The Colour of Context, by Matilda Dods











Semi-Often, because I like checking in on how my writing is being received, and because I’m a bit self-involved, I find myself in the comment section of the pieces that I have written.

Recently, I found this.

And it got me thinking.

This random guy on the internet doesn’t like that I have deep set eyes and that I slouch.

I do slouch. I can’t deny it. I’m a millennial. We slouch and should probably go to the physio more often. However, the deep-set eyes part got me thinking: About how we view ourselves, and how other people, who these days are largely arbitrary people on the internet, perceive ourselves. And the myriad ways that knowing, or not knowing, changes the ways in which we see and understand beauty.

I have gone through periods of really hating myself. I was a teenage girl. I hated that I slouched, that I was shorter and skinnier than all of my friends, and then that I was taller than all of my friends. I hated that I didn’t have thick hair, or curly hair, big lips, I hated my eczema, I hated my chicken pox scars. But I never hated my eyes. Through all of this vehement self-hatred and all of the awful things that I would say to myself when I looked in the mirror, I always liked my eyes. I liked that they are the feature of myself that I recognise my father in the most.

My whole family has deep-set eyes, on both my mum and dads side. My sister’s eyes are round and deep-set like our grandmother, mine are deep set and almond like my mum. My brothers are bright blue, mine are grey, my sisters are a deep brown. We all look quite similar, but it’s our eyes that are the piece of string tied between each of our pinkie fingers, that tie us all together. We are unmistakably siblings. And I’m goddam proud of that.

As I’ve gotten older, and more and more steps have been added to my skin-care regime, I have never started wearing an eye cream or wearing concealer under my eyes. Because I like my dark circles. I like what they say without saying anything. Was I up late last night writing something? Did I have a romantic date and stayed up with my partner drinking wine that will match the colour of my under eyes the next day? Was I dancing on a table and am currently regretting that last (7) shot (s)? Who knows!? To me, dark circles are the deep red lipstick of the eyes. They’re mysterious and enticing. Why the hell would I wear makeup that doesn’t enhance this! (I did go through a particularly weird goth-y phase where my eye makeup literally conceived of rubbing dark Burgundy lipstick on to my eyelids and around my eyes, imagine how much this guy would hate that??).

This is not a piece to promote the paradigm of ‘think before you speak,’ (which you obviously should do, but it’s not my point here). It is simply an examination of the ways that context changes everything. My eyes, and my slouch, mean something very different to myself than they do to a stranger on the internet. Because I look through my eyes, and I stretch my back out after sitting at a computer for hours, hopefully with a feeling of fulfilment for finishing something that I have set my mind to.

When a stranger on the internet sees me, they see the same thing. I do not appear dramatically different in pictures of myself, to the way that I look when I look in the mirror. But those two visions, whilst indistinguishable from each other aesthetically contain infinite differences. My vision of myself, the image that my friends, family and lovers have of me is coloured with context, that changes like a kaleidoscope depending on who is looking through it.

My eyes are emblematic to me. Of the ways that I am physically connected to my family, of my love of chic meets tired mystery, of the things that I use my eyes for. From reading and writing, to assessing the distance between the floor and the table whilst dancing on said table.

The way that we see others and the way that we see ourselves become so arbitrary when compartmentalised, when my eyes are taken out of my head, when my slouch is disconnected from my neck and spine and examined in the kind of harsh overhead lighting I associate with hospital waiting rooms and the dentist. Clay Parish has no idea that I have the same eyes as my mum, how could he? To him, my eyes are just eyes, that are a little too deep-set for his liking. He thinks that I shouldn’t accentuate my deep-set eyes, that it’s not flattering, he might share this opinion with other people. But I have spent so much time compartmentalising my body, pulling it away from the pieces that make it whole, and telling those pieces that they aren’t good enough, I don’t need anyone else to do it for me. What I need are the threads of context to sew those pieces back together. The threads of reference and reverence, I have my mothers eyes, and my grandmother’s eyes, and so on and on. These are the threads that hold me together, that ties me to who I am, and how I see myself. So FUCK NO, am I going to ever wear makeup that doesn’t accentuate my sunken eyes.

Words: Matilda Dods

Photography: Jake Terrey