COVID-19 Is All Fun And Games Until You Start To Look Like Your Grandmother

I’m sitting at home, dressed to the nines with nowhere to go.

Dressed to the nines during COVID-19 (?), I hear you ask.

Image of old woman with grey hair and moustache.
Thanks to Far Kew for this wonderfully appropriate image

Well…yes. But I do have two very good reasons for such crazy behaviour: The first is that like many of you, I imagine, the highlight of my week since social-distancing started has become my trip to the supermarket – and… standards. The second is because in recent days more than a handful of old people have allowed ME TO PASS BY THEM in aforementioned supermarket raids or during my “essential” exercise.

I may be paranoid, but I thought it was the over-seventies we were trying to protect (and I’m 54). So…looks like I’m not winning any “how to look great without make-up” competitions anytime soon.

COVID-19 is all fun and games until you start looking like your grandmother.

Admittedly, I’ve looked better. I’ve probably taken this short-term permission to live like a slob that step too far. Added to which, I’ve been suffering from a nasty attack of Rosacea that I’m praying hasn’t been triggered by the vast quantities of pink Gin I’m drinking for my anxiety.

But I suppose there was a certain inevitability about ageing prematurely during this pandemic, when you’re locked up in the house with your husband 24/7. After all, there’s only so much ice-chewing, golf-swinging, and farting you can witness before your body starts to revolt – as I alluded to at the bottom of my last post here.

I’m fortunate to have a son who consistently reminds me that anyone over thirty-five is ANCIENT, but I’ll be honest with you, I thought I looked okay for my age – hence my decision to drop any sort of beauty regime at the first opportunity which turned out to be this virus.

It’s not like I truly believed I was a walking advertisement for how to look good with no make-up, but I thought this new “surviving a pandemic” natural look gave me a Byron vibe. That was until the old man commented on how nice I looked the other day – the day I wore mascara for my last trip to Woollies.

‘What do you mean,’ I turned on him defensively.

‘I don’t know,’ he replied nervously. ‘You’ve got some nice colour to your cheeks.”

‘That would be my Rosacea,” I confirmed with a death stare.

Of course, NC would laugh out loud at my suggestion that I have any sort of beauty regime. If you call putting body lotion on your face at night a BEAUTY REGIME, I can hear her say. My daughter has always been appalled by my complete disregard for “products” and she still hasn’t stopped laughing about the time I used a brow pen as an eyeliner.

I miss my girl.

And in my defence, it doesn’t help that I can’t actually see the massive whiskers hanging from the corners of my mouth, the overgrown hedges over my eyes, and those orange blotches of rogue foundation that I can normally rely on her to wipe away in shame.

I won’t deny that my beauty standards have slipped to “Kathy Bates in Misery” level of late, which is why I’ve called Kurt in to my rescue. He keeps moaning about how we never do anything, so I thought I’d ramp up his Friday night and book him in for a plucking session in the bathroom tonight. I’m ignoring the fact that his latest experiment with his own mop is a Mohican that he’s threatening to dye platinum – mainly because it’s hard to care about anything very much right now other than the path of this bloody virus.

But if I do turn out looking like Lady Gaga in that scene from A Star Is Born when Bradley pulls off her stick-on brows, I promise to post a photo.

Middle Age: Time To Stop Worrying About Our Bodies And Start Focusing On Our Brains

I’ve had a mixed reaction in my circle about my decision to shed a few kilos. There are those friends who have been supportive – in that they understand the need to manage my weight gain through menopause, if possible. Then there is the other “life’s too short to be miserable” camp, who don’t believe I should worry about a few extra rolls at this stage of my life.

Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Truth be told, I’m not so vain that a few extra kilos worry me, but I am conscious that carrying extra weight at my age is no good thing. I had also reached that point where I was climbing the dress size mountain a little faster than I wanted and was starting to feel the effects – physically and psychologically. There were several nights over Christmas when I had a ‘nothing to wear’ crisis, because nothing fitted.

Middle-age is hard enough when it comes to style, but it’s that much harder when you are heavier than you want to be.

However, I do believe that it’s important to put your health goals into perspective. It comes down to that balance thing that’s so hard to get right in life, which is why it saddens me so much when my girlfriends admit that they hate parts of their bodies. Because while none of us are immune to the ridiculous pressures of perfectionism created by women’s magazines and reality tv shows, I do feel that at some point we have a right (and it is healthier) to age and accept our age, along with the inevitable leaks and creaks that go with that.

I’ve mentioned before the glorious sense of liberation I have taken from the invisibility that has come with middle-age. I feel much freer when I go out without makeup, when I’m not wearing a bra, or can happily swan around the house in my pjs – and I’m loving the fact that I can get on public transport late at night without having to worry about being harassed.

In general, I feel much more confident in who I am.

However, there is no denying that we are the product of the expectations placed on our gender by the media. And many women have been victims of men who take their best years, use them as a vessel for their children, and then discard them during their mid-life crises for a younger model, thereby diminishing their confidence.

My body is a physical map of my life, that bears the scars of childbirth amongst other experiences. I am not ashamed of the physical evidence of that miracle of life or the way the intensity of my love has cracked the skin on my face. But I would point out that when it comes to ageing, there is no gender divide, and the old man’s body bears the same ravages of time as mine.

But imagine if women left men when they started to lose their hair?

I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to fit back into a size 10 and have the choice of high street fashion, or that I wouldn’t like my teeth to be whiter or my jowls to be less like my dog’s – BUT WHY? I’m fifty-four, not twenty-three.

