He Who Shall No Longer Be Named (aka my ex David) got upset that I met my ex ex for a drink, having had an extreme bikini wax. He thought this meant I was intending to have sex. He clearly doesn’t understand me. I get waxed before any occasion, big or small. I have an awards dinner next month and I’ve booked my treatments prior with the precision of an astrophysicist working at Nasa: I have to work backwards, so… waxing is performed with two days to liftoff. A spray tan one day before, otherwise the dye settles in the pores opened by the wax, so you resemble a speckled hen. Eyebrow tint three days before, so the Marx Brother effect wears off a little. Hair dye two days before, so the telltale stain at the hairline has time to dissipate. Pedicure comes last, and I always pack a pair of Havaianas to stop the polish creasing.
It is all about self-respect and inner poise, not about being ready to have sex with a monosyllabic lump who wouldn’t notice an eyelash extension if it smacked him in the face.
I’ve always been high maintenance. Arriving in London in 1977, I was thrilled not to find punk and the Blitz club, but to discover a clinic in Beauchamp Place that promised to rid my face of thread veins. In 1978, I found another clinic that promised to inject my eyeballs to eradicate tiny capillaries. I had wanted the whites of my eyes to be clear blue, as seen on the cover of Vogue; I had no inkling the model’s eyes had been airbrushed.
For me, having beauty treatments is never about looking a certain way for a man, though my critics, who are legion, would beg to differ. One reader sent an email: ‘What man would want someone who resembles a child? Can you not get a real man?’
It’s strange how my addiction to depilation could arouse such venom. But you see, when you are a single, middle-aged woman, people like to make assumptions and to judge you, especially if you are well-dressed and well-groomed and haven’t squeezed a small human from between your aerobicised thighs. Viz, a former colleague with about six million children, who once came to my house in Somerset and said rudely, ‘Why on earth do you need such a big garden?’
Or how about the day I moved into my Primrose Hill flat and popped down to Space NK to stock up on Aesop hand soap.
‘Hmm,’ said He Who Shall No Longer Be Named. ‘You’d better not make going to Space NK a habit. It’s a bit too close for comfort!’
I could have said, well, that soap will probably last me a year. And how much do you spend on cigarettes? But why waste my breath. When I was working at the Evening Standard, I got into a lot of trouble because I’d written a piece where I’d said: ‘I can’t love anything that costs £5 unless it’s a loaf of bread.’
The editor made me do an experiment with the secretary on the features desk. We would compare our fashion purchases for a year. Counterintuitively and much to the editor’s chagrin, it turned out that, with a habit of shopping every lunch hour in Primark, Next and Forever 21, the secretary spent 14 times what I did shopping at Prada, Selfridges, et al. Because every garment was so cheap, she bought dozens of them. She made mistakes she never wore. She didn’t look after the sweaters or T-shirts or jackets; she simply threw them away.
Anyway, tomorrow a woman is coming to my cottage to give me a massage. ‘Hmm,’ my friend’s mum said without even being asked for her opinion. ‘No wonder you went bankrupt! Hahaha!’
No one bats an eye when a footballer needs physio, or a tennis player books a chiropractor. I spend so many hundreds of hours writing (or ‘typing’, as my chippy ex-boyfriend liked to describe my career) that the pain in my shoulders means I can’t even hold a glass of champagne.
That last sentence was a joke, by the way. No one thinks that middle-aged, child-free women are entitled to be funny, either.