In which I don’t know what I look like

And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I don’t know a woman who doesn’t suffer from body dysmorphia, and that tends to make things a bit confusing. Of course, there are plenty of mirrors around, but most shops are well up on the art of the most pleasing angle, so there’s no consistency there.  When the reflection in the Regent Street branch of Banana Republic was particularly unflattering, it meant I really couldn’t tell if it was them or me. Either way, I gave the clothes back and slipped away.

A glimpse in a store mirror on Saturday suggested I was verging on anorexia. I am really not. My mirror at home says shorter and squatter than that. I genuinely can’t tell if my bum looks big in this, because (a) what is normal for me? And (b) therefore, what is big? And (c) is that just big in my head or big from an objective perspective?

This morning, absolutely unable to tell whether I looked fine or positively bovine, I just thought ‘Fuck it’ and left for work anyway. Because I also thought, ‘What does it matter?’ I was dressed well enough to sneak within the office dress code, and that’s all that counts. No one at work is actually going to be judging me, and if they are, I won’t know about it. Which takes us back to ‘Fuck it’.

The objective fact is I’m a size 0 to a size 10, depending on which country or store I’m shopping in. That range is clearly pretty normal. I’d definitely be happier a few pounds lighter, because months of inactivity is having an effect, but all my clothes still fit so it’s not that big a deal. I’ve no ambition to look like a model, given that even models don’t look like models until they’ve been Photoshopped to the max.

So mostly, it’s just irritating. I like certainty. So it follows that I’d prefer to be able to look in a mirror and think ‘Oh yes, that is the size and shape of me that I recognise’ and therefore also ‘Those jeans work and those jeans REALLY don’t’. How can it be that instead, I can’t tell?

But then again, why do I need to be able to identify my own size and shape?  Regardless of whether I think I look fat or thin, the only difference is going to be in what I wear. I might misjudge one way or the other, but that makes no bloody difference to anything. So I think that, on further reflection, all roads lead to ‘Fuck it’.


In which my hair is my business

Thank you everso for asking.

For the two people who read this blog and don’t know me in person, I’ve had short hair for most of the time since my 20s, aka, the best part of 20 years.

I’ve heard ‘Oi, mate, your bird’s a bloke!’ from some charmer on the night bus. I didn’t punch him. I’ve heard a polite ‘Sir…’ before a guy at a reception desk clocked that I was female. My ex-husband and I got dodgy looks checking into a hotel one time, which baffled us until we realised that I looked like a teenage boy when I wore a baseball cap.

None of it’s a big deal, and mostly I just eye roll and move on. But the consistent question that really winds me up is ‘What does your boyfriend/husband/partner think?’, sometimes coupled with ‘Doesn’t he mind that you’ve got short hair?’

I’ve been hearing that for years. About 20 of them. From the 20th into the 21st century, apparently a defining characteristic of women is that they’ve got long hair; and secondly, their hairstyle is not just their choice. It should be validated by a male whose opinion is considered relevant on the matter. If Vidal Sassoon were still around and I knew him, I’d hope he appreciated that my haircuts are straight out of the Sassoon school. Everyone else can fuck off.




In which I don’t understand things

The things I don’t understand are many and varied. Pretty much anything to do with numbers (yesterday, I had to think really hard to divide 330 by 2. Yup.) Pretty much anything to do with domestic technology. I now live with a television in the house and there seem to be four remote controls for it and its associated boxes. My only interaction with the remotes has been to take the AA batteries out of one of them, so that I could use them to test if the microchip reading cat-flap was still working.

Still, there are some specific things that I have been not understanding lately.

