Women + Shopping = Happiness

Look how happy this woman looks!

I had a bit of a shite week last week and needed some release, so I decided to go shopping. It’s not something I like to admit to – needing to spend money to feel happy – because I’m sure it undermines my intelligence and makes me sound likes some weak, ‘hysterical’ female, but the need to buy new clothes isn’t a gender-related issue because I know a lot of men who get off on it and a lot of women who don’t.


Just not my husband, unfortunately.


Have I ever mentioned that my husband doesn’t understand me?


It seems that the longer your marriage – and we’ll be grieving 23 years this weekend – the more those minor things like the way he moves his mouth in that sniffy way when I say I’m going to the mall, that suggests I have no control over my emotions or my purse, can make me so flipping mad and full of retribution.


What men fail to understand are the benefits of shopping. Aside from saving money on REAL therapy,  we also burn more than 10,000 steps during a good session, which counts as exercise and therefore saves on gym membership.


They should also appreciate that shopping doesn’t have to be about ACTUALLY NEEDING ANYTHING, that it has much more hidden depth and is related to personal growth and space, regaining control and feeling good about yourself.




Not that I have to find excuses to shop when I’m an independent woman who works hard and earns money and if I want to go out and fucking spend it, I will. Anyway, it was the beginning of the month and what was I to do when those fresh dollars in my account taunted me, flashed at me from my online statement, begging me to spend them.


Spend meSpend me…Spend me!


And that glorious six hours spent trawling through retail heaven cost me less than an hour of therapy, and didn’t involve any snotty crying in that ugly way that I cry in public.


And in spite of being at that awkward seasonal stage of the year in Sydney, between winter and spring when the shops are flogging their winter woollies, there were plenty of bargains to be had, especially if you like sales. Personally I don’t, because I feel a bit vulnerable with hoards of crazed people fighting over a bargain and ill-assorted stock that falls off the rack in your hand, is never your size and always that bit naff.


Nevertheless, I persisted because I was a woman on a mission.

Gazman shirt
Jockey knickers


And the sales are good enough for the old man, so to make him feel really bad for winding me up in that evilly, patronising way that only husbands can, I treated him to a lovely, COLOURFUL shirt from Gazman (reduced from $90 to $60) –  ie. not plain blue like every other freaking shirt in his wardrobe because he’s an accountant and very left side of the brain – so he doesn’t look quite as nerdily shite when we go out.


Then I found myself the best new power jacket/cardigan for work from H&M because I feel that I’ve lost my style mojo in my work wardrobe recently and at $40, it was almost free. 

H&M jacket/cardie for $40


New earrings? Yes please, because those fuckers disappear all the time – usually in the local pool or in bed…and finally, a pair of my favourite granny pants from Jockey because knickers and shoes have become my go-to happiness fix when it comes to clothes, now that brands use pygmies for their sizing, and because my knickers have all turned an attractive shade of grey since the old man took over the washing.


And he wonders why I need to shop.






Is Clothes Shopping Really Therapeutic For Middle-Aged Women?

I headed into Pitt St Mall with NC on Saturday. My aim was to have some retail therapy to help me compete with the other queens at Mardi Gras.

In my mind I was probably aspiring to end up looking like this…

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?
I really wanted to look like this…

I was certainly determined to spend oodles of cash – the old man has been pissing me off relentlessly for the past week, (for no real reason other than the fact that he’s there), so I decided than an assault on the credit card might be therapeutic.

At that point I still thought shopping would make me feel better – like it used to when my clothes used to fit.

I knew what I didn’t want, which was to end up looking like this…Nightmare on Middle-Aged Street.


But it was the same old sad, shopping story. Before I left, I got all excited and had envisaged exactly what I wanted to buy, but that was obviously before I discovered that the only shoes left must have been designed for miniature poodles and the only dresses on the rails were a perfect fit for Barbie dolls.

