I’ve just spent three days at London Fashion Week after a two-year hiatus. It was weird being back. I felt like a fossil, dug up and turfed, yet again, on to the front line, or at least the front row. Or row three. I didn’t recognise any of the faces. They all seemed impossibly young. I only spied a couple of people I recognise from days of old. Even though one of them had once squeezed me into a bodycon dress for a cover shoot, her eyes washed over me, unseeing and unfriendly. All the young people seemed so confident, happy in their own skin with their bare thighs, clumpy Chelsea boots. Not one seemed riddled with self-doubt. Me? Having filed my review, I spent the rest of the day refreshing my inbox, anxious that all was OK. I couldn’t even sleep that night, so worried I wouldn’t have made the grade (ie, the paper) the next day.
I thought back to the first fashion show I attended. It was 1978, I was still a student, and it was staged by Mulberry, held at the Hard Rock Cafe. It turned my head. I stared up at the models and wanted their lives, their beauty, their clothes. I was only 20, but I didn’t think, ‘Oh well, at least I’m young.’ I just thought I was spotty, stupid, not tall or thin enough. I managed to get the clothes. My first purchase was a grey silk blouson I’d seen on that catwalk, followed by a Mulberry wallet, as I couldn’t afford the bag. I managed to get a store card for a boutique called Crocodile on South Molton Street, where I purchased Maud Frizon slingbacks and olive green silk Calvin Klein hotpants.
Attaining the models’ beauty was harder. Electrolysis, skin cream made of snail shells, cauterisation of thread veins, semipermanent eyebrows, airbrush tans, veneers, micro dermawhatsit. No one told me the models were born beautiful and that they would soon, with only the odd exception, retire and marry rich men. For me, the years slipped by as I tried to improve myself. All that changed is I’m now battling different wars. No longer a greasy scalp but hair loss. No longer acne but skin so testudinal the young ladies on beauty counters merely ask, ‘Are you dry or very dry?’ And say, paramedic-fashion, ‘Do you want to apply some now?’
Then I had a shock. Yes, another one, after the evening Gracie collapsed and spontaneously emptied her bladder. I’d rushed her to the vet – thank god we’re now allowed inside, rather than me having to hop anxiously, like an expectant father, in the car park – and it turned out she had a raised temperature and a possible bladder infection: she’s now on a cocktail of drugs. I can’t lose Gracie. Not now. Not yet. Not ever.
The second shock was I caught sight of my face unawares. I discover I have two hammocks each side of my mouth, which is now pointing worryingly downwards: who can blame it after the ten years I’ve had!
So, emerging from the fashion shows, held in empty car parks which 20 years ago I’d have thought edgy but now find cold, I went back to the see the plastic surgeon, Mr Karidis, who performed my facelift and blepharoplasty (eye bag removal) ten years ago. He has aged in the interim, too, though he doesn’t appear to give two hoots: he doubtless has a family, a home, a skiing trip booked, whereas I have nothing and no one.
He sat me in front of a mirror. I’m ashamed to say I found this more frightening than being given an MRI scan. ‘Your neck and eyes are very good,’ he said. ‘Oh, thanks!’
Then the bad news. ‘Look at the difference now.’ He lifted my face from my cheekbones gently with his hands. I looked like Kristin Davis in And Just Like That. Do I want to be her, or Sarah Jessica Parker, with her hollow cheeks that signal only disappointment? I tell him to book me in. I want one last shot at happiness. I haven’t given up hope, not quite yet.