Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fight the Drab - 12-step Glamour-chasing

Am definitely going through mid-life crisis.  Have started wearing hats and heels requiring stabilisers, and strange geometric mini skirts, that are crimson...I've started wearing colour for god's sake.   

What's going on?  well, I've worked it out.  It's a backlash to my introverted confidence-lacking youth.  That youth that saw me only wear various shades of black and neutral, only ever adorning my body in items that would cover my bum, in swathes, and reveal nothing in the way of contour, effectively large sacks.  I wore flat shoes, mainly converse and flip flops, pretty much all the time and, keen never to stand out, make up was always subtle, neutral, pointless.  My style could best be described as androgynous and non-descript, banal and dreary.  I would willingly fade into the murky background.

But now that i'm older, I realise with horror I am quite literally FADING INTO THE MURKY BACKGROUND on a run-away train to inevitable decrepitness and demise, and in response am fighting tooth and claw to cling onto that last little vestige of youth and prime, snatch it back, hold it high and shout to the world 'I HAVE CHANGED MY MIND!'.  I do not wish to be drab, live a life of obscurity, I want to be noticed.  I want, and this is very unBritish of me, to take pride in my appearance, before it's too late.  I WANT TO BE FRENCH.

*takes deep breath, composes self*

Hence the purchase of bowler hats, the blow-drying of hair, the odd-looking red minis against opaque tights, and general opting for more 'womanly' attire. I am attempting to scrub up, inject a little bit of glamour into the everyday.  But it's an art you know and not one I've ever learnt.

I have therefore been studying my friends more closely than usual.  I have friends - god knows why they hang out with me - who never leave the house looking anything other than GORGEOUS.  They always look, with my clunky grunge eyes, pristine.  They probably came out of the womb glamorous and it is something that you can't just acquire but I am INTENT and observing them closely for just how they do it.  Perfect make up perfect hair, good nails, coordinating outfits, comprising clothes that are always well kempt, hmm... probably because they look after them after they've bought them, rather than stuff them into tiny gaps of residual space in wardrobes - note to self.  They even iron them it seems...an I-RON, what's that..?? Either that or they routinely wear new stuff.

And then there's makeup, not just the same old eyeliner, mascara ritual that they've used for years (a la moi), but eye shadows, foundations, rouge, eyebrows neat and perfect lips.  Enhancing looks in a way that's not gaudy, or even obvious - all very clever - these women don't have it all rattling about in a dirty dusty bag but have pots and brushes, palettes and paints sitting fragrantly on a dressing table...an area set aside for making up, where one can focus.  I want a dressing table.

So, without further ado, I have drawn up an action plan, a twelve-step guide on being well-groomed and glamorous, that one can refer to at times of impending and suffocating drab.  It goes like this:

Step 1
Work out outfit day before.  Re-organise wardrobe such that all potential options are visible and not in too much of a state to wear off the peg.

Step 2
Accessorise outfit, with jewellery and/or scarf and/or hat.  Ensure nails are manicured, and preferably painted in this season's colour. 

Step 3
Sleep well.  Some people I'm told like to be in bed by 10 and it does wonders for their complexion.  Well you know what they say, go to sleep with the lark...every hour before midnight is worth double the hours after...etceterrrrrrrrrrraaaa, except of course when you need to go out to flaunt new found glam.

Step 4
Get up early and do exercise.  Frankly, this is something i never would have countenanced, or even advised once upon a time but such is my vanity and fear of lost muscle tone and general sag, you will see me out on a bike (never run anywhere, cycing gets you there much quicker) before 8am, and occasionally pilate-ing.  Makes you sparkier too.  Fuzzy is NEVER glamourous.

Step 5
Shower, ending session with cold shower for as long and as cold as can muster.  Refer to previously-mentioned vanity/pain equation - cold showers perk everything, and I mean everything, up - AND deliver instant sparkiness.  Particularly good for baggy eyelids.  Plus the rude shock to sluggish circulation in the buttock and thigh area helps stem the cellulite tide.  Ensure skin in trouble areas is angry pink before emerging from ice drench.

Step 6
Dry hair, even if not wet.  Using curling brush, other hair appliances, gels, glues, sprays, and sufficient time with head upside down to make it look bouncy and salon-finished again.

Step 7
Apply make-up.  Using brushes.  And a dressing table, like the kidney-shaped one with pelmets your mother used to have.  Actually pelmets not really required, just a nice space where you can sit and focus... 
Refer to online classes to find out how best to apply makeup, Lancome, Youtube lauren luke whatshername, am quite enjoying the max factor ads in the Model Agency break on Ch 4.  Very enlightening.

