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.

Precious moments on a ticking clock

“Make time for fun and silliness”. I must have read that about 20 times. Apparently a necessity if you aspire to be a successful parent, partner, team leader and probably circus clown.

So today that cliché rang in my ears when faced with a particular unbalanced-life experience.

Our morning routine requires precision timing. No matter how organised I try to be there are just so many activities to cram into a short space of time. And our differing personality types add to the challenge: I take some time to warm up in the morning, like an old car in winter, you need to let me tick over for a while before I can even leave first gear. My little boy however wakes up ready to run down the nearest motorway. No car required. As soon as he opens his eyes his brain must say, no actually sing, “It’s morning… Woohoo!”

Fun and silliness are always on his agenda. Of course they are. But my morning routine is ruled by the large ticking clock on our kitchen wall. If we don’t get to school on time the car park will be full. And if the car park is full I will have to park round the corner. And if I have to park round the corner it takes longer to walk back to it (in heels) so I won’t catch my ‘only-make-it-if-I-leg-it-down-the-platform’ train to work.

He was in full-on Woohoo-mode when we went downstairs to make breakfast, yabbering on about something or other. I knew I should be listening, but I needed to make breakfast and…. Tick Tock Tick Tock.

To get his attention, I picked him up sat him on the kitchen worktop. “I have a question for you…” Now this works. He’s at eye level and he loves to be asked a question. And he half knows that the question will be, ‘what shall we have for breakfast?’. It’s a regular morning question because another aspirational quote locked somewhere in my memory, is to offer children choices so they learn independent thinking. Blah blah blah.

But instead, my inner silliness crept in. “Do you looove me?” I sang to him. I’ve recently watched Dirty Dancing and it popped into my head. Big grin from the boy and my silliness took over.

“I can mash potato…” I proved it.
“Do the twist….” Hell yeah.
“Tell me baby…” He loved it.

The clock was silenced. I was Supermum. We danced together. He looked me right in the eye and did that beautiful giggle that kids do when they are truly happy. I felt amazing and we had a precious moment – one of those that makes your heart burst, where you know there is true love in the room. The cliché was right, I SHOULD make time for silliness.

Time. Make time. Tick Tock….. “Oh my god, look at the time!” And there it was, ruined.

“Quickly… Just eat it… Are you finished?… Well where did you leave it?… Come on!… They are not MY shoes, they are your responsibility… For goodness sake, just get in the car… Now!”

Next time I decide to make time for fun and silliness I will schedule it with precision timing.

Confessions of an Unbalanced Woman

Today I experienced sheer horror, and it was my own doing. I heard myself saying to a friend, “Want to pop round for a quick coffee?” and as she said yes, I pictured my house. The state of it.

I knew, in that moment, that I would have to apologise. For dirty breakfast dishes that haven’t quite made it to the sink; for laundry decorating every radiator and for the bathroom. God forbid she would want to use the bathroom as it is left after my family use it in quick succession in the rush to school and work.

“Yes, that would be great.” she said, “But can you give me half an hour first? I just need to pop to the post office.” I wanted to kiss her.

The relief. I would have time to destroy all evidence of my disgusting normality. And instead greet her with my Fake Reality – the perfect level of tidy, that shows I’m naturally clean but not obsessive. It’s a fine art.

Do we all do this? Do we all have those little things that we can’t even reveal to our close friends? I think we might. So I’m sharing a few of my Fake Reality secrets…

1. My towels don’t match and co-ordinate with my bathroom tiles. Of course I have a set that do, and they are brought out fresh and smelling of Spring Meadow fabric softener when we have guests. But the rest of the time, it’s every man for himself. Grab any towel you can find that’s not been taken to the swimming baths, left on the shower floor or covered in toothpaste by a small child.

2. And that posh ESPA hand wash goes back in the cupboard when you leave, to be replaced by a normal Tesco one. Sorry.

3. I always have flowers on my table. That’s one of my things. But before they reach a vase or the table they will have spent around two days in a pint glass of water near the sink, still suffocating in their supermarket wrapper.

4. There are cupboards and drawers (within touching distance of any surprise guest) that are filled to bursting point, and I don’t know what with. Most probably items that were hastily hidden when someone else popped round, and then long forgotten. If I ever clean out a drawer I’m so pleased with myself that I expect someone to give me a certificate of excellence for my genuine (temporary) tidiness.

5. That storage box in the corner is propping a skirting board that came away from the wall about five months ago. Of course I should go to the garage, get out a hammer and panel pins from our great assortment of DIY nonsense. Of course I could fix it in about three minutes. But, well the box was there already… or in the same room at least. And you’d never know if I didn’t tell you…

Celebrate your imbalance

I have read so many articles about ‘Work / Life’ balance. They all show images of old fashioned cooking scales or a tightrope. It would be easy to think that the secret to a happy life is just a little two-sided equation – we can find the perfect balance and ‘have it all‘. If you’re pulled too far in one direction, take a little out of the left, add it to the right and you’ll be back on track. Easy.

But, I’ve kept feeling that there’s something missing… ‘Having it all’ seems more than two categories. I can’t capture everything that makes up ‘Life’ on one side of the scales, if the other side is filled with ‘Work’.

For me, a better image is hundreds of spinning plates and me running between trying to give each one enough attention. 

I have many friends who don’t ‘work’ (we’ll debate that definition another time), who still have uncountable plates threatening to crash to the floor at any time.

Even if I give a name to all the plates… children, husband, parents, exercise, house, friends and so on and so on, there are still so many subsets, it blows my mind.

So, for many years, I have tried to give all my plates suitable attention, petrified that it would be my fault if they smashed and were irreparable. God forbid anyone even sees any of them wobbling.

And there we have it. Guilt. Stigma. Fear of judgements.
  • What if I don’t spend enough quality time with my children?
  • What if I don’t have my hair highlighted and legs waxed?
  • What if I don’t provide a great, healthy Sunday dinner for the family?

But it’s exhausting. I’ve decided that ‘having it all’ is too much. I’m going to let some plates crash and not feel guilty. Well, I’m going to try.

So here I go. Letting my kid play on the Xbox, while I sit watching TV, with my grey roots showing and long trousers to cover my unsightly body hair, deciding that today Sunday dinner will be sandwiches.
Smashed it.