Belfast Telegraph

Get me an airbrush after portrait disaster

By Frances Burscough

I've always found it quite ironic that vanity is one of the least attractive traits a person can have. In fact of all the seven deadly sins it's the one I'd least like to be accused of, even though I know fine and rightly that I'm actually a terrible offender. I'm just too proud to admit it ... precisely because it is so unattractive.

So you could conclude that even my vanity suffers from vanity!

But like they say, "pride cometh before a fall" so I'll share with you the incident which taught me that very pertinent lesson ...

As I may have mentioned before, I'm approaching a half century very soon. Actually I haven't shut up about turning 50 because I'm currently obsessing about my age (how vain is that?!) So, to mark this occasion, a friend of mine who's a photographer, offered me a portrait session in his studio from which I'd get a large framed print as my birthday present.

"How fantastic," I thought.

"What a great present! I can then sell my soul to the Devil and keep the portrait in the attic, just like Dorian Grey!" I quipped.

So the photographic session was duly arranged. Now, as I had a week in the Canaries coming up from which I would doubtless be coming home with my skin tanned golden and my hair streaked softly by the radiant tropical sunshine (I thought, vainly) I booked it for the day I returned home.

In theory it sounded like perfect timing. In reality it couldn't have been worse.

As the flight didn't get in until the wee small hours of the morning (damn you budget airlines), I surfaced on Sunday looking below par to say the least. In fact "haggard" would better describe the visage that presented itself upon initial inspection in the bathroom mirror.

Dark circles under my eyes competed with unsightly bags for the limited space available, so I got a bit of both. And the eyes themselves were bleary and bloodshot (now I finally know why they call early flights the Red Eye ... except I had two).

And that was just my good side.

When I looked closer, tilting the mirror that bit closer and turning on the light like an interrogator, I noticed to my horror that my hair appeared to be ever so slightly green. Of course! Chlorine and blonde highlights don't mix, everyone knows that! And I was in the pool every day!

Back there, in the blinding tropical sunshine, it just looked like very light and bright ash blonde. But here ... back home ... in the cold light of day ... well, I'd give the Wicked Witch of the West a run for her money.

'Oh nooooo! As if coming back from holiday wasn't bad enough!' I yelped, followed by assorted unprintable expletives.

And that wasn't all. When I flipped the mirror over to the magnifying side to check my "soft golden tanned" complexion, I detected the first tiny tell-tale signs of peeling around my hairline.

Easily sorted, I thought (wrongly) while reaching for my cosmetic exfoliating sponge. As I attempted to slough it away around the edges it all just started to flake and peel off from every angle, covering my torso with a soft golden layer of dead epidermis DNA and leaving my face like a decomposing cadaver.

Now, instead of a bronzed beach babe, I was the Singing bloody Detective.

Well that was the last straw. A brown paper bag would probably be a much better idea that a digital camera lens in my face. I reached for the phone to cancel.

"Darling, don't be ridiculous!" my friend said. (He's gay, by the way) "That's what Photoshop is for! I'll mkke you as beautiful as a young pre-op Pamela Anderson before I'm done. Now get over here quick before you exfoliate yourself to death. I haven't had a proper giggle all week!"

And so this week's lesson ended.

As Jane Austen once wrote: "Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief". I'll wait to see the finished photograph before I fully agree.

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