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.

Losing Weight: Who Knew Salmon Was Such A Traitor?

I was listening to a podcast with Clare Bowditch on Conversations this morning (about her book Your Own Kind Of Girl) and it made me question exactly why I’ve started another diet. Like her, I came to the conclusion a while ago that weight is unimportant (as long as it is within a healthy range and not affecting your health); that it’s what’s on the inside that counts; and that society needs to bloody well grow up and accept that most healthy women do not fit the skinny model stereotype promoted by magazines – hence the popularity of Celeste Barber.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.com

In general, I manage to maintain my Reubenesque figure by compensating for my food and alcohol over-indulgences by working my butt off on walks and runs. However, the toll from Christmas this year has been grim and I’ve been sucked into a diet by the vanity of the old man who says he feels uncomfortable being overweight.

Imagine that?

Neither of us wants to get down to the sort of unrealistic weight that means that you start rocking in a corner when you think about a Magnum, but we’d like to lose the weight we’ve gained over the last two years – to avoid the slippery slope of unfair weight distribution that happens to so many people in middle age.

I blame our Christmas visitors for the last few kilos I’ve gained – skinny visitors who ate as much as us, exercised less, and still manage to remain thin. Also, any host knows how impossible it is to eat mindfully when you have guests in the house and you have to show off the enviable lifestyle of Australia (bushfires excluded). And in Sydney the food is as spectacular as the beaches. The day only starts after one of THE BEST BREAKFASTS in the world, followed by – as a result of our wonderfully diverse population – a veritable smorgasbord of international feasting to choose from over the rest of the day.

Worse, when you have guests (particularly at Christmas), any rules around drinking fly out the window. – so even though we weren’t officially on holiday, we were happy to use the rellies as an excuse for extra bevvies.

Hence, I find myself fitting a little too snugly into my size 14 clothes, and albeit that left to my own devices I would probably have continued to ignore the extra tire around my middle and hoped for the best once I get back into some sort of routine – When? – I am sadly married to a man obsessed with his weight.

So we’ve hooked up to an app called Easy diet diary which is basically a calorie counting tool that works like this: You put in your weight, height etc and tell it how much weight you want to lose and in how much time, and then it suggests a daily calorie intake to achieve your goal. Each day, you add in every morsel you eat, every drop of liquid you drink, and every kilometre you sweat – although I’m not counting calories burnt during exercise as that me permission to drink more.

It is unhealthily competitive and we are learning to be cunningly strategic – which is the only fun aspect of a diet – but it has given us something to talk about over the past few days i.e. like how f…ing hungry we are. And on a more serious note, we have started to think about what we put in my mouths, particularly when it comes to portion sizes. You can imagine my pain one morning when I had to put a large slice of watermelon back in the fridge because it meant I would have to forego a glass of wine that night.

And talking of wine, basically what feels like a mouthful of wine (100mls) equates to around 80cals, so on drinking days you really have to be careful about how many food calories you consume or switch to spirits which are generally kinder.

It’s amazing what you discover. I won’t bore you with the calorific content of every food faux-ami – i.e. foods we thought were healthy but turn out to be wickedly calorific – That’s right SALMON, I’m talking about you – but who knew that trail mix, coffee, and chocolate were so bloody fattening? Or that a shot of Cointreau is a whopping 91 calories?

Where the fun really comes in is seeing how much yoghurt or muesli you can squeeze into a quarter of a cup; or how many units of alcohol you can fit in without starving; and what you can eat with those precious six calories left at the end of the day – suffice it to say, I’m still trying to work out the value of a single M&M.

The experience has certainly been an education – one I won’t be repeating as soon as I get down to a svelte size 12 over the next week or so.

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.

Are Old Dudes Getting Hotter Or Am I Simply Getting Older?

I suspect that the main reasons behind my increasing attraction to old dudes are my age and my deteriorating eyesight. You see, these days, any woeful stirring in my loins is caused far more often by images of distinguished old dudes on Instagram, than the hairless, chiseled chests of men half their age.

I like to think that this change of direction in sexual attraction is a rare kindness bestowed on me by a creator who was obviously male – a necessary evolutionary shift, perhaps, to stop old women such as myself from running off with younger men, thereby driving procreation to a devastating halt?