I tried to remain upbeat while NC found item after item and looked like a fucking model in ALL of them, and then I retreated to Myer.

Alas, even in my safe haven of Myer, the brands that I have come to rely on recently – the ones that give me some middle-aged feel-good factor – just didn’t deliver.

Blame those beeatch hormones for trying to confuse me or the painful cloudiness still fogging my brain (a result of four too many Chardies on what should have been a quiet night in) the night before, but nothing looked or hung quite right, so by midday I was red-faced and sweating in the changing rooms.

Two of my favourite brands in Myer of late have been Stella of Myer (www.myer.com.au) and Wish (www.wish.com.au). The Stella range has a lot of loose fitting dresses in trendy (not frumpy) Vintage prints and I like Wish’s floaty elegance – in particular their stylish tops that do the best job of camouflaging the old muffin top without having to resort to kaftans.

By the afternoon, the added FML complication of torrential rain that led to squeaky, painful shoes with accompanying blisters, didn’t help my mood and even the lattes were working against me by blowing up the muffin top to a balloon.

I decided to play safe. I’ve been quite partial to the footless tights/mid-thigh dress combo for a while now and as distressing as it is to admit to needing tights in the summer, (WTF global warming), over the last few days, I’ve been freezing my ovaries off.

So I fancied something like this little dress on the right, from Country Road, but unfortunately the budget said no.

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

Of course, whenever I’m shopping for sensible, atypical middle-aged, dresses for work, (because I have to look androgynous there), or have no money to spend, those short, funky dresses throw themselves off the rails to tempt me, but alas, with a hundred bucks still burning a great fat hole in the back pocket of my jeans, it was Sod’s Law that there would be nothing I liked.

So finally I did what any desperate woman does in a serious shopping crisis and I grabbed at a handful of ‘possibles’ and marched bravely towards the changing room, determined to buy SOMETHING…ANY FUCKING THING.

The changing room attendant did her best to challenge me about the number of items in my arms, but when I flashed her THAT look, even she KNEW, stepped back and allowed me to pass with SEVEN items.

Here are some of the ones I tried:

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

Inevitably I bought the ONLY item in the whole of Pitt Street Mall NOT in the sale – a cute little top from Toi Et Moi – firstly because anything with a French name sounds super stylish, and secondly because I wanted the old man to REALLY hurt like it.

But mainly because I’M FUCKING WORTH IT!

Is shopping really therapy for middle-aged women?

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Too Much Junk In The Trunk

It’s killing me to admit it, but I’ve now got too much ‘junk in my trunk’ to wear surf fashion.

My unwilling bodily metamorphosis into middle age is cramping my enjoyment of retail therapy in a big way. I’ve lost the ability to recognise what looks good on this new bulkier frame that my hormones have handed me. I’m struggling to find an appropriate style to compliment the fifty-going-on-thirty mental image I have of myself.

I was in denial about both issues (shopping and body image), until recently, when the old man pulled me aside for a ‘chat’. That was surprising in itself, because conversation in our marriage is generally limited to simple key phrases like ‘what’s for dinner?’, and initiating conversation just isn’t the old man’s bag really, being the strong silent type.

But he summoned me into his ‘study’, (the area of the sofa cordoned off to allow him instant access to his selection of boy toys, namely, remote controls, iPad, iPod and iPhone), and informed me that we needed to have one of his, (yawn), ‘in-house’ finance committee meetings.

These meetings are usually locked in when I’ve been ‘irresponsible’ (his words) with the credit card. He has developed this domestic State of the Art tracking system, which involves 24 hour surveillance of our on-line bank account, that alerts him (catching me red-handed) to any overspending.

He’s an accountant, you see,  and apparently we don’t share the same ‘appreciation’ for money. His means of ‘controlling’ my spending can, nevertheless, be intimidating at times. On several occasions while paying for items at my preferred suppliers, (Witchery or Surfection for example), my phone has rung mid-transaction, with his voice booming down the line, “GET OUT OF THE SHOP, NOW!” And that’s deemed normal behavior in our house.

