Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Saved by Jeans

As you may recall, I turned forty six months ago in a blaze of tedious daily posting. There was also an incident involving a horse and a lovely trip to Venice but I did not tell you about those. One has to preserve some corner of one’s jardin secret even if it makes life very boring for you, reading.

Anyway. The accepted narrative of turning forty these days is a little intimidating: you are supposed to rise like a self-actualised phoenix from the ashes of your youth with new reserves of strength, wisdom and body confidence. I know this from reading loads of magazine articles illustrated with pictures of Christy Turlington, looking serene and bronzed as she bares her beautiful teeth, saves some starving children and runs a marathon. Once you have stopped marvelling at Christy, these articles will instruct you on all the things you are supposed to have mastered by forty. At forty you are supposed to:

1. Know how to dress for your body/have some species of ‘signature style'. I will - sort of - return to this.

2. Be financially independent and stable - ha. I think this is outdated, actually, in our current economy, or so I tell myself. And anyway, things aren’t so bad. I mean, we’ll be fine as long as the children decide to go to free Belgian universities and no one gets sick, ever.

3. Have an innate confidence in your own abilities. I am interested in this and I am not at all down on confidence. I love and admire it in others and wish I could get it to rub off on me. The right kind of confidence is incredibly attractive and appealing, but where on earth does one acquire it? It sounds like it is just supposed to descend upon you, magically, as you open your fortieth birthday cards, so I fear it may be too late for me now. If anything, I am less confident, in the sense that I am more aware now than ever before of how little I know. I would never presume to tell anyone the things I have learned at forty because what the hell have I got to tell anyone about life? I spend most of my own sitting in the attic, fretting.

Related to this, you are also supposed not to care much about the opinion of others.  “I don’t give a shit what people think of me,” I keep reading newly forty celebrities announce and I wonder how on earth that happens, because I care just as much as I ever did. Truly, the only way I can imagine not caring to excess about the opinion of others is beta blockers.

Confidence, then, is not so much a work in progress as a work abandoned and shoved to the back of a drawer. Perhaps that is why I watch so much Ru Paul’s Drag Race? In the hope of acquiring some of that fuck you bitchez drag queen chutzpah by osmosis?

5.  Be able to cook, and host, confidently. I keep coming back to this one because I really, really want to achieve it, but I keep fucking up. We had some people round a couple of weeks ago as part of my ongoing attempts to acquire a social life and I cooked a Jamie Oliver macaroni cheese so awful we all just stared at it in horror. They are never coming back.

6. Love yourself (cf Ru Paul, again), inside and out. Hmm. For the last three months, I have had the worst skin I have ever had in my life, even in my teenage years and I have hardly been able to bear to look at myself in a mirror, instead preferring to pick and worry at my spots until my whole face looked like a medieval syphilis sufferer’s. “You have so many spots!” the youngest said a few weeks ago, wonderingly, when he saw me without my kabuki mask of mineral powder. I have not found this lovable. It is more or less better now (cod psychologists might relate this to finishing the damn book, but it may simply be because I totally gave up on personal grooming including cleanser whilst finishing book), but I do not find many other aspects of my person and character lovable: cowardice, thighs, insecurity, lack of eyelashes, disorganisation, teeth, tendency to hide my favourite foods from other family members, weak ankles, laziness, double chin… I don’t loathe myself as a regular thing, but if I were writing myself a school report on my character, it would definitely be a B- at best. ‘Could do better’.

7. You may also e.g. start a floristry business, have twins or retrain as a doctor according to these articles, but these seem - thankfully - to be optional.

I suppose it is a good thing that we are no longer supposed to put on a pair of M&S Classic slacks and give up on life in our fifth decade, but the corollary of this new orthodoxy is that against these redesigned performance indicators, I am plainly failing at forty.

There is, however, a bright spot. Because it turns out that all I needed to do in order to access the new reserves of body confidence and self-esteem forty was supposed to bring - thus ticking off at least one of the items on the list - was to buy a pair of & Other Stories cropped grey boyfriend jeans.

