5 Wardrobe Essentials Every Middle-Aged Women Should Have

Woman sitting in jumper and skinny jeans eating popcorn.
Photo from Unsplash

Recently, I wore a cropped sweater to work and one of the kids accused me of not dressing my age.

I was so outraged by the comment that I demanded to know why she expected me to kowtow to society’s construct of the way women should dress in middle-age?

And needless to say, she looked back at me blankly

The comment reminded me how much I despise the assumption that the minute they turn fifty, women should be expected to dress in a certain way. Which is why this week I decided to forgo another doom and gloom commentary on the state of the world (or mention of the word Victoria, for those of you here in Australia), and instead provide you with some light relief on another topic I’m also not very qualified to write about.

I’m talking fashion, ladies!

Before I go any further, let me say that I do understand the unbridled bliss experienced around the globe by middle-aged women as a result of the Covid-related excuse our governments provided us with to wear our activewear all of the time. BUT…if you’re anything like me (who quite likes getting dolled up once in a while), you’ve got to be pretty excited about the reopening of stores and the prospect of not having to spend a large proportion of your week in the “returns” aisle at your local post office.

Don’t get me wrong, I love comfort, but sometimes I also like to dress up, and the past four months of sanctions have been hard on those of us who are not naturally online shoppers. Added to which, I’m feeling a bit more body-confident, having lost 5kgs in a torturous diet imposed on me by my shaming, fitness-crazy husband between January and March, the results of which I am eager to flaunt.

And let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time before I get back on the carb bandwagon

Fortunately, we’re in winter at the moment here in Australia, and the best part about this three months of the year is that we can camouflage the truth. We can tuck the muffin top away in stretch jeans, hide the bat wings under oversized jumpers, and conceal the greys under caps and woolly hats. But my list of wardrobe essentials work for most of the year, wherever you are in the world. So if you’re a middle-aged woman who enjoys clothes and getting dressed up (on the rare occasion there’s nothing on Netflix), CHECK THEM OUT, and let me know what you think:

1. Skinny jeans – I know, I know, but hear me out, because it might surprise you to know that whatever your size, you can probably carry these off – especially now they’re available in a wide range of stretchy fabrics. In terms of Australian stockists, I like the Zara ones and the Decjuba “Riley” style, but I recently bought some at Country Road that are surprisingly flattering – because normally, nothing fits me in there. Make sure you get the high-waisted version for tucking in the muffin top and full-length – which gives you the option to roll them up. You may as well write “middle-aged” on your forehead if you go for the cropped version.

2. White Sneakers – I’m not sure why I avoided this trend for such a long time, but when I found a pair in Sportsgirl (for only $40), I couldn’t resist. Needless to say, I’ve worn them to death. The great thing about these shoes is that they’re neutral in colour (so they go with literally anything) and you can dress them up or down, depending on the occasion and your mood. Here’s Elle’s guide to the best white sneakers.

If you follow my socials, some of you will know that I splashed out on a black pair of sneakers from Guess this week. My son assures me they’re not too glitzy, but put it this way, I could compete with Tutankharmun’s tomb for the amount of bling on them.

3. The denim jacket – Another classic, which is a wardrobe staple for most of my friends in the UK that I decided I was too old for until I saw the one below in Katie’s (at 50% off). This is another wardrobe must-have because it’s just so versatile. And guess what, denim on denim is back, so you can pull off a Justin/Britney moment if your partner’s up for it. But if you’re not brave enough for that, this jacket is the perfect compliment to your patterned skirts and culottes as we move into spring.

4. Culottes – Love em or hate em (and I BLOODY LOVE them) – these are here to stay. Culottes are as contentious a topic as Vegemite and Marmite between women, but I think they flatter most body shapes and are more versatile than cargo pants. I’ve got culottes in a range of colours and fabrics, but I get most use out of my neutral ones. From a comfort perspective, I couldn’t live without them. I haven’t made a decision about the wider, longer 30s-style ones to recently hit the stores, but I’m sure we’ll be wearing this style of pant for a while longer. (Culottes below from MinkPink).

5. High-neck jumpers and tops – Whatever season you’re in right now, the roll-neck is back for some seventies comfort and style. There are long-sleeved, chunky versions for winter, and short-sleeved options if you’re in summer. Polo-necks, (as I was brought up to call them), are classy (in the same way as the twin set) and send out the message that you are a thinking, sexy women. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about high-neck jumpers on men – unless they’re Idris Elba, a Russian spy, or a sexy, young professor in search of their Mrs Robinson. Personally, I’ve always loved high-necked jumpers because they hide my eight chins, and I love this top from Seed.

Anything you’d like to add to the list?

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I’m Not Quite Ready To Wear A Leopard-Print Kaftan This Christmas

Full-Length Kaftan by MollyKaftans

How’s everyone faring in the depressing search for the perfect dress for Christmas parties and, ultimately, the big day?

I’m going to admit that – having trailed all the stores to the north of Sydney and exhausted the seemingly limitless stocks of The Iconic (and the patience of the very crabby lady at our local post office who handles my returns) – I’ve decided to opt for pants this year.

You see, I’ve reached the conclusion that there isn’t a dress waistband sturdy or stretchy enough to cope with the number of Pigs-In-Blankets and Christmas pud I intend to put in my belly this year.

I’ve also reached a level of post-winter, middle-aged lardiness where shift dresses in size 14 make me look like I’m wearing a tent – albeit that I haven’t quite reached the point of no return that is the Kaftan.

So this year, I figured that a smart pair of natural-colored culottes – neutrals are currently the rage in that center of fashion excellence commonly known as the Northern Beaches of Sydney – with the diamante-encrusted top I forage from the wardrobe every December, will do the trick. 

To be honest, I’m not fretting about my decision, not when to “dress up” in Australia can simply mean the choice of a pair of sandals over a pair of thongs. 

