Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Confirmed: I look like a tramp

Someone offered Fingers a scarf this morning on the tram on the way to the gulag. A young, obviously appalled, woman, staring at his exposed neck. It was like having a baby again, and eliciting a chorus of shocked gasps whenever its bare head was momentarily exposed to The Hideous Dangers of A British Spring. Not only did she obviously think I was an unfit mother, but I think she might also have thought we were vagrants. It is just possible I may have been wearing my pyjamas at the time, and it is possible that they may have had a sort of giant bleached patch on the leg. It is also within the bounds of possibility that Fingers's head was covered with a range of sores, scabs and Speculoos spread. He is still sporting the ultra-short 'vermin deterrent special' haircut from the barber who looks like Junior Soprano. It might not be strictly the best ever look. Tramp chic for the under 8s.

This kind of thing used to happen all the time in Paris, where I routinely made the rookie error of thinking noone would care what I looked like to take my baby and 2 year old to the park. How wrong could I have been. On one memorable occasion a woman actually physically yanked my jeans up. I got regular comments on how bad I was looking, and was viewed with suspicion and distaste in the whole neighbourhood for daring to wear crappy Gap jeans and trainers. Before I could get my head around the imperative for dressing up, even to do battle with the hags in Monoprix, we moved back to East London, where I could perfectly well wander the streets in a ripped binbag without attracting attention. I have conserved this mindset in Brussels, not because it's similarly laissez-faire, but more because I really don't care. I'll happily dress up for work - over dress, frequently - but if to take a tram two stops to the gulag? I don't think so.

I wonder if I ought to revise my position? Is there some kind of happy medium between 'slept in a dumpster' and 'ambassadorial cocktail party'? I seem unable to find it. Since I'm not, no, absolutely not, shopping, I would have to dredge it up from the contents of my wardrobe. Not that I even have a wardrobe any more. I have three collapsing rails of decreasing fabulousness (Rail 1: all the very best black dresses on wooden hangers, with room to breathe. Rail 2: All the other acceptable dresses. Rail 3: Everything else I can possibly shove onto a rail, wire hangers, probably the world moth population and several soft toys), and a Pile. The Pile is on the mantlepiece, and might, quite probably contain things I could wear and not look like I am on my way to pick pockets on Rue Neuve, but I daren't disturb it, it might fall and crush me and I would be discovered weeks later with my face chewed off. The whole process is not aided by the fact that the lights have gone in the room, so I have no idea what, or where everything is most of the time. I have a ladder - she even has a name, Iris, carved into one of her rungs - but she is terribly rickety and 5 metres tall. Certain death awaits the waffle who tries to tame Iris alone. So I choose my clothes in semi-darkness and it shows.

The builders at the end of the street seem to follow my wardrobe schizophrenia - one day decaying skiing jacket/tracksuit bottoms/wellies/dog on piece of string; the next black shift/MaxMara coat of joy/teetering Prada shoeboots - with interest. I heard them commenting on my shoes last week "Ah! Des nouvelles! Celles-ci sont vertes!" (They were neither new nor green. Get a grip brickies). At least I am amusing someone, I suppose. I think I have one of those 'all or nothing' personalities they tell you about in therapy. Sadly, the percentage of nothing to all is about 90:10. Nothing is definitely the order of the day on a Wednesday: I sit before you in muddy Marks and Spencers patent ballet flats, mens stripy socks, dirty tracksuit bottoms and a child's outsized Boden hoodie. I smell of Mexican chicken, AGAIN. I am far from sure this is grown up behaviour.

Um. I think I have shamed myself into at least having a bath tonight.


20 comments:

the polish chick said...

not to worry. for days now i've been smelling of baked beans (home made, which makes it marginally better) and am currently sporting a pale pink bathrobe which is slowly falling apart, but not enough to warrant a shopping expedition. the grease in my hair could fry a whole army of chickens, mexican or otherwise.
off to the shower i go.

WV - suinine, a far sexier and more elegant version of assinine, something to aspire to, i suppose.

puncturedbicycle said...

I had the idea that I could wear my Muji jimjams as a sort of uniform, straight from bed and all day if I choose, indoors and out. Sadly, I think my disguise is a little hopeless and while they are lovely - plain, straight, lacking in any satiny touches, frills, piping, cartoon animals, etc.- they are still pyjamas.

I have walked the dog in them, wearing boots.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

If walking your dog in your pyjamas is good enough for New York and Agyness (Louise, I think!) Deyn, then it's more than good enough for Uccle Major! x

JONATHAN LETHBRIDGE said...

