On the day The S.O asked my father for my hand in marriage, my father asked,
‘Are you sure?’
He went on to disclose that while all his daughters demonstrated similarities to The Mothership, it was his youngest that had received the lion’s share of the matriarchs traits. And while this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing it was something that should be highlighted as a form of warning to the lamb being sent to the slaughter.
My poor father was in fact issuing a warning to his younger self who had inadvertently bagged a larger than life partner who seemed to increase in life with each passing year. He knew what lay ahead and he needed to ensure that as he transferred responsibility that the recipient knew that this was a ‘No Return or Exchange’ transaction.
Of course we all love to deny that we share any traits with our mothers but there was one that I couldn’t shy from, one that I didn’t lick off a stone…
We are spendthrifts. We have monetary diarrhoea. We are dedicated followers of fashion.
But it hadn’t always been this way. It came about in a rather organic manner.
I was a late bloomer and my childhood ordinariness was illuminated by the sheer existence of Sister 1 and Sister 2. They were fabulous and I was the sticky little sister who would stick her sticky paws into their Charli ‘pink illusions’ lipgloss and frosted Constance Carrol eyeshadows while they were busy recording a song from the radio onto their tape deck.
I would observe how at first they styled their bangs, backcombed their quiffs, lined their water line with blue, and made their lips disappear with the palest of pinks. Sister 1 would wear an orange boiler suit, while 2 regaled in periwinkle blue crinkled cotton that never needed a pressing.
They would put on ‘Now That’s What I call Music 4’ and I would marvel as they would choreograph dances to Duran Duran and Bronski Beat using the very heavily patterned living room carpet to guide their moves. I would wait patiently in the corner with my Fisher Price Bus, hoping for a walk on part in these exotic productions but alas my big break never came.
In the early 90’s, their gaudy appearance morphed into fake tan, smoky eyes, Rimmel Heather Shimmer, ‘feelgood’ body stockings, wide leg trousers and long line blazers with gold buttons. There were velvet hairbands to hold back the frizzy hair and loafers. (And these were my style icons?!)
They were waif like, under 5’ 2”, delicate little things. Sister 1 was like an Egyptian Goddess (she went heavy on the Coty Sunshimmer in those days), all exotic and serene; little did they know that underneath the tan she was whiter than a boiled sausage. Sister 2 was like Kylie Minogue all gangly and giggly. She could be picked up and thrown over a rugby players shoulder in The Merrion Inn and…
I was like Shrek.
I was chubby. I hadn’t quite grown into my nose (my brother nick named me ‘woodenspoon nose’) and I had a fringe that started at the back of my neck. I was painfully shy and my face would turn purple if you even looked at me. I sensed that people would look at The Mothership, look at 1 and 2 and glance at me and think where did they get yer one from…‘doesn’t she have..eh… lovely thick hair?’
And then there was the Mothership.
The Mothership was fabulous. In the 70’s she was known to lie on the floor in an attempt to do up the zip of her spray on Sasparilla drainpipe jeans. She wore hoop earrings, espadrilles and boob tubes and she too was partial to a crinkle cotton boiler suit. In the 80’s she was Krystle Carrington, all blonde bangs in kingfisher blue, stone wash denim numbers and wide belts. In the 90’s she found her style and Dad, who was at the height of his game suffered the consequences. She shopped in Jackie Lavin and Richard Alan to name a few. I’m sure when they saw her coming with Cleopatra, Kylie and Shrek in tow that they would rub their hands together in glee. (‘Book the holiday Richard, here they come!’)
She possessed many fashion vessels scattered throughout the house. My bedroom was home to the ‘good wear’ wardrobe. It was so wedged with ensembles that you could easily have removed all the hangers and everything would have remained upright.
There was also a clear cut shopping method in place. Following an outing the bags would remain in the boot of the car until we were sure that Dad would not return for a few hours. When the coast was clear we would conveyor belt the goods inside the house to position two. They would remain on top of wardrobe 5 and then gradually over the coming days the items would assimilate into the existing treasures. God help you if you ever let slip, ‘I like your new…’
‘Well Mother of God I’ve had this for years…Sure I wore this in ’85 on Clare Island…Are you dreaming?…Sure I got this in ’84 for next to nothing in the bargain bin in Cassidy’s. Sure I made it myself.’
