Wednesday 6 June 2007

The Only Gay in the Village wears gold lame

Tell me mirrors lie. Please. Mine are being most unpleasant at the moment, showing a baggy saggy wrinkly lined old harridan that I really don’t recognise at all. Who is this person? In my mind’s eye I am still she of the taut jaw, the smooth cheek, the unfurrowed forehead. I also think I have reverse body dysmorphia – whereas most people think they are fatter than they really are, I am convinced I am thinner. I look at clothes and imagine myself in them and then try them on and am shocked and horrified when a) they don’t fit and b) they look atrocious.
Last Christmas I had this idea that I would invest in a slim black trouser suit – I would wear it to parties with killer heels livened up by a shimmer of a glittery gold or silver vest. In my head I looked a stunner – Cate Blanchett at the very least. In the changing rooms of Marks & Spencer cruel reality struck. I tugged on the vest, all shiny squares of glittery gold and spun round in horror. I was the living embodiment of The Only Gay in the Village, squeezed into gold lame, a tubby bauble of a woman. I couldn’t help myself – a small scream came out totally involuntarily. Several women in other cubicles called out ‘Are you OK?’
‘Yup, fine, just er……got my finger caught in the zip.’
‘Do you want a hand?’ chirruped the sales assistant.
‘Nooooooo,’ I yelled, ‘I’m fine, all sorted!’ in a sort of bright merry voice.
Much huffing and puffing ensued to wriggle out of it. Another fine vision wrecked.
Now the same thing is happening all over again, in this the season of parties and balls. When I lived in London it was so easy. All my friends were artists or musicians or in the media and one could be iconoclastic (indeed it was expected) – anything went as long as it was imaginative and dramatic. But here in the country, strict dress codes prevail. I have been badgered to go to a fund-raising ball (I’ve never been to a ball!) and given the strict advice that dresses are worn, long dresses, proper pukka evening dresses. I spent hours trying things on and have come to the realisation that it simply isn’t going to happen. Unless I lose three stone in two weeks, this Cinderella will not go to the ball.

Sleep deprivation does not help my mood. Last night was my fourth bad night….this time not helped by the wind rattling the frames and a frond of wisteria tapping at the window. I need the Duvet Diet – apparently lack of sleep can cause weight gain (now that diet just HAD to come from a woman!)…so the only answer is more sleep. Yes, yes, yes! However, before I can crawl back into bed, I need to write a feature on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – hardly a cheery topic. I also have to visit my mother, who is not in good shape. Hey ho. Isn’t getting older fabulous?


toady said...

Sleep deprivation causes weight gain? I'm soooo relieved, I thought it was middle aged spread. I too don't recognise the old bag in the mirror, where did me go?
Right I must devise a new regime of sleeping to get the lard off. Toady

Wizzard said...

can we have a purple sleep in then?

Milla said...

Jane, I so agree. Who is this accusatory old trout frowning in the mirror, yet again appalled by what she sees. My mother had this in a department store. She saw an old frump who looked vaguely familiar and couldn't work out the connection, went closer and, yup, it was her in a mirror. A nasty moment. But what's that on your table? An invitation? A drawing? And a bag, or a dead bird? Sorry, am a photographer's daughter and scan for naughty detail. Hope your days improve - just think NO MORE VIEWINGS!! Now surely THAT puts a spring in the old Exmoor Jane's wonky step????

Pipany said...

Hi Jane. I hate mirrors though ours in the hallway is wonderful as the lighting bathes you in a yellowy glow which seems to de-age most skin types. Of course, it does mean you can never leave the house for fear of the dreaded daylight lying in wait to add ???? years and ruin the dream! Jane, I wanted to thank you for your lovely and supportive comments yesterday. I am feeling much more positive today after so many wonderful suggestions from the Purplecoo bunch seemed to make sense - things I already knew but needed reminding to use such as your idea of thinking about which rung you are on and baby steps. Your advice on Vata types also struck a huge cord with me too - sooo prone to worry and I'm sure my middle name has become anxiety (hmm, quite like that actually; Pipany Anxiety sounds like some O'Hara-esque Southern Belle!). Time to get back the positive thought I feel, and comfort and warmth certainly feature strongly in my personal needs! By the way, I also have to finish books I loathe and it drives me insane!!! Thanks again Jane xx

Woozle1967 said...

My 40th looms in November and as I put on my vest top yesterday and favourite denim (long!) skirt, I caught sight of my upper arms in the mirror. Shock, horror - when did I take up bingo? Echoes of my slim, taught friend deriding older women for showing off their bingo wings rolled around my head and I vowed to get the weights out of the shed........xx

Chris Stovell said...