And for the record, I wouldn’t want to be twenty-three again.

So does it really matter if the skin under our arms swings with the wind or if our faces looked like crumpled paper? I’m satisfied that I made the most of the beauty of my youth, and I wouldn’t choose to turn back time. But now is the time for my brain to shine.

Let’s Stop Judging Ourselves By Our Bodies

I went on a girls night to the city last Friday night.

I’m ashamed to admit that it took me longer to get ready than usual because the outfit I had put together in my head that week looked crap when I put it on and I had a confidence crisis, which meant I had to go through every other outfit in my wardrobe until I came back to the original one.

Seriously, I thought that by this age I wouldn’t care how I look, but apparently, I’m not alone – all four of us “girls” that night had our own personal what-to-wear crisis before we met up.

Comments about fat thighs and dog jowls were bandied about, and sadly they’re not unusual. Honestly, anyone listening in on our conversation would have thought we were teenagers on the pull, not a group of middle-aged women praying we’d be home in bed by 10pm at the latest.

Who has done this to us? Who or what has driven a giant bulldozer through the confidence of women when it comes to their bodies? Because you’d think that by your fifties we’d have accepted ourselves for who and what we are, wouldn’t you? And that when we tell our daughters that it’s what’s inside that counts, we’d really mean it?

Sadly, our problem is pretty universal. Check out The Bikini Rant below:

I need to take her advice. I mean it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever wear a bikini again in public, but why do I still care so much about how my body looks at this stage of my life? Who do I want to impress? I should be proud of it. It’s been a reliable vessel to two children, a ton of junk food and a veritable Tardis when it comes to Chardonnay.

And it’s not like the old man ever worries about what his bum looks like.

This week I listened to one of Yumi Stynes fantastic podcasts from her Ladies, We Need To Talk series – during which she discussed this very issue.

Yumi mentions the importance of us having some self-compassion when we think about our bodies. She asks if we would say to our friends what we say to ourselves when we look in the mirror?

Like ‘Shit, Lou! You’d be quite pretty if you didn’t have those three chins!’

But of course, we wouldn’t, because a) It would be rude and hurtful, b) It doesn’t matter, and c) there’s probably nothing that I can do about them even if I really cared.

So, whose standards of beauty are we trying to live up to and judging ourselves by – because they’re not universal standards. Countries such as Mauritania, Tonga and even Fiji embrace a little extra weight in women.

No, they are magazine and social media standards – hello, Instagram – that push men and women to to attain impossible standards of perfection. In the same way that porn influences men to believe that women should be hairless down below, some of them now see a women’s size 6 as the norm.

Kim Kardashian has launched a new range of shapewear called “Solutionware” – a name which has the ‘built-in implication that there is a problem’, according to India Knight of The Times. And Kim’s range isn’t targeting mid-lifers like my friends and I, who are showing the normal wear and tear signs of ageing, they are aimed at our daughters.

Which is why we have to demand better role models for women and our girls. We don’t want our kids fawning over Love Island and Bachelor wannabees; we want them inspired by “real” women – true heroines, whose success isn’t derived from their looks, but from their magnanimity, their intellect and talents. Women such as Ashleigh Barty, Nakkia Lui, Malala Yousafzai, Lady Gaga, Jacinda Ardern or Tiera Guinn, to name but a few.

Historically, women have been prized for their looks and ‘valued for their sexuality’ (Darcy Steinke), because we used to live in a man’s world. But not any more. However, if we are to be taken seriously as equals, we need to value ourselves so much more.

Arty-Fartiness And A Celebration Of The Naked Female Form

image4One of the best parts about this stage of life is having the time, finally, to concentrate on what we love doing; the ability to explore new avenues and discover new passions. And if you’re not one of ‘those that can’, it’s just as pleasurable to appreciate the passionate endeavors of others, stand in their shade, and lap up their success.

I was invited to view an art exhibition the other night. Three female artists (Jane Park, Laurie McKern, and Petra Pinn), and one male artist, Evert Ploeg (whose work is represented at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra), get together weekly, on Monday Nights, (hence the name of the exhibition), to paint the naked female form. The exhibition included framed pieces, canvases as well as sketches of their experimentation and exploration of the process.

Those of us that can’t draw or paint stood back and secretly wept with envy at the talent on display by the four artists, who had not only depicted the female form in all its glory and strength but had also created an intimate backdrop for the event, with a distinctly South Amercian flavor. As Jose strummed Spanish music on his guitar in the background and a gorgeous life model lit up a makeshift stage – in top hat and garters, and very little else – it was difficult not to imagine yourself in nineteenth-century Valencia.

Sadly, my purse doesn’t stretch to the price tag of real art (that’s the problem with being married to a tightarse/heathen), yet something else stopped me from my typical impulse buy compulsions, and it bothered me. image2

I identified it as I ummed and ahhed over whether it was appropriate for me to approach the young model to ask for her photo. Stupidly, I worried that she might think I was some seedy older woman about to exploit her, in much the same way how I sensed the old man might feel if any one of the images of strong, semi-naked females appeared on a wall at home.

Like many men, he’s not as comfortable with the naked female form, or indeed femininity, as perhaps he should be for a man of his age.

Many men associate imagery of naked women with sex, porn and desire and some struggle not to objectify it. It is an attitude that we need to change if we are to alter the culture of the abuse of women and domestic violence, and perhaps by making art such as this more accessible, we can change that attitude. Another way – of which I am a staunch supporter – is by getting more penises on the screen and in the media, and ahem, fewer under boardroom tables.

image1As a side note, my friend and I were reassured to spot the preponderance of lush female bush in the depictions of the younger models – a sign (we hope) that this ridiculous concept of shaving everything off down below is finally demode.

