No-one ever says I look sick. They either say I look well or I look tired. What's the difference between the two? About ten minutes of applying make-up (OK more like twenty minutes), dying my hair once in a while, and generally checking my clothing and appearance are OK before I leave the house.
Some days I don't feel up to bothering. I just don't have the energy. Some days I'm going to Curves anyway and need to wear tee-shirt and gym pants. But most times, when I leave the house, I try to look the best I can.
It takes effort, and precious energy out of my energy budget. But it's important to me. It's important partly, because people react differently to me when I look OK to when I look like I'm about to pass out any minute It's also important because I feel differently about myself. When I think I look OK, I feel that bit better.
It comes down to something my high school deportment and grooming teacher said once. (I know studying deportment and grooming at high school is really, really, dumb - but it was being offered one semester as an alternative to sport. Get dressed up or do sport and have an asthma attack - it was an easy choice.) She was talking about how to dress in the workplace. She said you should always aim to be just that bit better dressed than other people - if you're in a workplace everyone wears jeans, wear designer jeans. Always look like you're one level higher than you actually are - it changes people's perceptions of you and helps you actually get to that next level up. In other words "fake it till you make it."
I don't know if it works in the workplace. I never could afford the designer clothes. But on the other hand, I do have a strategy to get nice clothes. My favourite clothes shop tends to bring out new dresses at $80 each. I choose what I want when they first come out, and then just keep coming back. Eventually the price comes down to $40 which is the time to buy it because that's the lowest it will go before it's removed from stock. I never choose on the basis of what's fashionable, but on the basis of what I believe will look good on me, because I need my clothes to last longer than one or two seasons.
I'm not "faking it" to get respect or a promotion at work. I just want to look like I'm not some strange, sick person who at best should be pitied or at worst avoided for risk of contagion.
So my bathroom cupboard is cluttered with hair dye, home tooth whitener, make-up, make-up removers (paint strippers), waxes and shavers.
It all seems a bit much at times, and does take far too much time and effort. But if you're going to talk to me, would you rather I looked like someone who put a bit too much effort into their appearance, or the deathly-pale person with the black under-eyes who looks like Dracula's twin sister?