You will not be particularly impressed when I show you a picture of these jeans. You will just think they look like a slightly baggy grey pair of trousers and I cannot disagree, but for some reason they have effected a strange and wonderful alchemy on me and my wardrobe. They go with EVERYTHING (or rather, everything I still fit into, which is a much smaller subset of clothes), even the weird, too pale boots I bought online and could not be arsed to return and the tops that are slightly too short and midriff exposing when paired with other, lesser trousers. They are comfortable. They have got me wearing shirts again, which I love, but usually fear. Everything seems possible; I remember back when I had hair, that having a really great haircut had a similar effect. I have capitalised upon this feeling by going out and buying some new foundation and clearing my bedside table both of which would have seemed impossible a few weeks ago.

I had a near-identical experience two years ago with a pair of Gap Skinny Minnies (aka the Prozac Trousers) that also saved me from wardrobe ignominy and general slump-age, so it appears that my salvation mainly comes in trouser form. I don't really know what to make of this, but I am happy anyway and attacking the remains of forty with marginally renewed vigour. ALL HAIL THE JEANS. I have ordered another pair.

Here they are:

I am not showing you my face, because of the medieval syphilis/chins etc. Instead you can admire my new phone case which I love beyond all reckoning. Isn't it lovely? Cressida Bell.

What, if anything, has made sense of forty for those of you who are as decrepit as I am?


Patience_Crabstick said...

Oh yes, you can't underestimate the power of a great pair of jeans.

Speaking from the advanced age of 46, I can't say that my forties have brought me any magical confidence, but I do think that in some respects, they are easier than my thirties. My thirties felt like a second adolescence and I was miserably self-conscious most of the time. Now I'm starting to care less what people thing, but I haven't achieved "couldn't care less."

blackbird said...

I am much, much older than you and I don't even remember 40.
I'm so happy you have returned.

ellen kirkendall said...

I thought I loved my 40s, but looking back they were years of turmoil and uproar. If you have formed a lasting relationship with a cut of jeans you are doing well.

cruella said...

I turned 50 last year which I managed to expand on in various keys, major and minor, here and there and everywhere.

Have I turned into a sage, beyond angst and fretting? Not really. What I do notice with interest, though is a) I simply don't have the stamina to fret endlessly as I did before and b) I'm in better shape than I've been for years and years. Now that is by no means due to any consistent exercising on my part. Maybe it follows a)?

Lisa-Marie said...

They are ace jeans. I like your boots too! I am definitely not going to be financially stable at 40. No chance.

Waffle said...

LM - They are Marks et Spencer! I bought two pairs of them too because I loved them so much. One pair only cost £18 because they were in the sale and it made me happy for weeks.

Sarah said...

At nearly 43 the only thing I've accomplished from that list is the not caring what anyone thinks. Unfortunately this is mainly due to not really caring about anything, much. So it's probably not the salutary sign of good mental health it might otherwise be. The one happy thing that has occurred since turning 40 is the increasing ability to sort out my own thoughts and opinions from the ones I had picked up by osmosis in the preceding 4 decades, and having the confidence (sort of) to go with them. All things being equal though I think I'd prefer to find some perfect jeans. That has eluded me all my life.

CJ said...

Well I've failed dismally at all of the amazing things that are supposed to happen at forty. But then, I don't have the jeans. They're fab, they suit you perfectly. You're the second person to mention Ru Paul's Drag Race in the past day or two. I'm missing out on this too, I shall investigate immediately. Had no idea Ru Paul was still around. He used to look sensational as I recall. You have given me much food for thought. CJ xx

Anna Maria said...

Well, I have just turned 41, have no career, no money and my only child is disabled, so I can't even be one of those parents who achieve through their children;-) But that's OK, because I have actually attained 'I don't give a s*it' attitude.
I love the trousers and the cover.

Mrs Jones said...

I'm still waiting for all the things that are supposed to happen when you turn 40, but they haven't arrived yet, which is more than a little disconcerting considering that I'm now 52.

One thing I do find I have, though, is more self-confidence, and I have discovered I am actually quite good at doing a few things. The downside to that, of course, is (and I know this is going to sound arrogant but, sadly, it's true) other people can get jealous of your perceived ability. And that's when the 'not giving a shit about what other people think' comes in handy. Except for when you realise that no-one invites you out anywhere, or wants to see you, or even just calls or emails just to see how you are, which then affects your self-confidence. God, I hate people - why does no-one like me? *sobs*

Anonymous said...