Unlike London, where the refusal to dress appropriately for an occasion is almost as disrespectful as not ordering the roast in the pub on Sunday – a cultural difference that I miss. Albeit that there few rules over there (and certainly no apologies) when it comes to daytime fashion – making it easier for middle-aged women stuck in that impasse of whether to dress for their age or wear what they bloody well want – there are rules about evening wear. Particularly at Christmas, when you wouldn’t be seen dead out at night in anything less sparkly than the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square.

And while their climate provides the mature woman with the perfect excuse to drown sagging boobs in voluminous jumpers and tuck escapee paunches into thick woolly tights – and trust me, it is possible to look stylish in winter woollies with such a vast range of jumpers and sturdy winter coats available in the shops – the British take fashion up a few notches at night. Unlike Sydney, where due to the climate or the laid-back culture – I’m not sure which – you’d struggle to spot a sequinned cocktail dress at the ballet.

But understandably, many British fashions simply wouldn’t work over here – and that’s not just because our seasons are out of kilter. Brits embrace color and elements of fun and quirkiness in their style – undoubtedly a concession to the climate – but that could be a terrifying prospect to the breed of middle-aged women who adhere to the motto that “black is the new black”. 

So, while in Britain, the little black dress has been ousted in favor of metallics, luxurious textures in deep reds, purples, and orange, and this year’s print of choice, the animal print – a design that I have avoided like the plague since I hit my fifties…because, cougars – I may have to place my leopard-print kaftan on hold until I reach the true zenith of not-giving-a-fuckery, (which I imagine will be closer to my sixtieth year). Although, admittedly, that time is starting to feel reassuringly closer.

Have you reached the point of no return?

The Best Skinny Jeans For Women That Aren’t Skinny

Not sponsored.

8757PWDE_BLACK_3_largeNothing gives a middle-aged woman more pleasure than great customer service. Perhaps, because we’ve been through the mill of life, getting hurt, feeling under-appreciated and losing friends we once believed to be loyal, given the right treatment, we are about as loyal as a royal Corgi.

And in my opinion, overall, customer service is improving in terms of the quality of staff and that horrid small print about our rights as consumers that we only seem to know about once we’ve lost our receipt.

However, when I returned a pair of new trousers this morning – that I’d worn over the weekend and for which I had thrown away the receipt – I’ll admit that I thought my chances of a credit note for them were as high as an apology from Trump for existing his speech yesterday.

With my trip to the UK at the forefront of my mind at the moment and my concern about Game Of Thrones-style Westeros weather, I’ve wasted a fair amount of time fretting about the limitations of my wardrobe. Here in Sydney, for most of the year we get by with layering – no layers for three seasons of the year and a couple of light layers in winter – but if memory serves me right, “layering” holds little sway in the northern hemisphere and its icy winds, unless they’re made from mammoth fur. Added to which, the weight I have gained this year from eating too much menopause, means that most of my trousers no longer fit.

So last weekend, I ditched my lifelong lie of ditching some weight before I buy new clothes – the lie I’ve told myself since I first discovered beer at university – and I bought myself what I thought was a sensible, safe new pair of cargo-style trousers, with an elastic waist.

E.L.A.S.T.I.C W.A.I.S.T… Sounds so good, doesn’t it? Almost sexual. Almost as good as “early night” or “more wine?”

And, understandably, I was excited to wear them, because nothing says “comfort” or “eat as much as you like,” like an elastic waist. So I did, for most of yesterday, until I discovered that “elastic waists” are not quite as efficient when their flexibility means that they don’t hold your trousers up, and after a day spent yanking them up in awkward places and generally fretting about them, I decided to take them back.

I’m lying, it was NC who convinced me to take them back – which is easy when you’re not the one trying to negotiate a credit on the basis of a design fault that may actually have much more to do with the bizarre shape of your body and which is guaranteed to leave the junior members of staff in your local shop, hating on you.

However, credit where credit it is due, the wonderful ladies in Decjuba, pretended to believe my story and, long story short, I came away with the most comfortable new sausage casing for my legs, EVAR! And they don’t fall down.

According to the lovely assistant that won the short straw of offering me help and advice (even though I was spending a suspect credit note), the Riley Stretch Skinny is their most popular style of skinny jeans – and she didn’t even add “with fussy, middle-aged woman with nothing better to do than give underpaid retail assistants a hard time.”  And I can understand why. Because, if like me you are forever searching for that elusive jean that makes your legs look skinny and long while absorbing the full wondrousness of your full-blown winter muffin top in comfort, these are the jean for you.

But, obviously… I can never go back to Decjuba.

The Eternal Battle of Comfort V Style, And If I Really Have To Get Back Into My Jeans?

 

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Sportsgirl curtains, I mean, culotte pants.

 

DON’T MAKE ME, PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME try to get back into my jeans…

 

I dread this time of year as we approach winter and the weather turns in Sydney, because I have to think about squeezing my lardy-ass back into my jeans. Although currently, we are being lulled into the false sense of security posed by some beautiful, temperate Autumn days, anyone who has ever lived in Sydney will tell you that come June 1, we’ll be freezing. And it’s tricky to have to choose between warmth and style, especially when layering simply doesn’t cut it in beach houses not built to withstand winter.

 

And once again, my wobbly bits have defied my minimal attempts to shift them, refusing to miraculously disappear through the salad months of summer. Instead, they remain steadfastly fixed around my waistband, forcing my body into its annual battle with the suffocating constrictions of my winter wardrobe.

 

Comfort versus style. Comfort versus style…it is an eternal battle.

 

The problem with the comfort-thing is that while I know I should be ready for my pink cardie and Uggs – because my children tell me – I still like to look good when I go out. And when it comes to fashion – in spite of my age (and no doubt my children’s desire for me to dress appropriately for my age) – I like to stay on trend, albeit within the rules dictated by my age – apparently. MY rules, I hasten to add, NOT the rules laid out by young people for us. However, there is no denying that I have reached the stage of my life where I hate to feel uncomfortable.

