My big sister wasn’t always a barrister, obviously. But anyone who knows her knows that from a very early age, she was a force. She just has this presence, always did. In any game we played as kids, invariably involving our Sutton cousins (who will be suitably mortified to find themselves on page 69), she was always the boss – our chief, leader and protector. All our school years we shared a bedroom, which was the scene of much laughter, comfort and war in equal measure. She used to draw a line down the middle of the room to divide my half from hers. The fact that the door was on her side gives you a fairly good indication of the power balance. But I had the basin, so it wasn’t all bad. It was one of those early 1980s turquoise numbers that sat in the corner of the room complete with backlit vanity mirror, which we loved. Needless to say, said sink was constantly littered with cheap make-up and hair brushes. We went through a lot of hairbrushes not just because we both had long hair, which we did, but because they got smashed on a fairly regular basis.
I have too many memories of my sister standing in front of that basin, her tongue curled backwards between her bared teeth, smashing the hairbrush against the sink in frustration as her new top/skirt/dungarees from Mirror Mirror didn’t fit. I couldn’t fathom how the girl that I idolised with the sallow skin that I longed for and the aura of Judd-Nelson-cool could be floored by an ill-fitting top. But of course, it’s only with hindsight and at least 20-odd years of life lived that you come to understand that there is so much more to love about your body than its ability to fit into a fashionable top.
Now that myself and my sister have daughters of our own, we worry down the phone to each other on a regular basis as we see the same stain of self-doubt seeping into their young psyches. A few weeks ago, Niamh O’Donoghue, a speaker at the IMAGE Beauty Festival, asked members of the crowd to raise their hand if they had ever cried in a changing room. A sea of hands filled the air. Which makes Kerry Cunningham’s moving story on page 95 all the more powerful and relevant. What we see in the mirror and what others see at first glance does not define who we are.
Instead, we’re rooting out our old photo albums, led by Amanda Cassidy, thinking back to the nostalgia-scented summers of our youth and revisiting the bedrock – the people, places and moments who’ve made us. (That’s where I came across this little back garden gem above.) We’re celebrating mind-expanding solo travel with Rosita Boland, exploring the complicated and cataclysmic power of female friendships with Emily Hourican and joining Catherine Doyle on her journey to overcome fear and fall in love with the sea.
When your hair won’t behave and your skin is on strike, these are the things that will straighten your spine, allow you to stand tall and say, this is me.
The July/August issue of IMAGE Magazine is out now.
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