I do know that horrible discrepancy between the mental image of how clothes will look and then getting a reality check but sleep and stress are just making you too hard on yourself. I'm sure you will look ravishing in your ball gown.

Chris Stovell said...

Ps. Will be sending you best wishes for your visit to your mum. I know this feeling.

Bluestocking Mum said...

That was brilliant jane-What a picture you conjure up but can't believe for one minute that petite little thing in the photos could possibly be 3 stone overweight!

I look in the mirror some days and I see an old woman-I am 40 and sometimes I feel I look about 60, even though I am still 20 in my head. Life is cruel and perhaps I should invest in one of those fun fair mirrors that make you look all distorted and silly, so that I can permanently delude myself.

Oh, and I do have such sympathy for you seeing your mother if she is half as outspoken as my Nan. The last time I saw my nan she genuinely said to me "What does your hair look like? It looks a bugger and makes you look 10 years older!!" Err, thanks Nan.
She always did hate me with long hair and preffered to make me have it cut in the customary 'elfin' cut to avoid nits!

Seriously Jane, no-one could be that cruel could they? Even your mother...

warm wishes

Suffolkmum said...

Very funny blog. Loved the only gay in the village moment and the involuntary scream. I think we've all been there. My shocking moments often come from looking at old photos - there I am thinking I haven't changed much, then I see the evidence. Good luck with your Mum.

Eden said...

Oh the viciousness of shop mirrors. Why has nobody yet figured out that if they dimmed the lighting in dressing rooms they'd sell twice as much? I'm sure shop mirrors lie, especially when it comes to cellulite and those fleshy bits at the top of your bra just under the arms. but do go to the ball, if just for the fun of it.
Thanks for you comment on mine. I know, you and all of us are sick of the old stuff I keep trotting out.
As you say, it's the book that keeps nagging at me -- bully that it is.

did you hear that thing on the Today Programme the other day about sleep bing the new sex?


You could do what we've done - get really bad lighting in your bathroom and a tiny mirror and so you think you look marvellous in everything and stick to mail-order only (bit of a necessity round here unless you want to dress entirely in George at Asda)! Mind you, I do get some strange looks when I'm out and about in my only-gay-in-the-village garb. Joking apart - you look lovely, slim and rather elfin on your page.

@themill said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto ad infinitum! Like the idea of the purple sleep in. Actually, if I gave up blogging I'd get more sleep!

countrymousie said...

Yep - having a sleep problem myself this week - fall asleep really quick then wake about 3.00 and thats it!
M&s have the worst mirrors in the world I feel - more like those horrors you get at the fairground!
Yes we need a purple sleep in or sleep over - anything.
Hope you mum is OK - love mousie

Sally Townsend said...

No you must go to the ball, it will be a riot. And don't forget to wrap your gold and white bubble round you when you see your Mother, you'll know what I mean !! (at least I hope you do)

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I so know what you mean. Have no idea how to reconcile various images of myself - might look anything from really quite attractive to ok to ancient, haggard and portly. But a ball dress could be fun. You could go the whole hog with elbow length gloves and everything. go for it.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

errr...who is that in the photo then? coz you look pretty well alright to thing worse than mirrors....a communal changing room....yuk yuk yuk

Maggie Christie said...

I loved the bit about the M&S changing rooms. I was in Taunton recently and went into Monsoon to try on a few 'frocks'. I thought I'd try a wrap dress. On Liz Hurley it looked sexy and slinky. I looked in the mirror and a char lady in an old fashioned apron looked back. Aaaaaargh! Balls gowns, however, are a different ball game. Take a leaf out of Gok's book and (adopt camp voice): "Use your look, gorgeous girl"!!

CAMILLA said...

Dearest Jane,
You have cheered me up no end, sorry dear girl, but a wonderful amusing blog. I can see you in that Ball Gown, with your Prince Charming Adrian on your side, what colour of gown, gorgeous Black me thinks. Have you thought about hiring one for the occasion, if you feel you do not want to purchase an expensive frock. Thank you for your messages Jane.

CAMILLA said...

P.S. Please give my best regards to your Mother, hope all will be well.

Frances said...

Good evening from New York Jane.

What is this crazy stuff that you are writing about your appearance and mirrors and dressing up and making sure that what you do fits in with someone else's edicts.

Wow, got that out of my system.

Now, every day in the shop, we help ladies of all ages and sizes to find clothing that they like and clothing that likes them.