 

Although I have, however, reached an acceptance of my body.  I do what I can to avoid gaining more weight, but I have come to terms with the fact that hormone changes, medications and an addiction to wine and Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked on a Friday night mean that I will never be the svelte size I was on my wedding day – and, to be honest, nor would I really want to be, because fat cells fill lines.

 

So at least 3kgs heavier than I was this time last year, there’s probably less chance of me squeezing into the un-forgiving clinginess of the drainpipe jeans I’ve worn for the past five years than the world’s media leaving Meghan Merkel and her dubious family the fuck alone – at least not without a sous-vide and an oxygen mask.

 

And in all honesty, why should I have to, when leggings exist?

 

I’ve struggled to understand the rap that leggings have received over the past few years. We can probably blame the collection of rather unsightly Kardashian camel toes in magazines or the association of the casual legwear with an attitude of not giving a fuck – and your point is? –  however, my feeling is that with a long top or dress and a pair of high boots, leggings can still look stylish on the pins of older women.

 

However, there is an alternative. Because much to NC’s initial horror, my saving grace in the trouser department this year has proved to be culottes or culotte pants as we call them here. Comfortable and stylish with flats or heels, they look chic without appearing too formal.

 

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Gingham and Heels Culottes

 

 

My first pair was a pin-striped pair from Uniqlo, and since then I have never looked back. In fact, they appear to have reproduced in my wardrobe. I now own the pair of crinkle crop pants from Sportsgirl (see image at top of my post) – that apparently remind the old man of his grandma’s curtains – a floral pair from Cotton On, and I recently acquired this more formal, khaki pair from Gingham and Heels  for those unmentionable days when the old man forces me to leave the house and work.

 

The Awkward-Scale For Teenage Boys When Shopping With Mom

I went shopping with my teenage son yesterday, whereupon he bestowed upon me one of the greatest honors of my parenting life when he told me that I was (and I quote) ‘a nightmare to be seen in public with.’

 

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‘Oh, and these ten packs of condoms and tube of lube for my son over there, please.’

 

Job well done, I say; if not for the niggling suspicion that the nightmarish aspects of my company had rather more to do with my senility than my embarrassing-mom qualities.

 

Although many men people would have us believe that men and women are very different, in my opinion, the only time there is a palpable difference between the genders is when it comes to clothes shopping. Now, before all you male fashionistas jump down my throat, let me explain. I have based this opinion on the two socially-anxious males in my house, for whom malls are almost as terrifying as attending a feminist rally in a Trump tee-shirt – something I blame on my mother-in-law, who used to chain-smoke her way around shopping malls just to get through the torture. Oh, how she would have loved online shopping – although I suspect that she understood even less about technology than the dangers of passive smoking.

 

Anyway, as such, clothes shopping with my son is, shall we say politely, is something that I avoid at all costs.

 

Perhaps a little more elaboration is required here. For not only does Kurt have a deep-seated hatred for crowds, bright lights, the smell of German bread (!) and the overwhelming choices that shopping throws up as a result of his ADHD, he is also incredibly fussy about what he puts on his body from a sensory processing perspective and his side order of OCD.  His wardrobe is lean, and any clothing lucky to make the cut into its minimally perfect world has a very limited shelf life. In general terms, that generally means he has a single outfit on the go at any time, and he washes it daily.

 

However, recently re-employed, (thank you, God), yesterday he was forced to beg the Bank Of Mom to tide him over with some new work clothes, and while I worked out the interest rate on my loan, he got to grips with the idea of a mall trip with mum, her symptoms of early-onset dementia, lack of filter, embarrassing approaches to every female she thinks is potential daughter-in-law material, zero sense of direction (particularly in car parks) and her middle-aged intolerance to just about everything – but particularly poor service. In other words, the afternoon did not bode well.

 

Rest assured, we lived to tell the tale and for your entertainment, the following are invaluable lessons that I learned, based on an innovative scientific scale – the awkward-scale or AS – that I have invented for this exact purpose:

 

DO NOT go into a pharmacy with your teenage boy because (apparently) any hot shop assistant will think you’re buying him condoms – AS 8

 

DO NOT drag your son to the till to pay for his new undies, because there is some awkward (perhaps sexual – Ewww) connotation in that as well – AS 9

 

DO NOT complain about anything, ask for a different size or ask for assistance in any shape or form – AS 7

 

DO NOT attempt to accompany him into the changing room, even if he walks around naked at home – AS 9

 

DO NOT express your disgust loudly at your usual Mexican lunch outlet and then try flirting with the hot, young assistant (your son’s age) when he tells you that they have started charging $2 for the avocado topping – AS 10

 

Learn how to use the self-service checkout – AS 8

 

Never discuss any medical/biological/sexual topic over coffee, especially when you know your voice has the phonic capability of reaching the Northern Hemisphere when you get over-excited. NEVER use the word moist – AS 10

 

NEVER feel the end of your son’s new shoes to check for growing room, especially when the girl serving him is future daughter-in-law material – AS 210

 

But the crime of the century should probably go to either, a) my appalling parking skill in public, in front of hundreds of shoppers/witnesses, because it is difficult to maneuver a family-sized vehicle around a column with Kendrick blasting in one ear and your son screaming in the other, ‘learn to drive, will you!’ Or, b) losing the parking ticket and having a very loud conversation with the man in the machine at the barrier, while everyone queued behind us.

11 Things I’m Bloody Loving Right Now

I’m sorry, I really am for ignoring you over the past few weeks, but in all honesty, while everyone else in Sydney has been fighting the flu, I’ve had a bad case of Blogger’s Block. Hence the decision with this little piece to reconnect, even if it isn’t one of the typically self-absorbed, cerebral pieces of drivel I normally churn out.

I don’t want you to think I’ve died.

Anyway, a loyal friend of mine who reads these little outpourings of mine, always tells me how much she loves my recommendations, lists of which I usually put out when I have fuck all else to say or can’t find the latest controversial piece of feminism or neo-Fascism to stir up with my wooden spoon.

