I am naked and dripping after squash when the thought arrives: we never really know how others see us.
My victorious partner went in before me and emerges from the shower as I step in. Normally I’m done, dry and dusted while he’s still dripping words and water.
When I step out half a minute later, my partner says that was quick even for me – hardly time for my body to get wet.
Across the changing room, a man I know a little says: “It’s only a small body.”
The thing is, while this may be true, the man delivering the remark is about the same size as me, possibly smaller. Wrapping myself in my towel, I make an appropriately amused sound.
Years ago, our son, on his way to six-ft two at the time, noticed his parents talking to a tall friend. A light bulb moment, as if seeing his parents as small for the first time.
Years before that, a reader turned columnist on the newspaper came into the office. He knew me from the phone and from my column byline photo. “You’re smaller than I expected,” he said. Well, yes, and you’re ruder than I expected, but never mind (words that stayed unspoken, more’s the pity).
How small is small? In my case, five-ft eight with a following wind. That’s what I was in the days when measurements were still taken. If you wish to prove me wrong, get me talking about politics or something, then sneak out the tape measure. I will not cooperate, preferring the small lie.
Apart from standing around with a towel in the changing room, my long-time squash partner probably sees me by now just as an old friend. Or possibly as a despairing, shortish balding bloke whose usual good humour evaporates in a sweaty instant on the squash court.
JUST now I used ‘balding’ in a self-descriptive way. This set me wondering about when the ‘-ing’ can be dropped from the adjective used to describe a state of hairlessness. If you are bald, does that imply the process has reached a conclusion; or are you bald only when all hair has fled?
Here, anyway, is a personal sketch to follow one from a while ago (A bald man at the hairdressers, January 27, 2017). On that occasion, a lad waiting at the hairdressers turned quizzically to his dad as I walked in. He didn’t ask what a bald man was doing in there, but his expression did.
Every six weeks or so, I still go the same hairdressers for a head-shave, alerted to the necessity by the mad professor springy bits at the sides of my head.
Newly shorn again, I wondered this time about saying, don’t bother with the mirror behind my head bit. But I didn’t and there it was, the back of my bald head. I know it’s there but really there is no need to show me. Here’s the back of your bald head, that’ll be ten pounds, please.
Still, I feel better afterwards and enjoy the swift process, ten minutes or so to be, if not transformed exactly, at least tidied up a bit.
You’ve got a go-faster haircut, my squash partner said last week as we went on court. It turned out to be a loser haircut, but never mind. Not all men with hair look like winners. Donald Trump, for example, has the world’s most ridiculous hair. He’s very proud of his candyfloss topping though, apparently believing it makes him youthful and handsome.
Although we never know how others see us, we do all know what Donald Trump looks like, from his silly hair downwards. It’s not a good look.