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Monday, August 13, 2007

You're So Vain

'This Life' column from the newly-designed Day and Night magazine in last Friday's Irish Independent(August 10)

Like all people who claim that they don't care about such trivial matters as their appearance or how they look, I really care a lot about important matters like my appearance and how I look. Of course, I would never have admitted that until very recently, when the full extent of my own preening vanity was laid bare for the neurotic freakshow that it is.

You might have noticed that there are new byline pictures on this page, which meant that new byline pictures actually had to be taken.The problem is I genuinely hate posing for photos. Years and years ofdisappointing and, frankly, disturbing snaps of myself have wiped out any scintilla of joy about the picture-taking process. I've even had friends return digital cameras thinking they were faulty after they saw how the pictures featuring me turned out.

So needless to say I had to pull out all the stops for OperationByline, seeing how I wasn't going to be able to avoid the pic for awhile. Afterall, my professional credibility was on the line here.
I should note at this point that every shallow and Bree Van DerKamp-esque thing you read from this point on, sadly, tragically, is in fact, true.

The first step was tackling the thick birds' nest that I call my hair.I went to get it cut three days before the shoot, so that if, by chance, there was some kind of catastrophic follicle folly, I would at least have a few days to engineer a back-up plan. Thankfully, it turned out ok, but only after 45 minutes of politely grimacing as thebarber made small talk, all while I silently screamed, 'Stop talking!Concentrate so that I don't end up with a cut like a GI from the1950s!'

Next up was carefully planning the shaving routine. I normally shave every 2-3 days, but if there's something involving a high degree ofself-consciousness on the horizon, then timing becomes even more crucial. If you shave the morning of the event, you end up looking like a man-child with chicken pox. So it had to be the night before, but early the night before, or else you're limiting the recovery time (have a headache yet?). Luckily, my skin's typical response to shaving – which is akin to an Agent Orange attack – was absent. I was in the home stretch.

Oddly enough, the outfit was the easiest part. I just kept it simple, like myself. My over-riding concern in this department was - how should I put this delicately - controlling my over-active glands in the arm pit area. Yes, it's been a long, sweaty summer (in name only of course), blighted by more than one snap of me sporting Lough Corrib under both arms.

Coming up with a plan to tackle this dilemma was when I really acknowledged just how vain I was. I wore one shirt on the journey down to the hotel for the photoshoot, knowing well the sticky state I'd bein by the time I got there. I brought two other shirts with me, and quickly changed in the hotel loo. But alas, my healthy glands beganworking their magic while I was waiting for the shoot to begin, necessitating another shirt change. Then I changed my mind a few minutes later, and changed back again, at which point the photographer, bless him, got some hotel staff to physically restrain me from any more costume changes.

I tell you, it was exhausting. But ever since that whole rigmarole, I've had a classic saying of my father's ringing in my head, a pithy piece of wisdom from a generation who wash with an old wire brush and shave with a sharp piece of roof slating: "After all that preening, you'd think you'd be good-looking at the end of it". Touché father, touché.

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