I could lie and blame my “block” on how quintessentially busy my life is right now, but you’d know I was lying, and that in fact, my life is very boring. We’ve battened down the hatches as it’s winter here, Kurt is being suspiciously well-behaved, NC is working hard to complete her thesis and as sit in the grey area between winter and Christmas, there is frankly nothing to get my creative juices flowing.

So, without further ado, here are some of the things I’m attempting to spice up my life with at the moment:

drink-19202_1920Sangria – A bit retro, I know, but the old man decided to knock up a vat of this for my recent birthday celebrations and it was a massive hit. Recently reminded of its ice-breaking powers on our trip to Queensland, although I was initially cautious – from memories of painting the toilet bowl red on the Costa Del Sol in the eighties  – with an element of discipline, the drink didn’t wreak the havoc on my head in the way cheap red wine does these days. The old man chose a brandy-based version for his concoction and you should have seen the bun fight between middle-aged men to get to the punch bowl.

White-Fucking-Everything – It’s no secret that if I had only birthed Spoodles, my whole house would be white, and I am now converting my wardrobe to a similar colour scheme. I’m absolutely loving the classicism and simplicity of white jumpers, shirts, and trousers, which I lift with accents of gold or ocean blue. When we move back to The Beaches later this year, all my vibrant city colors will be out again and in will come the calming blues and neutrals of the ocean as well as my new, very expensive Hamptons furniture, which the old man will agree to invest in because he loves me so much. 11324TWDE_1

Rose-Gold Jewellery – Talking of gold, I treated myself to some new jewellery for my birthday and even though I hated rose-gold with a passion when it first became stylish a few years ago – mainly because it gets lost in my Rosacea – I’ve done a complete turn-around on this one because it warms up my three staple colours of white, black and blue of my wardrobe.

Decjuba is a clothes shop I’ve been frequenting recently, mainly because they make it so easy for me with their core colors of black and white, but also because they love stripes, are generous in their proportions and reasonably priced. I got this classic white shirt from there ($79.95) and if you’re a member you get a 10% discount, which really means it’s virtually free.

diamond_cushion_cover_in_seamist_by_ecodownunder_4Eco Down Under is another shop whose wares that offer “better environmental options”, I salivate over at the moment. Frustrated by the Princess’s paw prints on my white bed linen, the old man had a domestic hissy fit and asked me to invest in some muted pastels recently, and Eco’s simple, calming collection of bed linen and towels is fabulous. I think the cotton is a superior quality to other sets in the same price range and their sales are great – I got this Queen cover set for $59.

Pinot Noir – Friends and family have been on a mission to convert me to the red grape for decades, but I can be an obstinate bitch at times, dug my heels in, and stuck loyally to Chardy. Then one morning, (after a raucous night on the white), just like that I was converted to red. Pinot Noir is at the milder end of the red grape spectrum, according to those in the know, and having trialed and tested several from the budget end of the range at Dan Murphys, I can highly recommend the Frontera Pinot Noir, a steal at $10 a bottle. 824024_0_9999_med_v1_m56577569855120487

Game Of Thrones – If you’re not watching GOT, you have to question if you are truly existing. I had no choice with two die-hard fantasists in the house who both asked me when the dragons come in when they read my manuscript. Admittedly, the plots can be tricky for those of us middle-aged folk on a fast-track to Dementia with armies of characters with easily forgettable names, but it is nevertheless compelling viewing if for no other reason than to increase your appreciation of a good heating system. There is also Kit Harington, Nikolai Coster-Waldau, Iain Glen and Jason Mamoa…

maxresdefaultTom Hardy – And on the topic of talented actors, Tom Hardy has been on my radar since his performance as the mad Alfie Solomons in Peaky Blinders. Tom is very good at playing psychopaths and what woman doesn’t like a fictional bad boy? He also stole the show in The Revenant from Leo de Caprio and is currently mesmerizing as James Delaney in Taboo on BBC First, so imagine my surprise when he turned up as a very stiff-upper-lip World War 2 hero fighter pilot (swoon) in Dunkirk.

Halloumi – Since NC has guilted us out of eating meat most of the time and the egg debate has restarted – according to a recent article published in the Journal of Atherosclerosis Research, eating eggs is the equivalent of smoking five ciggies a day – I’ve switched to halloumi for lunch, (although I’d prefer the ciggies). The only problem with working from home is having to think about another meal, but halloumi has paved the way for some wonderful creations in our house. My fave is halloumi on toast with wilted spinach and roasted tomatoes, while NC knocks up a mean veggie burger with avocado (of course!), caramelized onions and chili. According to the Greek shelf stacker at my local Harris Farm, the Greeks sprinkle lemon and black pepper on the top.

Superga Sneakers – My Sciatica has now committed my body to flat shoes and since I threw anything higher than a few millimeters out in our recent Council clear-up,  I am living in these Superga Sneakers. I secretly wish I’d gone for the rose-gold version now (see anal-ness about colour coordination), but as these sneakers are available in an array of wonderfully kitsch patterns and colors and around $80 a pair,  I could probably have a pair for each one of my black outfits. download

And finally…

566349_xlarge_6Nude Magique BB cream by L’Oreal – I recommended the Clinique Redness Solutions foundation a while back which is great, but this is a lighter cream for daytime and it is fabulous for covering blemishes as well as making your skin feel as soft and velvety as your Granny’s. It is also about half the price at around $25 in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle Aged Clothes-Shopping Hell

big-1708092_1920Ahead of my birthday celebrations last weekend, I foolishly chose to waste a whole hour of my remaining lifetime on The Iconic, when I could have been catching up on The Bachelor and drooling over Matty J’s ass with NC. Needless, to say I drew a blank.

 

Now I’m not going to bag the Iconic site, necessarily, because this post is a general burn about the fashion available to middle-aged women and the continued gap in the market for the less subtle physical charms of our physiques and to be fair, they do offer some plus-size fashion.

