My So-called Life: I'm plain, dowdy - and gorgeous

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The Independent Online

I find it wholly irritating when otherwise beautiful and glamorous actresses like Charlize Theron ( Monster), Halle Berry ( Monster's Ball), Cameron Diaz ( Being John Malkovich) and, most recently, Tamzin Outhwaite ( Frances Tuesday) go all plain and dowdy for a particular role and are excessively applauded for it.

I find it wholly irritating when otherwise beautiful and glamorous actresses like Charlize Theron ( Monster), Halle Berry ( Monster's Ball), Cameron Diaz ( Being John Malkovich) and, most recently, Tamzin Outhwaite ( Frances Tuesday) go all plain and dowdy for a particular role and are excessively applauded for it. I mean, I'm plain and dowdy all the time, but does anyone excessively applaud me? No. For example, when I go to the corner shop, does Mr Patel say: "I admire your bravery in coming out looking like you do. Here, have an Oscar and a couple of Emmies?" And when I go to Waitrose, does the girl on the till say: "Wow, well done you for having the courage to leave the house. Here, have nine Golden Globes and one of the super-strong bags we usually charge 10p for."

So it upsets me, but then, on the other hand, perhaps I'm not as bad-looking as I think I am. I did once get compared to Ellen Barkin, but when I phoned a film-buff friend of mine and said excitedly: "Um, Ellen Barkin?", he said: "God, she's bloody ugly. What about her?" "Nothing," I said. "How's the family? They OK?"

That notwithstanding, perhaps I simply have this condition I read about the other day called BBD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) in which you imagine you are much worse looking than you truly are. This may mean, in effect, that I'm actually bloody gorgeous. On discovering the disorder and recognising most of the symptoms - like imagining clothes shop assistants are laughing behind your back and calling you fatty-bum-bum - I tested the idea out on my partner. "I think I might have BBD," I said. "If so," he said, "keep away from me as I don't want to catch it." He is a magnificent hypochondriac - always Googling any symptoms he might have. Last week, he had Lupus and Parkinson's. This week, he has a brain tumour and athlete's foot. This involves a lot of wailing and rubbing his foot hard along the carpet because "nothing else will get to the itch".

Once I took BBD into account, a lot of things begin to make sense. For example, only the other week a photographer stopped me in the street and asked if he might take my picture. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't too keen on the monkey, or the fact I had to pay him £20, but what can you do when a person is desperate to have you in his portfolio? On another occasion, a lady, who, I can see now, might have been from Elite or Storm or some other modelling agency, approached me at Heathrow airport and said: "Please put that cigarette out. It is non-smoking in here." If the flight hadn't have been called, I'm sure she'd have given me a card and told me to report first thing on Monday.

I have always had a strict beauty regime: washing twice a day with Toilet Duck, which is excellent for removing dead skin cells, as well as daintily painting my cold sores with white pimples of Zovirex whenever necessary, which is often. Drinking two litres of mineral water a day is also essential, but boring, which is why I recommend gin and coffee instead. On the exercise front, I would do aerobics if it didn't require so much puff, so, instead, I went to "step", but that was stupid. Indeed, as I said to the instructor at the first class: "I've been able to do steps since I was a year old and find the fact there are classes in it ridiculous." She took it well, and said: "Well, piss off then, you plain and dowdy old boot-face." Once, I would have been upset by that remark, but now I know I have BBD I can see it's simply not true. I may even be the next face of Estée Lauder. (For a pamphlet detailing my beauty tips, send me more money than you can afford and, children, whatever you can nick from your mum's purse while she's watching Emmerdale.)

'Would you like a divorce with that?'

So, according to Sir Bob Geldof, getting a divorce these days is much too easy. What nonsense, I thought, until the other morning when I filled up the car at the garage, went to pay and was asked by the man behind the grill: "Would you like a divorce with that, love?" I said I hadn't really thought about it. Are they expensive? "Giving 'em away, love," he said. "They're really easy to get these days." I said I wasn't sure. I mean, once you've found that one special hypochondriac to annoy the hell out of for the rest of your life, what's the point in splitting up and having to find someone else? "Suit yourself," he said. Oh go on, then, I said. I'll take one. "Just the one?" For now, I said. And I popped it in my handbag.

And then I went to my dental appointment. I am not very good at dental appointments, as I have a very low pain threshold. "Ow, ow, give me a jab," I always shout when the nurse tucks that napkin thing round my neck. "Calm down," said the dentist. "It's just a check-up today, but, while you're here, would you like a divorce?" A divorce? "Free divorce with every check-up. Special offer." I was beginning to think Bob had a point. "Just ask the receptionist for one on the way out. And, if you don't bite me this time, you can have a balloon and smiley sticker."

I went home, thinking I'd be free from easy divorces, but no. There it was, on the answerphone: "Well done. You have definitely won a prize in a competition. It is either a plasma TV made of 100 per cent plasma, an all-inclusive Bahamian cruise or four divorces and a Royal Doulton commemorative tea set showing sad little children trying to hang on to mummy and daddy before going off the rails and shoplifting a lot, and doing badly at school. Phone this number that only costs £987 per second, if not considerably more, and claim."

I said to my partner: "Divorces are so easy to get nowadays." "I know," he said. "There was one in the Frosties packet this morning. Just fell into my bowl. Gave me quite a start - a start being the last thing I need, as I've come down with angina and TB." "And don't forget," I said, "I've got BBD and am really gorgeous." And then the doorbell went. It was an unemployed youth offering dishcloths, tea towels, ironing board covers and every kind of divorce you can think of: quick; drawn out; amicable; with or without mediation. Yes, it's true, it is very easy to get a divorce these days. Sir Bob was right.

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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