  1. Black sinks – the new house has a black sink and draining board. No idea what it’s made of, but it’s sort of shiny. It would be shinier, but this is Oxfordshire where the water comes with a generous helping of limescale. Black and limescale do not seem to me to be natural partners.
  2. ‘I’ll do it later’ – based on serious quantitative research (quick chat with a couple of friends at work), this is the guiding principle of man time. But when is this enviable stage of ‘later’ when there are not hundreds of other things to be done? How does one get there? I do stuff now, because later, there’ll be more to do. So if I leave it until later, then later there’ll be even more to do. Clearly, there is a fold in time and only men have access to it. Fucking patriarchy.
  3. Why Ed Balls is still on Strictly – on the one hand, it’s all a bit of a laugh, innit? On the other hand, it’s scary evidence of the way that people approach voting for everything and therefore single-handedly makes a strong case against democracy.
  4. Why people, and women in particular, are obsessed with recapturing youth. There was an article today about the food you can eat that will keep you young. It won’t, of course, because time is inexorable. Until sci-fi delivers for us, or Airbnb opens up in Shangri-La, we’re all going to continue to age. So, what the article means is that there are some ways in which you can maybe help yourself to look ‘younger’. Younger than what? You aren’t going to look younger than someone who is 25, but if you’re 45, you might look younger than someone who is 70. You might also ‘not look your age’, which is a totally meaningless phrase as it’s impossible to do other than look your age, so it’s in fact an expression referring to a media construction of what people at certain ages look like. Break it all down and it’s the media telling you that you can appear different to how the media tell you people appear, if you’ll just pay the nice snake oil lady over there. What. The. Actual. Fuck.

In which maybe there are some clothes, after all

I’ve been despairing for months. Is it me? Is it them? I can’t tell, but I can’t spend money for wanting to. The situation has reached such a nadir that earlier this week, I was so disheartened I failed even to buy mascara. I need mascara. It’s the only thing that makes me look awake in meetings.

Summer is always bad, this year has been worse than usual. Off the shoulder, formless, floaty, spaghetti straps. No no no. In any case, the weather hasn’t cooperated so if I did buy any of that stuff, it would be hidden under multiple layers and I’d look like someone who wears their entire wardrobe because they don’t have anywhere to store it. Plus, I work in an air-conditioned, under-occupied office. It might be 25 degrees outside, but cashmere is my friend in summer. In winter, I upgrade to a cape that is basically a faux fur trimmed blanket. Yeah, stylish and warm. Eat that, Slanket!

I’m also going through a phase where I’m bored with/hate all of the clothes in my wardrobe. You know how you get up one morning and everything that was fine the day before is suddenly incontrovertibly wrong? That.

There is hope, though. It’s called ‘autumn’. It looks very much as though straight and wide legged trousers will be available, in lovely fabrics like wool and flannel. I don’t care what fashion will be telling me, these are what I really want to wear, along with a sweater, a jacket and boots or smart trainers. Jeans for the weekend.

Except that I keep trying on smart trainers and realising that they’re ugly. Instead of looking as though I’m effortlessly pulling off a sporty-yet-smart urban vibe,  I look like I work in a care home. I think I might have to get dark grey Converse and call it done. There are, thank goodness, great boots all over the place so that’s not even a concern.

And then, there’s outer layers. I’ve been holding back on jackets a bit, feeling I had too many. It must be said, I don’t have any like this and it may well be it stays that way. But, goodness, it would be fun.

Bomber jacket


And, my coats are starting to look a little too worn and my autumn coat is plain black , and really, do I really need an excuse for this? Worn with aforementioned navy flannel pants and dark grey Converse?



Oh autumn, do get on with it.

In which I am lured back by autumn clothes

To recap: I don’t do summer well. Spending most of your life in England, there’s really never much call for getting to grips with summer couture. Mostly, you just take your jacket off for 10 minutes, then the sun clouds over again and the temperature drops 5 degrees. However, by the end of my time in the US, and under the expert mentorship of Zoesmom, I like to flatter myself that I was starting to get the hang of summer clothing. After 6 years, I’d bought a pair of shorts, for example.

