I'm much more confident in blog than in person. My emails are far more interesting than any actual conversation with me. Come to think of it, I'm not so good on the phone either. (Actually, you'd do well to avoid meeting me altogether – I'm a total let-down.) And it's being all too aware of this fact that has always made me quite nervous socially. That's maybe a wee bit of an exaggeration – I'm fine if there's, say, six or so of us around a beer-garden bench. It's just when the numbers creep up – and especially if there are people present that I don't know – that I suddenly find myself conscious of the way I'm sitting, wondering what my choice of top says about me, silently berating myself for saying such stupid things and not knowing where to put my hands. (This, by the way, is the only reason I've ever smoked socially. Not because I like it, but because it gives me something to do with my hands.) This admission of nervousness may come as a surprise to a few of my mates because, despite all this, I'm not exactly a wallflower. I just happen to do a great imitation of a chatty, amiable, far-more-confident version of myself. (I'd like to thank the academy...)
And so, of late, when I've found myself back in a non-living-room situation, I've noticed that same old nervousness creeping in, and I'm more aware than ever of how I'm acting. The wig doesn't do much to help, of course. While I'm definitely more used to it now, it's not getting any comfier, plus I'm continually paranoid about whether people are looking at it or me. (Like that scene in Austin Powers 3 with the kid from The Wonder Years and his huge mole.) Are people really listening to what I'm saying or just chanting 'wiggy! wig! wig! wiggy!' in their heads as I speak? Because, God knows, if it was me I'd go all Basil Fawlty and trip over myself trying not to mention it (don't mention the wig – I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it). I'd frantically try to think of interesting questions to ask, but end up dithering and making a complete tit of myself in the process. ('Delicious meal, Rachel. Remind me, wigch – sorry, which – wigsite – sorry, website – had the recipe for that lovely wigted – oops, wilted – spinach and roast wig – dammit! – fig salad?')
In truth, I'm as guilty of drifting off during conversation as anyone fixated on my wig. I'm becoming obsessed with other people's hair. Apparently my friends have had impressive hair-growth spurts while I've been busy losing mine. Actually, I suspect they're stealing the hair that ends up on my pillow and adding it to their own, the thieving sods. Or have I just never noticed what lovely long locks they all have? It's not just the girls, either. I'm equally engrossed by my male friends' barnets, too – specifically their hairlines and balding bits. See, I caught sight of the back of my head the other day, and I really am balding in the oddest way. There's still a decent little tuft at the front that's determinedly hanging in there (I love that bit), and at the very top of my head – the bit where it starts to curve down at the back – there's a lawn-like strip that's more fur than fluff. But the rest of it has either gone completely or thinned down to the point of new-born-baby hair. And, from my limited research, that's not your average balding pattern. So, lads, apologies for the staring – I'm not judging or turning my nose up, but simply comparing notes. And girls, if you catch me gawping at you, take it as a compliment – I'm just jealous, is all.
The wig doesn't help on the temperature front either – another reason I'm not completely comfortable in company at the moment. Thanks to both the rug and the onset of early-fucking-menopause (cancer just gets better and better), I'm equally paranoid about whether the hot flushes are making me red-faced and blotchy and sweating off my make-up (turns out Sex and The City got it spot on with Samantha's 'bad enough I lose my hair, now I have my face running down my couture' moment.) So I'm constantly checking myself in a mirror which, of course, makes everyone else think I'm even more paranoid about how the wig is sitting. Either that or they think I love it so much that I've become ridiculously vain and can't stop checking myself out. (For the record, this is not the case – I still think it's a bit helmet-like, if truth be known.)
But the worst of my nervous twitches at the moment is more of a physical issue. Another of the lovely, flattering, feminine, sweet-smelling side-effects of chemo is how embarrassingly windy it makes you. I've said it before and I'll say it again, cancer treatment is hard on your bum. After the first week of crippling constipation (I never thought I'd have a go at P for his farting on grounds of showboating, but that's week one for you), then comes the relief. But with it comes an uncontrollable urge to let one rip. Add that to a social situation, and you've got one very fidgety lass with a can't-get-comfy stomach ache, an expanding, air-filled belly (thank God for the Empire line) and a noisily rumbling tummy. No wonder dinner at Busby's last night ended up with a conversation about colonic irrigation.