Archive of ‘Ask Amber’ category
(The masochistic among you will find Part 1 of this story here.)
When we left our heroine, she was floundering in the stormy sea of “grunge”, wearing Doc Marten boots and a selection of baggy, unflattering clothes, and totally failing to see the irony of “rebelling” against the uniform of one group by adopting the uniform of another. Because she really was THAT stupid. She was also apparently referring to herself in the 3rd person, so she’ll stop that now.
Before we continue the sorry tale of my life in fashion, I did actually manage to unearth another image from my Sullen Teenager era:
...and then the wind changed, and Amber's face stayed that way forever
Oh, shut up - YOU’D frown too if you were wearing a brown floral PLAYSUIT. Ahem.
(Also pictured: Ted. Who had apparently been drinking again.)
Anyway, when I went to university, I packed all of the aforementioned “grunge” gear (not the playsuit, though. I wasn’t quite THAT bad.), even although, somewhere deep down, I was never really comfortable with that look, possibly because I’m 5’3″, and maxi skirts make me look like a midget starring in a costume drama. I thought that was the kind of thing people would wear at university, though. I imagined we’d all sit around in smoky cafes all day, listening to The Smiths, reading Sylvia Plath and talking about how no one understood us. And actually, I DID do all of those things at university: I just did them on my own, in my bedroom, because everyone else was too busy partying.
The DM boots and grungy clothes, however, lasted one day exactly. Because what I realised when I arrived at university was that this was a place where you could wear whatever the hell you wanted to wear, and be anyone you wanted to be. And I quickly discovered that what I REALLY wanted to wear was very short skirts and very high heels:
How did your personal style evolve throughout your life?
Contrary to popular belief, I was not born wearing Louboutins and shouting “Bring me a green dress! With a bow! And some stripes! Also: dots! Bring me dots!” Quite the opposite in fact:
Yes, readers, I was once a little boy. My secret is out.
OK, so maybe I wasn’t a REAL boy, although like Pinocchio and George from the Famous Five, I did often behave like one, for in my formative years I was a bit of a tomboy and my interest in clothes extended no further than wondering how many days in a row I could get away with wearing that bathing cap my mum bought me for swimming lessons, but which went just PERFECTLY with a pair of Wellington boots:
(I’m not joking: I refused to take the bathing cap off. I thought I was IT. I was, like, SO EDGY and ahead of my time. If I’d only realised, I could be an up-and-coming British fashion designer with a trademark line in “crazy” by now, but sadly I was too busy pulling worms out of the ground and presenting them to my next-door neighbour as a “gift”. Another promising career ruined!)
Sadly for me, things didn’t get much better, fashion-wise. Some would say not ever, in fact. As I got older (this is the serious part of the post coming up, by the way, so quiet at the back please, and stop rustling those sweets) and reached an age when I was starting to realise to realise that clothes could look NICE as opposed to just providing a good excuse to never have to brush my hair, I was being pretty badly bullied at school. We’re talking parents in regular meetings with the head teacher and considering removing me from school, me being kept behind after class to make sure my classmates didn’t try to kill me on the way home: that kind of thing. And actually, as surprising as it may seem, none of the bullying was connected to my appearance: it was just stupid, petty schoolgirl stuff, but it got WAY out of hand, and it totally destroyed my confidence for a long, long time. One day I left school to find most of my classmates waiting for me outside the gates: they followed me home, surrounding me and hemming me in, while the ring-leaders hit me with rolled-up umbrellas, which were apparently the weapon of choice at the time. Thank goodness guns weren’t legal!
After that, my only real aim in life was to not stand out, and not give people any reason to want to pick on me. This was difficult for me, because I pretty much always stand out, and not JUST when I’m wearing a bathing cap in the street. Once I grew out of the tomboy phase, you see, I started wanting to dress up. It’s always (well, OK, not ALWAYS: see above for evidence) been my instinct to be slightly-to-outrageously overdressed. I tend to feel most comfortable in the kind of clothes that make people ask if you’re off somewhere special after this, and this tendency in me first reared its head when I was about ten, and came to school wearing a bright green coat and kicky little matching beret. This was the era of designer sportswear and shell suits, so you can imagine how well THAT went down.