So I sulkily attended this latest meeting with trepidation, concerned that he might have found out the truth about my recent increase in cash withdrawals, which have not been for solely ‘necessary’ purchases.

Panicking that he was going to hide my magic gold card again, (nature’s gift from the money tree), my body naturally went into fight or flight mode, but instead, he began to express an uncharacteristic concern for the apparent decrease in my expenditure. Apparently, there had been a noticeable lack of any substantial entries in his (petty) household spreadsheet, and he was worried.

Worried that I might be hiding something from him, that something might actually be wrong with me. What other reason could there be for me to lose my passion for shopping? (The stack of medical receipts lining my handbag from my assortment of hypochondria doctors went some way to reassuring him that I was not about to die).

The truth of the matter is, I’ve lost my shopping mojo.

You see, all my favourite labels just don’t cater for my evolving shape, my bodily work in progress that now comprises of ‘mama jugs’, ‘junk in the trunk’ and a muffin top.

Particularly the surf brands.

Try as I might to squeeze into their condensed designs, Barbie doll-sizing does not embrace the voluptuous/bloated physique. I may be petite in comparison to the national average, (if I get on the scales on a Friday night, before wine and Kettle chips), but I am too bulky for Surfer Chick Land. I think it’s a cunning strategy the manufacturers have for removing the dead wood from the driftwood. My shopping status has changed from Surfer Chick to ‘no spring chook’.

I’m gutted because back in my twenties and thirties, I aspired to the traits symbolised by those brands, when I was young, free, spirited…… and obviously thinner. And I’m not sure I’m ready to trade my maxi-dresses and tight-fitting jeans for baggy jumpers, tent dresses and elastic waistbands quite yet. I still believe I can rock an itsy-bitzy (hardly-covering-my-tits…bits) bikini.

But apparently today’s surfers are a bit fussier about muffin tops, rogue pubes and syphoned breasts.

Fact: clothes designed to fit the 5% of women who are a size 6 with the Elizabethan-sized waist span of a whippet, are not designed for ‘real’ women. They’re not designed for women.

Hipster jeans are a prime design culprit for separating the women from the girls, which let’s face it, is ageist. Low-cut, muff-skimming jeans, that require a weekly strim, are not flattering on the Rubenesque figure; It’s like forcing sausage meat through its casing.

There must be weight restrictions in ‘Surfer Chick Land’ where admittance is denied to BBW (big beautiful women). Obviously, out-swimming sharks and being vacuum packed into unforgiving wetsuits, does keep those excess kilos contained. I suppose I’d secretly hoped that dribbling on the mattress at 5am would count as a waterspout, but I was wrong.

I may be the ‘bigger’ person physically but I’m not mentally. It’s not only adolescents who have been seduced by the internationally-accepted, impossible standards of beauty projected in magazines. ‘Olds’ have feelings too, and the very thought of standing next to a size 8 version of my former self in a changing room, in front of floor to ceiling ‘fat’ mirrors, sweating from menopause and the effort of squeezing the ‘junk in my trunk’ into doll-sized clothes, makes me want to self-euthanize.

When retail therapy stops being therapy, you need to find something else.

I’m now diverting the old man’s funds into the pleasures pertaining to on-line wine and shoe shopping. I wouldn’t want him worrying about me.

6 Photo courtesy Herrasmoovy at Flickr.com 

36-24-36 Modern Slavery Photo courtesy Amadika at Flickr.com

Midlife Mayhem – Am I A Hypochondriac Or Just Getting Old?

