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Saturday, 14 March 2009

I look shocking. The culmination of taking medication that gives me allergic reactions, stress, lack of sleep and various other things - is taking its toll. I am about to approach the powers that be with a new television series "How to look 10 years older". If they had piloted this, using my own current formula - they would have saved thousands in plastic surgery. Car crash your life, wait 6 months and bingo 'Hot Mama'. I only have 4 months to go and I am praying that this is the worst point.

Life is better with arched eyebrows. It sound very superficial I know but really, having arched brows and heels that cause palpitations (Mine, not interested in anyone else's) does wonders for how high you hold your head. Sadly, I am unable to walk to the eyebrow haven and must remain down trodden.

It is often said that youth is wasted on the youth and how true this is. I have had psoriasis all of my life and at points was so crippled by self consciousness, that I simply would not go out. I remember being 20 and walking down Kensington High Street when somebody whistled. I was so embarrassed - I remember thinking that despite being in my prime and a tiny size 6 and a vaguely disproportionate top half, they wouldn't be whistling if they could see my skin close up. It took me years to realise that beauty is only skin deep and not one man had ever judged me on my complexion.

When I look back, it is not my skin that makes me recoil - it is the vision of wearing tight lycra, slit to the thigh and tied with ribbon. The guy that was whistling was probably a friend of Max Wall and mistook me for a relative that had gone astray and chosen a life on the streets rather than comedy. Perhaps this is why I never felt entirely comfortable with being female, I never did high heels, didn't do feminine make up and if I did the girlie thing - I went over the top and looked like a hooker. I didn't particularly like women, most of my friends were men because there were no sides, no bitchiness - what you saw was what you got.

Turning thirty changed all of that. I suddenly realised that time was ticking away and if I didn't buy a dress - I would get to the age where I was to old to contemplate anything that wasn't made of Polyester. So I bought dresses, and then high heels and then handbags. To be frank - I have amassed a large collection, but as an older woman, I now understand that really, there is no such thing as too many. Confidence is not automatic but the ability to change your state of mind, simply by throwing on a different outfit has to be the cheapest boost you can have. I also amassed a rather fabulous collection of female friends and discovered that women are quite unique. I still need my male friends to ground me but women have fun and if you pick the right ones - their capacity in giving is staggering.

So now I am bored of wearing slip on shoes and trousers wide enough to accommodate ice packs. I want heels, I want lip gloss and I want to be able to go stare at beautiful people. Just once a month, I want to be entirely superficial and I have not the slightest care for what anyone thinks. In a bid to add a little light in the tunnel, my dear brother has given me pocket money with the instruction that I have to spend it on myself and not the children; it has to be a treat and I should start with getting my hair done. Words cannot express the excitement of getting my haircut twice in one year.

Last year, for my 40th 'It' paid for me to get my hair cut. I am sure it was meant with good intent but I was deeply offended. Not at the salon I crave for my annual pilgrimage, but at some seedy number that no one had ever heard of. Risking my unkempt locks at the hands of a a 16year old was not something I was prepared to do but it was more than that - it was that at 40, I was getting a haircut as a birthday present and like birthdays, it was a once a year event. I felt so depressed.

In fact, my whole 40th probably echoed exactly where I was in life. Ten years previously, I threw a big party. There were a hundred people there, I organised it myself and foolishly had decided to have a Christening on the same day so really, all I did was cook. When I looked around - it was not joy that filled my heart but sadness. I knew that if 90 of those people were not there, my life would be no worse of. I had mistakenly thought that having lots of people around me was a way to feel more comfortable about myself and to feel more loved. The following week, I went through my Filofax and deleted people in droves. It was very cathartic and I have never regretted it.

So for those following ten years, I told everyone that I would never again have a party filled with people that were not very close and special friends. I told everyone, even the children - that on my 40th, I would be on a beach with a handful of very close pals being just me, not someones wife, not someones mother, not someones neighbour - simply me. The very last thing I was ever going to do was a party.