‘Perhaps that’s because the models are South American?’ she queried.

‘But isn’t that where the Brazilian originated,’ I asked her, confused.

Of course, shaving off your bush is every woman’s choice and thereby wholeheartedly approved of by feminists such as myself; the only caveat being that women are doing for their own reasons rather than for men who struggle with the distinction between real life and porn.

image3

This piece, by Jane Park (Instagram page is at Janeparkart.com), was my favorite of the evening – possibly because it reminded me of how I look in the morning – and I seriously contemplated buying it to hang over our bed to terrify the old man. Had I been brave enough, I am certain that it would have forced him into the spare room, once and for all.

Middle Aged Hair And Bad Grey Days

When I part my hair in a section that falls outside of the eight-weekly dye zone, I’ve noticed some ominous course grey hairs sprouting through. Do you ever wonder how they grow so goddamn quickly before you get the chance to ambush them? cat-1280122_1280

 

I haven’t been too concerned about this tell-tale sign of ageing before, because peroxide has been my best friend since my early twenties. I have noticed that my hair has begun to thin out over the past few years, mainly because of how often the old man complains about the hair accumulation on our bathroom floor and in our food, but I’m not even close to the step of letting myself go grey, even though I have great admiration for the confidence of those who do.

 

Like most women, I’ve played around with my hairstyles and colour over the years – one year short, the next long – but I always end up going back to the same tried and tested formula where I feel most comfortable – a choppy, mid-length, honey-blonde cut – nothing too dramatic. If anything I could be accused of being boringly safe.

 

Whenever I see middle-aged women with blue hair or scarlet hair, or balayage, I’m in total fucking awe of their strength and freedom of expression to be so ‘out there’, and of how ready they are to demonstrate to the world their new confidence in their own skin. My natural instinct is to merge into the scenery rather than be the focus.

 

Perhaps I’ve learned my lesson about hairstyles over time. In my mid-twenties, during a testing point in our relationship when the old man refused to move in with me even after my ultimatum, I booked myself the first appointment I could get, had all my hair chopped off and reinvented myself as Lady Diana in a typically impulsive ‘fuck you’ gesture.

 

Then there was my first and only perm in my late teens, which ‘took’ a little too well and ended up in the sort of mesh of tight curls a bird could happily nest in and definitely not the natural waves I’d hoped for. It meant I had to wear my hair in a French plait for the following six months.

 

There have been several colour disasters experiments – something that every girl needs to do as part of her journey to a woman – although NC will tell you that I begged her not to do it each time she got the home dye out. My most recent experiment was a few years ago when I decided to revert back to my own particular shade of ‘mouse’ to save on hairdressing costs and ended up looking like some prison escapee who had dyed her hair to avoid capture.

 

I’m not fixated on my hair like some women, because thinking about how to conceal my muffin top and eight chins is a pretty full time job. On the whole, it’s not ‘great’ hair like Jennifer Aniston’s – whose style I asked for numerous times but which sadly never quite materialised out of my hair ‘type’ – but it’s never been too demanding; never really let me down.

 

Which is fortunate because another of my pet peeves is visiting the hairdressers and being forced to fork out hundreds of dollars as well as make inane conversation with someone half my age with whom I have zero in common with, when I’d much rather make the most of two hours of peace and devour their trashy magazines.

 

In fact, it’s quite shameful how rude I am to hairdressers. I figure that if I tut enough, slurp my coffee loudly enough and make it patently clear that I don’t want to communicate with them they’ll eventually get the message and leave me alone to ‘Who Wore It Best?’

 

I may have to change my attitude with the advent of these ‘Bad Grey Days’.

The Brazilian Conspiracy

I’ve always believed that there’s enough unwanted hair on women’s bodies to deal with at this stage of our lives, without us having to go through the pain and cost of getting our fannies waxed every few weeks. 

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I think SOME body hair is attractive

 

 

I reckon I could start a profitable business in wigs if I have to shave down there as well.

 

But from what I’m led to believe on Social Media, those of us who prefer the kempt garden as opposed to the shiny limestone courtyard are now in the minority, so I’m getting a bit of a complex in the communal showers at the pool.

 

When did this Brazilian conspiracy happen? When did we move from the hirsute Chewbacca look of the seventies to Gollum, without me taking on board that my thatch is now deemed demode.

 

To be honest, I’d assumed that the rise of the Brazilian was a phase, something silly that Gen Y did – not some new beauty expectation of all of western womankind.

 

And those women that do it, insist they do it because they prefer it, (which I find hard to believe when it’s akin to tortures developed in Guantanamo Bay), and nothing to do with the preferences of their partners as some of us more skeptical feminists suspect.

 

I get that the invention of barely-there briefs and g-strings makes it harder to contain those rogue pubes. Which is why I’m all for some DIY landscaping – and not for the old man’s benefit I hasten to add, but because I’m a swimmer and errant pubes might affect my speeds.

 

But getting rid of the whole shebang? It’s just not right.

 

I’m reading Caitlin Moran’s book ‘How To Be A Woman’ at the moment – not for the pelvic-floor-challenged amongst us, I hasten to add, because it’s wet-your-pants, laugh-out-loud, OUTRAGEOUSLY funny – and she’s in agreement with me on this topic. The hair ‘down below’ serves practical, biological purposes and shouldn’t be messed with to appease the fantasies of men who think they know everything about sex from watching porn.