It took me a while to unlearn this behaviour as early in my own marriage I started to smuggle various items into the house or swear that I’d actually had it for years or I even once tried,
‘I made it.’
But while The S.O may have married my mother, luckily I didn’t marry my father. I would even go so far as to say that he is in fact an enabler of my shopping talent and a secret admirer. I think he rather enjoys that mid-way through The Late Late show I can slink off to go to the loo and come back dressed to the nines sampling out an outfit for a party we are going to in December 2021. (It just came to me as I watching Linda Martin talk about the Eurovision.)
The Mothership had done her time too though.
In the early days of marriage when they hadn’t a stick of furniture, nor a drop of heat, nor 2 and 6 pence to rub together, when my poor father had worked every hour God sent him in his bare feet and nothing but a bowl of coddle to warm his insides, she had taken a sewing course with the Grafton Academy and for years while Jackie and Richard waited for her, she made all of her own garments and those of Sister 1 and Sister 2.
Just like me…she lay in wait.
Unbeknownst even to myself I was observing and grasping the habits and characteristics of my kin until I was ready to strike. Like Diana Ross I would wait until the beat kicked in and I would burst forward singing, ‘I’m coming out, I want the world to know, got to let it show…’
And then it was my turn and boy did I make up for it!
By the time I hit 15 with the help of make-up and my team of advisors in the form of Sister 1 and Sister 2 the transformation was beginning to show and Shrek finally headed back to the swamp. My face grew around my nose and I met my most treasured friend. Fake Tan.
The Mothership always ensured we were well turned out and I still remember what I was sporting the night I first met The S.O. I was 16 years old. It was a baby pink suede mini skirt from the Leather Studio in the Westbury Mall, a black Morgan top sold to me by the lovely Lisa (now Keith Duffy’s wife, she too loved to see The Mothership coming) and black dolly shoes.
The Mothership had created a monster.
If I never show promise at anything else in my whole life, holy shit can I shop?! But even better as a reward for spending many years feeling like a green ogre I received an incredible gift in exchange. I had developed a strong sense of humour and I was able to laugh at myself and my crazy fashion obsessed ways.
To me fashion, hair and make-up are my armour.
I know, I know, that’s waaayyy too deep for a Wednesday with no wine and you are probably sniggering at my shallowness but here’s the thing, I don’t care so snigger away.
I don’t rely on my armour but it makes me feel good and it makes me who I am. It’s not that I can’t leave the house without make up, I do all the time (mostly to be asked ‘is everything ok, you don’t look at all well’). And hell let’s face it, my face without make up is the face of my daughters and we all know how I feel about them. I also spend most days in my ‘mum uniform’ of active wear. Why would you wear trousers with buttons when you can wear elastic pants that make it possible to talk on the phone and pee at the same time.
It’s just life is so much better when you look good. Beauty comes from within, absolutely but what’s wrong with making the shell shiny? Yes and I also know that appearances are not important and we would never judge a book by its cover…BULLSHIT.
Over the years I am continually struck by how women (yes women) can judge each other on their appearance. But here’s the twist. I constantly hear women criticise others for making an effort.
‘Where did she think she was going, dressed up like that, the state of her?’
‘Is it Milan she thinks she’s in?’
‘Tsk, it’s far from Brown Thomas she was reared’
‘If she put half as much time into those poor children as she does into her appearance’
‘Bit much for the school run…?’
Oh I’m sorry in future I must remember to make myself look like shit so you can feel better about yourself.
It is the same thing as criticizing someone for being too thin (ok this has clearly never happened to me). But I was recently chatting to an absolutely gorgeous girl (inside and out) who is naturally very slight. She told me that people are constantly commenting on her size and she finds it upsetting. It got me thinking imagine if it was reversed and you dared to utter,
‘Mary you are bleedin’ huge, I’m concerned for your arteries’, you’d be murdered.
