Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Gallery: Faces

Tara Cain at Sticky Fingers hosts The Gallery every week, I had never participated but I do love reading everyone's posts every week. A couple of weeks ago she announced the theme for this week, Faces, and I immediately knew that I wanted to take part but what photographic face would I choose? First I thought of the faces I miss, faces that have played a big part in my life and that appear in plenty of my photos but that unfortunately are no longer with us. I thought of a particularly special face I lost at the beginning of this year, my grandad's. I also thought of our happy faces at our wedding, of that ecstatic first photo taken when my baby was born and handed over to me for the first time... I even considered unknown faces that I have photographed in my travels, fantastic faces that hide mysterious stories. Then I looked in the mirror and realised which face I wanted to write about: mine. I am, after all, a woman of many faces.

My face comes with a soundtrack, so press play if you fancy a bit of music to go with this post, or just hear it at the end to understand me better. This track, Brandi Carlile's The Story, was the soundtrack to my life for a while (I still can't hear it without tears in my eyes), along with the fantastic tune that is I will survive, but that one doesn't make me cry, that one makes me dance! I actually left a conversation half-way at my wedding, literally: I apologised to the poor girl who had never met this crazy bride before telling her "I'm sorry but this is my soundtrack" and ran to the dance floor to dance to Gloria Gaynor's fantastic voice.

When I say I am a woman of many faces I don't mean that I am two-faced, false or hypocritical (far from it), I literally mean that I have had many faces. This was my first face:

Wearing a very 70s outfit on the left and with my grandad on the right (I've always had very dark circles, it's genetic)
I lost that face on July 26th 1991 at 1pm when a shiny bullet of a car ran me over on a pedestrian crossing after appearing out of nowhere at high speed. Unfortunately I am not bullet-proof. In honour of that moment the mirrors were covered in the house for a while. No, it's not a Spanish tradition, my face was hurt quite badly and my parents chose for me not to freak myself out every time I went to the bathroom, not that I would have since I needed help anyway but they weren't ready to chance it! There are photos of that face but I would much rather not see them, instead here you have one from a few weeks later that is a bit blurry (probably better that way) as I had to dig hard for a photo of that time and I have downloaded it from a friend's Facebook page and then cut it because it was a group photo taken at the beach, taken with my camera though but I have probably buried it somewhere. A few minutes after this photo was taken we boarded one of those long inflatable devices towed by a powerboat (you know what I mean, right? No? It's the sausage towed by the speedy boat... still no?). Anyway, it was great fun and the start of a new face as the main scab fell, if you're going to lose a scab you might as well lose it in sea water falling from a big sausage. This must be one of the few photos without a wide-brimmed hat and huge sunglasses taken that summer, I wore total sun block and had a white face for weeks, I don't mean pale, I literally mean white from the cream. When I went out at night guys used to ask whether I had been in a fight, worst chat-up line I have ever heard, repeatedly!

One minute I was a seventeen year old sometimes having deep conversations with friends (we always did), sometimes superficial ones like whether we would ever have plastic surgery and what bit of us we would change (I always said my nose because I had smashed it against a girl's bony shoulder at school when I was 8 and it had a bit of a bump but always following with "I know it gives me personality though" and my friends always agreed) and the next minute I was wishing I had my other older nose back! My whole face back! A whole of a millisecond back so that it would all be just a nightmare.

I had to spend about 16 months with that face, a Picasso face, until the day of my reconstructive surgery, I was 19 then and I didn't sign it off until just before I had to go in, in fact the night before as I headed to the hospital for an early morning start I still wasn't sure whether I was going to sign on the dotted line. After all, I had just got used to my new face, finally, what if something went wrong, what if I didn't wake up, what if... In the end I got all feisty and I did, six hours later (much longer than they anticipated), I came out of surgery with half a face lift (to level my right eyebrow with the left as I looked a bit wonky); a cast on my nose (which they had to file down a lot more than they hoped as they found a lot more damage than they expected, hence the longer surgery); implants in both my cheeks and in my chin; and other things that my surgeon tried to explain to me the day before but that I wasn't ready to listen to, otherwise I would have never authorised the surgery. This is why I don't specialise in medical translations, I am of the fainting persuasion.

The mirrors were covered again in the house, my face was all bruised and swollen from the surgery. There are photos, I have seen them, that face wasn't pretty.

Disneyworld, Orlando (US), Christmas 1992
About a month after the surgery they had to remove the implant on my left cheek as they had not been able to stop the infection it caused, the left side of my face was just too damaged to accept it and so decided to reject it. During Christmas 1992 I had a swollen face, I must have scared the crap out of a lot of people in Disneyworld with my balloon-like face. By the beginning of 1993 I looked normal again and people were telling me I looked like when I was a kid! The surgeon had asked for lots of photos of me from before the accident so that was quite reassuring to hear and it was good that people could recognise me as me again. I don't particularly like my new nose, it is too goody two-shoes, which doesn't exactly match my feisty personality, and the fact that they had to take one of the cheek implants out means my face is still rather asymmetric but the overall effect is good, no visible scars thanks to my magician surgeon who was with me pretty much from day one. This of course means I can blend in much more easily and not stick out like I did for a while.

Why did I have the good luck of having one of Spain's most brilliant reconstructive surgeons by my side from day one? That was down to my feisty grandma (it does run in the family), poor guy was holidaying near where we were with his new girlfriend at her parents' beach house when my grandma, who was great friends with his girlfriend's mother, heard of my accident and hired him on the spot, he came to visit not long after and immediately gave me some brilliant advice to save my left eye from an unsightly scar (I am shortsighted and was wearing glasses when I had the accident). He once called me his work of art, in the next breath he told me it would be easy to reduce the size of my saddlebags, I never went to his surgery again!

Summer 1994, once everything had gone back to place
With my new face there are bad days and good days, I was out of the hospital quite quickly after the accident because someone missed something very important that was going on underneath all the burns and bruises. I managed not to break any legs or arms, although they thought I had broken them all, I have good strong extremities me! However, my jaw injuries never healed properly and so I am in pain on a daily basis. Because of the implant rejection one of my dark circles is deeper than the other (above all on a bad day) and one eye is different to the other, it even looks more opaque in the photos (see right). However, that day, that accident, that pain have made me who I am. They made me feisty and they made me realise what I wanted and did not want in my life. I am pretty sure that, had I left the house a few seconds later or earlier that day, I would not be writing this as Feisty Tapas, I probably would be a translator but I probably would not live in England so I would not have met the love of my life and I would not have my daughter. My life would be very different.

My wedding day, 2009

This is my story "through the faces". It has all come full-circle now: my little girl shares my first face, she does in fact look exactly like her mummy at her age.

I have managed to include a photo with my grandad, who passed away in January this year, and a photo of my wedding after all.

I leave you with the words of the brilliant Brandi Carlile: All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am. So many stories of where I've been and how I got to where I am... Now, do me a little favour and go to a mirror near you, look at your face, admire every single detail, line and frown and today, just today, toss the eye cream, smile and enjoy the face that you were given because, I can assure you, it is a lovely face.

PS- I have chosen "good" photos as I would not want to scare anyone!

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