 

Her innovative take on life is that there are four things every woman should have and one of them, is what she prosaically describes as a ‘…a proper muff. A big, hairy minge. A lovely furry moof that looks – when she sits naked- as if she has a marmoset sitting in her lap. A tame marmoset, that she can send off to pickpocket things, should she so need it – like that trained monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark.’

 

Moran goes on to discuss how we are living in an era of ‘pube disapproval’ and questions how we got here.

 

Because if I have to groom the dog, surely these days of equality demand that the old man go ‘metro’ and wax his tackle too? (gags). It might give him some definition – not that one wants to turn up the spotlights on the penis, which requires some natural shade to hide its fugliness.

 

To be fair, though, I can’t imagine that the fully exposed, ageing female vulva could ever be deemed a model of great beauty.

Can I Body-Shame All Middle Aged Men Who Wear Speedos?

There is this bizarre conspiracy in Australia where middle-aged men, no matter what the size of their girth or tackle, believe they can wear Speedos in public and remain beyond reproach.

 

Middle-aged women on the other hand, are demonised if they dare squeeze their middle-aged frames into a bikini.

 

I  might question the style and sanity of a tubby middle-aged man’s decision to wear a pair of Speedos, but I have no serious issue with it; what does offend me, however, is the double-standard, whereby women are picked out, shamed and publicly flogged for flaunting their bodies in public, whereas men are largely ignored.

 

I should point out that I also have nothing against the brand of Speedos, which I wear myself whenever I pound down the lanes of my local pool in an effort to control my wobbly bits, just as I would not be averse to marketing their wonderful products here on this blog, should the opportunity arise. They just happen to have given men the means by which they can display their beer bellies and sagging testicles in all their glory.

 

Below is the proof that some men look good in Speedos. And for the record, this not an ageist blog post, because even Tony Abbott – who I can commend for very little other than his obvious aversion to the middle-aged beer gut – has proven that Speedos, even on a dad-bod, can be acceptable.

 

michael-phelps-560x421

 

Although if you’re Prime Minister, they’re still a bit ewww!

 

And I don’t hear the younger generations bemoaning their Dad’s choice of Speedos over the more reserved short, quite as vocally as I hear them berate women of a certain age and over a certain size for wearing bikinis in public.

 

For the first time in a very long time I bravely donned a bikini this year. The decision might have been borne out of my new fifty-plus ‘fuck it’ attitude, the wisdom that my child-bearing wobbly bits should be something to be proud of, or simply because it’s been a fucking hot summer, I’m menopausal and the more hot skin exposed, the greater the relief.

 

And I can imagine that it might be a bit of a drag (literally) for men to have to wear surf shorts when they’re swimming.

 

So we’re on the same side. We just need a little bit of equality here.

 

I’m happy to ignore the beer bellies, love handles, extra tyres and tiny, almost embarrassing tackle, if men can ignore my muffin top, saggy boobs and thighs that touch all the way down. Let’s all agree that there is no greater natural feeling than the sun on skin, and that it’s really not important what we do or don’t wear …unless we’re talking nudist beaches, which obviously brings up the problem of penises on the loose and all sorts of horrible awkwardness.

 

 

Massage And The Price Of Beauty

With so much festive fun going on recently, I never got the chance to tell you about the best bits of our family holiday before Christmas. 

Enjoying spa
How I thought I’d look on the massage table…

 

Being a ‘family holiday’, it obviously wasn’t going to be a moment that involved the family. No, the real standout was a massage I treated myself to, in readiness for my plans for the new year, which, as I mentioned here a couple of posts ago, is going to be all about me.

 

Not that I’m hard to please when it comes to massage, having had a total of three massages in my entire life. As usual, I came late to the party of self-indulgence when it comes to beauty and had always viewed massages as a waste of money in my previous, naive life; rather like manicures and pedicures. Whenever my friends suggested a spa-weekend, I was always the one to diss the idea and say ‘yeah… not really.’ 

 

Because beauty treatments have always bored the pants off me. And then there’s that whole problem of having to make small talk with your therapist, when you have to actually pay to make up stories about your interesting life. But as I get older, I’ve decided to finally see what all the fuss is about, because it’s not like I don’t think I could use a little help with my appearance these days… if only I didn’t find it so hard to sit still for longer than ten minutes.

 

But an hour of total relaxation after a week of enduring Kurt’s mood swings brought on by forcing him to live in a strange house with his family but without all his home comforts, (as well as the craziness of Christmas that loomed ominously ahead), was too tempting to ignore. So with a body sore and ravaged by an excess of sun and sand, the idea of someone gently rubbing oil all over my body suddenly held a ton of appeal.

 

When my masseuse first told me she was Japanese, I now realise that I should have listened to my intuition when it tried to warn me that my massage might not be the relaxing experience I had envisaged. When she went on to admit that her English wasn’t very good, I was tempted to ask if we could agree on a safe word.

 

I find it super-awkies to get my body out for anyone these days, other than the old man if he pays for it, and the medical profession, which is why I could NEVER contemplate a bikini wax. It’s funny how we change, when for years after my pregnancies I’d seriously part my legs for just about anyone.

 

That’s one of my issues with massage – the invasion of body privacy part. Topless, with your face plugged into a hole in a table, it’s hard not to feel a bit vulnerable when, like me, you feel a bit coy about your wobbly bits; one wrong move and your masseuse could sue you for getting whipped in the face by a flying boob.

