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When I was growing up, my parents used to call me their ‘Knock-kneed-boss-eyed-bendy-legged-buck-toothed-toe-rag’. They meant it affectionately, but the nomenclature was spot on. I felt horribly uncomfortable in my skin.
Having a mouth full of metal, a severe squint and a corrective splint on my right leg only added to the misery. The bowl haircut, bandaged eye-patch and crooked John Lennon glasses held together with sticking plaster completed a look I can only describe as ‘mega-geek’.
Puberty - Appearance - Teeth - Leg - Patch
When I hit puberty, however, my appearance changed dramatically. The teeth and leg straightened themselves out, while the patch helped me take back control of my wandering eye. The discovery of hair gel meant I could manipulate my bowl cut into a swish Eighties quiff.
My parents were thrilled and relieved. ‘He’s really growing into his looks,’ they cooed. I didn’t really understand what that meant.
Appearances - Society - Subject - Women - Privilege
But it wasn’t long before I learned just how powerful appearances can be in our society, and that, although the subject remains largely taboo, it is not only women who benefit from what is being dubbed the ‘pretty privilege’.
At 14, in the space of a year, I went from 5ft 5in weakling to floppy 6ft 1in man-boy. As my shoulders broadened, my confidence began to take shape. I still felt gawky, but my height and striking new features — square, stubbly jaw, thick eyebrows and higher-than-average cheekbones — had their advantages.
Years - Abuse - School - Fry - Teachers
After years of abuse, the school bully moved on to smaller, spottier fry. Tyrannical teachers treated me with more respect. But the most surprising and welcome side-effect came in the shape of girls — or, more precisely, one girl in particular.
Everyone fancied Maureen, the school nurse. Being the only female in an all-male boarding school certainly helped. But she was tall and blonde and into The Clash, which made her beautiful and...
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