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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

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.

Women + Shopping = Happiness

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Look how happy this woman looks!

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

 

Just not my husband, unfortunately.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Happiness.

 

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

 

Spend meSpend me…Spend me!

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Gazman shirt
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Jockey knickers

 

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

 

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

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H&M jacket/cardie for $40

 

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

 

And he wonders why I need to shop.

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping, Friendship and Embracing Your New Middle Aged Body

I am usually a lone shopper. I take my shopping habit very seriously and can quite easily waste an entire Saturday trying out new styles that I would never actually buy in a million years. I enjoy the beauty and creativity behind beautiful clothes, fabrics and home accessories – I like looking at them, touching them, trying them on or imagining them in my home. The benefit of my impulsive nature is that sometimes it leads me to try on wildly different styles than neither my wallet or body can really take, but even on those days I come away from the shops empty-handed, shopping is always a delicious stress-buster. buy-1299519_1280

 

And I have built up good brand knowledge as a result of so much active research in the field. I know which brands are shockingly under-sized and make me feel like I’ve eaten all the pies, and which ones are more accurate for older women. Interestingly, I have a far calmer approach to buying clothes now that I’m officially middle-aged, whereas in my forties I stressed out when nothing fitted or looked right, or when I couldn’t find the appropriate style to suit my increasing age and girth. I’m much more chilled about the process now; finally, I know what suits my body and can appreciate that rare experience for what it is, when something… ANYTHING…fits. If all else fails I console myself with lingerie and shoes.

 

Although, that approach may also have something to do with my meds, too…

 

Not so for one of my besties, however, who up until recently avoided shopping malls like holidays in the Middle East. Just as I’ve been forced to discover a new pleasure for buying underwear in middle age, my friend has transferred her shopping affections to the purchase of super-expensive cosmetics, such is her fear of trying on clothes that don’t fit or flatter her new body shape.

 

So much so that occasionally when she reaches rock bottom or has a major ‘nothing to wear’ moment, she’ll reach out to me in desperation for some guidance – I assume to boost her confidence. 

 

I agree that at our age clothes shopping can be about as as much fun as having your eyebrows threaded; not like in our younger years, when everything looked good on our pre-baby/menopausal bodies. Whenever NC and I shop together, I take a perverse pleasure in admiring just how good everything looks on her, as though it was designed for her fabulous, lithe, young body, whereas statistically I have about a 10% chance of getting the zip up on a good day.

 

Yesterday this friend joined me in the city on impulse, and although I only returned home with one purchase (much to the old man’s delight), in the form of a beige trench coat that was reduced by 50% in the Gap sale, meaning I actually saved money, it gave me the fuzzies to see how excited she became in what is normally a terror zone for her, egged on by a little help from a friend. It’s not that we necessarily share the same taste in style, (hence there was no in-store fighting over the last pair of Cue sale trousers), all she needed was a boost to her confidence; someone to push her to try things on, tell her when an outfit looked good, be firm if it looked shit, to surreptitiously steer her away from her comfort zones and force her to embrace her new figure rather than resenting it.

 

We’ve both gone up a size since our forties, although we suffer from different body issues, but we shared a mission yesterday, with trips booked back to the UK in a few weeks time – mine for Dad’s third wedding and hers an overdue trip to catch up with family and friends.

 

So we want to look our best.

 

By the end of the day, I had even convinced her to buy three new bras – once she’d finally conceded that she might have gone up a bra size since her previous purchase at Marks and Spencers in London three years ago.

 

It’s a new world out there, and we need to feel brave and empowered, not anxious. It’s a time where it’s important to draw our true friends closer, and embrace the physical embellishments of a good life lived thus far.

Marriage And The Need To Shop Underground

One of the unfortunate byproducts of being married to an accountant is that sometimes you have to resort to going underground to shop or shopping with cash, because they’re so fucking tight.

 

At the moment, I spend many of my nights hidden under the covers with my torch light as I research the perfect set of dining chairs, frantically searching through all the cheapest online stores for a bargain set. $_20

 

These white French Provincial Industrial Cross Back chairs are the style I’ve decided upon, because I’m certain that while he was drunk the other night, the old man fully agreed to replace our current dining chairs, (but not the table yet), and this style will work with the range of eclectic furniture and existing dining table we currently have in our apartment – that is until the next full moon, bottle of vintage whisky or sexual favour, when he allows me to replace the table, too.

 

The topic of the embarrassing ‘sadness’ of our existing dining table and chairs has come up for discussion several times over the past five or so years. I bought our current dining set proudly from Ikea when Kurt was about two years old – so, sixteen years ago – out of the first earnings of (ironically) a painted furniture business I’d set up. We were about to enter the dinner party phase of growing up, and I remember how excited I was as I screwed in the last F167585 with my Ikea Allen key. We’ve hosted many dinner parties on that table, Christmases and most recently Easter lunch, and it may actually bring a tear to my eye when I offload it to some deserving student.

 

Or not.

 

Because the poor quality of our Ikea dining set has not gone unnoticed by our friends, in fact it has become something of a laughing point among the old man’s work mates and my family who know his reputation for stinginess – an accusation he has always responded to with pride.

 

In truth, I never expected the bloody dining set to last this long. It has survived through at least seven house moves and travelled halfway across the world and I can’t help but feel secretly a little disappointed by its durability. However, because there’s nothing structurally wrong with it, in the old man’s eyes, he feels it doesn’t need to be replaced. Unlike me, I imagine. And now is not the best time anyway, when money is tighter than usual as he tries to make some new highly risky work project successful so that he can continue to work from home.

 

It’s not that the set has even gone out of style, particularly, but the table top is showing signs of ageing like the rest of us, with its knife wounds, glitter, play dough and glue globules stuck in the grain from when the kids did craft on it – in fact there is probably a full history of the past sixteen years embedded in its timber veneer and I’m sure that whichever student house on Gumtree is lucky enough to end up with it, will love it as much as we have, even though I admit to praying it would fall apart during our last three house moves…

 

Replacing home decor has always been one of the more intrusive bugbears in our relationship, as the old man sees furniture as something functional rather than a necessary aesthetic commodity that can bring pleasure just by its beauty. It may be shallow of me, but having worked in the interior design business for many years, I now feel ashamed of my Ikea dining set and I don’t think that sixteen years is too premature to insist on a refresh.

 

Our table and chairs has almost reached the age of our children and as we come to the end of our rearing era, is it superficial or wrong of me to want to retire it for something stylish rather than functional for our home?