The "I don't give a shit what anyone thinks" attitude does not properly kick in until 45, so it will come.

Confidence in many people is a facade; fake it till you make it. So, if you can put on the brave face in public, you can cry and shake in the loo. You'll have company in there.

You've done many brave things already, things that make a lot of your readers really admire you.

Flora Fauna Dinner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally said...

I also spent most of my 20s sitting in the attic, worrying. Or in my case, the garden shed, as we didn't have an attic.then I seemed to be pregnant or breastfeeding through my 30s. I refuse to read women's magazines as I'm sick of articles "10 tips to body confidence!" Bollocks to that. Now I read Horse and Rider or the History Magazine.

I have a serious case of "imposter syndrome' where I doubt my own abilities. I have to speak to clients about marketing but still feel as if I lack the gravitas to gain respect...but I plough onwards! Giving advice here and there and eating the biccies in the team meetings :)

I'd quite like to be able to sip comfortingly into beige slacks. At 4 foot 11 jeans are not my best friend. I think I'd quite like to wear sturdy tartan mid length skirts with a polo neck and sensible brogues aka what most farm ladies over 70 wear round here. And a "ruddy" complexion.

Oh! I also have spots - cystic acne - to do with hormones apparently. I sometimes look like I have "orf" - what the sheep get where they swell up a bit and get a bit crusty...

Miss Underscore said...

Also, my 40s have brought about rampant hypochondria. I can't even get a blister without feeling it must surely be the beginning of something terminal.

Dale said...

Hmm, well, signature style continues to elude me but I have gotten better at just not wearing clothes I don't like, and devil take the hindmost if people don't like it --- which I guess means I have some confidence?
Financial stability is in sight even if it isn't here yet. Although no one can get sick in my family either, ever.
Oy, the opinion of others . . . I have ruthlessly pared down the list of those whose opinion has any power to move me.
Cooking and hosting is damn tricky and that's about all there is to it although practice helps. Also the realization that it is quite difficult to kill someone unintentionally, say by means of poorly prepared food.
As for loving myself? Harrumph. We get along better than we used to and I do think that I am trying and should get points for effort. I might have to work up to love.

Stacy said...

I am definitely of the 'fake it till you make it' school of confidence. I am 43, overeducated and currently unemployed (but I am on an academic calendar, so that's pretty normal). I hear you on the 'we'll be fine as long as no one gets sick' financial stability scheme. Well that and as long as my husband stays employed. I am ever hopeful that I will eventually find a full-time job in my field and be able to actually save some money. On the plus side, I do think that I am much better at buying clothes that suit me, and it is amazing to wear things you really love. I am very happy to see you had the foresight to buy two pairs of those jeans. I often end up regretting not buying two of something, so well done. You're showing some 40-yr-old wisdom there.

Helen Strydom said...

They are awesome jeans, and you look great.

Shanners81 said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE the jeans. They are gorgeous! I am envious of your ability to wear boyfriend jeans. I like the idea of them - but the reality on a 5'3" body with cyclist's thighs is cruel.

PS. I think the key with dinner parties is to get everyone roaring drunk before the main is served, and just keep giving them nibbles. They'll never notice the difference, and you'll all be having a fabulous time!

Swag My Case said...

Thanks for showcasing one of our Cressida Bell phone cases. Those jeans have SWAG! 😃

Z said...

I looked forward to my forties. I even threw a party, the only birthday party I ever organised for myself and the first (and last) since I was 16. Sadly, 40s were crap because my ma was ill throughout and I gained two stone, since lost, thank god. 50s were far better and the decade in which I gained the confidence you're looking for. 60s may be my delayed adolescence. I have no one to please but myself at last, the only advantage I've yet found about being a widow.

Louis Vuitton iPhone 6 Cases said...

The app removes software restrictions from Apple devices, enabling users to run tweaks and apps that otherwise wouldn't work on the iPhone or get past Apple's App Store. But not everyone can run the tool just yet.

Jaket Kulit Garut said...

be a reflection and a lot of knowledge to visit this blog and interesting to read thanks admin, my site can visit jaket kulit garut much koleksi leather jacket.