Step 8
Dress in Parisienne-inspired outfit organised (and where necessary pressed) the night before.  Adorn with accessories - refer to above - but not too many.

Step 9
Wear appropriate, not scussy footwear.  A heel is good and clean is vital.  If trainers must be worn ensure they are converse only and look brand new - wash in washing machine if need be.

Step 10
Sweep down stairs fragrant and flicking hair back as you go to breakfast on a croissant and coffee, and water, and fruit.  hold with fingertips and eat small mouthful at a time.  Try not to talk mid chew.*.

Step 11
Have mirror on wall near door and always check teeth before leaving house.

Step 12
Ensure tasteful Parisienne-style bag contains comb/brush, toothbrush/toothpaste and lipstick with mirror to re-apply on the hoof if necessary.

*In a forthcoming blog I shall be focusing on food and eating the glamorous way.....

Postscript:  although some may disagree, I find it is useful to have money in your pursuit of glamour.  If, like myself, you are financially challenged, you have no choice but to APPLY YOURSELF all the more to the cause.  There is no excuse. Not if you don't want to fade away into the murky background.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Twitter twaddle time-waster...

So twitter is five years old on Monday.   I'm on there but may as well not be.  I have a mere six followers, most of whom are friends who never clock in (They're all far too busy on facebook...).  Having jumped on the bandwagon wittering away with gusto, it soon became clear that I was painstakingly devising concise little 140 character ditties to tweet to no-one but myself.  As result, my once vigorous chirp has now dwindled to a faint occasional cheep. Yes, yes, I know I'm here rattling on to no-one in particular too but there's a difference.  It feels a little bit more substantial, a little less trivial, and more satisfying to write, even if it's just me who reads me. 

After all, itsy bitsy tweets can only say so much, and if you're not a-d list famous with a mag/column/tv prog/tour to promote, or a rebel rallying an uprising, just why would you bother?

The only time I've got any pleasure out of twitter is watching spats develop between well-known individuals.  Two in particular come to mind - Sarah Vine vs Professor Brian Cox because it was just last week, and Giles Coren vs Janice Turner, because it was hilarious.  Vitriol, sarcasm, imaginative use of sexist expletives, there are no holds barred on twitter, and eavesdropping someone else's ruck in real time can brighten up a rather dull day. 

And then you see yourself as what you really are. Because let's be honest, for the most part, facebook and twitter are all about voyeurs and exhibitionists.  You generally fall into one camp or the other.  I can never think of anything remotely interesting, funny, meaningful, to write as a status or tweet, so prefer not to try.  When i visit these sites it is therefore, I must confess officer, as petite voyeuse, peering into other people's lives, which although that's what they're designed for, is not something I am remotely proud of.  It wastes inane amounts of time, and leaves you feeling unfulfilled, and just a little bit dirty.  There is rarely anything said that warrants note or chuckle, nor is there satisfaction to be gained in eavesdropping other people's conversations or indeed, knowing every move/thought/achievement they choose to declare to the wider public.  You will regularly lose a couple of hours of your life and have nothing but a lingering sense of inadequacy to show for it.

What's more, no one it seems these days can do anything - go on holiday, visit an area of outstanding natural beauty, have a baby, eat, indulge in illicit affair, without dropping everything to notify the world about it in the most concise, funniest terms they can muster.  Instead of enjoying the experience/interaction/life-changing event for what it is, fingers fumble for keypads and thoughts turn to 'how can I best tweet this'.  We're beginning to live in a parallel universe, one that's defined by tweet.

So, with that, I declare my current status to be 'bored by facebook and twitter'.  I shall herewith be dropping the snoop-and-tell habit and resolve to get back a large segment of my life.  I shall no longer use social networking sites as random timefillers, because as we all know they are instead ruthless time-robbers, ravenous devourers of that most precious commodity, offering nothing but a warped sense of reality and a mild psychological complex in return.  I shall use the time I gain as a result to better effect. 

And if you're responding sarcastically, 'wot, like here on this blog?' I can only say well yes, that's part of it.  I'd rather write where I'm not restricted by charactersss (as on twitter), on a forum that's not inherently devoid of characterrrr (as is facebook).  Plus, I could point out, you're here, and got to the end of this. Which proves there's still appetite for more than a tweet.  But, all right, all right. Keeping in the spirit of thing, for those who really must know, right now, on this day, at 15.45, I can declare I am..... 'Parched and off to make a cup of tea. English Breakfast, milk, no sugar. '   Well, it is its birthday after all.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tatler - a commoner's insight

Bought Tatler the other day. Was keen to see how the highly respected Kate Reardon had made her mark as new ed.   

