Make-up free?

Oh dear. I’ve just had to have a word with myself!

I read this article about people’s reactions to Alicia wearing no make-up to a red carpet event and I had 3 thoughts within a split second…

1. Good for her

2. How dare people judge her

3. I couldn’t do it. Surely she could have got away with some mascara!!

And it’s the last one that shocked me. Why do I feel like that? Who set the rule that I feel I have to follow?

Now first of all, let’s be clear. I don’t go to red carpet events very often. OK, ever. And actually I’m not a big make-up wearer at the best of times. But there are days when I feel I NEED to wear it.

Last night for example. I had a hospital appointment at 7pm. I was working at home during the day so it was scruffy clothes and bare face. But I felt the need to slap a bit on to go to see a doctor. For fucks sake, why?

I remember thinking, “I look rough”. So foundation, mascara, lipstick and suddenly I feel ready. Ready for what? Did I think the doctor would give me different test results if I look less rough??

Of course it’s ridiculous.

And yet, tomorrow when I go to London to a big meeting, I will definitely wear make-up because I do feel more confident when I feel I look nicer.

Is that wrong?

I totally support any woman’s decision to go make-up free or to contour the fuck out of their face. Whatever makes you happy. Men too.

I am questioning why people even need to talk about it. Why do people feel the need to support or condone Alicia by commenting on Twitter. Is the point she’s making that it’s not important what anyone else thinks?

I don’t know. Ultimately I don’t care. My test results were all clear, so clearly wearing make-up worked for me!

http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/alicia-keys-didnt-wear-makeup-to-the-vmas-and-got-publicly-shamed-for-it–WJQOIng57dW

Pay it forward

A waitress in Wagamama just made me cry!
To clarify: it was in a good way with a really lovely act of kindness.

I’ve been shopping in the Trafford Centre which has one of those massive dining areas with lots of fast food options round the edge. I really didn’t fancy a McDonalds or a Spud-u-Like, or fighting for a seat, or being glared at for taking up a table for 4 when it’s just me. You get the picture. So I decided to treat myself and go to Wagamama. I love their food and their smoothies and it was relatively quiet. But usually I find eating alone takes a bit of courage, or at least a book to hide behind!

I was feeling brave enough but once seated I started to feel that self-conscious urge to get my phone out so I don’t have to look at anyone or acknowledge my lone-eater status.

Then I decided not to give in to that uncomfortable tradition. Instead to be confident and just really enjoy my food and surroundings. And I really did. It was kind of liberating to just relax and smile and think for a while, and not care about anyone else.

When it came time to pay my bill I got talking to my waitress about eating alone and how she also tends to hide behind a laptop or a book. I told her about this blog, where I talk about worrying less and me trying not to care what other people think so much. She was so supportive and said that she’d have a look at the blog and that she’d like to pay for my meal.

I was absolutely gobsmacked!! You hear about these lovely acts of kindness but now it’s happened to me it made me tear up.

I went back to her as I was leaving and thanked her again and she said, “no problem just pay it forward”.

So then I’ve been finishing my shopping and wondering how to do that. How could I pay that kindness forward. Eventually the answer felt obvious, to find another woman eating on her own, congratulate her for having the confidence to enjoy a meal for one, and buy her lunch for her.

So that’s what I’ve just done. And a lovely lady called Christine in Yo Sushi was kind enough to accepted my gesture. (I should add that approaching a woman on her own and offering to buy her lunch is also a tad nerve wracking!! I hope you weren’t too frightened by me Christine!)

She’s agreed that she will also pay it forward to another lone-eater. I hope she does, and I hope whoever that lady is will feel how I feel right now… That as Unbalanced as we may all be sometimes, women (and men!) are usually kind and supportive of each other. Whether it’s a random act of kindness, a compliment or just a simple smile, we can really make someone’s day.

So here’s to enjoying a meal for one. And here’s to all the wonderful people out there who’ve created a random act of kindness. I’m looking at you Liz, my lovely Wagamama waitress. Thank you!!

If you’ve been involved in a Random Act of Kindness or Pay It Forward type of thing, I’d love to hear about it. Please tell me.

UPDATE: Christine got in touch! 

” I was the lucky recipient of lunch!!!! I was so touched by the gesture – it really really made my day!! It was great to meet you and thank you once again. I paid the act of kindness forward and bought a mum and son on the next counter an afternoon tea cakey treat. They were as thrilled as I was and promised to keep the chain going.

Thanks again – you were a little ray of sunshine for me today xx “

What a lovely day.

Unbalanced Equality

This weekend Tim Lovejoy was interviewing Kelis on Sunday Brunch and said,

“I’m a dad. I look after my kids 50% of the time but no-one ever asks me, ‘How do you juggle career and children?’. But… How do you juggle career and children!!”