Doubtful, though…

Attractive older man with grey hair and beard.
Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash

Nevertheless, it is a strange phenomenon. You see, not that long ago, I would have gagged at the idea of pashing a silver fox – rather like my twenty-four-year-old daughter. My head has always been turned by the younger cubs, for whom (in my prime) I would gladly sacrifice quality for quantity for the promise of a firm chest and as little post-coital conversation as possible.

I was also one of the doubting Thomas’ that shuddered at the idea of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ and Michael Douglas, and Di and Prince Charles. Albeit that the Welsh actress has had the last laugh. Evidently, she had the foresight to appreciate that a twenty-eight-year gap between her and her husband guaranteed that he was never really likely to look better than her.

Although, admittedly, it’s a close call. Michael isn’t looking that bad for his age if his appearance on “The Kominsky Method” is anything to go by. And neither did Robert Redford in “The Old Man And The Gun” and Clint Eastwood in the trailer for “The Mule”. In fact, I struggled to follow the plot in Redford’s movie, so mesmerized was I by the wrinkled tesselations on his face.

Or maybe I’m simply getting old…?

No. There’s definitely something very attractive about a man with a grey beard, who obviously went to Specsavers. Indeed, the only shame of my newfound appreciation is that mature women aren’t branded in the same positive light as our “distinguished” older men such as George Clooney and Richard Gere.

“Vixen” has yet to match the connotations of “fox”.

And while I despise the trope of middle-aged women as sour-faced and sexless, I’m glad that the ageism tide in Hollywood has turned for men at least. No one is immune to the passage of time, and there is much for our younger generations to learn from the wisdom of the old – especially now that family communities are so divided. And the lines of time and experience add a realistic dimension to characters – a fact that, sadly, Hollywood has chosen to ignore up until now.

Nevertheless, the treatment of women in cinema still has a way to go. While I hold fast to the notion that some men MUST find women their age attractive – a tricky presumption, admittedly, based on our visibility in the media – it is impossible not to notice how many of the female partners (of the actors above) were still in nappies when their leading men were in high school. The gap might be narrowing, but Sissy Spacek is 69 and Robert Redford is 82; Michael Douglas is 74 and Nancy Travis is 57.

I suppose I should be grateful that at least the aging process is somewhat of a leveler – one that provides us with a better understanding of “visibility” once the covers of our books begin to deteriorate. No more pretense; no more rushed, awkward conversations as the eyes of the man you’re talking to wander to your gorgeous best friend.

There will always be evergreen, “visible” beauties such as Kylie Minogue and Helen Mirren – some with young hotties firmly attached to their arm. And good luck to them! I’m comfortable now with the springy grey hairs in my parting and a beauty that is defined by my brain, my spirit, and my convictions.

Dig a little deeper, men, for you may strike gold. And above all, don’t believe the hype. Once our biological clocks stop ticking, we women can afford to be choosy, and what we want at this next stage of our lives is “substance”. We won’t settle for anything less. And “substance” is about the man who values us – not as a trophy, but as an equal partner, in intellect, passion, and curiosity.

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?

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.

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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.

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?

When You Realise You’re Competing With Beyonce’s Bump

pregnant-1905043_1280I was somewhat perturbed by Beyonce’s visual introduction to the world of her impending twins. Beyond excited, OBVIOUSLY, because this is Beyonce we’re talking about, but the prude in middle-aged me dared to question why a grown woman would announce such a special event to the world in her bra and undies. Here’s the link.

 

Imagine when she shows her bump photos to her teenagers.

 

Eww!, Mum, gross! How could you do that to me?

 

But according to NC, that’s how it’s done these days in this new world of Social Media and sharing everything. You create an artistic interpretation of your bump, so it looks all natural and organic and healthy – I believe she may actually be sitting on kale –  even though the reality is, well…Photoshop.

 

How things have changed.

 

Twenty years ago during my two gestations, it was only just about legal for women to leave the house when pregnant and you were still given the stink eye if you wore maternity swimmers in public. You certainly didn’t flaunt your growing bump wedged between a tiny bikini in public.

 

We had surpassed the smock dress, I think, although I would like to thank Natalie Portman for her recent outings of the vintage fifties model – but we still concealed our changing bodies under swathes of unflattering fabric or in leggings with huge baggy tee shirts.

