Thursday, 24 July 2014

"Bite me"

(Magic - it can get a guy killed. Image from

Apologies for the title. I’ve had my head buried in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files for the last couple of weeks and some of Harry’s Chicago-isms are starting to creep out when and where appropriate. This topic seemed to be just such an occasion.

I’m temping at the moment, and in sitting on a reception you meet and speak to all sorts of people. Most of them I have to say are really nice, with the odd slurring alcoholic thrown in to make the day interesting (I’m sadly not joking).

However, yesterday I ended up talking to someone who fell into neither category. Whilst waiting to be met by their solicitor they commented that I was looking very pale and tired. My lovely colleague explained I was having something of a flare up and I mumbled something about it being nothing a cup of tea on my break wouldn’t sort out (this is Hannah-ish for “A screaming headache and a sensitivity flare-up and in-the-name-of-all-that’s-holy-this-dress-hurts”). Said person responded with “Well don’t you, like, wear makeup when you look that rough? It’s not as if it would be impossible to hide it. Why walk around looking like that?”

Now I’ve encountered this sort of comment before but it still left me pretty much speechless for a few seconds this time around. It didn't really upset me so much as surprise me. Aside from the fact it’s incredibly rude, what in the world do you say to that? 

Apart from “No I don’t because I don’t have, like, a problem with the realities of existence”?

I do appreciate that I'm a person not overly concerned by appearances, and for some people it's a much more important thing. In the person's defence I honestly think they thought they were being helpful - suggesting if I made an effort to look better I might feel better too. I don't know, that might even work for some people. Mostly I'm just making the point that the individual won't be gracing the hit list - we just come at life quite differently. 

To explain what I look like when I’m having a flare up I’m even paler than usual, drawn and generally start showing circles under my eyes from not sleeping well. I get the slightly glassy-eyed look sometimes too and I move about as little as possible. The point is I’m not exactly a visage of hellfire and impending doom. You are not going to need therapy after you’ve seen me in flare-up mode. If you’re scared of pale complexions then I suggest you’ve never encountered the British before. Pale is sort of what we do, and I’m firmly in the camp of those who choose to do nothing about it.

There are two main points I want to make with this comment in mind. The first I’ve had lots of practice arguing my corner with, and it’s the fact that make-up is not primarily a tool for other people’s benefit.

Anybody who’s about to chime in with “Oh, but women only wear it because they’re insecure!” or “They’re wearing it for male attention” – well, the door’s over there. Please use it.

(Excuse the language, but basically that's a short and succinct version of what I'm getting at. Image from

Wearing make-up so you look nice is not something anybody owes to anyone else around them. It’s a personal choice based on how you feel and how you want to look at that given moment. It has frankly absolutely nothing to do with anyone else at all. 

There’s an oft-overlooked amount of artistry in the use of make-up and in self expression in general (of which it can form a part). Some people don’t feel right unless they’re fully made up; others only use minimal make-up or none at all most of the time. I’m in the latter category mostly because it’s all too much faff unless I’m dressing up to go out. Either extreme and everything between are all absolutely fine. And still none of your business.

With all that in mind, it is certainly not something you owe to people so sensitive they can’t deal with someone looking a bit under the weather. It terrifies me to think that some people are so smothered in our mass media’s impossible beauty standards that they have trouble dealing with reality. When I’m at my healthiest I’m still laughably far off supermodel calibre as are the vast majority of people – so where does the idea that you’re supposed to cover up flaws for the benefit of those around you come from?

Secondly and far more importantly – forgive me, but I don’t see my health as something I should hide. I’m not ashamed of it. The idea that it is something to be ashamed of and kept under wraps runs a little too close to the idea that the chronically ill are somehow “broken” for my liking.

The way I see it, Petunia isn’t contagious so I’m no risk to anybody else. That’s one of the small mercies of most chronic invisible illnesses. I also didn’t come by Fibromyalgia and Interstitial Cystitis through any fault of my own, so they aren’t as a result of any action or inaction of mine. They are the only two reasons I could think of for there to be even a modicum of shame or a wish to hide the reality involved.

The fact that I’m a “spoony” is a part of me. It’s no different from the fact that I’m good with a pencil, that I’m rather fond of power metal or the fact at nearly 25 I still can’t negotiate high heels with any success.

I don’t really hide any of the rest of me, so why should I hide that? If I ever did want to if would be for me and only for me – it certainly wouldn’t be for the benefit of anyone else.

In closing, I can happily inform you all that nobody has run away from me so far today despite the fact that I’m still flaring.

However, it is only half past two.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx


  1. "Oh, I'm sorry. Does my face offend you? Why don't you offer to pay for a series of spa treatments for me so I don't look so rough and clash against your sensibilities?"

    I mean, when you feel like shit the last thing you want to do is put in effort beyond what you MUST. (That's me, anyway.) So if I'm feeling crappy, WHY would I subject myself to further standing, moving, applying various potions and creams and powders that are going a.) irritate me all day and b.) going to have to be taken off again later? Seriously, WHY?

    Okay. I've only gotten about 3 paragraphs in and now I'm going to go back and finish it. Maybe I'll have more to say. Heh.

    1. I agree entirely. It's reassuring to hear others with no patience for this nonsense too! xx

  2. FFS! You so should say what Cassandra wrote above. At least the first sentence. This is something close to my heart as it is something I'm subject to and have been. It's hurtful and unnecessary. Sadly in my case, it was in laws who commented (behind my back rather than to my face.... well until there was a marriage break up and my brother in law let me in on his ex wifes view point of me). I would say that I had a baby under 1. My husband worked full time. My family all lived in Ireland, I lived in England and I had NO help or support from anyone to help, asides from my hubby when we came home from work. Alongside this dealing with Fibro, my appearance wasn't something I considered a priority. It was suggested I should 'Make an effort', 'Put make-up on', 'Should wash my hair, blow dry it and straighten it every day".... Hmmmm ok.

    You can imagine my reaction. It was hurtful that this was the views of a family member who basically thought I was a mess and not only was I a mess, I was an unclean mess because I didn't wash my hair every day. For someone to come into your workplace who doesn't know you from adam, but who feels they have the right to even comment on your appearance is outlandish!!!! What on earth did you say to her?

    For the record, I think you are incredibly beautiful and elfen (is that a word?). I'm from the milk bottle colour pallette too. Why on earth should it be viewed as unattractive? It most certainly isn't, although you could be forgiven for thinking it is akin to walking around with 'unclean' hanging from a sign around their neck. You meet the wierdest of people in the workplace, be they colleagues or the public. My ex workmated used to use me as a colour chart to show if they needed to get a tan and made no secret of the fact they thought pale was horrid. Feck 'em! Feck 'em all. I'm aghast that this happened to you. How hideously RUDE!!! xxx

    1. Hi Lisa, sorry I'm so slow to read comments!

      I'm sorry to hear you've had the same experience. It really isn't fair and nobody deserves it. Thank you for the last paragraph, that's incredibly kind :) xx