 

But although I’m sure there was a time in history when it was acceptable for women to conceal their extra kilos in ruffles and frills, peasant tops, kaftans and gypsy dresses – Medieval times, if I’m not mistaken – that style does not work for everyone and at the moment it dominates the High Street. It doesn’t take a fashionista to know that “loose fitting” does not conceal – all it does, in fact, is highlight that you’re trying to hide “problem areas”. Think Elizabeth Taylor – frankly the only woman in the world that could pull off a kaftan and still look sexy.

 

If you’re not Gypsy Rose, don’t want to look like Fiona from Shrek, or aren’t brave enough to squeeze swollen breasts into crop tops and satin night dresses that make you look like a plus-size sex worker – currently en vogue and at the other end of the fashion spectrum – (KILL ME NOW!) – you probably need to migrate to a nudist colony. I like to think that I’m prepared to make the occasional fashion statement when I slip out of my yoga pants, but flashing stretch marks is not the sort of first impression I want to create, no matter how comfortable my fucking hormones have forced me to become in this new shape of mine.

 

I blame Game of Thrones – which brings me to the obvious question of what the fuck are Bishop sleeves about? As far as I can see, about the only thing they’re useful for is for storing food.

 

Anyway… once I decided for the gazillionth time that online clothes shopping is certain to trigger my first heart attack, I bravely headed out to the stores to try out some frills and spills in the vain hope that for once those (predominantly male) designers know what they’re talking about.


 Hmmm….you get my point.

 

This, my friends, is why I only buy shoes and cardigans these days, and why I’m feeling as twitchy as fuck at the flies and mosquitoes that herald the approach of summer because I won’t be able to layer. So I did what I always do when I have a “nothing to wear” low, and consoled myself with (wine) a new cushion mountain. But as the old man pointed out, there are only so many times you can wear a cushion cover as a top to the pub.

 

My needs have changed. I no longer crave to look young – that boat sailed a long time ago – but I do want to look tailored, sculpted, to have the promise of a fine wine rather than a cleanskin. Which is why shorts and short skirts disappeared from my wardrobe a few years back – not because I don’t have the legs, I hasten to add – indeed they remain the only part of my body whose BMI meets the current recommendations. But modern shorts are not tailored for “women” who chafe easily and have nether regions stretched beyond recognition from their reproductive duties.

 

Which is why I’m seriously torn about the current discourse about plus-size models on the catwalk promoting obesity. Fact: the average woman is a size 16 and it really makes it very difficult to imagine your body in something modeled by someone who has only ever dreamed of Mac n’ Cheese.

 

When I posted my frustration on my Facebook page, some lovely friends recommended the following sites, so  you might want to check them out:

Ezilbuy 

Cos Clothing 

Although, in the end, I played it safe and bought a classic, tailored white shirt which I wore over my favourite Zara skinnies (the best for stretchiness), which made me feel very dignified and not too try-hard until I dropped my fifth glass of Sangria down it. Unfortunately, I was upstaged by one of my best friends who wore exactly the same outfit – Bitch stole my look – but I won’t mention her name – FIONA – because I know how mortified she was and although I’ll never be a size 10 again, I try to remain a good friend.

When Are You Too Old To Ski?

It might surprise you to know that we are skiing this week – an interesting choice of holiday for two middle-aged people with anxiety with the physical flexibility of two brick walls. I doubled my medication as a precaution.

 

To be honest, I don’t know what the fuck we think we’re doing, either – skiing at fifty-plus. I like to pretend it’s something to do with taking myself out of my comfort zone but the truth is, I agree to this holiday each year to accumulate brownie points with the old man. I am beginning to question, however, if a bit more leverage at the local shopping centre is truly worth risking life and limb for.

 

The only consolation is that the old man – a natural sportsman when it comes to ball sports – is a truly shite skier, and what makes that funnier is that he refuses to admit to it. Indeed, in spite of the billions spent on lessons, we’re both as useless as the day we began this ridiculous sport, decades ago, and the only saving grace is that I am slightly faster than him and can also ride a chairlift without falling off – a new skiing low for the old man yesterday.

 

We had to lie to Peter, our instructor this holiday, about how many lessons we’ve had before.

 

‘A few,’ we said in unison, right after Peter had yanked the old man’s body back from the precipice below and into the chairlift, like some three-year old child.

 

Peter is about sixty-five and not exactly the ski instructor I imagined when I booked this round of lessons, hopeful for some rewarding distraction for my week of sacrifice. He also gets quite tetchy when we don’t nail his drills in one go, snow plow instead of doing a parallel turn, giggle or answer him back. And frankly, we’re both getting a bit old in the tooth to be bullied for something we’ve paid for. That’s why I gave up yoga.

 

The only good thing about skiing is that because everything takes so long to do, the time passes quickly, and like childbirth, once you look into the eyes of that first Mulled Wine in the local lodge, the skier’s amnesia sets in to help you forget the horror until the next morning. Getting dressed each day takes up half your holiday and the layers of clothing to protect you from the frostbite make movement difficult. Then, when the sun comes out, you cook from the inside out, rather like being microwaved. And it takes at least thirty minutes to squeeze sore, reshaped feet into ill-fitting boots and then you have to trundle the whole caboodle up a mountain by a slow, primitive transport system that has a habit of losing people and equipment en route.

 

The impact on the sort of middle-aged body that counts walking as exercise is immense, as you can imagine. And no matter how much you prepare yourself for the muscle and joint pain, twinges appear in the most unlikely of places – something to do with getting down a mountain in the squatting position required for those hole-in-the-ground toilets at Dubai airport, I imagine.

 

The fact that I can now get down a slope without triggering an avalanche must mean that my technique has improved, but I have yet to enjoy the journey back to the restaurant – or as we call it, “base camp”. My aim is a simple one – to get down the mountain as quickly as possible, before I kill someone or someone kills me in this expensive game of survival, where small children and snowboarders are the obstacles to living for another day.