 

So it made me think that perhaps I could share my own ‘love and happiness” and show you how the great Lord has ‘blessed me’ in middle age with my new bump, with a similar Beyonce-esque, arty, Insty-style approach.

 

We’re hoping it’s twins, and by the size of it there’s a good chance, and we’re naming them Chardonnay and Lindt.

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Ageing, Cosmetic Surgery and Harmful Vacuousness

As I lay on my bed nursing my hangover and reading the papers on Sunday, I  knocked my phone onto the camera setting accidentally and got the most horrific above the shoulder shot. Sometime recently, it appears, my chin has sought sanctuary within the very generous folds of my neck. 

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All About Cosmetic Surgery by Ian Smith from flickr.com

It’s ugly but it’s one of those genetic things that my dad kindly passed down, which I suspect I in turn have passed onto NC because sometimes we have chin fat selfie competitions to see who can look the most gross.

 

If I’m completely honest and I had the money, if there was no pain or time off work involved and I knew that the old man wouldn’t ridicule me for my vanity, I’d get it sorted with a two-for-one deal to include tummy tuck.

 

Even though I know that in certain circles cosmetic surgery is still as frowned upon as having an ADHD child.

 

Which I get…to a degree. Because I’ve never really understood why women resort to cosmetic surgery unless there is some medical reason behind the decision, although I am open-minded enough to think ‘each to their own’. I spend far too much of my hard-earned cash on cushions and a lot of my friends don’t get that either.

 

Although some do.

 

The discussion about cosmetic surgery cropped up over lunch at the weekend when a friend told me about a friend of hers (yes, she was asking on behalf of a “friend” !) who wanted surgery because her husband likes big boobs.

 

And therein lies the rub, because on absolutely no fucking account would I have surgery because someone wanted me to, to improve me, mainly because (and you can call me old-fashioned) I’d assumed that falling in love was about the whole package. What the fuck does it say if someone can no longer commit unless you fix one small part that is not quite perfect?

 

The last time I researched thoroughly, women don’t have the option to change men’s penis size, so what right do men have to sculpt out perfection in their partners?

 

Many middle-aged actresses in Hollywood have finally begun to fight the sort of sexist ageism that has pushed so many of them in the past under the knife, in order to secure work. Because we now know that one of the main reasons teenagers suffer from such poor self-esteem is because they aspire to be like their idols, and the problem is further compounded by the way boys judge women from what they see on porn movies.

 

It’s one thing for Her Vacuousness, Kim Kardashian, to bang on about there being nothing shameful about nudity as she gets her body out for the media for the gazillionth time in a day, but it’s quite  another when you flaunt your fake assets as something attainable and real.

 

It’s misrepresentation, actually, and particularly damaging to vulnerable young girls who are at an age where they are desperate to fit into society.

Feminism, Body Image And The Curse Of A Big Gob

And in other news to (WHAT THE FUCK?) Brexit…I’ve noticed this week and am very proud to announce that (in spite of our dysfunctionality), we’ve managed to nurture this raving feminist for a daughter, someone very close to Germaine Greer on the radicalism scale. barbie-458618_1280

 

You see, unlike her vanilla mother when it comes to fighting for the people, NC has made it quite clear to us recently that she refuses to simply settle for equal rights, she wants to quash every aspect of blatant male privilege imposed on women.

 

As she explained to me last night, ‘you can’t effect change within the current constructs of society, Mum, society needs to change.’

 

So every day some new book on feminism lands on our doorstep from Amazon, so much so that the postman now leaves them in front of the gate, and the old man is getting a major complex from the amount of shade she throws at him, even when he’s not (knowingly) being a sexist twat.

 

Of course, he blames me.

 

Frankly, I’m surprised that the Astronaut has survived this long, although she does keep him safely at arms length on some secret government mission in Canberra.

 

She’s been growing out her armpit hair for some time, (although that might be due to winter), but this week she informed me that she’s decided not to wear makeup any longer – ‘because if men aren’t expected to, then neither should she’, and when I looked at her drained face, the black rings and lank hair (because she’s been working long hours recently) and asked her if she was sure … she stomped out of my room, came back and lobbed a copy of The Beauty Myth at my head.

 

I suppose I must be more influenced by body image perfectionism than I thought. I wouldn’t describe myself as shallow, always believed that what’s on the inside is more important … but then I do love clothes and lipstick and shoes and I do try my best to stay slim, within the unfair boundaries set by my hormones.