The subject matter of good dinner party chitchat has found a disturbing niche, now that we’ve hit our forties. Although ‘life was supposed to begin’ at this stage of our lives, we seem to be stuck at the ‘recognition of our own mortality’ roadblock far earlier than we anticipated. Whereas in my twenties we used to wax lyrical about alcohol consumption, sexual prowess and the female orgasm (apparently they were mutually compatible then), and in our thirties we circum-navigated career goals, marriage and babies, discussions these days seem to have stagnated around our health, or lack of it. I blame all those self-righteous health magazines and the Internet for our health obsession, but maybe it is just another symptom of the ‘midlife crisis’.

The ‘midlife’ alarm seems to resonate somewhere between your late thirties and mid forties, and serves as a reminder that you’ve reached the ‘half time’ point in your life and there’s not much time left to score some real goals. For some, those goals might be a new philosophy of life (Madonna and Kabbalah?) and for others they might involve a sea change. But at this stage in the game of life, sometimes your fitness doesn’t necessarily live up to your promise. It is a worrying indictment of our age group that in our circle of friends, more people take Statins these days, than drink alcohol.

Take my own health. Over the past six weeks, I have experienced debilitating lower back pain (I’m guessing it’s NOT a sports injury), the cold virus, severe toothache and the monthly peri-menopausal utopia caused by my female reproductive zone being forced into retirement. The old man’s sympathy has extended to ‘you’re getting old’ when I’ve sought comfort, whereas I suspect that I could be the first human, still walking, to suffer from cancer of every major organ. All other ailments aside, I am obviously suffering from mild hypochondriasis.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I have been assigned the ‘time-waster’ label by my GP, although, contrary to popular opinion, this hypochondriac is rarely spotted at the surgery. Consulting a doctor is a double-edged sword – if I go, she might tell me there’s nothing wrong with me (when I know that there is) and if I don’t go, and there is something wrong with me, I’m going to die anyway. A visit will have been precipitated by the ‘doom and gloom’ of self-diagnosis on the Internet, and the standard appointment time invariably stretches to double time as my telephone book of unrelated symptoms are analyzed. All roads lead to cancer when you pump a symptom into Google. 

There was a time, before cancer began ravaging acquaintances and freaking the rest of us out, and when it was fun to smoke, drink heavily and consume vats of any ‘type’ of fat, that conversation at the dinner table covered world politics, the career vs children conundrum or religion. But these days, world news has lost its x factor in comparison to the anguish caused by faulty bodily functions. ‘Man talk’ now encompasses ‘piles’, ‘wind’, and ‘bloating’, while ‘girl talk’ dissects issues of ‘bone density’, ‘vitamin supplements’, and ‘muscle mass’. Can someone explain to me how, scientifically, you can still put on weight when both your muscle mass and your bone density are decreasing? You might want to note that we’re saving ‘death’, ‘erectile dysfunction’ and ‘loss of sexual libido’ for our fifties and sixties.

So if I’m not really ill, why do I spend more on health than retail therapy and possess the energy levels of a dying battery? My svelte, septuagenarian next-door neighbour is still surfing, so maybe my physical well-being is being compromised by a poor mental outlook to aging, and my dwindling estrogen is not the culprit after all?

In one of his more lucid moments (Friday night; 2/3 of a bottle of Penfolds, Bin 28), the old man compared retirement to Buddhism. Apparently, once you retire you stop worrying about premature death because your philosophy of life changes and you finally appreciate that it is a positive state of mind that brings happiness, not wealth. Retirement, (and the reason our neighbor is a living advertisement for Viagra), provides the luxury of free time, time to focus on happiness and make yourself that ‘better’ person you always dreamed of being, physically and mentally, rather than focusing on what is missing, when you are a small cog in the large wheel of the rat race.

Hypochondriasis is ‘health anxiety’ in disguise and it’s pretty common for us midlifers. It is a bonafide illness and we can seek help for it; middle age is not, unfortunately.

Dinner Party from Flickr.com courtesy of Alastair R

The 7 Gals of Menopause (back) from Flickr.com courtesy of HA! Designs – Artbyheather