For the next few years, then, I did my damnedest to just blend in. I always got it WRONG, though – sometimes really badly wrong – and that’s why there are no photos of me from this era. (Well, there are, but I’d rather eat my own eyeballs than put those photos on the Internet.) This was the early 90s: it was a disastrous time for fashion anyway, but I was also “growing into myself”, as my mother put it. I had a horrendous, frizzy perm, a fringe which I “styled” until it stood up perpendicular to my head and… those were some bad times. But! Better times were… actually, no, better times weren’t coming, because once I realised I sucked at the whole “blending in” thing, I decided to rebel. Grunge was big at the time, and I embraced it in the way that only a angst-ridden teenager who is pretty damn sure Kurt Cobain is, like, the ONLY person who understands her, can. I had Doc Marten boots, long skirts, lumberjack shirts, and a collection of shapeless black sweaters. I also had hideous, high-waisted jeans with slightly tapered legs, because those were the only kind of jeans they had in the 90s, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?
Because I refused to have my photo taken, and because my parents were probably worried that my scowl would break their camera anyway, this is the only photo I could unearth from that era:
Also the only photo you’ll ever see of me voluntarily using a phone. This was the day my 6th year exam results came out, and I was calling my grandparents to tell them my results. (I got straight As. No, you WOULDN’T think it, would you?) The shirt was my dad’s, the leather jacket was from a second-hand shop in Glasgow, because I was just too ALTERNATIVE for normal shops, and the jeans were straight-up hideous. Luckily you can’t see my feet, but I was wearing my DM boots, and was pretty sure I would wear them FOREVER, which just goes to show what I knew, eh?
Just in case my parents decide to ground me over this post, I feel I should point out here that they DID try to dress me like a little girl sometimes:
That’s Snoopy (he of “doing the toylet in the cichon” fame) I have in a headlock. My favourite thing about this photo is the very undignified doll in the background.
Oh, and I ALWAYS liked stripes, apparently:
I’m pointing at the ground to indicate where Snoopy had just done the “toylet”. Because if there’s a funnier thing than a dog peeing on a child’s sandcastle, well, my younger self didn’t know what it was.
To be continued later in the week, or possibly never depending on how I feel…
Two questions from Formspring:
Would you ever go back to working as a journalist again or do you love being a blogger?
Do you love your job? It is so different from ‘normal’ jobs.
At least once a week, sometimes more, I dream that I’m back at my old job. At first I’m confused. Why am I there? When can I go home? (Which is pretty much how I used to feel in REAL LIFE when I arrived at work, now I come to think of it.) I’m smiling and nodding at people, and all the time I’m thinking, “OK, this is weird. I’ll just stay for an hour or so, and then I’ll make my excuses and leave.” But the thing is, I can never leave. Because I’m working in the Hotel California. No, I’m joking: it’s definitely my old job. The “never leaving” bit is true, though, because as the day goes on, I suddenly remember that when I left that job, I did so on the understanding that one day I would come back for good: and clearly that day has come.
(This dream is obviously connected to the one in which I suddenly “remember” that I didn’t actually sit any exams at either university or high school, I was just somehow allowed to graduate, on the understanding that one day I would return to take the exams. The dream always begins with me realising that tomorrow I have to take a three-hour mathematics exam, having not studied maths, or, indeed, even THOUGHT about it, since I was a teenager. I’m actually breaking out into a cold sweat just thinking about this. I wish there was a way to divorce your subconscious mind. Why can I not have dreams in which I suddenly remember I’m a millionaire?)
“Amber,” I tell myself, “You’re an idiot. You could be at home right now, getting up when you want, drinking a million cups of coffee, pootling around in your dressing gown, getting paid to look at shoes on the Internet… And instead you’re here, and now that you’re here, you’ll have to keep on being here, getting up at 6am every morning, clocking in, clocking out, doing what you’re told to do rather than what you WANT to do… IDIOT.”
And then I wake up, and I AM at home, and I DO get to get up when I want, and pootle around in my dressing gown, and run my day anyway I like, and as much as I hate those dreams, I’m always kind of grateful for them, too, because they remind me how lucky I am. And trust me, I am lucky. I genuinely do love my job, and those are not words I ever thought I would type. I never expected to enjoy work. I always viewed it as something I just had to get through somehow, and while I knew there were people out there who claimed to love their jobs, I’m going to be honest: I thought those people were crazy. Or liars. Or crazy liars.