 

Nevertheless, I really tried to enjoy it. Even when she dug what must have been the full force of her elbow along the length of my calcium-poor spine and pinched callously at my ribs, I tried to remain positive. But as she kneaded the knots at the back of my neck, it was hard not to compare the experience to pulverising meat for a barbecue.

 

Finally, obviously satisfied that she had annihilated every tissue in my back, my masseuse asked me to roll over so she could work on my front. Whereupon I became ridiculously boob-shy, like some pubescent school girl in the sports changing room. She started by rubbing behind my ears, (not unpleasant) and worked rhythmically down every stubborn sinew in my neck to my chest as I lay there in panic, wondering when she was going to whip off the towel protecting the last remnants of my modesty and begin pummelling at my sad, old breasts in some desperate attempt to revive them to their former glory.

 

She obviously sensed my fear. ‘Too much pressure?’ she asked, as I smiled gratefully back at her.

 

I think I felt better afterwards, if the after-effects of a body-battering can be seen in a positive light; although I couldn’t move my head from side to side for days which made saying ‘no’ to the kids very difficult. However, I did avoid the peeling stage of sunburn on my back after the force of my masseuse’s magic palms removed the top layer of my skin.

 

The price of beauty.

If I Can’t Eat Cheese, Surely That Means That Life As I know It, Is Officially Over?

English: Avocado with its cross section. Pictu...
English: Avocado with its cross section. Pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. App 18 cm (7 inches) long. Français : Un Avocat entier et en coupe. Photo prise à Dar es Salaam, en Tanzanie. Longueur 18 cm environ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I admit that I may have ridiculed friends in the past who have been sucked in by fad diets, and for this I bow my head in shame.

Because I’m about to bore you again with the downhill progress of my middle-aged facial skin condition, Rosacea.

I’m also ashamed to admit that I never realized before just how much I took my looks for granted in my previous life.

Over the past ten years, I’ve been forced to come to terms with fading looks, ‘invisibility’ in public, out-of-control whiskers and general tubbiness, but it’s a real kick in the scrotum when what the ageing process has left of my face has become a red, blotchy horror show.

The old man’s empathetic words of “At least I don’t have to worry about you leaving me now,” have been far from comforting.

Even worse, is that after a lengthy hypochondria-fuelled research session with my best mate Dr Google and various international quacks of certain ill-repute, it appears that the diet I need to go on to make my face acceptable to the public again is bordering on inhumane.

I have always been a healthy eater, so I never considered that being forced to become more ‘clean’ with my food choices would be that difficult, but below are just some of the yummy foodstuffs I am supposed to eliminate:

Avocados – We all know that all gut street credibility goes back to zero these days unless you have at least one avocado crammed in your gob at every opportunity. Avocados have assumed super, super-food status now; let’s face it, they are bordering on becoming the God of the food kingdom.

They’ve also shown up quinoa to be the fad we all hoped it was.

So how exactly will I be able to show myself in my local café again if I can’t flaunt my superior healthiness with avocado on the side of every order? And the thought of the breakfast perfection that is smoked salmon, toast and poached egg, WITHOUT their perfect green sidekick, is already giving me sleepless nights.
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Dairy – not so hard for me to relinquish, I thought, as I’ve never been a huge dairy fan due to scientific misconceptions about cholesterol that cemented an innate fear of premature mortality.

But then I remembered cheese.

I may need to take a moment….

I can’t pretend that giving up cheese, one of the major keys to happiness in life, will be easy. ‘Cheese’ deserves a proper grieving period, a moment to reflect on what it has done for me throughout my life. Hell! even scientists admitted that it is addictive this week, so it must be good.

How exactly are me and my mates supposed to survive PMT, women crises, man-bitching and The Bachelor without a Frisbee-sized slab of the fullest-fat Brie on the coffee table, to temper our white wine?

Everyone knows that cheese is comfort on toast

And let’s not forget all those traditional cheesy faves we were bought up on, before dairy and carbs were excommunicated: cauliflower cheese, macaroni cheese, lasagna, quiche…

The good old days… before we told that anything that tasted really good would give us cancer.

Allow me to welcome bacon, sausages, burgers and red meat into that group this week, too.

Spicy foods – I’ve served my time with hot food. I’ve earned my chili stripes. After two years of the roof being taken off my mouth, feeling as though my whole body was about to lift off, I’ve finally found an appreciation for the not-so-subtle thrill of wasabi. Sashimi without wasabi is like wine without cheese, Will without Kate, Kurt without….Hmmm…and let’s also remember the Thai green curry, Indian Dahl, and the piece de resistance of spice, Mexican food, which combines just about everything my Rosacea reacts so violently to.

I just don’t know how I’m going to sing along to the El Paso adverts anymore, without feeling a fraud? Is it even possible to make a taco without cheese, avocado, tomato or spicy fill?

And finally, to tomatoes…

Anyone ever nailed an appetising, tasty salad without tomatoes or cheese?

Thought not.

I’ve tried. In a moment of insanity, I went all out last night and added some fresh, sugar-snap peas to my pathetic-looking green salad.

It was a fucking riot.

Which leaves me with a choice of chicken, fish and lettuce.

So can you now understand that why I am destined to become that grieving, twisted, mad woman who hates everyone and mumbles curses under her breath to any innocent shopper in the supermarket who dares venture towards the deli counter.

My life is officially over. Goodbye world.

