This morning I awoke to a terrible sight. No, not the breast that had fallen out my pyjama top, but the sight of a big, angry cold sore, slap-bang in the middle of my top lip.
Of course, it decided to rear its ugly head while I’m staying at my grandparent’s house – and although my grandma is a fabulous woman, she’s simultaneously more critical and less forgiving than a Daily Mail journalist. Handing me a glass of water with a straw, I listened as she recited a list of dos and don’ts, such as: do go to Boots, but don’t rub any citrus fruits around your mouth (???).
As I pepped myself up for the journey ahead, she imparted a few final words of wisdom: “Oh don’t go outside, not with your face looking like that.”
Texting my boyfriend, I tell him that our plans next week will have to wait, I’m too ugly to show my face in public. I am a social pariah. Even my own grandmother is struggling to love me.
I never used to suffer from cold sores. It wasn’t until I briefly moved to Australia at the age of 21 that I experienced my first coldy. A friend of mine used to suffer from them chronically; I think karma got me back for the arrogant internal sense of relief I felt assuming that I didn’t carry the virus.
This is a sensitive subject to write about, knowing that face herpes is such a taboo subject. Yes, face herpes. “A cold sore? Isn’t that herpes… Of the face?” – a sentence I’ve heard more times than I care to recount. Approximately 70% of the British public carry the virus, however, some people will be fortunate enough to never show symptoms. Despite this mind-blowingly steep statistic, I’m not sure this unfortunate but temporary disfigurement will ever shake the stigma of ‘herpes of the mouth‘.
People love to urgently remind you too, that you shouldn’t kiss anyone while you have a cold sore. This is a bit like saying, “look before your leap” when you’re on the edge of a molten-hot volcano. Of course, I have no intention of kissing anyone, and no man in their sane mind would kiss a woman with a contagious face. But still, people feel the need to relentlessly impart their unsolicited advice.
For a while there, I was pretty face-herpes free. But cold sores like to appear when your self-esteem is at its most fragile, just to remind you that things can always become infinitely more terrible. Juuust after my bosses reference Princess Fiona from Shrek as my celebrity doppelgänger, and BOOM!
Stress and lack of sleep are also major triggers; currently in the midst of my third flat move this year and with an unforgiving case of insomnia, these are two things I very much excel at.
No matter how often you suffer with them, the initial shock of seeing your reflection never eases. Cold sores will make you realise how truly, truly, devastatingly vain you are. I will incessantly pick flaws in my appearance, but when the virus appears, all I can think back to were those glorious disease-free days my beautiful face and I once shared.
I also have an unfortunate habit of telling people that I (quite evidently) have a cold sore, to make sure that they know, that I know my face looks this way.
Like a nervous adolescent boy talking to a girl for the first time, I also avoid eye contact at all costs, partially covering my mouth with my hand when talking. For a week, I look shiftier than a cocaine smuggler being questioned by Thailand’s Border Police.
I’m also no stranger to Googling ‘celebrities that get cold sores’. It gives my self-esteem a vague boost to name and shame them. FYI:
Yes, these could be vicious Photoshop jobs, but for a moment there my ego feels restored. If Paris Hilton can get a cold sore and still become a world famous disc jockey, then maybe I too can pull through.
Isn’t it regrettable that this was the subject that broke my writer’s block?
Images via Giphy.