 

Admittedly, one of the most liberating parts of middle age is to go out in public without makeup, freak out the local kids and seriously not give a fuck. Nevertheless, sometimes I still like to put my face on. Not because I feel more confident, or for the old man’s benefit (who frankly wouldn’t notice if I had a face transplant), because I honestly feel more empowered when I don’t have a mask on, it’s just that occasionally I like to feel feminine and pretty, which I do when I conceal the rings, the veins and the Rosacea and pluck the stray foliage from my eyebrows.

 

And there’s nothing wrong with that, according to my daughter, because feminism is about having choices. Just as it’s okay to opt for plastic surgery, even though personally I’m like WHY?

 

Cynics will accuse me of being indoctrinated, of course, and they have a point. I’m the biggest sucker for women’s magazines, love those shots of celebrities when they get papped without their face on, but for me it’s not about cow-towing to the demands of society or men, it’s like the secret thrill you get when you wear new lingerie. No-one’s going to see it an no-one but you knows it’s there, but it still makes you feel good about yourself. And men are not immune to using props to improve confidence and appeal.

 

Understandably though, with the evolution of social media and the popularity of the selfie, there are concerns about where this obsession with body image will eventuate. Body Dysmorphia, conditions like Anorexia and women’s growing obsession with surgery are not trends that should be ignored.

 

Mentioning our kids’ weight these days – in particular the F word – is almost as reprehensible as feeding them processed meat or pretending that ‘I feel sad’ is a normal emotion that doesn’t require an intervention from social services.

 

I remember when NC went through the podge period that a lot of pubescent girls go through between the growth spurt and metamorphosis into swan – usually when they give up serious sport and console themselves by eating all the pies when boys refuse to notice them – and I suggested over tea one evening that she might want to eat more healthily, proud of myself for being so uncharacteristically sensitive.

 

She remembers it differently, of course. She says that I told her she was fat.

 

Which I’ve never believed until I heard myself tell Kurt this morning that if he carried on eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner, he’ll never get Justin Bieber’s clear complexion.

 

I’m sorry, but if your child is obese (and doesn’t suffer from medical issues that cause weight gain) and their health is at risk, you don’t keep harping on about how beautiful they are, or how much you love them just the way they are; and neither do you continue to feed them on McDonalds for afternoon tea or stick your head in the sand – you get them some help.

 

Very soon I will have to affix a very large strip of Gaffer tape over my mouth to prevent me from traumatising my children any further, even though, I assure you, that I have always had their best interests at heart and just suffer from a very bad case of Big Gobbitis.

 

 

 

How I Really Feel About My Fifty-Something Body

Do you think our mothers suffered from the same body image issues we do?

 

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I’m fairly certain that my mum was too busy surviving as a single, working mother in the sixties, to waste time worrying about the danger of her muffin top creeping out of the top of her jeans or if there was a wide enough gap between her thighs.

 

Does that make us more shallow these days, or simply more informed?

 

It’s not like we have any more free time than they did to spend on ourselves. With more women working these days, as well as raising families, competing at the school gate and trying to put the healthiest food on the table at the end of a long day, why do we still beat ourselves up by letting our appearance get us down?

 

I suppose we could blame the influence of more magazines, tabloids, the social media sites and role models they choose to propagate, that build up this dangerous image of the perfect woman as a skinny-assed bitch. It’s only very recently that they’ve been taken to task and forced to accept some responsibility for their power and taken the risk (!) of putting more average, (I won’t say ‘real’ because I know that offends a lot of women), women on their covers.

 

But I’ll be honest, even at the age of 50, I’m still a little vain when it comes to my body; which is strange when I’m aware that this should be the time of my life when I can put the rude finger up at expectation and with all that middle-aged wisdom I’ve acquired, I should no longer give a toss about what other people think.

 

But I like fashion and I like looking good – for me – and I get sucked into the photo-shopped falseness fed to us by social media. Very deep down, I aspire to be that gorgeous, skinny, quinoa-fed, crusty type of vegan sexiness, that traipses around in Docs and daisy headbands and still manages to look great.

 

Even though I know that in reality I take a lot more work than that.

 

It’s not like I’m that vain in terms of my natural assets – I can be out of the front door within twenty minutes, as long as I’ve been able to plan my outfit for at least five days beforehand.

