggling to be witty or intriguing – not having the energy is a major contributing factor but I guess that acceptance I’ve written about before of never being the smartest or the most liked does have a part to play.

I’m moving to Camden next week. It’s daunting that I’ll be entirely self-sufficient for the first time, but I’ve never felt more ready for anything in my life.

What do you see?
February 7, 2010, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve had the conversation several times recently about what I would change about my myself if anything were possible. Most would admit to an ‘I hate everything about myself’ period in their teens – I certainly would. I guess now, having survived a few real experiences and having met some people outside my childhood microcosm, I look in the mirror everyday and think, ‘Hmm, I guess I’m used to seeing you’. I’m far from perfect, but the imperfections are a part of me. I can be awkward, but my awkwardness is something that connects me to other people. I’m sure most people could compile a list of things they don’t like… Here’s mine:

I’m overweight. My skin is sickly yellow during the winter months. My hair is an uncontrollable beast most of the time. I have ugly feet. I get horrible eczema when I’m stressed and in cold weather. My skin is oily. I stick out in extended family portraits on both sides (or at least I feel like I do). I talk too much and interrupt other people. I think everything I have to say is infinitely interesting to other people. I internalise everything and take things too personally. I can’t take a compliment. I’m always late. I empathise too much and neglect my own wellbeing. I lose my temper when I feel I’m being patronised.

A good friend of mine, A, told me that if she could choose what she looked like, she would pick brown eyes, dark hair and olive skin. She’s fair with blue eyes and dark blonde hair. I was absolutely amazed. For me, being olive-skinned with dark eyes and dark hair is central to how I relate to the world. I can’t imagine wishing for anything else or being anything else; I just am. Not to patronise my friend, of course, because she was speaking completely hypothetically. I suppose it’s much simpler for me, in a way, because of my mixed heritage. My mix of features helps me to identify with my mix of influences. I am Irish because I’m so much paler than my mother and I burn in the sun like my father. I am Indonesian because I have the dark hair and eyes and button nose. I am neither because my resemblance to my parents and their families is very limited. It has always been quite simple for me.

Another good friend, B, went further than A. B is of mixed heritage. Unlike me, as a child (and, to some extent, still today) B wished away her pale, freckled skin and straight nose. She longed for caramel-coloured skin, idolising women like Vanessa Williams. She wished to be taller and for a different body shape. She was dissatisfied and angry with the genetic straws she had drawn. It has never really occurred to me to long to be something I could never be. I can never change everything that I am. What I am has moulded my relationship with the world – it has made me modest because I will never be very popular, I will never be the cleverest, and I will never be stunningly attractive. It has made me want to work hard to the best of my ability, because I will never have the option of relying on natural charm.

I guess what I’m trying to say through all of this is that I’ve reached a point. I used to feel so angry when I looked in the mirror, especially as a teenager. I used to wish away my weight, eczema and oily skin. Now, I like the shape of my body. If I were to lose weight, I would hope that my shape would be very similar to now, just smaller. My eczema and oily skin (though a pain) force me to take very good care of myself – I use face masks and special creams on a regular basis. My daily skincare rituals are a way for me to thank my body and to prevent me from taking it for granted. I know I talk too much, but the people who know me best know to tell me to shut up or to talk over me until I stop. Taking things personally and internalising everything means that I try so hard to be a good friend and help those around me. I would never want to risk the complacency that could come with being perfect, so I’ll settle with my long list of imperfections.