Yes Tim! Spot on.

Why do interviewers (or the people who write the questions for them) think that when interviewing a woman who has a job and small children, then this is an essential question? And yet when interviewing a man in the same situation, they don’t.

This is a question that I’ve pondered for a while, and I have become quite frustrated that it appears to still be considered a ‘Women’s issue’. It really pisses me off.

But I also want to add another point …. It’s not just parents, and it’s not just workers that need to juggle or balance their lives.

There seems to be a magic equation of :

Woman + Kids + Job = “How do you find a balance?”

I started my Unbalanced Woman blog a while back because I was having to make some changes to get my balance right. And it struck me that all types of people feel they are trying to juggle or balance lots of different things in their lives. Not just when they have kids. People feel ‘Unbalanced’ for many different reasons. In my blog I consciously talk about some elements of being a mum, some of having a job, and some about totally different things. That’s MY life equation and my (happily) busy and Unbalanced life.

I know plenty of people with different life equations who are equally busy and therefore may sometimes feel ‘Unbalanced’:

  • Man + Job + Parents needing care = Juggler
  • Woman + Kid + Another Kid = Juggler
  • Woman + Illness + Part-Time Job = Juggler
  • Woman + Retired + Grandparent child care + Social commitments = Juggler

Many of these things are wonderful aspects of our lives, but they still need juggling. And when we can’t find a balance we ask for help, or we strap on our boots and crack on as best we can, accepting that sometimes we drop a ball or occasionally we totally fuck everything up.

So I’m with Tim – if we think it’s important to ask working mums how they balance their lives, let’s give equal interest to working dads, non working parents and non-parenting adults.

Or just join me in accepting that ‘Unbalanced’ is a way of life, for all types of people, and it’s to be celebrated.

#UnbalancedSolidarity

Will I turn into my mother?

They say it’s inevitable that a girl will turn into her mother. Good God that’s scary.

If it’s true then I’d better get my finger out, because I’ve got work to do.

If it’s true, then I’ll become the most loving, thoughtful and generous woman I know.

  • I’ll be able to mend clothes, bake great cakes and get any stain out of anything.
    (Seriously, she can do that!)
  • I’ll know the best treatment for every childhood illness.
  • I’ll be a wise but humble woman and a fiercely loyal friend.
  • I’ll remember birthdays, anniversaries and all those little things that are important to others.
  • I’ll be fun to be with but also happy to be on my own, in my garden, with a book.
  • Oh and I’ll be an amazing gardener who knows the names of plants and trees and birds (the proper names, not just ‘that one with the red leaves’)
  • I’ll be polite enough to meet the queen, but those close to me will hear me prove I know all the rude words too.
  • I’ll be a spelling and punctuation nazi, and even pull a pen out of my bag to correct graffiti on a public toilet door.
  • I’ll be an amazing grandma, and my grandchildren will look forward to seeing me, especially as I’ll always have a freezer full of the best ice-cream known to man.
  • And I’ll always, ALWAYS, drop everything the second my (grown up) baby needs me.

Fuck, that’s a lot to live up to! If I ever manage to get close to being as wonderful as my mum, my son should feel very lucky indeed.

#UnbalancedRoleModel

Binge Friend-ing

Just like drinking, these days I don’t see my friends as often as I used to, but when I do, I do it ‘properly’.

Like many women of a certain age, I felt like I grew up with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. The Sex and the City ladies were a bit older than me and so watching them, I was guided into a lovely security that my own circle of friends would easily be able to stay close, meeting for dinner or drinks or even a posh breakfast at least once a week. Forever.

As the series and their lives progressed that never waivered. They welcomed their kids into the four-some’s social engagements, but that never distracted from the conversation about relationships, sex (once sensitively renamed ‘colouring’) and other intimate details of their glamorous existences. They even strolled down streets together afterwards, in their posh shoes, to complete any unfinished conversations. Such, I assumed, would be the reality of my long standing friendships with MY girls in my thirties and forties.

Let’s re-examine that… Getting my group of girls together in the same place, at the same time, ideally without children, is like trying to reunite the actual cast and crew of SATC.

There are text messages spanning about two weeks as we first try to find a Saturday night when everyone is free. When we’ve moved three months through our diaries we typically declare it a ridiculous state of affairs and try for a Friday (less ideal due to the number of Saturday morning clubs that require an early morning chauffeur).

Recently, we moved through Saturdays, Fridays and Thursdays, Sunday lunches and Saturday brunches, before finally landing on a Wednesday for a curry, in six weeks time.

I mean, to coin a regularly used phrase, for fucks sake. A frigging Wednesday! But that, it seems, is the life of Unbalanced Women who may work late, who have Unbalanced Men who work late or who have children who have clubs and commitments that turn us into their P.A., chauffeur and late night chef.