 

When it comes to skin and bone …I’m actually okay with mine.

 

Apart from a chubby stage in my early twenties, even the fact that I’ve never been, nor could ever be accused of being heroin chic-thin, doesn’t bother me. Although like many women, my tummy is my ground zero, and I can’t even blame my two babies for it, because it was always susceptible to inexplicable growth spurts, well before I created them.

 

I was as skinny as a pole until I hit my early twenties, when I migrated to France for a couple of years of self-discovery, promptly discovered lager and gained about ten kilos in ten days. I remember around the same time I had some medical tests done and the doctor described me as ‘over-nourished’ in his report, much to the delight of my father.

 

I was always ‘big-boned’ rather than big-breasted. I wonder if it’s politically incorrect to call someone ‘big-boned’ now?

 

Over time, rather than working hard to lose the appendage of my tum, I’ve learned all the fashion tips on how best to disguise it, because although these days I can still lose weight almost anywhere on my body if I put my mind to it – usually off my boobs first – it sticks as steadfast as a limpet to my belly.

 

Luckily, I’ve always had a penchant for the shift dress and loose tops, so my problem area is not really a biggy, style-wise, not until I have to don a swimming costume, anyway – too often here in Sydney – and I revert back to the self-consciousness of a teenager on Prom night, who has convinced herself she looks like she’s at the beginning of her second trimester.

 

Admittedly, my weight hovers above where I’d like it to be on the scales, yet not beyond the realms of no return – although I might have been reassuring myself of that fact for a very long time. My goal has always been to stay within the range of a British size 12, so whenever my body veers eerily close to a size 14, I send myself to food purgatory for a few weeks and breathe in when I go shopping or have my photo taken. I know that alcohol is the culprit, but until I’m ready to conquer that particular form of self-medication as well as accept the new portion limitations imposed by menopause, I know that my weight will continue to fluctuate on a daily basis.

 

God! I do sound like I have a body image problem. Yet for my age, my body is fine – not perfect, but okay. Decent pins and small breasts – which I’ve always loved for they’re manageability and non attention-seeking attitude, and now that they’ve become less dense with age, I celebrate the fact that they’re too inadequate to rest beneath my navel.

 

I imagine that I have acquired the face that is redolent of the life I’ve lived.

 

Some grey hairs continue to fight for their place in my parting through the bleach to remind me how old I am, there is the Rosacea that taints my face whenever I get stressed or to remind me to eat more healthily, the persistent excess hair on my upper lip and the black rings under my eyes that have always been there, making concealer my best friend and top luxury item should I ever be sent to a desert island with the chance of bumping into any other human female life form.

 

Midlife Rant: Over-Exposure And Self-Importance

Embed from Getty Images

So, two things that have got my already shrinking ovaries in a twist this week, other than the sub-zero temperatures of the winter that has hit Sydney this week: the first, the story of yet another self-important breastfeeding mum who insists it is her right to whip her boobs out and bare all in a public place; and the second is the metamorphosis of Caitlyn Jenner.

Firstly, you should know that I am an intolerant, judgmental bitch at times and that I understand that not everyone will agree with my opinions here. But this sort of media hogwash clogs up my FB page, often spoils my first coffee of the day, and prevents me from reading about real news, like the story about those idiots who got married on their first date.

So…breastfeeding in public.

Sorry, ladies, I hope you know that I will defend the rights of women to my dying breath, but this is one of those topics where the miserable old fucker in me gets on her soapbox. And yes, I do realise that I could justifiably be accused of hypocrisy since I used to expose my own pert breasts to anyone and everyone on the beach in my early twenties, and pretty soon I’ll probably have the nipple melanomas to prove it.

What can I say? Things/times change.

For the record, I’m one hundred percent behind any mother who breastfeeds their baby and I have absolutely no issue with them breastfeeding in public either. But, I also believe that there has to be some modesty and consideration for the opinions/beliefs of fellow customers, when it comes to breastfeeding in a public eating establishment. Not everyone feels comfortable when forced to watch an infant munch noisily on a milk-laden, straining boob while trying to eat their Egg Benedict, and making conversation with aged parents, teenage sons or awkward husbands (who may never have seen a boob bigger than a golf ball before).

And yes, you can argue that perhaps that awkwardness is their problem, but there I have to disagree.

