I was scanning through some of my previous posts when I came across this written about 18 months ago in the post, “10 Reasons Why Being Blind is Awesome”:
“I also assume that I save quite a bit on make-up which I have no idea how to apply and never intend to try mostly because by the time my face completely disintegrates I will be absolutely incapable of witnessing the carnage so we’re all good”
Okay, so strike that, we are not all good! Reading this I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time because that sentence is so me, effortlessly nonchalant and cuttingly dismissive. While I was possibly less concerned when I wrote that I have definitely become quite concerned about the disintegration of my face.
I’ve always had an issue with dark rings under my eyes and over the past year or so these have gotten quite substantially worse. When I say dark rings I mean large, dark purple blotches that make me look like I’ve been punched in the face while causing my eyes to appear sunken. Small children have told me, in the way that only small children can, that I look like a zombie. I often notice this in photographs which, when viewed on my computer with magnification software, allow me to see my own face in more detail than I generally can by looking in the mirror unless I quite literally have my nose up against the glass. Especially when flanked by many of my very lovely, beautifully put together girlfriends (see pic – incidentally 2 of my favourite people in there!), I just look very drained. Generally, it must be said, I am very drained, but I’d prefer not to look it. So about a year ago I embarked on a mission to get this make-up business sorted.
I started by watching a whole host of YouTube tutorials posted by other blind women but I found these just made me confused, honestly, what do all these words mean?! Also, I was pretty convinced that I was not going to be able to attempt half the stuff these girls were talking about, less is more I feel. So I headed for the shops. I decided that I would be totally upfront with the first sales assistant who came my way, “I’m blind, my face is falling apart, please help” and if they showed the faintest hint of panic, “Um, what do I do with this woman?” I would run out of there. Obviously I wouldn’t literally run out of there, me running through all those little stands of products would be a recipe for carnage albeit humorous carnage. No, I would shuffle briskly out of there. Anyway, as it happened the most helpful woman fixed me up with basic, easy to apply (she promised), flipping exorbitantly expensive products. My first few attempts were disastrous and special thanks to my mother for not collapsing into fits of hysteria every time I emerged looking like a blotchy-zombie-clown. But slowly I have got the knack of a very basic make-up routine. That said, eye make-up remains a complete no-go-zone for me. Yes, I know there are stacks of YouTube clips of blind women doing their own eye-liner and mascara but no, just no. I’m happy to sit still while someone else wields spikey things close to my eyes but I just don’t see things going so well if I try. A blind acquaintance of mine has gone the permanent eye-liner route and I’m seriously considering this although it does sound a bit ouch. For now though I am happy with some foundation, blush and lipstick and while I don’t wear make-up every day (because I still can’t seem to factor the time into my morning routine) it’s nice to know I have the option. Despite this, there is a part of me that feels a bit guilty, as though I’ve let stoically self-assured, somewhat smug, past Michelle down and especially by actually sharing about this in a public forum. So, sorry past Michelle but, as much as I know you wouldn’t want me to admit it, I’m actually completely freaked out by the fact that my face and body will age and change without me being able to see what is going on.
I’ve always been aware of the fact that my eyesight was going to degenerate. For as long as I can remember that reality has been something I’ve understood and over the past few years I’ve actually become reasonably comfortable with the idea of increasingly entering the world of the blind. I feel on many levels I’m equipped and ready for the journey particularly as I’ve become more and more immersed in the culture and community of blindness. But what has only occurred to me recently is that as I’m getting blinder I’m also getting older.
My friends and I are saying this to each other a lot lately, “Gosh, we’re getting old!” We’re old enough to be someone’s parent and some of us are; we’re old enough to have medical aid and need it. Many of us are also bemoaning the very noticeable change in our metabolisms as we approach and enter our thirties. I mean really! It seems that gone are the days of just a quick detox week and a bit of light exercise to shake the couple of extra kilos. No, eat a sandwich, put on 100kgs. Of course, it is all relative. A few weeks ago I visited a club of elderly women with my colleague to speak about the work that we do at the organisation we work for. After our presentation I was chatting to some of the women. One glamorous older lady approached me and said, “You’re a lovely looking girl and you’re still a baby, enjoy your life darling”. Now, obviously in comparison to an 87-year-old I am a baby. On the other hand, I was asked by a ten-year-old some time ago if I am my brother’s mother.
So regardless of what anyone else has to say about it, this year, for the first time, my experience as a woman getting blinder has bashed up against my experience as a woman getting older in uncomfortable ways. Much of this has to do with my tendency to imagine an extreme visual scenario in the face of not actually being able to see what the reality is. So tell me I have some greys and I’m Albus Dumbledore. A few months back my trusted beautician said in the very diplomatic and kind way that she has mastered, “The hairs above your lip have darkened a bit recently, it’s really not terribly noticeable but we can wax them if you want?” Now, I trust this woman implicitly but obviously on hearing this I became convinced that I’d been walking around looking like Super Mario. Fortunately, somewhere deep inside me there is a logical voice that says, “Would you actually just calm down!” But disregarding this voice of reason is easy when facing the whole business of living in a visual world. Being constantly looked at, without being able to look at yourself is often a source of deep anxiety for me and, I suspect, for other blind people as well. And of course no-one is actually going to tell you, “You know, you look like a wreck” but there is always the suspicion that you just might. As much as we’d like to deny it, how we look is highly valued in our society. It’s why the highest compliment we seem to be able to pay to older people is, “Gosh, you look fantastic!” I imagine that the getting older and getting blinder realities are going to continue colliding in all sorts of complex ways in my life and I honestly feel quite apprehensive about the ways in which my “acceptable femininity” is bound to be increasingly challenged by the coinciding realities of aging and disability. So, while I hold to many of my original assertions about the awesome benefits of blindness I think I might have to retract the one about the inability to witness one’s slow transformation into Gollum. Also, gone is the saving of much money, alas!