I mean, blogging was my hobby. As was, um, shopping. I used to sit at my desk and daydream about shoes one day being able to to turn a hobby into a job, but I didn’t actually expect it to happen, so when it did I spent years – literally YEARS – worrying that it would all be taken away from me, and I’d have to go back to a “normal” job again. You wouldn’t have to be Freud to work out the meaning of my recurring nightmare, hmm? I still do worry about it, actually, because I know for sure that I never want to go back. Not ever. I actually don’t think I COULD go back, even I wanted to: I’m too used to being my own boss, and working at my own pace, and not ever answering the phone to be able to adjust to the restrictions of the workplace again. Also, I’ve slowly started to phase “mornings” and “phonecalls” out of my life, and I don’t think many employers would appreciate that.
So, no, I wouldn’t want to go to back to a “normal” job, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been tempted by the thought, not even for a second. Even when we’d just started the business, and were working round the clock to build it up and make a living from it, I didn’t ever think “You know what, I could just get a job.” I would just much rather work for myself than for someone else (even if it meant earning less money), and blogging could almost have been tailor-made for me in that it’s something I can do for myself, from home, and without having to worry about clients, and meetings and all of the other stuff that comes with so many jobs.
With all of that said, I feel I should probably add here that it IS still work. Sure, it’s work that I enjoy (for the most part), but there’s a very big difference between blogging for fun and blogging for a living, so while I think it’s about as perfect a job as I could ever hope to find, it’s not without its stresses and irritations, and some days I find myself wanting to tear my hair out in frustration, just like any other job. I think anything you HAVE to do every day can sometimes feel like a chore, and although the good points of my job outweigh the bad ones by a country mile, I still look forward to the weekend, when I don’t have to think about it for a couple of days. I think what I’m trying to say here is that while the things I write about are frivolous, and I get to write about them from the comfort of my own home, I AM still running a business, and trying to make a living, so obviously it’s not all fun.
It IS a lot of fun, though…
p.s. Some more questions have been answered here.
I WAS actually joking when I mentioned “Formspring Friday” last week, but I’ve started to get a few repeat questions over there, which made me realise that some people might not realise I was answering some of the questions on the Formspring website, rather than here. So I’m giving this whole “posting on a Friday” thing one last go. If you have something you want to ask, the box is on the right, or feel free to post a comment!
If you could buy a how to guide for anything, what would it be? by azkadelliamj
I’d buy a guide on how to stop losing things all the time – it would revolutionise my life!
Amber,I have two questions.One why is it that you’re majorly pretty and a fab dresser and people complain about your red headedness?And two where the frigg did Terry learn to photoshop so well?
Haha, thanks for the compliment
On the first one, I’ve no idea why people bash redheads: I think it’s just a combination of stupidity, plus the need to try and hurt other people in order to feel better about themselves. Pretty sad, really, but says a lot about them and nothing at all about me.
Terry is a web designer by trade, so his Photoshop skills are a result of that.
Tell us about your best friend.
My best friends are really Terry and my parents, which is a boring answer, I know, but a true one!
As far as friends who aren’t related to me by blood or marriage go, my best friend is someone I met on my first day of university, and have been friends with ever since. We share the same kind of sense of humour, taste in shoes and other important things like that
Unfortunately for me, she lives in the south of England, so I don’t get to see her very often, which is hard, especially now that she has a gorgeous little boy who I’d love to see more of!
do you know jane from sea of shoes?what can you say about her taste in shoes?
I don’t know her personally, no, but I’ve seen her blog. She has some amazing shoes, as far as I’ve seen – I love her “shoe wall!”
What were the last 5 movies you watched?
My Life in Ruins
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Lovely Bones
Which of your blogs is your favourite? And which would you give up if you absolutely had to? xx
I don’t really have a favourite, but I guess my personal blog (foreveramber.co.uk) means most to me because it’s basically a personal journal, while the others are business concerns, and are much more impersonal because of that.
If I had to give up one, I would give up whichever of the business blogs was least profitable/successful at the time. At the moment that would be my writing blog, which I just don’t have the time to update, despite the best of intentions – there just aren’t enough hours in the day!
