One thing I don’t want this to become is a Misery Blog. Those so-called ‘misery memoirs’ really tease my bile, frankly. And I want this to be a joyous read on the whole. I want it to be funny, first and foremost, and perhaps inspiring for fellow fuglies, secondly. But most of all, as I’ve already made clear but cannot stress enough, I want it to find me a mate – so I don’t want to frighten any potential mate off with dreary tales of childhood heartache and emotional torture. However, I would like to write a little bit about my relationship with my parents, because people say that that kind of thing is important. And maybe I do want a bit of sympathy. Yeah, go on. I’ll take a pity fuck…
I was born in Dartford in December, 1977. An appropriately ugly place, I’m sure – if you’ve ever been – you will agree. When I was handed to my mum, I have been led to believe that her face fell – the way a mother’s face might fall if her baby’s heart is on the outside of its body, or if it has butter beans for limbs.
‘What’s wrong with it?’ she wanted to know.
It seems I had a face only a mother could love. Just not my mother. ‘Nothing’s wrong with him,’ she was told. ‘He’s a perfectly healthy baby boy.’ As it happens this was true only to a certain extent. I was healthy, yes, but I had a couple of conditions that would have to be treated, with varying degrees of success.
‘But,’ she said, unable to hold back the tears, ‘but… he’s got a face like... like a bag of elbows.’
Not really. She didn’t say that. What she said was, ‘But he’s so ugly. How can he be so ugly?’
My father was there too, drunk. It is to him I owe this story. Although my mother did confirm it. However, that’s no reason to necessarily believe it as they were both as honest as they were erudite.
My mother was what they used to call ‘a handsome woman’, which I believe was a rather euphemistic way of saying that she looked a bit like a bloke. My father meanwhile, was ever so slightly effeminate but not what you could really label ugly. Quite a pretty man, all told. And honestly, if I put myself in their collective shoes, I can understand some of their dismay when they first caught sight of me.
There is I believe one photo in existence of me as a baby. I don’t have it or I might post it here. Although to be honest, I probably wouldn’t. I want you to use your imagination. A couple of people have said to me since I started blogging that they really want to see what I look like. Well, you can’t. This is not a freak show. I am not an animal. I am a human being! Besides which, this blog is not about physical appearance. It’s about words.
Suffice to say, I had a large face, shaped like a lozenge, or even like a gravestone. And I already had the dark patches of skin that were to become my trademark. This was intrinsic atopic dermatitis, which I’ve never really managed to shake off. Plus my eyes were further apart than what might be termed ‘normal’ and they were pointing in opposite directions. This was a rather unpleasantly advanced strabismus, which – thank you, Jesus – was later corrected with surgery. Also, as if that wasn’t enough, I had, for a baby, a shockingly large nose. In short, I wasn’t a pretty sight. But I was healthy. More or less.
From the impression with which subsequent stories have left me, my parents never even attempted to conceal their disappointment, but they did nurture some hope that my ugliness was just a phase, that it was just really unpleasant puppy fat. This hope however, was dashed by the time I was five or six and my first adult teeth began to cut through and pretty soon my mouth had all the aesthetic appeal of a roof tiled by a blind man.
When I was about 8 I overheard a conversation in my parents’ bedroom. Between my parents. I can’t possibly claim to remember it word for word. That would be freakish. But some of it stuck with me, and the gist is accurate…
Mum: I feel guilty because I feel ashamed of him. And I hate him for making me feel guilty.
Dad: You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, love. It’s not your fault. It’s an act of God.
Mum: I know. I know it’s not my fault. That’s what makes me so mad. I just think, you know, it wouldn’t be so bad if he had Down’s or something. At least then, you know, we’d have an excuse.
It didn’t seem to mitigate my parents’ shame at all that I was excelling at school. On the contrary, it quickly became apparent to me that they had been the kind of children who hated, and most probably persecuted, the bright kids, the swots. Which is what I was. I took refuge in my education. I got lost in it. And I had a very good memory. Which is what it all seemed to come down to in the end anyway.
We were never close, my parents and I…
But still - and in typical misery memoir style - I don’t blame them for their inability to love me sufficiently well. They were after all, only human, and not, it has to be said, especially brilliant examples of the species.
However, you would think – wouldn’t you – you would think that if you had an ugly baby, the one thing you would do to offset the poor wee mite’s physical disadvantages and give him or her a decent start in life, would be to confer upon him or her an unembarrassing and ideally euphonic moniker. You’d think that was the least you could do. If the child is a baby boy for example, with a face – let’s say – like a bag of elbows – give the little blighter a chance in life: christen him Danny or Max or Sam, Jake or Luke or Zachary. Don’t christen him Stanley.
I was Stanley after my granddad. Apparently I looked like him. I never met my granddad. But I did see a couple of photos and it’s true, the man was a monster. It seems the only reason he managed to snag a female and consequently procreate was because he owned the family farm in a place called Otley, back in the day, when farms were all the rage and owning one was the equivalent of driving round in a thoroughly pimped Ferrari.
I don’t have a farm.
All I have is this blog. And that’s all I need. Just this blog. And you, my dear readers. This blog and you, my dear readers and that’s all I need. And a 20-year-old art student with silver eyes and a boyfriend. This blog, you, my dear readers, a 20-year-old art student with silver eyes and a boyfriend and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need.
Oh, and I need to warm up, because in a few short hours, I’m playing tennis for the first time in 15 years.
Wish me luck.