Monday, February 11, 2013

Red carpets and beauty therapists

I've not had much experience of red carpets.
None at all, in fact.
Before last thursday, my knowledge of such affairs was largely confined to surreptitiously reading celebrity magazines.
There was a time when my younger daughter was addicted to them: the ones who specialise in photographs of beautiful young women in gorgeous dresses being sneered at  for defects in their appearance.
Not encouraging.
In fact in the weeks leading up to the opening I was hardly concerned about the show at all. Instead, I was mortified to discover, what really worried me was what I would wear at the gala.
One thing for sure was that I needed help. I could have gone to a psychiatrist, but  went to John Lewis' instead. And so began to understand how consumerism thrives on anxiety.
I made an appointment to see Lorraine. She is a fashion adviser: sympathetic, knowledgeable, and really pleasant to be with. And she found me a lovely dress at a reasonable price in a stress free way. Something I could never have done.
And on the morning of the event I went to see one of my daughter's beautiful friends: a gorgeous and skillful hairdresser called Jess who works in the basement dressing room of the Soho theatre ( and who shoved a fistful of pins into my hair with astonishing dexterity.
Another beautiful friend called Verity did my make-up in the evening (; and between them all they created a look I felt comfortable and confident in.
And which really did help me cope with the live interview for the cinemas just before the show, and the whole event itself, including a quite impossibly glamourous reception in the Waldorf hotel afterwards that normally I would have felt utterly intimidated in.
I know that women are under strong pressure to take disproportionate care over our appearance, and this pressure is undermining and debilitating. And I know that were I still living as a man I wouldn't have taken a fraction of this care and expense and trouble.
I'd have shoved something on and felt most likely shy and unhappy. And drunk too much. As it was, there was pride in all this preening. And pleasure too.
But I'll try to resist the temptation to endorse beauty products.  Because it wasn't just that. Or even the skill and care and lovely supportive presences of the women involved.
An early stage of my transition coincided with a beautiful production of my ANNA KARENINA at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.
I remember meeting a group of teenage girls on the street and them laughing at me.
Their jeers were designed to communicate to me the sense that I looked, and was, a grotesque.
I could think of nothing to say at the time; but inwardly defended myself with the knowledge that at the time a play I had written was each night giving several hundred people the most profound pleasure.
And I suspect that creativity is the best beauty treatment of them all.

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