Tracey Emin: My Life in a Column

I could see the headline: 'Brit artist found dead in back of limo. Death by glamour'

It's physically and mentally painful. Sleep deprivation, an indescribable torture. I look tired and haggard and have great big black rings around my eyes. I've aged a good 10 or 15 years. I've fallen asleep in four or five taxis to wake up disorientated and confused, but not half as disorientated as most New York taxi drivers. Fuck, are they shit! They really, really, REALLY don't know where they're going. Makes our boys in black cabs look like superheroes. Last night, I ended up screaming at a driver: "You stupid bloody idiot. If you don't know the way say: 'I don't know' - don't pretend you do!" That's a clear, basic philosophy for the whole of life. Had he read Plato's Road to Larissa? I don't think so.

I was on my way to the Elton John Aids Foundation charity gala in a cerise pink, heavily-boned, corseted Vivienne Westwood dress. I had to lie across the back seat in a weird angle, keeping my body as straight as possible to stop my tits from exploding out of the top.

I had prepared myself for half an hour of this ridiculous agony. (If only my dress had been an inch bigger.) The car was going round and round in circles. I could see the headlines: "Brit artist found dead in back of limo. Death by glamour".

The night ended in disaster, as once back in my hotel room I realised I had no one to help me take the damn dress off. After 25 minutes of twisting and contorting, I ripped it off. Three thousand pounds worth of my favourite dress torn off my own back with my own hands. What a waste. Some deranged, mad fantasy all gone so terribly wrong.

Belles of the pool

My hotel has a very nice pool. It's up on the 22nd floor. There are glass windows on three sides, and as you swim you are surrounded by the gothic, art deco, futuristic Manhattan skyline. The light is blinding. At 10am, there's an aqua aerobics class. The pool suddenly becomes full of 45-going-on-85 uptown ladies, who, in their day, must have been the belles of the ball. Some of them have had a lot of facework done. Scars concealed by the firm set of waves of hair. Contorted generations joined by the neck. Younger faces perched on older bodies bobbing beneath the water. Moving slowly in time to music more suited to the body-popping streetkids: "YO Mammas got the rap!".

One lady is around 80. (I have to call them ladies because the word "woman" would seem so wholly impolite. So wrong. These women were born ladies. Even as little girls, they would have been ladies. Even as married women, they would still seem like Misses. This one lady, she's wearing a white swimsuit, big dark glasses and a dash of red lipstick. She has a really good figure. The swimsuit is slightly see-through and you can see her breast. Her arms are up in the air and she's smiling. She's beautiful and this gives me faith.

Age rage

A male friend of mine once said: "Tracey, you have a wonderful body for a woman of your age." I nearly punched him through the wall.

The age thing, man: it's weird. So many of us are so afraid of it and it's coming, and there is nothing we can do. Self preservation is the only step. Look after what we have. Thy body is thy temple.

Birth pangs

When I'm in a strange city, no one knows who I am. Like here, the art world and the fashion world may know my name, but no one knows who I am. I walk through the streets in total anonymity.

It's in these cities I always take advantage and go and visit some mystic or other - palms, tarot or crystal balls. In Sydney a few years ago, I had my astrological chart done, plus my tarot cards read. They both said the same thing. That I was going to give birth on 17 July, 2005. The third week of October last year, I freaked out. I became a nervous wreck. My male heterosexual friends left the country. I was scared to go out the house for fear of conceiving.

A neon sign glowed outside a ramshackle house. The words said "psychic readings". I went up the stairs and rang the bell. The door was scruffy and white. It didn't match up to the neon sign and, as it swung open, an intolerable stench hit me.

A small woman, slightly hunched, with a face full of make-up, smiled - and with a voice that was a cross between Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver and Woody Allen, said: "You comin' to see me?" And as I walked in through the door and it closed behind me and the smell overwhelmed me, I wondered if I would ever be seen again.

To be continued...

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