What do we see in the mirror? We all age, and yet we all battle agtainst the inexorable decline of our bodies. It is a theme that artists have excelled in portraying over the centuries, and one that fascinates this writer
I’m worried about my skin. I’m in a hotel in Virginia, I got married six weeks ago, and this is the first time I’ve been alone with my body in months. In the mirror, under tube lights, my thighs are pocked and striated with veins. I’m 40, on the downhill run. I used to scorn moisturiser but the horror show of ageing has caught up with me.
My Google search history from that afternoon: Myths and Facts about Cellulite, Cellulite: Top 10 Facts, Can you get rid of cellulite with exercise? Then I notice some bumps that didn’t used to be there. Why the Skin on Your Arms is Bumpy. Treating ‘Chicken Skin’ Bumps: Keratosis Pilaris. It’s the implacability of the body that frightens me – not just the ugliness of the manifestation, but the sense of invisible processes – malign or lethal – going on beneath the skin.
A long time ago, in the early 1990s, I worked as a life model. I was 17 when I started, mid-20s when I stopped. It paid ten pounds an hour – better than bar work. I borrowed a green silk dressing gown from my boyfriend’s mother, travelling from art school to sixth-form college to adult education centre by bus. I’d cross my legs and twist my torso in front of an electric heater. Once, in a class in a Portsmouth loft, I felt abruptly dizzy and came round to find an anxious crowd of pensioners clustered about my naked body.