Saturday, June 9, 2007

Keith Allen and his Eyes

Keith Allen on his eyes
Actor, documentary make, bon viveur

Most people in Britain have seen my arse. I don't mind. I'm happy with my body, but haven't always been. I had a very small body until I was 17. I was only 5ft long, then I grew seven inches in a year. I was hairless, and now I'm covered in the stuff. I have an incredibly long back, too, and very short legs. I'm naked on telly again in the next series [of Robin Hood] as the Sheriff of Nottingham. And I don't 'tone up' at the gym. I went once to get my son to lose a bit of weight, but me and the gym are not friends. You have to be careful with how you dress when you're my shape - you can look like a pumped-up dwarf if you're not careful.

My favourite bit of my body? My magnificent cock perhaps? My partner likes my nipples. But my favourite bit of my body is my eyes. They're the windows into my soul. They're responsible for all my conquests. They're multi-coloured - green and brown, and blue and grey. They make women melt. But I've only been able to see out of one of them since I was about five. I can't do shapes or details. If you gave me a pair of 3D glasses I'd only be able to see green. Which makes me wonder if I'm seeing anything correctly at all. They tried to sort it out when I was a kid, but all they did was twist the eye downwards. I had to wear a patch over my National Health specs when I was a kid. Did I get bullied? Did I fuck - my razor-like wit came into play. If I glance in the mirror then I feel terrible, because I look like Bill Oddie. But if I stare long enough then I find beauty there somewhere.

· Keith Allen's autobiography, Grow Up, is out now

d a very low level. My skin was starting to show the first purple patches of the cancerous Kaposi's sarcoma. My brain had been invaded by an infection called toxoplasmosis. I started to experience epileptic fits.

I had one hellish summer as my body learned to tolerate the powerful new medication and the toxoplasmosis in my brain was treated. But eventually, everything began to calm down. I fell into the routine - easy enough to adhere to - of taking handfuls of pills several times a day.

But these are powerful drugs and there are bound to be side effects. Over the years I've suffered lethargy and insomnia, panic attacks and nightmares, constipation and diarrhoea. But the worst of these - although of course nothing compared to Aids - is something called lipodystrophy.

For reasons that no one can still quite explain, the body distributes fat in an unusual way. The arms, legs and bum lose fat. Tummys get much bigger - on many people far bigger than the worst middle-aged pot belly.

A couple of years ago, I looked in the mirror and realised that my body had gradually crept into this state. While my waist was still pretty average, I had unnatural deposits of fat on my back - forming a sort of a hump. And my neck had become incredibly large, with great rolls of fat. To the casual observer, just looking at my head, I was a fat person - even though the body below was a fairly normal weight.

I became increasingly self-conscious about my body. I lost all interest in clothes, something I'd always enjoyed before. I was the elephant man, I was phantom of the opera. What was the point of taking care of this ugly shell?

Researching on the internet, I found out that the fat could be removed by liposuction. There was a trial funded by the NHS. A driven person, I fought to get on it. The plastic surgeon agreed that my large neck was a priority and last summer I had the plastic surgery - a small incision under my chin through which the fat was sucked.

Since then, my neck is back to normal and I feel like a person again. I've joined a fitness programme for HIV-positive men and women. I've started to experiment with some new clothes.

My back is still an unnatural shape. I try not to catch it in the mirror. If I do, I become depressed and upset. In time, I'd like to have surgery for that too. I may have to find the money for that myself.

Gradually, I'm coming to terms with my body. Maybe if you're HIV-positive, you can never entirely trust your body. But some days, I get close.

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