Middle Aged Health, Rosacea And Giving Up Coffee

The good news, which I know all my fellow hypochondriacs will totes understand, is that the facial affliction that I described here, (and which I know you’ve all been having sleepless nights over), is in fact chronic. Not in the sense of being terminal, I must add, but fugly and serious enough to warrant treatment in the form of a super-expensive steroid cream and a change to my diet.
http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/562007733

It’s a common misconception that hypochondriacs spend their lives at the doctors, because although I do worry on a minute-by-minute basis that I’m dying of some horrible illness that has either not yet been diagnosed by doctors or discovered by scientists, at the same time, I don’t really want it to be confirmed. Which is why I rarely visit the medical centre, and when I do, I am armed with an extensive list of every symptom (along with Dr Google’s interpretation) that I’ve been worrying about in between visits.

Rosacea
Rosacea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the facial lurgy on my face that I described to you a few weeks ago, didn’t disappear on its own like I had bravely convinced myself it would, but instead got even fuglier. That was in spite of changing my beauty routine from my usual quick dab of cheap-as-chips cleanser in the morning to a toxin-free cleanser, day and night. And although the Clinique foundation concealed the red rash during the daytime, I really ‘can’t be fucked’ at this stage in my life to wear make up all the time.

So something had to be done.

Reluctantly I went to the doc with that month’s quota of pre-cancerous symptoms, make-up free, and the first thing he asked me was, ‘and how’s the Rosacea?’, at which point I admit that I nearly passed out.

‘The…what?’ I asked shakily, terrified he had discerned something truly awful about my health that I didn’t yet know.

He pointed to my face.

Anyway, long story short, (and as my luck goes, it seems), I now have this highly unattractive, chronic facial problem that is NOT CAUSED, I repeat NOT CAUSED, by alcohol and coffee, but exacerbated by it, unfortunately; as well as by menopause, hormones, anxiety, stress and the whole shebang of bloody awful stuff that haunts us in middle age.

Rosacea or acne rosacea is a type of skin inflammation that affects the face. Symptoms include facial redness, flushing and non-tender pustules. In men, the nose can become reddened and enlarged (rhinophyma). The cause of rosacea is unknown. Unlike acne, rosacea does not scar. Treatment options include tablets, creams, and avoidance of known triggers such as alcohol.

The doc recommended I give up alcohol (*snort*), coffee, spicy foods and sun to try and manage it.

Any point in living, I hear you ask? Absolutely none.

So I’ve made a valiant attempt to cut down on my beloved daily coffees over the past few days, and surprisingly, tea has become strangely alluring once again.

Note to self: One of the main signs of middle age is when you enjoy visits to T2.

Middle-Age Beauty Tips And Never Saying Never

Middle-Aged Beauty Tips And Never Saying NeverI’ve never been interested in make up, until now. But my skin has recently changed with the onset of middle age, which is a bummer because I used to have a clear white English-rose complexion.

Skin a girl could rely on.

I stumbled upon a blog post the other day where the writer named three products every middle-aged woman needs for her face: a good concealer, mascara and blusher.

I’ve been using concealer my whole life – well, since about the age of three – because my skin tone is pale. I’m one of those ghostly-looking people who always looks tired and would have had a great career in Michael Jackson horror videos, due to ugly black rings under my eyes.

Mascara would be my desert island must-have, because without it, I look dead.

But when it comes to blusher, I don’t think I‘ve put blusher on my cheeks since the eighties. We all use a lot less make up these days, since a more earthy, ‘natural’ look came into fashion. In my twenties I used to apply a thick line of dazzling blue metallic eyeliner on my lower lids – we all wanted to look like Diana in those days and were yet to be taught that lower lid liner makes your eyes look smaller. I also wore enough of the thickest, clumpiest mascara to make my lashes look like falsies, thick foundation and a veritable war paint of blush with matching bright pink lipstick.

Since marriage and children, my make up has become less heavy, mainly due to the constraints of time and not really giving a f..ck. Although I have had to use foundation for the past few years to even out an uneven skin tone.

I was always lucky with my complexion when I was younger. I never suffered from acne during my teenage years and never went near what I considered to be over-priced moisturizer in my life, until the past six months. In fact, I used to sneer at my friends who spent their salaries on the white-coat ranges like Clarins and Clinique, appalled that they could spend so much money on makeup when there were so many clothes to buy. I never GOT make-up brushes, at all.

Until six months ago, like I said, when I woke up one morning with the fugliest, flakey red rash all over my face and neck. I still don’t know what caused it to this day, but it is only beginning to calm down now. It might have been due to a change in medication, or stress, or my skin complaining about the cheapness of my beauty products, or even an excess of alcohol, but it’s more likely just fucking hormones at foul play again.

But whatever caused it, at a time when self-esteem linked to my appearance has been knocked sideways by other symptoms of the ageing process, I didn’t need to wake up to a faceful of acne that even my kids have grown out of.

 

So I panicked and like the hypocrite that I am, bolted straight to the Clinique bar in David Jones in search of an instant fix; I didn’t care what it cost me. I had read somewhere that Clinique make a foundation to conceal redness and so off I went, make-up free to demonstrate the extent of my problem, to demand a new face.

Surprisingly, the ‘Redness Solutions’ foundation didn’t cost half my monthly salary, as I suspected it would, although the old man did question why it had been put in the ‘medical’ column of the family spreadsheet. The lovely Clinique white-coat was very helpful and showed me how to work the foundation expertly into my hot, irritated skin, using a very expensive-looking brush – a trial I managed to sit through without scoffing impolitely. And yes, of course she tried to sell me a gazillion other products that she told me I needed but I stood fast in my resolve in spite of my face’s obvious need of a complete rather than a partial revamp.