Of course I see some friends one at a time for a quick brew or even one of those coveted posh breakfasts (they’re actually my favourite). Even better than that is seeing friends who live far away, and you travel to get together for 24 hours or more. Now that is a full-on friendship binge.

In preparation for such an indulgent appointment I find myself making a mental agenda of things I need to ask them about. Who am I kidding? I sometimes write an actual agenda of topics. I never wear Carrie-style posh heels, but I do add a bit of lippy because it feels like a special ‘date’.

Time always flies as I try to tick off my agenda as we tangent off to a million topics eventually returning to the original thread after musing “…why are we talking about fridges anyway?”. And we’re usually both clock-watching to make sure we’re not getting dangerously close to missing our next allotted commitment, which we can of course still get to on time if the waiter brings the bill and the card machine RIGHT NOW.

But seeing my Girl Gang is important to me, and that’s why I Binge Friend when we eventually meet. I want to drink in as much as I can and soak up their stories and the wonderful flow of easy conversation, jokey insults and safe judgement of others.

And the added beauty of Binge Friending is that, just like binge drinking, there are usually lots more messages the morning after, to thank everyone for a lovely evening and to comment on our favourite memories and funny stories. But there’s never anyone saying ‘never again’. Unless of course that Clare was in charge of pouring the wine!

Saturday night out: a 20 minute countdown

I had a shocking realisation the other day, that I no longer listen to music when I’m getting ready for a night out. I dismissed it fairly quickly as we don’t have a radio / music player in our bedroom. But then I thought about it some more. It wasn’t just an absence of music – my routine for ‘getting ready’ has evolved almost beyond recognition.

Back in the day, and I’m talking at least a decade ago, getting ready was part of the fun of a night out. It would shape my whole Saturday. I might head into town to buy a new top, or eyeliner, or nail varnish. It was not uncommon for me to make sure I was home for a nap around 4pm so that I could have an hour or two in bed before having another hour or two to get ready.

As I wrote that I just stopped in my tracks and realised that I used to feel the need for a nap even then. And I would have one! Not to catch up on precious, lost sleep, but to pre-charge my dancing batteries.

Batteries fully charged I would start a new phase: getting ready to get ready. Before actually getting ready, I’d decide which CD to listen to, test out a choice of outfits and shoes, decide if I would I have wine or vodka later. All that is assuming I was alone. There would be additional elements if any girlfriends were coming round to get ready with me. Then we’d be treating the CD player like a juke box while comparing latest make-up, perfume and trying to make different sized feet fit into each others shoes.

Getting ready was an event in itself.

No longer. Now I reckon I can do it in 20 minutes. It goes like this…

Preparation: I will have washed my hair in the morning, because my hair is just as unbalanced as I am and requires at least two hours to calm down after being washed. A ruffle and a bit of frizz-calming wax is all the attention it gets.

T-20 mins: Quick shower, avoiding getting my head wet. In the unlikely event that I have worn make-up during the day, I might wash it off. But if I’m super lazy, (and I’m a little ashamed to admit this) I will just put a bit more over the top.

T-15: Make-up. As I wear exactly the same make-up all the time, it’s a pretty straight forward routine and I could do it in my sleep. A recent purchase has got me excited though – glittery eye power I can put over my plain beige eye-shadow, and voila… I have achieved that day-to-night transition that apparently every woman dreams of. I am a Disco Diva, no matter that there are no discos any more.

T-8: Get dressed. Choose one of the sets of still-quite-nice underwear from my drawer (easy as I only have two). Skim passed the dress choices – its not anyone’s birthday. So it’s either The Good Jeans or The Black Trousers and one of three tops that haven’t yet been down-graded to work wear. I spend 10 seconds wondering what I wore last time I saw whoever I’m meeting, and then remember that unless it’s a yellow, polkadot, bat-wing dress, no-one actually remembers.

T-3: Ask my husband if I should wear the black shoes or the black boots. I like to involve him. He does the same for me. Neither of us listen and we make our own choices anyway.

T-1: Coat on, and THEN, realise that my nail varnish is appalling and quickly paint another coat over the top.

Time to go.

T+1: Taxi is waiting as I try to load all my make-up into my handbag, without smudging my nails (knowing this is a pointless exercise as once I’ve had that first glass I’m past caring. I’m too lazy to even take my bag to the toilets, never mind actually reapply any make-up).

My ‘happy’ at the end of all this though is that I’m out. That’s the point. Whether I’m out with my husband, friends or a few random strangers, I’m confident enough to know that my sparkling conversation and wit can outshine my new eye-shadow. And if I’ve got that wrong, there’s always the wine and my best friend… Jack Daniels.