When I grow up I…

Pictures: some of the forces at work in my house and some of the forces at rest

There are some parts of the grown-up world that I’ve always struggled with, some sense that the ‘big people’ are doing stuff that I’m too young for, but that one day will be mine.

At 43, I now realise that there probably isn’t going to be any great encounter with maturity: There wont’ be a sudden moment when I understand that I’m finished, complete and, er, ripe. This is it, a work in progress until they nail down the lid.

So seeing as how there’s some real-life sorting out of dingy corners going on, perhaps, it’s time to get to grips with the more intangible stuff too.

Here follows a list of the things I have always felt I would grow into but haven’t.

I can do restaurants and taxis but other sorts of tipping just gets me in a tangle. I’ve never managed to tip a hairdresser properly. The few attempts I’ve made have seemed patronising and clumsy. So to all the long-suffering crimpers I’ve employed “sorry”. I’ve struggled with tipping door people and those chaps who carried my bags up to my room. Handing over the cash always seemed a little creepy. And I’ve never been able to guess the right amount – too little and you get that look, too much and they think you’re a fool.

Cooking steak
Should be the simplest thing, shouldn’t it? A combination of heat and meat. If you get good enough meat, what could possibly go wrong? Well… it could be tough, too bloody, tough and bloody or just bloody tough. My chum and former colleague Julie – now a lady of leisure – has blogged the definitive guide. Get your steak to feel like Gordon Ramsay’s chin.

I never got the hang of them and just thought it was because I lacked a level of sophistication. I believed that one day I would understand how the whole thing worked, how you could communicate when the sound was deafening, where you should keep your purse and keys without actually dancing around your handbag and that I’d be one of those elegant confident creatures the sleazy men would consider to be out of their league and leave alone. The only exception to this is the Glasgow establishment formerly known as Clatty Pat’s where no one was cool, but they all knew how to have fun.

Ever since they were compulsory attire at Miss Lemessieur’s ballroom dancing classes on Friday nights at school, I’ve hated them. Part of me craved the ankle socks of the Scottish Country dancing classes from which I’d just graduated. Probably still does. Tights are hot and uncomfortable. Beige ones look old and patterned ones tarty or dumpy. What do you do with your toe seam when you’re wearing sandals? Thick, black ones I can do – but then only with boots so revealing, at most, 5cm of leg. So unless the broken-vein look comes in some time soon I’m going to be happily hiding in trousers.

Frocks, hats, nice nails and lipstick.
Some part of me would love to be able to cut about in a frock with all the do-dah that goes with it. Sometimes I try them on in shops, occasionally even buying one. But they never make it out of the bedroom because when I put them on I feel like a wee girl dressing up. Same goes for hats (and having an almost microscopic head doesn’t help) and nice painted nails. I’m a little better with lippy. I’ve got lots – in the car, my bag and the big makeup box. I put it on with the slap, but it never lasts past the first lick, slurp or scoff, doesn’t cross my mind to re-do it.

Having an ideal home
Clearly I’m not going to get a mansion within the foreseeable soon, but there isn’t really any reason why the house in which I live couldn’t be much, much better. I constantly feel as if other forces are at play and I should just get used to clutter, stained walls, holes in the plaster, overgrown grass, weeds, more clutter and things I don’t like getting in my way. Before you mention it, I know there are some other forces – namely three Boys and a Panther – none of whom is as tidy as he might be. But it’s time to Do Something About It and no longer settle for detritus and stuff running the show.

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  1. Debbie says

    As you know, I wrestle with many of the same problems. However, I might be able to help on the tights front at least. Black opaques in winter – and spring and autumn. M&S do some nice wool mix ones and some standard 70 denier which don't seem to bag around the crotch or knees.
    Whatever the fashionistas say about black opaques, they are wonderful.
    In summer, St Tropez, not the tricky fake tan but a foolproof skin tint you can put on in minutes and which washes off. Sally Hansen Airbrush legs is good too.
    But, yes, sometimes it's just easier to put the trousers on.
    On the tipping front, I tend to leave the money with the receptionist at the hairdresser or beauty salon and ask them to give it to the therapist.
    However, my expensive nail habit means that I now know the girls at the salon so well, there isn't such embarrassment anyway. I even tell them if I am cashless and promise to make it good later.
    On the rest, particularly domestics and lipstick, I feel your pain and can tell you it doesn't get better even when you're a couple (ahem) of years older

  2. Debbie says

    Oops, missed what you said about the opaques. But why only with boots? Perfectly good – and very leg-lengthening – with black shoes.

  3. says

    Great blog – I am with you on all of them, especially the steak (goes for chops too..) and the tights. I have to wear thick compression stockings (not for fun you realise..) which are hideously beige and wrinkle round the ankles Nora Batty style. I've been advised to glam them up by wearing another pair over the top – who the hell wants to wear TWO pairs of tights!

    Also find it really hard to tip anyone – 10% is often more than my hourly earnings and I think stingy employers rely on our generosity to make up low earnings…

  4. Anonymous says

    Apart from nightclubs, which were never in my experience, I'm with you all the way. Tights are strangling – only to be worn if you actually need to keep warm, lippy gets eaten, tipping is tricky. I like my posh frocks, but life-style doesn't required me to get dolled up all that often.
    Re the constant battle against 'stuff', it is disheartening when the clutter somehow multiplies faster than you can clear it. Perhaps a team effort, and a serious plan is required to tackle it? I'll volunteer if it would help? Mxx

  5. Debbie says

    @Suzie, there's a typo in your wordpress address – our instead of out. I spotted it and visited, very entertaining xxx

  6. says

    Deb, I'll be off to M&S as soon as it gets cold enough.
    Might try St T too, but not huge hope as have achieved a real tan that looks streaky due to sun tan lotion misdirection!
    Do you routinely give 10 per cent for a good 'do'?

    Suzie, poor you in your hosiery hell. I found your blog and followed.

    M, was that a decluttering offer? You sure? We can discuss at the w/e.

  7. Anonymous says

    That's the great thing about the St T wash-off, Ellen. Use it to fill in the gaps!
    And yes, 10 per cent is about my guide for tipping in the hairdressers and beauty salon.
    By the way, I've seen a couple of wonderful illustrations of the folly of patterned tights recently.
    I was walking up Great Western Road today behind a girl with somewhat chunky calves who had chosen to wear porridge coloured tights with a chevron pattern. Looked like she had beige varicose veins.
    And the ones with the flower patterns on them – look like you have the classic Geordie girl on a night out corned-beef effect from a distance. xxx

  8. says

    Hi Ellen,
    I wondered if you'd be interested in writing a roundup for the Scottish Round up in the next week or two – can you send me a quick email, I can't find your address!

    nolonger25 [at] gmail [dot] com

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