I got a party. Devastated would be an inadequate description. Granted, I could have organised my own shindig - my tropical plans were widely known. Even the teenager had trawled through tropical islands but I lacked the necessary component - money.

I like the feeling of trying to do something someone else would love. When 'It' had his 40th a couple of years before, he wanted a party - something he normally hates. He had a brilliant party. With Austin Powers as the theme, we went completely overboard. A marquee with psychedelic fabric, a dance floor, light up garden seats, retro food, lava lamps, full size cardboard cut out, pink cocktails with teenagers hired to shake. It was a fantastic party.

He is a tricky character to buy for and every gift has to have months of thought. Not interested in clothes or appearance, simply bikes and cars and if he wanted one, he could get one. The one thing he had ever wanted and not brought was a Tag Heure watch. The one thing I was short of was money. And so for months I sold things on Ebay and with the help of a friend who wore it through customs - he got his Tag. It was obscenely expensive but giving it to him gave me as much pleasure as it did him and even now I would never change that.

So I must have looked like a really ungrateful bag on my birthday. I sat in Bath, on the steps at the back of Jollys and simply cried with hurt and upset. I was celebrating my 40th in the one way I had always said would be my worst nightmare. Not only a party, full of people that were not necessarily close friends but some of my closest had not been given enough notice. My present was some blown up photographs of the children which although very beautiful - were not about me, not about me turning 40 and my life but in my mind, a mark of all that I amounted to - a mother who could only get her hair cut every 12 months.

I have no doubt 'It' probably hated me a lot on that day. I did ask him fairly recently why he had done the one thing he knew I would hate. "I had to do something" he replied.

But giving isn't about ticking boxes so you can say you did something, it is not about making it look like you made an effort so the outside world can pat you on the back, it is about doing something for someone else that gives you a warm glow at the same time. Being nice makes you feel nice. Simple.

Sometimes we get it wrong, it doesn't matter. Sometimes we do thinks because we think that if we don't we may be a bad person - I am not sure that this really matters much either - what matters is that in every gesture you do - you are telling someone something. Sometimes it is better to say and do nothing.

I read a lot into my birthday but tried not to think about it to deeply, I recognise my own ability to over-analyze everything - but now, with a better vantage point - I realise that I ignored a lot of messages - The birthday celebration that was everything I had never wanted, the wedding picture upside down and on top of a 10ft high cupboard that apparently 'fell' off. The expensive wrapped and unopened Christmas gifts that I gave last year and the birthday present from the year before, each and every weekend where he claimed that he was working when really, he was playing. We can all ignore signs, we can all give people the benefit of the doubt but there will always reach a point when you realise that you knew it all along.

This is no bad thing. We all play games - we all give subtle message in a bid to avoid honesty, but when those subtle messages become more about mind games they become ugly. It is easy to make yourself look good, to look caring, to look like a decent person - it is much harder to fool yourself.

I am not sure where this is going, I fear the combination of Tramadol and three sips of wine was an unwise choice. Where this is supposed to be going is this: I am going to have a party this year. If you are invited it is because you are important to me and I want you there. If you are not invited it is either because whilst I may like you, you are not one of those that truly makes a difference to my life or simply because I forgot to invite you. This is my party. I will be wearing heels, false eyelashes and may or may not look like an old tart. This is a party in recognition that if you are kind and lovely and make me laugh - you are my friend. This party is in recognition that I no longer need to look to anyone else to recognise my needs; they are my needs and I hold no one else accountable.

Looks are superficial. No matter how you present to the world; gorgeous, spotty, kind, loyal, decent - looks are only a veneer. The real you will be revealed to everyone else even before you accept it yourself. I have many, many faults but you know - most of them are on the outside and 40 is not to late to have realise it.

So role on 41, role on the summer and role on the rest of my life

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