Why it is important to look the beholder in the eye if you want to see your beauty.
When the boys go up to bed I now go up with them. With J being away, I enjoy the reassuring sanctuary of our bedroom which is the smallest, most peaceful room in the house. It’s 90% filled with bed. It’s like a crisp, cotton-lined cocoon.
I rest there for a while, waiting to hear the quiet of the children’s sleep creep in: when it finally arrives, I reach for the ipad.
I click on the video messaging app and I dial J’s number. Now it’s time for the grown-ups.
Before J went away, I think we had vague notions that these occasions would be tender and maybe, now and then, include, at the very least, a spot of well-timed innuendo. In reality, we spend the time going through to-do lists. If I’m lucky, J shares with me room service’s most recent origami towel creation.
More depressing still, each time the ringing stops and the video connection is made, my eyes are drawn not to J’s but to my own: they stare back at me in haunted fashion from the top right corner of the screen, trapped within the frame of All-Your-Worst-Face-Related-Nightmares.
There’s a hair sprouting there. A spot I cannot feel or see in any normal mirror. Lines upon bags that themselves are perched upon yet more lines. As J talks, I grow increasingly obsessed with the power of good lighting and I miss what he is saying because I am distracted by my futile efforts to better angle a standard lamp.
Once J and I have finished discussing the finer details of transferring funds from abroad, we hang up. Instead of reaching for my book, I reach for YouTube and do something I have never done before. I search the internet for hints on contouring.
Next morning, I put my new found beauty knowledge to the test and am disappointed to note that the end effect is still me, but now I appear to be smeared in various shades of fondant icing.
A different tact is required.
I research miracle creams. I am bamboozled by the science bits — acids, retinols, products so free of everything you wonder if there is anything in them at all. I catch myself about to click on the purchase of a pot of something that costs in excess of £100. Just in the nick of time, I find the inner strength to steer myself towards Boots.
Once in Boots, I spend an unfeasible amount of time discussing the contents of shiny bottles with another fondant-faced lady. I leave weigh laden with bags, hopes and a slight sense of Who Even Am I?
Tonight, I head upstairs with the boys like before. This time, I take a detour via the bathroom and lock the door. I steam. I pluck, I massage. I dab. I inhale. I relax. I smell great.
From the mirror, my slightly amused reflection peers back at me, clearly wondering what on earth is going on.
I head back to the ipad. I dial the number. I look to the reflection of myself in the rectangle.
I look 10 times worse than I did in the mirror only moments ago and exactly the same as I did this time yesterday.
I turn my eyes from my image and redirect them towards J.
He lights up.
I look better already.