If you ever leave Scotland, Will you come to America? Pretty please?
I would love to, but the American government won’t let me in! We’ve looked into it really carefully, and it’s horrendously difficult to immigrate to the US from the UK, so unless we suddenly become very rich, we wouldn’t qualify for a Green Card under the current rules – boo!
Do you see yourself living in Scotland for ever?
I really hope not! We can’t afford to move at the moment, unfortunately, but I would love to be able to move away at some point – it’s never been my plan to live here forever!
Do people recognise you in the street? Like a blog celebrity?
Haha, I certainly hope not, given that I sometimes go out of the house wearing two different boots!
No, I’ve never been recognised from my blog (to my knowledge)- it’s not well-enough known for that to happen, and I don’t think I have many readers in my town, other than my friends and family. So I fly below the radar
How often do you get your hair cut/ trimmed?
When it gets to the stage where I can’t stand it any longer! I know you’re supposed to have it cut every six weeks, but I really hate going to the hairdressers, so it’s probably more like every 2-3 months.
A question from Formspring:
Do you ever feel that your business is more difficult not living in London?
Other than “I am not a shop”, the phrase I use most often on a day-to-day basis is “I do not live in London”.
OK, actually it’s not: the phrase I use MOST often is, “Rubin, get out of the bathroom and stop licking the toilet seat!” But “I do not live in London,” is definitely in high rotation, and that’s because every week I get dozens of invitations to events in London, all sent by well-meaning people (most of whom work in public relations) who are absolutely astonished to learn that I don’t actually live in The City That Is the Centre of the World.
I’ve never really understood this. Sure, if I was running a magazine, say, I could understand the assumption that I must be based in London: most of the traditional media in this country IS based in London, after all. The whole point of blogging, though, is that it’s completely democratic: pretty much anyone, anywhere, can set up a blog, even those of us living ”all the way up there in Scotland!” Does a non-London location make it harder to make a living out of blogging, though? Hmmm.
I think there are two ways of looking at this one. Personally, no, I don’t find that my location makes it more difficult to run my blogging business. What I don’t know is how much easier it would be if I WAS based in London. Undoubtedly, it would make a difference: I’d be able to accept all of those invitations, for one thing, which would possibly open the door to opportunities I just don’t know about right now. I’d be able to “network”. To “make connections” with people who could perhaps help my business in a variety of different ways. I’d be able to attend all of the press days and launches and fashion shows and oh, all kinds of other things. Here’s the thing, though:
I don’t want to.
It’s nothing personal, London. You’re a fascinating city, and I love to visit you from time to time. But the whole “attending events/networking/making important business connections” thing? It’s not for me. I know that will seem really strange to a lot of people, but the truth is, I’m a bit of a homebody at heart. I’m neither a mover nor a shaker, and the phrase “working the room” is enough to send chills down my spine. I’m shy. I’m a bit socially inept. I don’t enjoy making smalltalk with strangers, being schmoozed by PRs or answering the question, “So, what do you do?” over and over again. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these things: they’re just not for me, and when I set up this business, I didn’t do it because I wanted to be a super-busy career woman, because I had long-since realised the error of that particular “ambition”. I did it so that I could hopefully make a reasonably good living doing something I enjoyed. Turns out that what I enjoy most is just writing, and being free to do that all day, without all of the associated other things that would be expected of me if I didn’t have my handy, “Whoops, I’d love to come to your [insert event here], but I can’t because I don’t live in London,” excuse at the ready.
Yeah, I’m pretty anti-social.
I’m not totally convinced that living somewhere else would make that much of a difference anyway, though. Sometimes, for instance, I think that being a bit of an outsider (which is what inevitably happens when you’re based a few hundred miles away from most of the rest of your industry) isn’t necessarily a bad thing for my blogs. It gives me a certain degree of freedom in terms of what I write, and how I write it, and I like that. I also like the lifestyle it allows me to have: I’ve spent a lot of time working in stressful jobs which made me utterly miserable, and now I really value the slower pace of life I get from not being right at the very centre of things all the time. The only people who have expectations of me are my readers, and that’s no bad thing.