 

We’ve given NC the information for how to access what’s left of our wealth after this holiday because not even the promise of a mulled wine or hot chocolates frothing with cholesterol on the slopes is enough to disguise the reality that we will probably die here.

 

 

How The F*ck Am I A Size 16?

I know that we all have inherent body image issues to some degree, not aided by the pressure put on women, in particular, to squeeze into Barbie- sized clothes deemed acceptable by society due to the influence of the media – even though the average size in Australia is now a size 16. air-kiss-1255358_1920

But I can’t say I’ve ever really struggled with my weight – or perhaps I just didn’t care enough – until now. I’ve been a 12 for most of my life, bordering on 14 at certain times (of the month) and a nervous 10 just before my wedding day.

 

I stopped weighing myself after an over-enthusiastic two weeks in London last year, and although I consider myself a glass empty kind of gal, I am the type of woman that looks in the mirror each day and thinks I look okay. That is until  I go clothes shopping. In the past, I’ve put this anomaly in sizing down to a male-led conspiracy in the women’s fashion retail sector which means I’ve had to come to terms with keeping my eyes shut until I reach the plus size floor in Myer, but now I’m not so sure.

 

One day on my holiday,  a few cocktails in, as the tropical island spirit of ‘not worrying… about a thing’ finally took hold, I decided to go shopping for a new swimming cossie. I’ve written about this Armageddon for womankind before, and suffice it to say, my newfound holiday positivity did not help me at all to cope with the savagery of it, and twenty-five cossies later (just to make sure), I left the store with a size 16.

 

I’m still hoping that this setback isn’t karma related to all the photos I took of the old man in my bikini bottoms (here), but I’m beginning to think now, that simply maintaining my weight is almost as big an impossibility as Trump not being impeached. Don’t worry, I’m not beating myself up about it, looking at myself in disgust in the mirror or self-flagellating in front of photos of Elle McPherson each night – but I am frustrated.

 

‘It’s cortisol,’ a friend of mine explained. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress, which in real terms means that it instructs any excess fat in your body to move to your tummy area when you’re already feeling like shit.

 

‘I thought you lost weight when you’re stressed?’ I argued, ‘and anyway, I’m not feeling stressed.’

 

And then she reminded me about my ongoing worries about Kurt and the latest rejections of my writing, my father coming over at Christmas and how awful I looked in NC’s graduation photos – she’s a good friend – and it kind of made sense. Even though I’m not as stressed as I was…apart from the usual symptoms of anxiety that make me catastrophize over every damn thing like the crick in my neck which I’m convinced is cancer.

 

So, what’s really going on in my body? I don’t want or need to be a size 12 – I think skinny, older women can appear gaunt and look older. But on the whole, I eat healthily. Admittedly, crisps do hold a dangerous fascination, particularly around 5 pm each evening when I start on the wine, although I do make allowances for my wine by cutting out most carbs, as well as committing to my 10,000 steps each day (to the fridge, for wine) and I have even been known to pick up the pace if it’s a particularly good year. And my FitBit assures me that what’s going in is roughly the same as what’s going out.

 

So, WTF’s going on?

The Problem With Inviting People Over Is Then You Have To Clean The House

We had the surrogate family over for Easter lunch yesterday; no pressure really but it meant that my slovenly attitude to housework was at risk of exposure and that the dust on the floors may need more than a gentle push under the sofas. mini-pigs-2185058_1920

 

It’s funny how that works: how you can live in denial like a deliriously contented pig in shit for weeks and the only thing to push your shame button is the judgment from your friends. What’s even stranger is that once I commit to a clean, I get an almost perverse sense of pleasure out of it, and after thirteen house moves since the kids were born – a lifestyle choice they attribute to our general dysfunction – I’m actually not that bad at it.

 

In general, though, I give pretty much zero fucks when it comes to housework, mainly because I resent the archaic belief that it is “women’s work”, but also because at this age you realise that there are far more interesting ways to fill your time than cleaning the grout between tiles with a toothpick – such as watching Netflix and eating chocolate. NOBODY NOTICES, ANYWAY.

 

The old man does his share of the housework in our house, but badly, in the hope, I imagine, that his half-skewed attempts will be shameful enough for me to do them next time. So apart from the chores that one does to prevent the whole family coming down with gastro, the bare minimum normally has to suffice in our crib.

 

I’ve found that “training” is the key.  Usually, after six weeks, our bed sheets walk to the laundry of their own accord and “doing their own laundry” is one of the ways I’ve taught the kids about responsibility. So, in theory, all that’s left to do before guests arrive is a quick whizz around the bathrooms to pick up hair and to pop my head in the pantry for a quick head count of the moth population.

 

I am a tidy person, but cleaning is boring. It was one of the reasons I hated my maternity leave – that expectation that I would have time to clean just because I was incarcerated in the house for long periods of time. The old man might pretend to be clean, but the depth of toast crumbs and nose hair and the tesselating coffee rings on his desk tell a very different story.

 

Sometimes I think my paternal grandmother would turn in her grave if she saw how far hygiene have been compromised in our house. A mother of the fifties, she was one of those women who took pride in polishing her front doorstep until it gleamed with a brilliance that put everyone else’s in the street to shame. She used to spit on my glasses to clean them, much to my horror. She would be horrified if she knew that I’m the kind of lazy that will wipe the bathroom floor with bath towels in desperation and whose fridge only gets cleaned each time we move house.

 

Which, fortunately, is often.

 

But having said all that, the kids have rarely been at death’s door and I have always believed in building up their immunities through exposure to bacteria and dirt. In my opinion, the ‘sniff’ test” is a pretty good guide when it comes to clothes washing, especially since the old man decided that one wash a week is more than adequate. And as young adults, the kids do their own clothes washing these days, even if typically they are at opposing ends of the clean clothes spectrum – while Kurt washes his entire wardrobe every day, NC (for once her mother’s daughter) and ever the most logical of all of us, admits to reversing her undies to stretch the cycle that bit further.

