While on holiday recently, I woke up, prematurely, thanks to jet lag, and stumbled into the bathroom to answer a call of nature.
It was 3am and pitch black.
I was in that weird state of limbo when you have woken up but your brain is trying it’s best to catch the train back to dreamland. Reality exists but it is tinged with a dreamlike trance created by your subconscious mind and you basically have no clue what is going on, driven only by natural instincts - in my case, the instinct to pee.
With one hand on my head, scratching through the forest of hair that was sticking up all over the place, the other hand groped the wall outside the bathroom in the hotel room, searching for the light switch. My face was drawn in one of those massive vociferous yawns – you know the type – a yawn that makes a peculiar wailing noise, like a bear with a headache.
My brain registered the yawn and tried to ignore it.
I found the light switch and stumbled into the bathroom, blinded by the sudden brightness. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, opening them fractionally in a futile attempt to get them used to the painful brilliance.
I didn’t have my glasses. My eyesight was worse than Mr Magoo’s.
After a couple of minutes, my eyes adjusted to the light and I looked around the bathroom searching for the toilet. I had only been in the room once and it was totally unfamiliar to me.
And then I saw it; a blurred image staring at me, grimacing like a grotesque gargoyle. Its skin was pale and wan and I could just about make out two dark orbs tinged with red. Its head was huge – a caricature of a human being with a monstrous entity moving menacingly on its head like the serpentine style of Medusa.
My ears were filled with a horrific wailing.
And then the door burst open and in walked Mrs PM.
“What the phark are you screaming about?” she shouted.
It was as if somebody had slapped my face with a wet fish.
I realised that the horrific wailing was my own terrified cry. More embarrassingly, I realised that the monster that had freaked me out was in fact my own reflection in the mirror as seen through my useless eyes.
“I … er …I …er “ I stuttered, like a gibbering imbecile.
“You scared me half to death,” wailed Mrs PM. “I’m going back to bed. You’re a bloody idiot.”
I returned to the bedroom briefly to pick up my spectacles so that I didn’t annoy Mrs PM any further by missing the toilet bowl.
Yes I am that blind without my glasses.
I returned to the bathroom and answered the call. When I had finished, I stood staring at my reflection again. I asked myself one question.
“When did I get beaten so badly with an ugly stick?”
My hideous hair was all over the place. My eyes were bloodshot through lack of sleep. But my face was drawn and haggard and, worst of all, jowly. A close inspection revealed a network of wrinkles, highlighted by the brightness of the mirror light and various blemishes peppered my face.
And then to my body – when did I start looking so chubby? I’m not fat – just slightly overweight – but the mirror revealed various pudgy portions of the body that, as a youth, I used to think was skinny but acceptable.
Of course, being a 50 year old man, what else can I expect? I realised many years ago that I am not Adonis. My problem is that while I have always made jokes on this blog about my own appearance being very similar to that of an orang-utan, the image that stared back at me in that hotel mirror resembled a primate more than any other reflection had in the past.
When did that happen then?
It got me thinking. I returned back to bed and lay there unable to sleep and listening to Mrs PM making her own bear noise as she snored and started to pinpoint the moment when my already monkey like visage started sagging.
Regular readers may know that I have always been terrible at chatting up women. In the dim and distant past, I have tried too hard and ended up making a complete arse of myself. On a couple of occasions, though, some women have been brutally honest:
“I just don’t fancy you!”
“Your mate’s far better looking than you.”
“What? Me go out with you? Do I look like I’m into bestiality?”
Maybe I always aimed too high.
Thankfully, some women have in fact been forward enough to ask me out so I have figured that perhaps I am not as unpleasant to look at as I used to think. Certainly when I look back at photos of myself when I was younger, I don’t look too bad. I’m nothing special – just plain – but not offensive to the eye.
I’ve always had the feeling that I have been pursued throughout my life by an evil little entity brandishing an ugly stick. Whenever the little monster has had the chance he has given me a sound thrashing with it, each blow removing an element of attractiveness.
Now I am older, it is more difficult to outrun the little bugger and the thrashings are becoming more frequent.
Some call it ageing; I know the truth.
However, with ageing comes wisdom.
With wisdom comes acceptance and contentment.
Yes, my blurred reflection, a bloated mass of blubber with mad hair and red eyes, might have scared the living daylights out of my jet-lagged mind but at least I can be grateful that there is a woman who still loves the monster she shares her life with.
If I didn’t know any different I would swear that The Beauty and the Beast was loosely based on our relationship.
You can’t outrun the little beast wielding the ugly stick but you can put your own mind at rest. Next time I grimace while examining my crumbling countenance in the mirror I shall thank my lucky stars that I am wiser and happier than I was in my youth.
I will look the vile ugly stick wielding goblin in the eye and say:
“Come on then – give it your best shot! By the way – can you lay off the hair? I think it’s had enough.”
Ultimately, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I am so pleased that Mrs PM believes that.