I had forgotten the promise I made about celery. It was only as I pulled my punky fishnets on for the first time and caught a glimpse of myself performing that graceless shimmy requisite for getting tights on that I remembered my play required me to get my arse out. Every day. For a month. It’s a girl punk play, with a scene that briefly requires a moment of indelicate bearing. And now here I was about to do it for the first performance of the run, and my arse was… there. Bare derrière de bleurgh. Like a nemesis I’d forgotten I had because it’s always behind me, like the past, or that man who spits in a cup outside Iceland. He gets everywhere. Everywhere you turn. He gives me the heebies.
I immediately blamed the writer for this heinous scene. Which, as she was standing in front of me in the mirror getting into costume, was quite easy. Who was this idiot? This girl in the looking glass giving me a shifty look? She knew she’d messed up, I could tell. I shot her an evil then looked away. (She copied my move to the letter so I think we know which of us has the real imagination.)
The tights, by this point in my inner dialogue, were mostly up. The legs part isn’t difficult, you kind of just stick them on your feet and pull like you’re trying to start a lawn-mower from the 80s, but the real coordination comes a little higher, around the gusset, tummy and waist. You can’t just pull and leave it where it lands. You must seek the precise coordinates for comfort, the latitudinal-longitudinal bullseye for the fabric to stick to, each patch in the elastic weave has its right place against the right bit of skin. You know when it’s right; you can just feel it. The Dance of the Tights is an epic search for Perfection, a metaphor for the Struggle of Life squeezed in to anywhere from thirty seconds to three minutes depending on how much time you have for this most symbolic of acts. Part peekaboo dress-tease, part wrestling-style hoiking appended with the very real danger that one wrong jerk could temporarily deaden the bit that makes you go ooh.
So. My arse.
I’d promised myself a fad diet of celery and spinach to deal with the partial nudity. Boiled water with hint of lemon. No cider when the summertime hit, a big no to bread. Fresh air with mashed cloud and a drizzle de rien. But then I had forgotten these rules instantly and carried on living my life. Panic-cramming cashews into my mouth while slumped with exhaustion at my desk, licking unidentified smears off the fridge door in case it once had Vitamin D in it at any point during its shelf-life, and carrying a banana on my palm to work to test the potassium-osmosis theory. (Don’t google this – I just made it up. I feel immense pressure to like bananas. But I never really do.)
And now I was doing that crick-necked craning thing people do over their shoulder, trying to look at parts we have no anatomical business looking at. The bum, the arse, the bottom, the heiny, the tukkus, the butt, the “You will never be Beyonce, bitch”. That thing we’d have no personal aesthetic awareness of if we lived in the wild. Who invented the mirror? Who developed that trickery of glass so that we could see ourselves? Before we would just walk around beautifully unaware of what we looked like. We might glimpse ourselves in nature’s mirrors – ponds and lakes, shiny stones or waxy leaves – but nature is kind enough to obscure us with ripples or dappled light, we never see the full reality. And I bet, pre mirrors, few people in history ever stood by a lake, lifting their skirts, trying to look at their own butt.
In the end I just went out and did it. I did the play and I got my arse out and then I put it away again. And despite my dressing room fear and loathing I didn’t think much of it. It was too brief to dither about it and I had to move the story on through to the end, an arseless denouement, so I could hotfoot it offstage and have a beer. With some celery in it like a Belgian Bloody Mary, a tip of the hat to forgotten promises.
N.B. This is not my arse.