When Will I Feel Grown Up Enough To Wear Grown-Up Clothes?

I know you’re probably thinking that this post is a replica of the one I wrote when I went through the trauma of finding a dress for my dad’s wedding earlier this year, but a second verbal vent is required after my most recent experience of trying to dress this sad, old middle-aged body. shopping-606993_1280

 

When the fuck are retailers going to cater for those of us middle-aged women who aren’t ready for floral tent-age and swathes of fabric un-tactfully placed to conceal our post-partum lumps?

How am I supposed to recover some of the confidence I used to have in my body when the world expects me to hide it away so I don’t offend anyone?

And how many Christmas cookies is too many?

 

After two separate, arduously soul-destroying and unproductive sessions at the mall -mission being to find a dress to wear on Christmas Day – I did something highly impulsive the other night. I ordered a dress online.

 

Obviously an excursion towards madness that turned out to be an unmitigated disaster and the meringue will be going straight back to the online store – mainly because Christmas is not fancy dress and so my version of brandy custard was probs not appropriate. But it’s a shame, because the experience highlighted my continuing sensitivity about this new body of mine and I thought I’d matured and accepted that it’s not what it was a long time ago. It’s not like I’m the star of the Christmas Day show anyway – apparently Jesus is, (although I’m sure NC will give him a run for his money) – but the Leo in me always wants to make an entrance, refuses to lie down and give in to the part of the ageing process that has gathered for Christmas to party on down in the zone where my stomach used to be.

 

For as long as I can remember I’ve treated myself to a new outfit to wear on Christmas Day. It goes back to my childhood, when one of mum’s traditions was that no matter how tight the finances were, at least we would look our best, in much the same way that we always wore decent underwear in case we were involved in an accident.

 

Sadly, my *cough* size 14, middle-aged body is not catered for in the high street stores and I’m learning to interpret the pitying looks the sales assistants throw my way when I make such a ridiculous request – but I can’t deny that acceptance of that is a slow and painful journey, and it’s Sods Law that since I’ve found some level of grace in relation to my rounder edges, every other middle-aged woman I see in the street appears diminutive.

 

Which is why I reached that level of desperation after hours of trawling around various malls, by the end of which I honestly would have sold my children for the perfect dress. I’d even ventured onto that hallowed floor in DJs where where the assistants look down their noses at you unless you are carrying a Calvin handbag , but fortunately no-one took me seriously enough in my Havaianas and Uniqlo dress for me to waste my hard-earned cash on what I know is effectively one dress for one day.

 

After which I decided to change my tactics completely and take a peek at the ranges that cater to my age group – that aren’t maternity – and the racks of voluminous, frumpy dresses that fashion experts believe us poor women who wear the scars of reproduction, hormone combustion and a talent for eating lots of cake, truly deserve. And I nearly puked.

 

I couldn’t do it. I might feel fucking old some days but I’m not ready to give in yet, no matter how much shop assistants try to convince me that flora-vomit pasted over my body and fuchsia tones suit me, or how well a kaftan swamps hides those awkward bits. I don’t feel grown up enough to wear grown-up women’s dresses yet.

 

Have you given in?

 

Can We Say Goodbye To 2016 Now?

cars-1578513_1280I won’t point to anything in particular – Trump, Bowie, Brexit – but there must be few among us that will look back on 2016 as a great year.

 

Since boatpoo-gate a few weeks ago, NC says I’ve just been unlucky.

 

You see, you could honestly not meet a more stupidly honest person than me, and yet where everyone else manages to be camouflaged when they make a mistake, I must walk around in hi vis clothing.

 

I’m the one that gets stopped by the ratty old person and accused of littering the beach when some wrapper I’ve been eating from gets blown away in a mild hurricane. I’m that person who somehow manages to lose the dog’s poo bag which was firmly attached to her lead before she’s done her business and then gets caught by the curtain-twitcher when she has to dump her load on the pristine lawn in front of their house.

 

I must also hold the suburb record for parking tickets.

 

Which must be why it was me who got the surprise visit from two policemen as I dished up dinner on Saturday night. Two very handsome policemen, I should add, which was the only part of the nightmare to make my shame slightly more bearable.

 

‘We’re from Glebe police station,’ the more muscled of the two began with, ‘and we’re here about an accident.’

 

Now if you have a son like Kurt and two policemen come to your house on a Saturday night and begin with those words, they can’t expect a calm reaction.

 

‘What?’ I responded, spraying his face with cauliflower rice while the Princess continued to bark behind me – because she has an innate distrust of “the boys in blue” due to intensive training by her brother – risking a noise pollution charge as well as the potential loss of her mama into police custody.

 

‘Do you drive a car with the this registration number?’ they continued, and of course if I knew my car registration number I would have been able to respond immediately with an affirmative.

 

‘Maybe…’ I said, sounding as guilty AF.

 

Anyway, it turns out that whilst collecting clients a few weeks ago – and I remember it well, because no woman wants to be the gender stereotype caught parking badly in front of a group of men who are watching you like a convocation of eagles – someone grassed on me.

 

I was trying to get into a small space, which I’m normally good at because I live in the city, have a rear-view camera and very over-sensitive sensors on both ends, (something the old man insisted on treated me to when we bought it), but obviously on this occasion I was somewhat over-confident to the point that I burnt out all four tyres turning the wheel to get into the damned space because with my audience the challenge soon became a matter of pride and a step for feminism. And when I’d finished and got out of the car with a ‘and that’s how its done boys’ look on my face, one of the guys kindly informed me that I was touching the bumper of the car in front ‘so you might want to move it, love,’ and being the caring citizen I am I went through the whole torturous process in reverse.