I had a similar experience a few years back. A lady I know fleetingly saw me post-run, fresh faced (purple) and looking like I having a coronary in a café. Later that week we happened to be at the same social event and she couldn’t wait to tell me that she had not recognised me without the war paint (no problem, I’m used to that, I take it as a compliment to my smoky eye skills), she couldn’t believe it.
‘And if you don’t mind me saying, (I bet I will mind) you don’t need all that make up at all. It’s very heavy. Why do you wear it?’
‘Why do you not?’…
I wanted to say. ‘If you don’t mind me saying, you don’t wear enough! You could really benefit from a small amount of under eye concealer, a lick of mascara and a nice lip colour, oh and here’s a prawn wrapped in filo to stick in your mouth.’
But of course I didn’t because it’s none of my business what she does and doesn’t wear on her mush as much as it’s none of her business if I choose to wear tiger face paint on a night out.
Thinking that because a person is glamourous and so as a result deserves and can handle some criticism is nearly as bad as saying, ‘did you see what she was wearing, she was asking for it!’ (not quite but you know what I mean).
I also wholly realise that clothes are a quick fix and shopping won’t ever make you feel better. I had a chat last week with someone going through a hard time and I very maturely told her that instead of spending money on clothes or hair that she should be investing in experiences. What a load of shit, go buy yourself a new outfit and I guarantee you’ll feel better!
Beauty is skin deep but you tell me who is having the better day, the one who looks like she has spent a full year at Longitude or the one who is washed with the killer coat? I believe that a good spin in a hairdressers chair can fix many issues. You go in all shoulders slumped and you come out swishing your hair all the way home. Your problems will still be there, but your hair will be soft.
And don’t worry if the hairdressers or the shopping isn’t an option, that’s what baseball caps and oversized shades are for.
Make the most of what you’ve got! Everyone has a something, whether it be a tiny waist, amazing legs, a fabulous smile, thick hair, pert butt, toned arms, sexy curves. It is the thing that you notice first about them. It is the thing that they know deep down themselves but will shy away from admitting. I asked loads of people this week to tell me what they liked about themselves and bar one (conceited thing!) they all told me what they didn’t like.
For Jesus’ sake people, start praising each other, shout out your assets. I always make a point of telling a positive and I would like to be known henceforth as a Minister of Praise. Which brings me nicely to my biggest bug bear and judge me if you please, I care not.
There have been many times that I have walked into an event over the years where my outfit is en pointe. I have stepped down off the SS18 runway and Anna Wintour herself has had her assistant’s assistant call me to commend my choice only to be met by…tumbleweed. Zip. Nothing. No one even acknowledges the genius combination.
I have brought my A game. I know I look good. You know I look good. I know that you know I look good. WTF?
This perplexed me for many years until I discovered what I call
– The Russian Theory.
Well actually my brother in law told me about it and it life changing. He had a chance meeting with a very attractive Russian lady. Both colourful souls they struck up a conversation during which she revealed her theories about appearances and her own (Russian) take on it.
If the host sits you next to her husband at a dinner party it is a huge insult. It means she in no way sees you as a threat. Oh my God, I love it.
That if a woman compliments you on your dress you have one choice, BURN IT.
If you walk into a party and no one says anything…YOU HAVE WON.
Well pack my bags I’m moving to Russia!
All I know is that I love getting dressed up more that I love looking shite. I have learnt to make the most of what I’ve got and to have fun. I treat style much the same as I treat life, I don’t take it too seriously. Style is never wrong, the key is to have a style. It’s ok if you don’t like my high fashion white boots or Gucci inspired Belt Bag because I don’t like your anorak or your icky shoes.
So there you go, it’s just fashion. I’m not suggesting you all go and dye your hair purple or head to the school run in an evening gown but why not take the odd risk. Wear something a bit bonkers, deviate from the norm.
What’s the worst that can happen, someone will laugh at you?
Chances are they won’t even notice and if they do, chances are they won’t even say anything and well then you’ll know…
YOU HAVE WON.
This blog is dedicated to Sister 1 and Sister 2. When I grow up, I want to be just like you xx