And the foundation is a miracle-worker in terms of concealing the rash. (cue scary music)

Which leads me to the last new product(s) I want to recommend to you – because it could be the reason my rash is slowing disappearing. It’s the Therese Kerr Divine range of products, some of which were given to me by a friend for my birthday. It’s a chemical-free range and once again, I might have scoffed inwardly when aforementioned friend told me about them, she being one of those born-again, anti-toxin insurgents of the Pete Evans ilk and me being a complete philistine when it comes to natural foods and natural beauty products. But since I’ve used the moisturizer, my face has calmed down to more of a flushed (than permanently angry) look and can look almost normal in the right light. Added to which I smell gorgeously natural, rather like a perfectly-ripe lemon, and I suppose it’s comforting to know that one area of my body is not toxic.

I’m wondering if Therese makes a similar range for the liver.

I haven’t braved the natural deodorant yet, but I have learned to never say never.

Spa-ing With Your Mates

Spa-ing With Old Mates
Very serious ‘muffin top’ discussion in the hot tub

I’ve never been the spa-ing type, like I imagine the majority of middle-aged women would be, given the chance. The whole ‘beauty-thing’ has always bored me. It kills me to have to sit in a hairdresser’s chair for two hours of torture to get my hair coloured when I could be doing a myriad of far more stimulating things like watching Ellen or picking my toe nails.

Visiting a spa has always seemed like a particularly wasteful form of indulgence, when you could spend that money on important stuff like alcohol and new clothes.

Where is the fun and relaxation to be had in a place where drinking is frowned upon and you’re forced to expose your dry, floppy skin and hairy bits to other, more lithe, conditioned and judgmental bodies?

Which is why, when some old school friends suggested catching up over a spa day during my trip to England, I had to bring out my best method acting skills and feign enthusiasm, consoling myself that the company would make up for it.

My only experience of spa-life until that day was when NC and I visited one in Bali – mainly because it was cheap.

However, certain elements of the experience had left me traumatised and questioning its true appeal. Sharing a steam room with your teenage daughter, clad only in paper knickers, will test the most liberal of mother/daughter relationships; feet massages are probably only good for those who have a high tolerance to being tickled and when a massage turns out to be more of a violent pummelling, whose only appeal lay in the hope that I might lose some weight, the experience made me think twice about rebooking.

Spa-ing With Old Mates
My ability to look naturally attractive whatever the occasion, sometimes astounds me too.

My Pennyhill Park experience was very different, and I’m not saying that just because one of aforementioned bestest mate’s husband contributed a massage, lunch and glass of champers to the three of us out-of-shape, middle-aged women, who I’m sure he realised were far more interested in chit-chatting than having dead skin removed.

Pennyhilll Park is in Bagshot, Surrey, about 45 minutes out of London and if heaven exists, this is it. It is just so archetypally British in its British-ness, it almost hurt me to look at it, so homesick was I already feeling during that first week of my trip. It’s country house beauty reminded me of all those wonderful ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’ weddings I went to in the nineties; so inviting in its warmth and under-stated opulence.

The best part was that even though we were at a spa and impressively out of condition, we weren’t made to feel out of place, even if it was fairly obvious from the speed with which we downed our bubbly that our true vocation was less about improving our bodies and more about luxuriating in the company of good friends.

Our day began with lunch – a luscious quinoa and grilled chicken salad that did not resemble the nightmare I’d had the previous night about portion-sizes more suited to ants, and I nearly screamed with relief when I spotted the bread basket.

Lunch was followed by an unscheduled exercise class spent getting the quinoa out of our teeth before we were then hurried off to the massage rooms.

To be honest, I’ve always been terrified of the invasiveness of the massage, but all the masseurs at Pennyhill Park were charming, beautiful, young British girls with beautician bun reassuringly sat on the top of their beautiful heads and their perfect, pristine bodies adorned in the purest of white beauty power-suits.

I have to admit that one of the highlights for me was being able to walk around in my white towelling dressing-gown in public all day and without judgment – it was like being home-from-home.

Spa-ing With Old Mates
The best part was being allowed to wear your dressing gown all day without judgment.

However, once in the massage room (and in spite of my masseur’s attempts to make me feel relaxed), I still felt more than a twinge of awkie-ness when she instructed me to push my swimming costume down to my waist and wait for her on the bed – still unsure at that stage whether I had to lie face down or (horror or all horrors) face up, fully exposing the sad flaps of skin I once called breasts. Those few seconds of indecision reminded me of every visit to the gyny for anything vaginally-awkward when they tell you politely to remove your knickers and you stand there in shock for a few seconds, as your brain registers that yes you do have to take your knickers off to a complete stranger.

Just me, then?

Anyway, thirty minutes of gently exhilarating massage with yummy-smelling oils managed to relax me and there was even a moment when I forgot the embarrassment of when the masseur had commenced the massage and removed my last vestige of modesty – the protective sheet – yanked my cossie much further down my hips and revealed the top of my butt crack.

Rather her than me, I remember thinking.

Relaxed and feeling less coy about our middle-aged bodies, the three of us spent the remainder of the day as though we did that sort of thing every day, secretly delighting in childish frolics in every hot tub, never-ending gossips in the steam rooms, comparisons of muffin tops and stretch marks (mine won easily) and finally freezing our butts off in a spa that was weirdly located outdoors, where the temperature was about ten degrees – and I might be exaggerating there.