 

Anyway, one of them ratted on me and put a note on the other car to say that I had banged into his car – ALL LIES – and helpfully added my registration number as well. And the scratch, (which I will deny to my dying breath), led two hot policemen – who should have been doing proper police work such as searching my son for illicit substances on the streets of Sydney on a Saturday night – to my front door in suburbia.

 

And that is why I’m feeling unlucky and why I want to start again with 2017.

The Curse Of The Middle-Aged Baby Belly: Can Women Have It All – Both Wine And Food?

A common thread of conversation among my middle-aged friends is “weight gain”. We usually begin to moan about how little we can eat these days somewhere between dessert and cheese and then wash away our concerns with wine. maternity-830683_1280

 

I have to admit that having never suffered from serious weight gain issues before – apart from when I first discovered pints of lager at university – I used to think that they were linked to poor self-control and that if you pretended to exercise and ate in moderation, it was possible to maintain your weight. But it turns out that there is some science behind the middle-aged tyre, something about protecting our bones from breaking – although which bones my layer of lard is shielding around my navel, I have yet to learn.

 

One of the biggest priorities when we were looking for our new home recently was that it should be walking distance to a local pool, because the crazy machinations of the way my brain works got used to that luxury at our old place. I’ve been swimming for a while now and I can definitely see the benefits, although up until now it was more about maintaining my mental health than trying to disperse unwanted fat. Sadly, it seems I may have to change my focus now.

 

My body has never conformed to what Dr Google says it should be doing at any given time, most recently proven when I went through one of the biggest stresses in life – moving house – and gained weight.

 

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve reneged on the one deal I had with my body which was never to go up a dress size. Again. That might be because I’m more comfortable in myself, (although more likely to be because I love my food), but I now realise that I’ve been kidding myself for a while about my weight, aided by a combination of cheats such as changing clothing brands, choosing between wine and food , in other words, pretending that I can have it all. I also stopped weighing myself.

 

But those days are gone because my clothes have become so tight that even my support pants are struggling to hold me in and sadly, I look shocking in kaftans. I’m not vain, but a wibbly-wobbly tyre around what used to be my waist is not an attractive accessory, and typically all my extra weight has accumulated in the area between my breasts and pelvis so I look like I’m in the early stages of my second trimester. Why some of those fat deposits couldn’t have ended up on my wide, boney ass or in my lips is another of life’s unfair fuckeries.

 

I repeat, it’s not so much about the aesthetics, as proven by my recent descent into wearying pyjama bottoms as late into the day as possible (a benefit of working from home) and the fact that I didn’t complain or go back when a new, more economically-priced hairdresser gave me hi-vis, zebra highlights last week. My problem is that I’m very partial to retail therapy – particularly clothes – and my stomach is compromising that pleasure. Clothing manufacturers for young women do not incorporate the sort of elasticated, room-for- growth pouch you get in maternity clothes and I don’t know how I’m supposed to maintain my youth in slacks and smock dresses.

 

So what else can I do? Obviously I’m not going to become some aerobic psycho that takes up ‘boot camp’ and risk a premature heart attack or stroke and I fear that if I give up wine I might end up like those smokers who give up and then get lung cancer.

 

Calorie-counting doesn’t work either because my adding up becomes distinctly shady after the first thousand calories of Chardonnay.

 

And I do eat healthily most of the time. Although the kebab shop at the end of the road in our new neighbourhood was an unfortunate discovery.

 

Help!

 

 

The Fashion Mistakes Teenagers Need To Make

We’ve been through a lot of stuff with our son Kurt, as many of you know, and I can’t deny that there have been occasions when I’ve felt a tad wistful as I’ve walked down the street and spotted groups of clean-shaven, preppy-looking boys in their Polo shirts and boating shoes. musician-664432_1280

 

The weight of loss at my son’s refusal to conform was brought home to me the other day when I took Kurt shopping for some new clothes. Well, I say ‘new clothes’…however Kurt’s shopping destination of choice is an inner city suburb in Sydney called Newtown, a hip, trendy neighbourhood that you’d hate to find yourself in alone after 7pm unless you’re between the ages of 17 and 23, (hence stupid enough), armed, a drug addict or an impoverished student.

 

Kurt has always had an individual style. I remember that we went through his Dalmation phase when he was four or five, when he insisted on wearing a dog costume everywhere he went for at least two years; then there was the phase when he refused to wear anything other than NC’s summer school dress, (until the day the old man decided that enough was enough after Kurt paraded it in front of all our friends at a dinner party), and finally there was his Michael Jackson year with that much crotch-grabbing I wondered at one point if he’d ever be able to have children.

 

We have recently reached his ‘impoverished student’ phase, even though it must be hard for him to carry it off when he lodges with us in one of Sydney’s more exclusive suburbs.

 

Looking back, we all went through this stage. I remember wearing sexless, baggy tee-shirts and ripped jeans at university, in fact anything to disguise the fact that I was a middle-class girl with breasts and hips and not the working class heroine who could talk about the unfairness of life with some authority that I aspired to be. However, in those days we shopped in charity shops to earn our badge of poverty, unlike Kurt, who shops in vintage stores. And we all know that whenever you add the ‘vintage’ label to clothing, it doubles in price.

 

What this means is that I am effectively paying the same money for second-hand clothes as I would pay for the equivalent new clothes in a high street store.

 

I wouldn’t mind so much if his choice of ‘vintage’ wasn’t always the most deplorable, kitsch, eighties-style, insult to fashion you can imagine – the sort of shite you beg, steal and borrow for an Abba party. Yes, I’m talking shell suits, headbands, patterned knitted jumpers and cardigans and button-fly Levi jeans.

 

It hurt me physically to part with the cash on the day and I sensed that even the heavily pierced assistant with the purple hair and tattoo sleeve felt some empathy for me when I moaned about it, sounding every inch as middle-aged as I felt while Kurt writhed with embarrassment beside me.

 

Just another stage, I reassured myself as we left. I know I need to encourage my son’s freedom of expression but it did hurt to watch him leave the shop looking like he needed new clothes.