I had to go to Boots to buy some make up the other day. I know some readers of this blog wear make up and some don't. The latter are the lucky ones. I wish I had your confidence. But the rest of us either like wearing make up or we need to wear make up. Last week, I HAD to wear make up because I've got herpes.
Yes, I have herpes. Herpes is what I have. You may know it as "cold sores" but it's definitely called herpes. I have herpes. I know I have herpes because I know what herpes is and the reason I know what herpes is is because when my dad was my age, and I was about 12, he got cold sores and for two weeks couldn't stop going around saying "I have herpes". We asked him to stop, of course, but he got so much happiness from the simple pleasure of smiling at a stranger and saying "I have herpes" that it was hard to be angry at him. And it's only now that I fully understand my father's joy. Going around saying "I have herpes" IS fun. Honestly. Give it a try. Just turn to your office co-worker or nearest fellow bus passenger and say "I have herpes". It's just a fun thing to say out loud. It wasn't fun for mum to have dad going around proudly boasting of his herpes and she asked him to stop many, many times. "They'll think you got it from me", she reasoned. "Don't worry", my dad said to everyone in the world. "I didn't get it from my wife". Not sure that helped. But believe it or not, there's a down side to having herpes. They make you look like your lips have shot themselves in the head and I had gigs to do. Audiences will accept a lot of things from comedians (sexism, racism, asking for a round of applause for our brave boys killing people overseas) but congealed blood on your face isn't one of them. So, I had to go to Boots to buy some make up.
It was cover-up that I specifically needed but here lies the beginning of the problems. I don't really know what cover-up is.
I walked around the make up department looking at hundreds of things I didn't understand from a distance. I didn't want to get too close to the make up because I didn't want anyone thinking that I wanted to buy make up even though I wanted to buy make up. I must have spent 10 minutes squinting at foundation and lip stick while keeping an eye out for anyone ever seeing me. You see, I'm a grown adult but my mind is a very young and stupid child. In my head I was concerned that if I was seen looking at make up that people might think I was gay. Now, that's proper nuts.
There is no connection between being gay and make up. None. Also, if I wasn't buying make up and someone thought I was gay I wouldn't give a shit. So why am I even accommodating this thought for a second? It's because I am proper nuts. An idiot. I spend the next few minutes squinting in front of make up and trying to look like I had no interest in make up at all. The fact that I'm looking for cover-up while my bottom lip is practically purple with dead blood should give anyone who was watching (and no one was) all the information they need: I'm a man who doesn't know much about anything who is looking for something to make his exploded mouth look less deceased. But instead my mind kept saying "They all see you looking at the pictures of Kate Moss, you perv. Go on, touch the make up and they'll know you like kissing men. Stop pacing up and down squinting at the stuff, you look like you're going to nick something, THIEF!".
Fucking ridiculous. I'm buying some make up because I have herpes, what's wrong with that? I pick up some cover-up and join the queue to pay for it and finally leave.
But what if the woman at the check-out thinks I'm a weirdo for buying make up? "Yeah, Michael. She'll see your one item of make up and she'll know that you're a drag queen. She'll think you're gay. She'll know that you want to be a lady. She'll think you're gay. She'll know that you put make up on when you're alone and wearing nothing but a kimono while looking yourself in the mirror and tucking your genitals between your legs. She'll think you're gay".
SHUT UP, HEAD. Make up isn't a gay thing and who cares what she thinks? I will never know her. This is one tiny moment out of both of our lives and we will think nothing at all the entire time. And that's when the true madness dawned on me...
I think that during the 6 seconds that me and women who work at check outs are in each other's company, I want them to fall madly in love with me. I didn't want her to see my make up or my bloody mouth because I wanted her life to be instantly changed just by my presence. I wanted her to just light up at the very sight of me. We would know each other for 6 seconds and in that time she would open her very soul to me. As I walked away, she would just stare longingly at me. "He..he..he had the right change", she would say while looking at her perfect man walking out of her life forever. So, you see how silly I was being? I didn't care if she thought I was gay, I just wanted her to fall in love with me and to be left completely broken-hearted and shattered by my absence.
Then I caught my reflection. I saw my bloodied lip. And my wrinkles and my flat, disappearing hair and my grey skin and my beer belly and I thought...well, I bet she didn't think I was gay. People think men who are handsome and impeccably groomed are gay. I really, really wish she thought I was gay.
PROLOGUE: I thought it might be funny to tell that story on stage the day after it happened (it wasn't). I came up with a sort of punchline too. I'd wear purple eyeshadow all night and at the end of the story I'd say "Oh, and while I was there I bought some eyeshadow". The problem here is that I had to buy some eyeshadow. This meant going back to Boots and, of course, exactly the same things happened again. The stupid paranoia, the squinting at make up from a distance, the trying to stand in a manly way while paying for eyeshadow and looking like I didn't even notice I was buying eyeshadow. Except this time, when the woman at the check out gave me my receipt I said thanks and turned in haste to leave. To just forget this stupid anxiety, to get away from what people who weren't thinking anything were thinking, to just get out of the shop with as much dignity as I could.
Then I was immediately tripped by a cunt in a wheelchair and I sent a thousand bags of Starburst crashing to the ground.
More cover-up, please.
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