I get tutted at with the kids by strangers. I don't brush kids' hair. I also lets them dress themselves, with somewhat alternative results. I too look like a dog's breakfast, but I don't care. When I had a job, it was a suit every day. I struggled at weekends, but I could stay in and look scruffy, or at least go out and not see anyone. Now I have to do the school run, so everyone gets to see us. I really really needed a haircut back in about October. Now it's too cold to have a haircut. Typically I turn up at the school in wellies, muddy jeans, and a wooly jumper. Sometimes I have full waterproofs on, and normally I have binoculars round my neck. Oh, and to complement this "look", I arrive in a 20 y.o. Landrover as I crashed the sensible car a few weeks back. So far nobody has actually said anything, but if they do I will reply in French and spit on the ground.

Sarah said...

I'm intrigued by the pile on the mantelpiece. Is the mantelpiece really, really wide or are your clothes really, really narrow? Picture? Please?

Seems like you're safest at either end of the either/or pendulum swing. An attempt at "happy medium" always makes me think of "casual Friday" in the City, where bankers all used to roll up in matching RL polo shirts & chinos. Far better to avoid the middle ground altogether.

Jaywalker said...

Happily, Sarah, but it'll have to be tomorrow because it's DARK in there.

Leona said...

Never mind, you're not alone. When I took my wee boy to nursery today I wore bobbly, dirty leggings, boots with one heel missing, manky greasy hair in a splendid top knot, and a horrible parka that I've been meaning to bin for three years. It started to rain and I put my hood up,then wondered why people were giving me odd looks - the fur round the hood had detached itself and the hood had fallen back, so I was effectively wearing a ring of fuzz round my head, like a lion. I felt pretty, oh so pretty.

Jaywalker said...

Oh, Leona. I laughed so hard at that. I love the idea of your very own MANE. Pretty indeed.

Mrs Jones said...

I think Leona wins today's slovenly stakes - fabulous!

Bryony said...

I once took urchins to school in odd shoes and could not work out why I was limping,,

Lisa-Marie said...

I never get clothes right. I think I look ok generally, and I always match (stuff has to be the same colour), but, my clothes are always wrong for the occasion.

My only tip is buy a couple of long trendy scarves with a few colours in. I have one that goes with everything, and makes me look marginally ore like I've tried.

I went to a toddlers group with the kids I looked after today, and one woman commented that smallest child's gloves and hat didn't match her coat. I almost slapped woman, they may not have matched, but smallest child picked them and they made her happy.

Kelly said...

ahh paris- it took me years of deep breathing to agree to visit. sheer haute couture stress! Best memory- homeless woman in Fendi heels, tights, bling bling and big albiet a tad dirty hair, pushing her shopping trolley of life. Theres someone to aspire to!

HelenSparkles said...

You are both normal and a grown up, this is how normal grown ups act, it's those (groomed) others who are insane! x

Em (it's my middle name) said...

This could be a way to gain a whold new wardrobe. Next time take them shoeless...

Em (it's my middle name) said...

This could be a way to gain a whold new wardrobe. Next time take them shoeless...

Heather said...

You might dress like a homeless tramp but you write like a dream and keep us all thoroughly entertained. and that after all, is the main thing. Who cares what people in real life think, eh?

and what a cool way to get new clothes, people giving them away for free on the tube!

London City Mum said...

Reminds me of my rowing days when I used to roll out of bed and put my all-in-one on, cap over mangled hair, trek out for god knows how many outings up and down the Tideway, walk the dogs, do the shopping, attend to household chores, etc etc etc... and still be wearing stinky filthy kit come dinner time.

No kids then, obviously.

Not quite sure they would let me in the door at work if I did the same now, come to think of it, access pass notwithstanding.

LCM x

Margaret said...

God, don't let the French (and by extension, Belgians) bully you about scarves: They are demented on the subject. Picture this: August in Manhattan, it's 100 degrees with 120% humidity, the air is practically chunky, and there's some batshit crazy French girl walking down the street with her neck swaddled in an afghan-sized cashmere scarf. I have seen this hundreds of times. Your child will not die from exposing his skin to fresh air. I'm pretty sure you're not letting him do it in sub-freezing weather, and he's probably bright enough to figure out if he's uncomfortably cold.

pinolona said...

I had change thrown at me in Poland once. I was very hungover though and was sick on the steps of the Post Office (it was closed) (actually no it wasn't) so that might have been what did it.

Laura and Ben said...

I quite enjoy walking through Brussels safe in the knowledge that however ill fitting and poorly colour coordinated my clothes, I will still NEVER EVER be the worst dressed person I see. Yesterday I wandered home from the station in a very orange ski outfit and moonboots yet I still failed to be the strangest dressed person on Avenue Louise.

Belgians are the coldest people I've ever met - they've been wearing scarves all year! Surely fingers has half tough northern blood to keep him warm?