Of course, there should be more feeding rooms to facilitate breastfeeding for new mums, just as I think a thin muslin to veil the rogue nipple is a compromise that demonstrates a respect for those not in the early throes of wonder at new life.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing to do and I loved partaking of it when I had boobs my own babies, but it is not a sport to be Whoop! Whooped! publicly, and albeit not a sexual act, it still involves getting what some consider your private bits out in public; which is most other cases is against the law.

That is why we have to trust women to make their own judgment calls about what is considerate and appropriate behaviour towards others.

And, Caitlyn Jenner…

A TransGender-Symbol Plain1
A TransGender-Symbol Plain1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry, Caitlyn, but my discomfort at having to see your new self, wrapped only in a satin corset on the cover page of Vanity Fair, has less to do with your choice to over-expose the ‘new you’, than being completely fed up with having to look at members of your family on the cover of every fucking women’s magazine over the past five years.

And I still haven’t fathomed out how you all got there in the first place.

It is wonderful that you have now become a role model for transgender people and I’m all for evolution and change and anyone who makes the world more aware of the inner struggles of people, such as yourself, who have dealt with discrimination or the lonely life of ‘difference’ in society. But I hate the fact that while you have talked about your private struggles with your sexuality in the past, you have still taken something that was apparently so personally painful to you and in true-Kardashian style, turned it into a media circus that, frankly, paints an unrealistic outcome for the majority of transgenders.

You will argue that it is to help others, and I hope that your public story does help change the lives of others for the better, but the way you have handled your metamorphosis, complete with aforementioned Hollywood styling, still smacks of fame-whoring and self-importance to me.

I admit to having watched the odd episode of The Kardashians in the past – for research purposes, obviously – and out of all of your fame-hungry extended family, your personality always appealed to me the most. You came across as a likeable, quirky kind of guy, stoic even, and you seemed to share a genuinely closer connection with your daughters than your wife did.

Which is why it saddens me that you feel the need to sell out again, at the expense of what could have been a truly, new dawn for you, with some well-deserved privacy, a reality check and your children’s sensitivities at the top of your priorities.

My Daughter Has Entered Her Grey Phase Of Growing Up

My daughter has entered her ‘grey phase.’ I went through the same phase when I was a student at university. It’s that period in a girl’s life when she suddenly realizes that her power doesn’t lie with her body and her looks, but with her personality, ideas and intellect.

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It’s similar to what I’m going through now, but sort of in reverse. I’m going through what is commonly acknowledged as the ‘invisible phase’ for middle-aged women; a phase where we can no longer trade on our looks and need to pull out the bigger guns of intellect and personality.

I quite like being invisible and my nerdy daughter relishes not having to worry about body image any more.

But I do feel kind of sad for her, too. I feel sad that she feels the need to cover up her beauty and her sexuality to be taken seriously, although NC was never the kid that pranced around in pink tutus, fairy wings and silver Osh Kosh shoes, but rather the tomboy who was inspired by Thomas The Tank Engine and Harry Potter and who was toughened up by playing rough and tumble with the local boys.

English: The during a Thomas the Tank Engine w...
English: The during a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend. Thomas at Avon Riverside station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To this day she gets more turned on by rocks and environmental change.

I was never that girly as a child, either, but I’ve tapped into my girly-side more as I’ve grown older and become a mother, mellowed and started liking myself more. I remember my own style at university was very similar to NC’s androgynous look now; the main components of my wardrobe being a range of over-sized ex-army shirts, vintage jumpers and baggy boyfriend jeans that hid the curves that I felt hinted at weakness and betrayed my gender.

NC did try to conform once, towards the end of high school when the formals that she had always cynically judged as popularity contests, began to loom perilously closer. Overnight, all her friends became interested in boys and began to post up images of hot men and their prom dresses on Facebook, rather than the memes of Harry Potter that NC still identified with.

And for a short period of time there, she conceded that it might be easier to try and fit in.

But she developed an ugly, embarrassing rash on the day of her year 12 formal, which coordinated perfectly with the red dress we’d hurriedly picked out for the event at the last moment.

To this day I believe that rash was caused by some inner turmoil created by not being authentic to herself, and since then, I’ve noticed that her washing pile has slowly taken on a much more muted, grey hue.