Sometimes these ladies joke that they think we have magic mirrors. We do not. I have a crummy cheap mirror in my flat that can barely still tell what color (besides black, of course) I am wearing. Sometimes, I am astounded when I do glimpse myself in the shop mirror and realize what I actually am wearing. Usually a good surprise, but not always.

Back to serious uplift. When someones comes into the shop and says that she has to get something for a particular occasion, I always wonder why. Is there not something that she already owns that we can update somehow.

Often we put much more pressure on ourselves to look a different way than anyone else would ever notice.
I always enocourage our customers to bring in their favorite party/occasion clothes so I can see what shapes they like, and together we can figure out if adding something new is a great idea, a mandatory idea or nonsense.

Evening clothes especially can look different under night lighting. We can look different under night lighting.

Our company is known for minimalism, even for party clothes. Often some becoming silhouette base (admittedly usually black, but not always) can be updated, enlivened (whatever upbeat word you desire) with the current season's "third piece." This could be a glitter piece, a sheer organza duster, a quilted velvet wrap, a pleated silk bolero, a gold-edged silken shawl light enough to be tied into a sarong or a jacket or an Asian-inspired origami-based wrap.

We always try to encourage our customers to use what they have. If they insist that they want to select and buy all new styles, we can do that too. It is just a matter of figuring out where the customer's comfort zone is, where her adventurous spirit might lead, and ... what her credit cards might allow.

Yesterday, nearing the end of my long stint at the shop, I was trying to take care of some back office stuff, when my staff called me back out to the sales floor.

I immediately took in hand a woman who complained about weight gain, her inability to shop, her need to immediately leave because "nothing was working out."

Well. I talked with her. Saw what she had tried so far. Saw her body language rejecting some aspect of each style, but realized what palette and silhouette she did seem to favor. I brought her some fresh ideas in sizes that seemed to me to better suit her. I explained why I had chosen those sizes. She fretted a bit. I kidded her that "I wanted to have her happy even if she still wanted to complain." She actually started laughing.

She tried the pieces. She liked the colors immediately. (Not black, but pale lavender and white linens.) She emerged from the changing room into the common area with more 3-way mirrors. Other customers saw her and together said, "Wow." She smiled again.

She was happy. She had been helped. She looked lovely. She bought the clothes I'd suggested and called later to ask me to hold some others for her to see tomorrow.

My point. Do not be hard on your appearance. You are lovely. Some clothes will look better than others. New clothes are not always better choices. But may be.

Gosh, wish all of you could come and visit my shop. We don't mind if you don't buy anything ... we hope that we make a good connection with you so that you will respect our honest views and that will encourage you to visit us again.

That was way too long, Jane, but I hear so many ladies saying similar words, and hope that my words have helped.


Pondside said...

From the photo alongside the blog I'd say you have nothing to worry about...but we've all been there, so i understand what happened in the dressing room. A similar thing happened one afternoon after a long,long talk with my dewy-faced beautiful daughter. I went into the bathroom, and when I went to the basin to wash my hands I looked into the mirror EEEEK! to see a wrinkled hag looking back. The contrast was just so horribly visible after hours of looking a the young!
I loved the 'only gay in the village'!

Pondside said...

Me again - did you know that in Las Vegas the bathroom mirrors are tinted pink? I remember getting up early in the morning and looking at myself in the mirror and thinking "You look alright for someone who was up all night". Later in the week I happened to look in the mirror again while wearing a white blouse - then realized that the pink tinge to my blouse was the mirror, thus explaining my young and healthy looking complexion!

DevonLife said...

God Jane, a rural ball. what to wear? I cannot resist a party frock and so my wardrobe is bulging with be-sequinned, beaded, shimmery, satiny numbers. all completely unsuitable for this new life. I sit now in the glare of morning sun typing this and my wrinkly old dissapointing face is reflected in my laptop screen so there really is no getting away from this lined reality. J x

bodran... said...

Your worrying about a ball and i'm worried about a barn dance tonight, i've got stuck with a comfortable uniform nearly always consisting of a mans shirt to hide under,but i noticed i'm getting treated like the same! friends arrive with there waxed legs and manicures wearing pretty clothes with their hair done [me 2 yrs ago] and they get treated differently like ladies i suppose and not a labourer... so going out tonight as brought a panic on super smooth legs! very scratched though with walking through brambles and a delve into my wardrobe to see what will fit i'm still trying and getting more fed up by the minute...... who is that old bag looking back at me ??xx

Milla said...

FRANCES!! Please move to North Gloucestershire (stealing all your stock in an oafish size 12 please) and become my personal fashion adviser. Love it!