[Image: Central Park, Chelmsford, courtesy of Google]
If there’s one thing I really don’t like about summer (aside from the Hot; I do terribly in Hot and like autumn and winter the best) it’s when all the young, pretty ladies break out the kind of adorable sundresses and accessories that a rotund, middle-aged trout (me) would look utterly ridiculous in. Walking behind an attractive girl in a jauntily striped “sailor” dress on my way in to Asda earlier, I could almost feel my fat expanding and my shoulders definitely began slumping. My hair desperately needs washing, I don’t have my partials in and I was wearing my trademark easy-to-put-on leggings and t-shirt. Yes, I felt frumpy next to this vision who could have stepped straight out of Parisienne Walkways (the version without the lyrics, please and thank you). Realistically, someone far prettier than myself probably would too. She was, after all, incredibly – and naturally – beautiful.
I am, however, a Spoonie. That’s just how it is, since you don’t get a Get Out Of Jail card when handed your
sentence diagnosis. I’m chubby because I can’t generally go on long walks any more, even though I would dearly love to. My hair isn’t washed regularly because I don’t have the energy to maintain my appearance, and the entire rigmarole of putting on a bra and a pretty dress and then doing my hair and makeup is just not going to happen. Most of my energy goes into just staying awake! So, naturally, I most closely resemble a blonde Gorgon, with wild ringlets and tangles for hair instead of snakes. I’m hiding away in the house most of the time so don’t generally care. The people who do see me on a regular basis (the neighbours, the postie, and obviously my husband) know that I have both a disability and a chronic illness; provided I’m wearing clothes, the neighbours and the postie don’t mind or care what I look like on any given day (obviously my husband doesn’t either, but he’d rather I go without the clothes. Obviously).
But I am also human, and would like to do the “girlie” thing sometimes, just to feel special and pretty. I find makeup a chore and don’t even tend to wear it on special occasions (I think the last time I wore any was for my wedding, four years ago) but now and again, it would be nice to have the energy to create the appearance of carefree health. At best I could be described as “cute” (think Jo Grant, if you’re a Doctor Who fan), but from past experience I know that I could be beautiful, if only I had the energy to spend on how I look. Because every person with a good soul is beautiful, and a good soul is what I strive to be.
I think what I’m trying to say here, is that you cannot always judge a book by its cover. Please don’t judge the person in scruffy clothing; the large scruffy person with a tummy; the person whose hair could be used to fry chips in; the person with terrible body odour who just sat down next to you on the bus. You don’t know how difficult it may have been for them just to get out of bed today, let alone function as a human being.
And never forget that, one day, a chronic illness could strike you in such a way that you have to stop being particular about yourself. But I truly hope that you never have to live as we, the invisibly sick and disabled, have to. For us there is no choice, because there is no Spoon.