Time to get myself out there and hold my head high. Time to tell myself I’m not hideous. I’m a swan. Not just two handfuls of swan-neck deformities, but a whole, beautiful swan.
I haven’t managed a shower in some days (am alone with a toddler who won’t sleep, and who destroys the bathroom in the time it takes me to brush my teeth), so my hair is getting harder to tame. I did a quick straightening job on it a few days ago after the last wash, but it’s starting to curl up and point in all the wrong directions again.
It’s been at least four – maybe five – months since I hacked my hair off. Distraught, unmedicated, undiagnosed. Cutting my hair was always part of my spiral of self-harm.
I wish it was long again, able to be tamed with pins and elastic bands. I wish my scars away, too, but that’s another story.
For now, it’s me, my disobedient hair, and a broken comb. My son in the base of the shower, unscrewing the top of the shampoo. I have to be quick.
A miracle worked by the broken comb. A rub of makeup over the tired face, the blotches, the grey eye bags, the eyebrow regrowth zones. Blush: a touch of life. The mascara wand waves and the spell is complete. I look normal. Functional. Almost.
I’m wearing a bright new dress (being too chunky for all my old ones), and a silicone teething necklace. I pull a pair of control pants on, concerned that I look pregnant in the dress. At last, I slip my tights on, pull on my one and only pair of shoes, and zip my son out the door in his pram.
It’s a beautiful autumn day. There are dogs and birds to point at, motorbikes and babies and cafe doors to wave at.
I walk towards the city, my shoe’s broken heel clattering on the paving. I’m limping. Sporadic, severe pain leaks from my little toe into the rest of my foot. My ankles feel as though they’re about to snap. My right wrist hurts so much I resort to pushing the pram with my left hand only.
Think swan, I tell myself. Elegant and graceful. Calm. Happy. (No honking in the street.)
It’s then that I notice something distinctly inelegant. Something rather uncomfortable: that terrible feeling of slipping underwear.
Perhaps it’s my knickers creeping down inside the control pants. They’re a bit baggy. It seems likely.
I walk on and the feeling gets worse by the step. I try to catch my reflection in the shop windows. Any weird elastic-induced bulges visible? Segmented buttocks?
I look normal. And yet, the slipping feeling gets worse. Fabric slides over my hips and there’s a sagging between my thighs.
At last, I realise: my tights are slipping down, unable to grip the shiny control pants. Any minute now and the top of my tights will be visible below the hem of my dress, especially if I bend forward.
I try to pull the tights up as I walk, without grabbing too obviously. These days, anyone could have a camera. I could end up on YouTube or Facebook, a joke.
- Fat mum’s tights fall down
- Fat mum tries to pull sagging tights up and flashes fat pants to the world
- Fat mum flashes fat
Keep walking, I tell myself. Act normal. Be the swan. Little pulling-up movements nobody will notice. Just act normal until you can get to a toilet and then pull them up properly or take them off altogether.
Act normal. Be the swan.
And in just a few minutes, everything is fixed. I’ve kept my calm and everything is ok.