Had never properly looked  at Tatler before.  Golly, it's frightfully posh isn't it?  Very much the debutante's mag, even in these days.  It still has a 'Prettiest Schoolgirls' feature for goodness sake.  And a most eligible bachelor section.  By 'eligible' read 'freshly-divorced and loaded'.  Most of them were bankers.

We found out where, if you're super rich and influential you should buy your next £15m pad, in order to ensure you mix with the equally rich and influential.  Beware all you yokel locals in Oxfordshire, near the border with Gloucestershire, the money-drippers are invading. 

Where men featured (generally in ads) they were smug, blazered, well manicured young men, and the female model adorning the editorial fashion pages had her lips lined in a such a way that can only be described as, well, snooty.  All the parties looked a little bit ra, and even cover girl Naomi Watts was decked out in bowler hat and tails for her shoot.

It is an interesting strategy for a magazine, this exclusive targeting of the hoity-toity.  I mean just how many girls are still out there who fall into the super-dooper 'Daddy's got a 50 footer moored in St Tropez' set?

Obviously from an advertising perspective they can boast quality of audience if not quantity, plus much of the tone and style of the editorial hinted at aspirations of Vanity Fair, where Reardon previously resided as contributing editor.  But I don't know, can such a concept for a monthly glossy really be viable these days? Or am I societally deluded?  Perhaps the pearls and twinset brigade is very much alive and kicking in circles I do not move in.  Judging by the prettiest schoolgirls section, it looks like the next generation are being impeccably groomed to extend the line.  Just so long as they marry well.  Well, they know where to look.   

The A-Line Eyebrow

So, still on the subject of hair, I was contemplating my eye-brows the other day, and came to the conclusion that they are quite possibly my best feature. 
They are brunette brows - strong and dark, with a tendency to straggle if neglected.  During hormone-charged teenage days they would grow in all directions, and were frequently dangerously close to becoming one, until of course I discovered tweezers.

Fortunately, I valued my brows and did not pluck them to oblivion for fear of going the same way as my sister, bald and pencil-reliant through overzealous tidying - "I was just trying to even them up," she would howl, "and before I knew it they'd both gone".  Prior-warned, I would merely chase those that had broken free from the pack, preferring to err on the side of bushy and uneven, than sparse.

And what do you know?  Some 30 years later, tidy, thick eyebrows it seems are all the rage, according to this month's Vogue.  The no. 1 fashion authority can't recommend too highly the (doubtless pricey) services of brow specialists who, like facial topiarists, will cultivate and shape your mistreated brows over a course of months, such that they re-emerge as perfect furry face-framers.  I praise my reticence when it comes to plucking.  It has clearly kept me, rather my brow, in good stead.

But the reason I love my eyebrows most - and this is something Vogue fails to touch on - is because they are A-line.  Not acute, you understand, a la Jack Nicholson, but more curved circumflex, a la Monroe.  And I am rather proud of that, because A-line eyebrows go a long way.  Consider the aforementioned, but also Bacall, Connery, Jane Russell, Ava Gardner, essentially all those Hollywood lovelies with a little bit of spice.  Spice thanks in large part to their peaked eyebrows. And of course their ability to move them.

There is after all nothing worse than having a couple of indolent hairy slugs recumbent over one's sockets that can muster no more than a twitch when presented with high drama.  As demonstrated by Gromit, an agile brow can say everything that needs to be said without uttering a single word.

Plus of course,the ultimate in ooh-la-la mischief and drop-dead-now sexy allure can be rustled up with a mere single brow lift. Think Sean Connery in Doctor No when he encounters a bikini-ed Ursula Andress for the first time.  Such is its ability to add a whole wealth of expression to the face that I have become convinced, just looking at certain TV stars, that anyone undergoing a cosmetic facelift requests the surgeon pull one brow slightly higher than the other.

In case you didn't believe me...
I am happy, and again rather proud, to say that mine don't need pinning when it comes to lifting one independently of the other.  The single brow lift is something I have perfected over a lifetime of practice prompted when, as a child, I watched Gary Glitter on Jim'll Fix It.  Hmm, ok, so there are some less savoury a-line eyebrows out there, but thanks to watching Glitter raising one, then the other, and then the other again, I hurried to the mirror to try to do the same.  I now boast eyebrows that will peak or flatten on demand, in tandem or on their own.

This I believe is the secret of the A-Line eyebrow.  Regular exercise.  As with all forms of exercise it tones and conditions the muscles that hold everything up, and therefore delays the inevitable sinking of one's brow into one's eyes. 

But also, a well exercised brow can communicate pretty much all you need to say.  And in this world of mundane mutterings, less babble, more brow can surely never be a bad thing.  Note to self.