One of the drawbacks to sharing a tiny flat with two high maintenance women is that they have no absolute no sense of bathroom privacy. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve walked past our bathroom and spotted Saffy or Amanda either preening in front of the mirror in various states of undress, or squeezing pimples.
“Oh my God, that’s a big one!” Saffy once cooed with satisfaction as she popped a particularly difficult zit. I was at the time on the phone with my best friend Karl who, of course, immediately asked who Saffy was talking to. Or about.
The other day, I walked by and then walked back. The fact that the bathroom was lit by several candles raised too many questions for even me to ignore.
Amanda leaned over the sink and with both hands gently pulled back the skin around her temple. In mirror’s reflection, she noticed me staring and sighed.
“I’m just checking to see if I need a face-lift yet!”
“In the dark?”
“Well, candle light is the most flattering and it’s the only way to check if I can still pass the candlelit dinner test.”
I paused and thought. Eventually, I asked, “OK, what’s the candlelit dinner test?”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “How have you survived to this age and not know things like this?” she asked in a clearly rhetorical way.
“You know how you should only ever go on your first date where there are lots of candles because everyone looks good in candle light because it hides all your facial flaws? And your date thinks you’re gorgeous but only because he can’t really see any wrinkles and stuff like that because it’s so dark? Sorry, there are a lot of because’s in this conversation. Well, only up to a certain point. Beyond that, no amount of candle light – even from those tiny Ikea tea light – is going to hide the fact that you’ve just turned 50 because Mr Gravity has moved into the house! That’s what the candle lit dinner test is: It’s whether you can go on a first date and still get away with telling the guy that you’re 28!”
Mentally, I sifted through the test, feeling a little bit like Albert Einstein in the process. “What house?” I asked eventually.
Amanda later complained to Saffy that sometimes it astonishes her how slow I can be. To which Saffy replied that it’s because I am a guy and all guys are genetically predisposed to stupidity.
“Well, I’ve never heard of that test!” I said with some degree of heat. “And neither has Karl!”
“That’s because Karl is also a man,” Saffy said, “and his evil cow of a wife never passed the test even when she was in her twenties so how is she to know about it? You’re very luck you know,” she added, drawing in a lungful of air, “that Amanda and I are so generous about sharing our female secrets with you.”
And because neither Saffy nor Amanda felt they were sufficiently objective when it came to their faces (“I know I’m gorgeous, but am I gorgeous for someone in my twenties or someone in my, ahem, early thirties?” Saffy asked), they asked me for my opinion.
Which is how I found myself wedged in our little bathroom two nights ago with my flatmates and a sink crowded with candles.
“God, it’s really hot in here!” Amanda complained. “So, quickly, what do you think?" She lifted her head and then dropped it. “See, if I drop my head, I think I get eyebags. But if I lift my head, I get an instant facelift, but it’s an uncomfortable position to be in for an entire dinner.”
Saffy chimed in, “I also think that my best side is my right side. See, not a trace of wrinkles. But on my left side,” Saffy shuffled sideways, “it gets a bit dodgy. What do you think?”
You know how during the American Idol auditions, the contestants sometimes suddenly get stage fright and forget the words to the songs? Well, that happened to me in our little bathroom. Only, I was so scared I actually forgot how to speak.
“He was worse than useless!” Saffy later told Sharyn. “He just turned red, started stammering and sweating. And then, he just ran out the bathroom!”
Amanda says that judging from my reaction, it’s clear that they failed the candlelit dinner test, though Saffy says they should get another man’s opinion. Karl has volunteered, but to be on the safe side, Amanda has begun interviewing potential plastic surgeons.