But, it is autumn clothes that set my little heart a-flutter, a vestige of September’s back to school excitement, with its new-uniform-and-schoolbag ritual. The edible colours and the richly sensual textures are so much more satisfying than the lightweight pastels of summer that I’m incapable of walking through a store without stroking the clothes and feeling my Amex card twitch in my wallet. Give me dark green, navy, taupe, rich brown, plum, charcoal and magenta, particularly if you’re offering it up in wool or tweed. Seriously. Gimme. And, you know, you’re right: I do need a new bag to go with that… Bring out your shiny leather or your butter soft suede.

I was flicking through Red before my hair appointment last night (Ooh, newsflash, have had hair chopped. Not short short by my standards, but all that face clutter has gone. Is such a relief. Can’t be arsed with a photo, just imagine me gorgeous and gamine.) and I saw these red patent brogues from John Lewis:

Lovely, no? With skinny jeans or cropped trousers. Available in my size? Also no. So that set me off on a hunt for something similar. Given the paucity of shoe shops in England (pauses for brief moment of US shopping nostalgia), that meant Hobbs. So, not a brogue, but pretty close, and the colour is good. I may have to check these out in person tomorrow.

Of course, a woman’s got to have something to wear with new shoes, and if the retail advice for the season is ‘Get a miniskirt’, then who am I to argue? (I do hear Stacy from ‘What Not to Wear’ saying ‘No miniskirts over the age of 35’, while Clinton rolls his eyes; and in my head I’m saying ‘La la la, I can’t hear you’.)

So, over to Jigsaw, first for a pretty reasonably priced tweed with a bit of sparkle to it:


and then for a pretty ridiculously priced frilly thing. I’m almost certain I wouldn’t buy this for me, unless Jigsaw have worked magic with the cut and the size 8 runs small, but I bet it looks cute on someone. Who is 10+ years younger. Whatever, I still like it.

There’s also this, which is Jigsaw by way of AllSaints (but half the price), and a definite nod to the 80s. Could be fun, could be ghastly, requires actual rather than virtual review.

And, erm, well, I am missing a brown bag since I gave the Kate Spade one I never used to SD, who uses it a lot. Which is very satisfying to see. But leaves a brown bag shaped hole in my closet, n’est ce pas? Three guesses what I’m doing tomorrow, my poppets…

Fabulous at Forty?

This is me about 20 or so years ago:






And this is me now, as nature intended (because I’ve decided that nature wants me to be windswept All. The. Time. so there’s no point fighting her. Bitch.).

I wouldn’t go back to being that 18? 19? year old for any money. This skin may be older but I’m a hell of a lot more comfortable in it. So, as milestones go, this one doesn’t feel as significant as I thought it would. But then, isn’t that the way with life? The big stuff is never announced by a full orchestra and appropriate lighting, it happens while you’re washing up or in the middle of buying groceries.

I’m spending my birthday surrounded by packed boxes, about to move house again. I couldn’t have put together a more apposite metaphor for my life if I’d tried! Tomorrow is moving day itself. For now, I’m about to brew up, open the chocolate biscuits and read Persuasion.

Car talk

The best thing I know for literally blowing cares away is to head out in the car with the top down. You may think England’s weather offers little opportunity in which to benefit from a convertible. You would be wrong. If it’s not actually raining and the temperature is above that at which I risk the rear screen cracking, then the top goes down. I’ll grant it’s less than ideal when I’m doing 90 on the motorway driving safely at the upper end of legal speeding limits, but what the hell.

The negligible downside is that when I arrive at most destinations I look less attractively windswept and more as though I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. By the time I’ve tugged a hairbrush through the resultant tangles, the static makes me look like Crystal Tipps.

When I was getting ready to drive back from Sheffield the other weekend, I tied my hair back. I like to think this looks carelessly chic. Apparently not:

Friend’s 4 year old: ‘You look funny!’

Me: ‘Why?’

Friend’s 4 year old: ‘Because you look like a bunny’

Me: ‘Why?’

Friend’s 4 year old: ‘Because you’ve got a little tail!’

QED, then. It is just as well that the car is pretty enough for both of us.