I didn’t expect to wake up with a black eye last Monday. But there it was – as purple as Pontius Pilate’s pyjamas. Not a classy look on a woman of a certain age.
It was such a mundane accident. If it had been the result of competing in the final of a Tae Kwondo competition; a bar room brawl over a poker game; let alone some kind of sex play, I could have humble bragged, got an anecdote out of it, something.
No. I tripped over a bouncy puppy (Tilly Mint. Adorable. Below), face planted the pavement and gave myself a cheap tarmac dermabrasion.
The result was like one of those ‘when plastic surgery goes wrong’ features. First day: cuts and grazes; second day: the eye. Since then, like the Northern Lights it’s been changing colour every day.
I managed to cover it up pretty effectively (if I say so as shouldn’t). I’m not really a dab hand at this kind of thing, but I was assisted by its peculiarly vivid colour. I just matched up the other eye using an old Max Factor eyeshadow, rooted out from the bottom of my make up basket. I even wore purple so my sudden choice of eye shadow wouldn’t look odd. And I lathered my trusty Hourglass Seamless concealer/foundation over the top of the scabby bits. It really does the trick without turning too Zombie Apocalypse by the end of the day.
Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation, £42 BUY ME HERE
But by day 3, the black eye had spread half way round my face. Reader, I considered calling in sick, so traumatising was my reflection in the mirror. I had to use the foundation on my eyelid to have any chance of disguising it. Yet again the Hourglass came into its own. The overall effect was slightly badly applied eye makeup on one eye, but since that is my everyday look, that was fine by me.
Without sounding like Uncle Remus, life is full of lessons and I certainly learned a few things from this experience.
Firstly, no one, other than me, bothers looking at my face. I have interrogated every pore, wrinkle, crease and blemish over the last forty odd years, to make sure it is acceptable to what turns out to be the most cursory of glances. Hardly anyone noticed the cuts, bruises and general face chaos.
Although it was quite handy, it did also make me think about why I spend so much time, money and effort on lotions and potions. And, given no one cares or notices, I may as well do what the hell I like. Bring on the finest and brightest eyeshadow known to humanity! (Here are two I like a lot, in case you feel the same.)
YSL Full Metal Shadow, £21-22 BUY ME HERE
Urban Decay, Heavy Metal, £15 BUY ME HERE
Secondly, I realised that this same cloak of invisibility has been creeping towards me since I was about 43 and that it is probably responsible for the encroaching boldness of my fashion taste. And not even just me. Look at Theresa May in her leather trousers and Vivienne Westwood suits. She, like the rest of us of a certain age, is using clothes as a brake against the pull of sexlessness and anonymity. We’re all in the same boat. Can’t see me, eh? What about with this hat on? Or in this sparkly top? And these heels? Can you see me NOW?
Thirdly I had a glimpse of the horror of a fall. I’ve had three falls in the last three years and it is significant that I can remember each of them. Don’t get me wrong, I have been clumsy all my life and my body is a collage of burns, scars, cuts. I can’t even get through a doorway without taking in the door jamb. But now, each fall feels like a staging post and leaves me more unsettled than I would like to admit.
Last week, I saw a woman, not much older than me, gingerly making her way down a flight of stairs. I helped her down – we clung to each other like middle aged koalas. She told me she had tripped on a paving stone a few days before and it had scared her. “You worry it’s the beginning, don’t you?” she confided.
“Not really the beginning”, I thought to myself. “The end, more like”. Accidents of any kind once you’re over 50, seem suddenly sinister. Baby, your days of just ‘tripping up’ are over.
Those words, “she had a fall” or worse, “she took a tumble” – whispered over the head of elderly relatives as they sit, catatonic, under a knitted blanket – are surely a million miles away from me, all Dance Cardioed, Personal Trained, Legging clad, 50’s fabulousness. And of course they are. Accidents are just, well, accidents. But nonetheless, when they slow you down, show on your face, or make you limp for a month, they assume way more importance than you’d like.
Finding a silver(ish) lining to this, as I like to do, although no one said they noticed my scars and bruises, at some subliminal level they clearly did. Perhaps if you are a lady of a certain age with a face like a boxer, 3 rounds in, you give off some kind of pheromone. Certainly it activated otherwise untapped reserves of male sympathy.
No one commented on my face at all, but in the last week, three young men (each of whom I could have fireman’s lifted up Ben Nevis pre-fall) offered me their seats on the train. Nice though it was to have a little sit down, I fear that frailty of any kind, even if unremarked upon, marks me out as my worst nightmare, old and weak, rather than old and sassy as hell.