The pretty, summer dresses, crop tops and slinky skirts have long gone and now every piece of clothing is a variation of grey and at least a couple of sizes too big, so she doesn’t draw attention to her natural, physical beauty.
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I am secretly proud of my girl for her insistence on being herself. I’m ashamed that I don’t tell her that often enough. She always did have an iron will. I remember trying desperately to persuade her to wear pretty dresses when she was little, and contact lenses in place of her thick glasses when she was a teenager, so fearful was I that she would remain a wallflower. But she was always adamant about who she was. I can still remember the day she patiently explained to me that it didn’t matter what was on the outside.

She was about ten at the time.

When she turns it on my daughter is a siren and can stop both sexes in their tracks. My dad still loves to recount the story of when they were in Paris together a few years ago and he asked NC nervously if she would dress up that evening for some posh dinner they were attending. When she entered the bar that evening my father almost didn’t recognize his granddaughter and apparently the whole area went silent, such was the transformation. He describes it as a Pretty Woman moment.

NC has always been who NC wants to be. She allows the world to see the parts of her that she admires most about herself; that is, the thinking NC, the NC who is an intelligent young woman and whom I have no doubt will go on to represent those women who demand equal opportunities, rather than ask for them.

NC’s world is not grey, really. If anything she is black and white. Her world houses ambition, promise and a rainbow of vivid colours. The grey is a veneer. She reserves her colour for causes she is passionate about, the people she loves and those who love her.

Is Shopping The Best Therapy For Middle-Aged Women?

It is with great sadness that I have to admit that I was forced to seek some therapy this weekend.

Family Friendly
Family Friendly (Photo credit: Jim Blob Blann)

 

Kurt has been flipping the bird at the house rules again, (more of that in a later post), and I have been struggling to focus and get my work done with the old man hanging around the house on annual leave and being as demanding as a fourth child.

 

Which has led to a serious bout of cabin fever.

 

 

As you are aware, I have always been a firm believer in seeking help when it is needed, which is precisely why I headed straight to the Kirribilli Markets and Pitt St mall on a self-help mission yesterday.

 

For some REAL WOMEN’S therapy.

 

I got up early, donned the best Bohemian look I could muster and armed with my morning coffee from my favourite local café I began my mission in earnest.

 

I started at the market and found this rocking jumper for NC which fed the beast of homesickness that has been bubbling gently beneath the surface of my gloom. I’m a sucker for anything with a union jack on it and this soothing little piece of patriotism cost me the small fortune of $5:

 

Is Shopping The Best Therapy For Women?
Union Jack jumper for NC

 

But there just wasn’t enough ‘orange’ or ‘bling’ to get my heart racing at the market.

 

So, undeterred, I headed off to Pitt St Mall to finish what I had started.

 

I had visions of finding the perfect little outfit to transform me into Charlize Theron

 

And did it make me feel better? Well, yes it did, actually, because it turns out that I AM that superficial and shallow and I also have a penchant for trying on ridiculous pieces of clothing to make me feel better.
I thought I’d look like this…

Is Shopping The Best Therapy For Women?
But my fucked up body image issue had me feeling more like this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the sad truth is that  I don’t have Charlize’s body, face or money as much as I love decadence and frivolity, my lifestyle doesn’t really extend to the need for much gold lame evening wear, so I ended up in my usual stores.

 

Did I mention that I have a passion for anything orange or fabulously blinging at the moment? For some reason, most of the middle-aged women I know need a bit of sparkle in their lives, these days. Hmmmmm?

 

And I tried on lots of silly accessories in Sports Girl, like these:

 

Is Shopping The Best Therapy For Women?Is Shopping The Best Therapy For Women?

 

 

 

 

Because when I become Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and wear lots of very silly accessories (that I know will look crap and I have no intention of buying), I feel a whole lot better than when I JUST shove chocolate in my mouth.

 

Am I alone in feeling like this, ladies?

 

Then I discovered lots of lovely bling in Zara too.

 

Is Shopping The Best Therapy For Women?
Blinging beautiful!

Is Shopping The Best Therapy For Women?
Blinging lovely!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It didn’t even matter that I didn’t buy anything, because the left-over Easter eggs and wine were still waiting at home to be inhaled.

Easter eggs // Ostereier

Molldooker Wines
Molldooker Wines (Photo credit: dklimke)

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s makes your feel better about yourself?

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