Ahh being beautiful, I remember it well. Not really as I don’t think I was ever really beautiful, but I do remember the wings of my younger self and starting to smell myself in the carefree days of my youth. I was never considered a shy boy by others but I was very shy if the truth be known. Perhaps my show-off antics and my outward expressions of confidence fooled people while inside I was often crumbling.
I am not quite sure what it was but I was a magnificent little actor and I convinced my peers that I was all the things I needed to be to suit the moment. I was brave when I was frightened, cool when I was freaking out and absolutely fabulous when I felt most insecure about my looks. There was a strut that I adopted, a swagger if you will and it was more than a physical thing. Being competitive, I hated to lose anything and I was always quick with a response in a debate or argument and looking back at my littler self, even I would have thought that there was a little man who was brimming with confidence.
To this day I carry it off. I still have a swagger that I occasionally employ and I certainly know how to appear somewhere between arrogant and haughty with just enough of a softening to allow doubt that I am not a complete asshole.
But yes I do remember the days of feeling fabulous. We all have them to some degree, a moment or an occasion when we looked our best, even if it was only fleeting. I remember specific clothes and how they made me feel. When I was fourteen I was a hard working boy in the school break during the summer. I bought myself a pair of Levi flared jeans, converse runners, a Levi jacket and a cheesecloth blue and white shirt from the money I had earned. My God I felt like a peacock the first time I put them on. To be fair I probably looked like John Denver had thrown up all over me but I didn’t see that.
I wore some hideous garments in my time, often out of shear bloody mindedness. If I thought something was cool then I’d wear it. My brother was seven years older than I was and was into Marc Bolan and T-rex, Sweet and all sorts of crazy-dressing seventies iconic bands. I got his cast off’s in every day wear, so why not his cast offs in his line of fashion wear as well. I went to school at age twelve, wearing a pair of brown and beige platform boots with massive stars on them. As if that wasn’t bad enough I wore a tan coloured, suede Afghan coat, with brown and cream flecked fake fur edging. I was a miniature, pale Huggy bear for all intents and purposes and if you don’t get that TV reference, google Starsky and Hutch.
The best part about that was that I carried it off. I strutted into school looking like a 1970’s pimp and jived my way through a schoolyard full of 1970’s pre-pubescent Irish boys, wearing snot-sleeved jumpers with their shirts dicky-dickied out. If only I had sunglasses and an afro. Of course some tried to mock me but I slammed them down with my extremely quick tongue and ice cold stare. I was nervous of some of the more dangerous lads that always gave me the willies, but I had walked the walk long enough for them to be doubtful about using me as a punch bag in case I was able to bite back.
However, that was my outside. Every taunt and jibe, every hurtful slagging remark, cut me deep and I realised I had made a complete eejit of myself. In my childish head, I had fantasised about being the coolest kid in the school. In truth I was a laughing stock. By then end of that particular day I was devastated but I was damned if I would let anyone know. I went to school for a week in those ridiculous shoes and that stupid coat, just to prove that I could wear what the hell I liked and that I wasn’t going to let anyone bully me into submission by their cruelty. A week in, some of the boys were wishing they had the balls to wear what I was wearing but I was just trying to make a point and get myself out of the embarrassment I had foisted upon myself as quickly and as quietly as possible. Gradually I weaned myself back into ‘normal’ clothes and my shear hard neck was all that got me through.
In fairness to my mother, she let me off and didn’t try to dissuade me. Some might think she should have but I admire her for letting me fly, even if I did get too close to the sun. That has been me throughout my life, a hard neck and a soft centre. This week I returned for a check-up in the hospital and went in with my Afghan attitude and my optimistic spirit. I was expecting to be given the keys to the kingdom, the freedom of the city but instead I was given a continuation of my sentence with time off for good behaviour.
The soft centre felt it and the hard exterior wall crumbled a little on that day. I didn’t feel so fabulous. I wondered if I’d ever truly feel fabulous again. Being fabulous – not in reality but in spirit or at least in my performance to the world – is a part of who I am. I am the quintessential narcissist in theory, but only if you were to truly believe my vanity is real and that I have a huge ego that allows me to spend my days admiring my own attributes. I suspect some might believe this of me and I am happy to encourage it. After all I have spent my life surviving behind the mask of confidence but it is more than that.
I make light of things when I am at my lowest. I cry behind the mask and I smile and joke, fluff my feathers and preen myself as if to say look at me, I am magnificent. I am mighty, I am invincible and everyone looks at the show, like they might be distracted by the magician’s beautiful assistant. The magician that I am has perfected the illusion.
But the moment is always just that for me, a moment. I push past it, over and through it and I look for my fabulous again. It gets harder to find as I get older of course, but even when I struggle to see it, I know I can always fake it. I’m probably like marmalade. There was a time when pretty young girls looked me and thought; mmm he’s a bit of alright. At least they did in my head when I wore my cheesecloth shirt and denims. Then as time passed, the younger girls got older and I became invisible at some point to anyone under the age of 50. It’s not that I want the admiration of any young ladies don’t get me wrong, I have my perfect, beautiful young lady already but you do notice when you fade into the background. It’s not that I mind so much more that I have become aware of it. I used to be jam, a sweet and fruity treat, now I’m marmalade.
Apparently marmalade is toast. Nowadays 60% of people who buy marmalade are over 65 and hardly anyone under the age of 30 even buys the stuff. So I guess that’s me. I’m left contemplating my naval thinking that I have to find a way to keep fooling myself that I continue to be bothered looking for my fabulous and not just feel like marmalade.
It is a part of aging and while I’m still a relatively young man, getting a percentage breakdown of my life expectancy by a cardiologist did little for the search for my fabulous. There is a part of me that revels in the struggle. I am not alone. I am not special. Every day everywhere, people struggle with all sorts of dilemmas, traumas and challenges. But this is my personal journey so I have to walk the path that I am on, not some other. The part of me that revels in the struggle is the part that puts pen to paper. Writing it seems is cathartic and catharsis cannot exist without tragedy. The evolution from emotional despair through to resolution is a creative lubricant.
Today of course, being the eternal optimist that I am, all is well again. Perhaps I need a new trauma or drama so maybe it’s time to dig out the old Afghan and platform boots again. I can strut into the office; maybe I should grow my hair first and dye it blonde so I can flick it back until absolutely everyone thinks ‘asshole.’ The only problem is I might need a bit more build-up of fabulous first. My fabulous tank doesn’t seem to get the same mileage as it used to. I could do something completely unexpected and outrageous to top it up of course, it’s not beyond me. .. or maybe just a nice cup of tea and a cosy pair of slippers will help… what do you reckon… Either way, the darkness I’ve buried will have to find a way to the surface and there is really only one way to do that for me… back to the pen and ink… time to bleed a little onto a page to free up my fabulous once more. …
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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