Shameful Childhood Memories

 

I think it’s only fair that I share humiliating and excruciating moments from my childhood. It balances the score. It may even lay some ghosts to rest. 

Edition One: Fancy Dress

I despise fancy dress. I think it’s the Radley handbag of the party world: for people who lack imagination and humour. My absolute snobbery and vitriol is purely defensive. I have been humiliated once too often.

Sally White: aged 7

Mary in the village is having a birthday party. I never get invited to birthday parties because I am odd and have homemade bread sandwiches and don’t watch telly. But Mary is kind and has invited me and the theme is ‘Bright Colours’. My normal clothes are also homemade and corduroy. But on the morning of the party, my sister takes it upon herself to help dress me. I am wearing two pairs of tights- pink over white- and a skirt from the fancy dress box. And it’s sparkly! I have bright pink lips that my sister has neatly drawn on me using facepaints. I feel like a princess. My mum and sister walk me through the village: the pavement feels like a red carpet. We arrive at Mary’s big rambling house. All the other children are there. They’re in their shellsuits or jeans with Sweater Shop jumpers. Mary’s mum clasps her hand to her mouth in genuine upset. Had no one told me they’d cancelled the fancy dress theme? Then she gathers herself and tells me I look like a princess and I put my chin up and feel it. Now, looking back, I see what a gracious and well-timed reaction she had. Because I didn’t want to curl up or go home: I wanted to stay and show those girls that I wasn’t just a frump in a fringe, I could be a sparkly princess. I enjoyed the party and the mum even rustled me up a Best Dressed prize. But I carry with me that brief moment of utter humiliation. But I also carry the ability to rally and ride it out, princess-style.

 

Ten Years Later

I’ve changed schools for six form and I am so much happier. My new classmates are funny and open-minded and totally accepting of this oddbod nerd who’s joined them. On the Friday of the first October half-term, a new friend has organised a fancy dress party in a hall in Canterbury. The theme is ‘Spies’. I find this oddly specific and dress as the only one I know: Charlotte Grey. The film has just been released. I’m in a woollen floor-length skirt. I have a shirt tucked in under a blazer and a beret on my head. My body has recently changed and thinned and plumped in different places. I feel sophisticated in my outfit. I arrive at the party. I can’t understand it: everyone is dressed in 60s dresses. Short hems. Bright colours. Bobbed wigs. My lovely friend looks at me, bewildered. ‘Sally, which Austin Powers character are you meant to be?’. Austin Powers: Goldmember had also just been released. No one had bothered mentioning these were the ‘spies’ in mind because anyone who hadn’t lived under a rock/book would know that. I am a pretentious 16 year old. I didn’t know.  But that group of lovely new friends just chuckle at me, admire my hat and engulf me in the party.  I try and dance along but don’t know any of the words to the songs.

 

There is no photographic evidence of this humiliation. I am ever-grateful that I teenaged pre-smartphones.

January Favourites

I have had a very good run of excellent finds this month and I will share them with you now as it is fast approaching payday. At bloody last.

Outfit Chat

During ‘The Flu Episode’ I bought myself a new dress from ASOS. I got confused and didn’t manage to actually buy it until I’d detoxed off Lemsip and the 10s had sold out. I bought the 12 which is lose in a ‘fine with a belt’ way. Going to wear it with trainers and denim jacket ASAP.

Also, shout out to Primark Vintage Mom jeans for all of us with big bums but small waists…and messy sitting rooms.

Podcast Chat

Thanks to Rhiannon from Great Mum Shit Mum for recommending the excellent Don’t Salt My Game podcast which calls bullshit on the diet, wellness, clean living and beauty industry. The podcasts are so informative and empowering and practical- I truly believe they would help anyone who struggles with disordered eating. And if, like me, you don’t, they are very useful for understanding nutrition and biology.

Skin Chat

On the beauty myths episode of Don’t Salt My Game, a dermatologist explains what’s what with beauty products and recommends two that actually work. The Avene Cleanser which is £12 and works like a charm and The Ordinary Retinol night cream which is also £12 and I’m convinced it will last forever. I’m not really interested or susceptible to skincare stuff but I’m sold on these two things.

Book Chat

I have read so so many good books in the last month but two of the best or Normal People and The Natural Way of Things. Both of these I read in one sitting. Normal People is like One Day but less drippy. The Natural Way of Things is like a female Lord of the Flies: a group of women wake up in the Australian outback where they are locked in cages at night but soon work out they are all there because they were involved in sex scandals with powerful men. It is dark and dirty and disturbing and brilliant.

Grub Chat

Every year we resolve to try a new recipe every week. I recommend The Roasting Tin for anyone else in need of inspiration. For now though, here are my favourite meals I would happily eat on repeat for life.

Beef stew in the slow cooker with dumplings that have blue cheese in them.

Gnocchi baked with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, pine nuts and bacon lardons.

Sesame bagels with peanut butter.

