Candia McWilliam is six feet tall and used to being stared at. She always looked 'a bit thick', she says, 'where thick overlaps with apparently sexy': a mixed blessing for anyone. Indeed, the looks could be a liability: on her first honeymoon, she was briefly kidnapped in Oaxaca by a gang who'd mistaken her for Jimmy Connors's new wife, Playboy's 1977 Playmate of the Year. Decades later, over 50 and much fatter, she found that people were still staring. She was experiencing a second, greater freakishness:
The bottom of my face works and strains and munches and contorts ... Quite often I dribble. I swear ... I was never before a swearer. The features of my face have thickened, the skin over them coarsened as I pull at my mask ... There are surprising batches of wrinkle and hard elbowy flesh ... a couple of twitches and a tremor that is worse in company or sunlight. My eyebrows are a tangle of argufying bristles, like moustaches. Along the crevices of my muzzle, where I grimace in the reach for settled sight, the skin is irritated, red, flaking and psoriatically itching. I bare my teeth such that strangers comment, and babies, after whose company I hanker, hide their faces from this witch. Those teeth clench and grind and gurn away, trying to find settlement for the reaching eyeballs lying above them.
LRB 6 January 2011 | PDF Download