Towards the end of the day we rested our re-invigorated bodies on hot beds and caught up on the previous three years. Nothing has changed really, except our bodies. The kids are still challenging and we’re all still waiting for them to leave home, husbands continue to be disappointing and work is an ongoing irritant.

It’s just lucky that true friendships never change.

IF YOU EVER GET THE CHANCE TO VISIT HEAVEN EARLY, INFO ON PENNYHILL PARK CAN BE FOUND HERE.

 

Ageing And My Plucking Eyesight

One of the most irritating and debilitating physical symptoms of the ageing process is the eyesight issue.

 

Ageing And My Plucking Eyesight
Inne – Close up of Chris’ Glasses found on http://www.flickr.com

 

As in, lack of it.

 

Before I hit that wonderful pinnacle of 40, almost a decade ago now, (and at a time when I was still living under the illusion that life was about to begin), I had to wear glasses occasionally; these days, my bifocals have become a permanent fixture, either on the tip of my nose or on the top of my head.

 

The problems with my long sight have very quickly escalated from such minor difficulties as reading the labels on jars, de-coding of text messages and changing commands on the remote control. But the most galling issue now is being unable to read the price tags in shops.

 

The other problem is a vanity issue, in that I can’t see if my eyebrows/chin/moles need plucking, and the deforestation required has come to the notice of my daughter. 

 

I am not dark-haired, naturally, rather a spectacularly dull shade of mouse, so those little wiry sprouters that appear suddenly and lurk beneath my brows, have always been difficult to spot in their early stages of taking root. My trusty glasses aided search and rescue for a while. However, since the ongoing deterioration of my eyes, I fail to see the little fuckers these days, even with my glasses on, and when I am lucky to spot one, I can’t pluck it because I have to remove my glasses to get to it.

 

As you will appreciate, these are very serious middle-aged problems for women.

 

So a premature duty of care towards the elderly has had to come into effect in our house.

 

NC has been forced to take on the role of eyebrow carer when I can’t be arsed to haven’t found time to make an appointment at our local Asian torturer waxer. Finally, I am seeing some promising rewards from the investment we have made in children.

 

I have suggested to her that promotion will be wiping my arse, but she still insists that I will be thrown into a home at the first sign of any real neediness; or (shudder!) I will be forced to live with Kurt.

 

I obviously have a lot to look forward to…

Middle-Aged Slip Slop Slap

Skin care is of prime importance when you reach middle age, because every exposure to those scary UV rays has the ghastly potential to create another line on your face or a melanoma.

English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours.
English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Gone are the days when us POMS would whizz off to some Mediterranean hotspot for our annual two weeks of holiday, slap oils with as much skin protection as olive oil all over our bodies, and then fry until we were a Peking Duck shade of brown.

 

Similar to the dangers of smoking cigarettes, eating red meat and drinking too much alcohol, in those days we were naïve to the inherent dangers of a tan, of course. For us a tan symbolized healthiness and fitness, rather than impending doom.

 

There’s nothing healthy about a tan.

 

But there’s also no greater feeling than lying in the sun for a few hours after a hard week spent in air conditioning, creating some vitamin D; an important commodity for the health of our bones at this time of our lives.

 

The old man and I are partial to our local outdoor pool for our place of sun worship, mainly because there’s no sand to contend with. It also has a wonderful terrace area, which due to its position at a distance from the pool, is child free and generally full of attractive twenty to thirty year olds, many of whom are obviously gay men who have a pleasing knack for looking after their bodies.

 

CHILD FREE…and the coffee’s not bad, either.

 

There is absolutely no better way to soothe a Sunday morning hangover than a perv at the local pool, where you can stock up on vitamin D and caffeine, swim twenty lengths and convince yourself that’s the exercise for the week done, all at the same time.

 

But with no shade on aforementioned CHILD FREE balcony, it’s not a place for the fair skinned, English Rose. Australia is a harsh habitat to live in for those deficient in melanin and it can turn even the most experienced British sunbather into a lobster within minutes, much to the delight of the local community.

 


Embed from Getty Images

 

The old man and I have been arguing over sun creams of late – and yes, our life really is that interesting. Rather like coffee, wine, knickers and men, it’s just so hard to find the perfect sunscreen. They are either too gloopy, as runny as milk, take ages to rub in (or don’t rub in all), or you need a second mortgage to pay for them.

 

Which is a first world problem, I know, but it can turn even sunbathing into a chore.

 

The old man has settled on one of these new-fangled sprays, but never one to give from his wallet lightly, he acquired his can at Aldi. I, on the other hand, although happy to use my Aldi purchases in the privacy of my own home, refuse to let everyone know the true state of our finances at our local pool. And I’ve also become a bit of an expert when it comes to sun screen (compromised as I am by skin as white as alabaster) and have road tested all the cheap brands over forty years of sunbathing.

 

So the only brand that works for me is Le Tan Coconut Spray, which as the name suggests,  conjures up wonderful memories of sun, sand, sex and Pina Coladas in the South of France in the good old days when I used to feign ignorance about sun damage and would douse myself as liberally in oil as Kim’s arse in THOSE recent photos.

 

Yesterday, I watched the old man spray his Aldi screen all over him like perfume, with what could only be described as a smug grin on his face, (which is his ‘I’m saving money’ face), aimed at me, as I lathered my body more carefully with my coconut spray.

 

(These petty little competitions keep our marriage alive, I hasten to add).

 

Later that day, during our well-deserved afternoon nap – a treat for all that hard work at the pool – I watched the angry lines of redness appear on his chest, like Masai tribal markings, where the spray had missed his body, and smiled smugly too.