Hair Chat

Molton Brown’s Cloudberry shampoo is drrreaaamy and smells lovely. It’s expensive (£18) so my MiL got me the shampoo and conditioner for Christmas. Also, I’ve been using this excellent hair device that the lovey Natali (Insta @natalipendleton) recommended and it really can give you a nice curl or big hair- it’s a rotating hairbrush/hairdryer.

I would also include my dressing gown, marshmallows on hot chocolate, Shaun the Sheep movie, and Tori Amos’ album Under the Pink.

I love stuff!

Day 15: the end

Proper full on back-to-school blues. That lugging Sunday night feel. I keep trying to hold William and sniff him and have profound moments but he keeps shrugging me off and telling me he’s bored and this is the worst day of his life.

I drop Alex at nursery for a few hours so Monday isn’t such a blow. He cries. I cry. William cries.

I suggest a cinema trip. A soft play venture. A lunch out. All of them will be ‘rubbish’. We stay at home.

It’s still the worst day of William’s life ever.

I put some laundry away.

We mope about.

We go and pick up Alex who’s had a great day.

I take all these as a sign the spell has broken and normality beckons.

In the corner of the living room the artificial Christmas tree is wilting.

Day 14: New Year’s Day

Deep down, I know New Year’s resolutions are patriarchal pants designed to make us naval gaze our way in to a vegan diet but I do like a fresh start. Like that feeling at primary school when you got a new exercise book and vowed to keep in maximum neat with best handwriting.

And so despite myself, I’m going in to 2019 with a few things to hothouse.

1) Make the children more independent

They need to lay the table, put their dirty washing in the basket, empty the dishwasher etc. I need to stop mollycoddling them- there are already enough entitled white boys in the world.

2) Create an office space.

Somewhere in the house. Just a small spot-big enough for a laptop and a tidy exercise book.

3) Write more.

I’m 16,000 words in to a novel and have been for about eight months. Get on with it!

(Wonder if that’s the most common [and most w**ky] resolution ever?)

4) Ace a mega deadlift

100kg or bust. Plus master a handstand. #dreams

5) Other noble and aspirational targets for the better and good of society etc

I don’t think resolutions should be used to beat ourselves up or starve ourselves or treadmill our bodies as punishment or reflect endlessly on our foibles and flaws but I do think there’s a value in taking a moment to consider what worked well in the year just gone and to have a momentary self-indulge in what we would like for ourselves in the year to come. Surely that’s even a little bit feminist…?

Reading my way to self-actualisation.

Day 12: It’s the Polaaaaar Expressssss!

Do you remember the excitement of being a child and wearing your pyjamas out of the house? Being snuffled in to a car and on to a midnight ferry or to pick up a parent from the train station? I do. Vividly. And today I got to relive it because we had tickets for The Polar Express.

We left the house all in Pjs and dressing gowns- ready for an adventure that was either going to be like a bad anxiety dream or a magical experience.

Polar Express runs deep in their veins. So much so they watch it all year round- height of summer or snuggling winter’s day. Whenever. They adore this film. Alex’s first long sentence was ‘shall we go home and cuddle up and watch Polar Express?’

We boarded the train from the misty (dry ice) platform and found our seats and the carriage filled with characters from the film: the chefs, the elves, the conductor. William, who is usually rather cool and aloof, was spellbound and grabbed hold of my phone to capture a picture of the conductor.

He then went bright red and all flustered-like how I would if I ever met Dolly Parton.

He even made me ask the conductor for a photo- this is unheard of.

Then we had a dance and a hot chocolate from the chefs and games and chats with the characters.

And then the carriage lights went off and outside the train window were lights and signs for the North Pole and Santa and his sleigh and our boys were beside themselves and I wept. It was utterly magical.

AND THEN SANTA CAME ON TO THE TRAIN! And Alex went wild and then shy and then bright red too. And Father Christmas gave them a bell each and it was beautiful.

As we chugged back, the conductor came and clipped their tickets and put a B and E for believe for Alex (‘just like the film!’) a W on William’s who lost his shizzle (‘how did he know my name?!’).

On the drive home William said ‘I loved the Polar Express’ and I teared up all over again because sometimes I forget he’s only six and we can still make his life magical.

Day 11: Highs and Lows

Highs

At about 6.30am William calls across the sitting room ‘Alex, I love you’ and Alexa wakes up with an automated ‘Thank you. I love me too’ which has the boys falling apart laughing.

Having a good CrossFit session

Watching the boys scooting around Eaton park.

Meeting up with our friend from Edinburgh and her family.

William’s idea to have a ‘fancy meal’ at home where we have a table cloth and candles and wear ‘snazzy clothes’

Seeing work friends at the birthday party of Alex’s pal.

Lows

Alex and William being ‘those children’ at the birthday party.

William quickly losing interest in his fancy meal idea and then refusing to eat supper.

Getting changed in to my PE kit and comfy pregnancy knickers* and finding them a bit tight…

*preggo pants are excellent for squat sessions