I wouldn’t change things, is what I think I’m trying to say here, although I WOULD change my location if I could. Just not to London…
P.S. If you want to ask a question, either leave it in the comments, type it into the box in the sidebar, or visit Formspring here.
I had two questions on Formspring about how Terry and I met, so I decided to answer those first :
How did you and Terry meet and fall in love?
How did you and your husband meet? You seem like a perfect couple – Do you ever argue?! Haha.
You know, I’d love to be able to answer this with some romantic, tear-jerker of a story. Probably one involving a chance encounter, a railway station platform, and me wearing a kicky little hat. Because every time I entertain this fantasy, it’s always the 1940s for some reason. Moving on…
The reality, as always, is much more prosaic than that, and like most people we know, Terry and I met at work. When I say “like most people we know”, I mean that literally, by the way: most of the people Terry and I know met their partners in exactly the same place I met Terry. Which was a call centre. No one’s ever going to want to make a movie out of this, are they?
So, the call centre - or the “Phone Farm” as I always used to think of it. Terry and I both worked the weekend shift there, in order to help pay our respective ways through university. And then when we left university, we stayed on, to pay our way through the M.A.C counter, and the shoe department at House of Fraser. (Can you guess which one of us I’m referring to here? Yes, Terry really needs to ease up on that cosmetics habit of his!)
I started work at the Phone Farm first, and by the time Terry joined the company, I had already worked my way up to the giddy heights of “Personal Trainer”, which meant that I was responsible for moulding the minds of the constant influx of new recruits (Which could be anything from 10 – 40 people per week at busy periods. It was – and is – a huge organisation.). That’s why, to this day, the Phone Farm has a large number of staff who believe whistling is banned AT ALL TIMES, and who would not, under any circumstances, use the phrase “just sayin’”.
Although I was to come to detest the Phone Farm more than I would ever have believed possible, at that time, I had yet to realise that the job was slowly SUCKING THE SOUL RIGHT OUT OF MY BODY, and was weirdly ambitious about it. I was a Personal Trainer now, but by God, one day I might become an ‘Experienced Operator’ (snigger) or even a Team Leader! (I did, in fact, become a Team Leader, but by that point I had lost all hope and accepted the job only because it came with internet access, which the rest of the staff were forbidden, on pain of death.) I also had this weird idea that when I finally graduated, I would probably become a high-flying business woman of some kind, and that the Phone Farm would provide a good grounding for this. I have absolutely no idea WHY I thought this, because there is nothing I would hate more than being a high-flying business woman, but I kept getting this metal image of myself, wearing a snappy little business suit and talking excitedly into a cellphone, while striding out of my office on the top floor of a New York skyscraper. I was an absolute idiot, I really was.
Anyway! I was young and I was stupid, and I was ALL ABOUT being a personal trainer, and upholding the laws of the Phone Farm. And then, one day, Terry arrived. “Of all the call centres, in all the world, you hadta walk into this one,” I said, with a drawl. (No, you’re right, I didn’t. I totally made that up. Sorry.) It would be great if I could say here that the moment our eyes met across a crowded call centre, I collapsed into a swoon and knew he was The One. But I didn’t. Actually? It was dislike at (almost) first sight. For both of us, I’m sure.
I still remember my first ever conversation with Terry. He called me over from my important job of pacing up and down in high heels and “supervising” the other new recruits, (The high heels weren’t a requirement of the job, by the way. That was just a requirement I placed upon myself.) and asked me if he could phone his friend, who worked in another department of the Phone Farm.
“WHAT?” I said, amazed at the sheer cheek of the man. “You’re not allowed PERSONAL CALLS! You don’t get to phone a friend! What do you think this is, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
(OK, OK, I didn’t say that last bit either. I just thought of it later. Much later, that is: I mean, I don’t think WWTBAM was even ON back then. This would’ve been a much more interesting post if I HAD been quick with the smart comebacks, though.)
At that, Terry calmly picked up the phone and called his friend. And I marched over to my boss and told her I couldn’t possibly work with That Guy, because That Guy wouldn’t listen to a word I said, had totally failed to recognise my supreme authority as Personal-Trainer-Who-Would-One-Day-Have-a-Glass-Topped-Table-in-Her-New-York-Office, and OMG, wasn’t That Guy SO ANNOYING? And my boss laughed and said to give him a chance, maybe he wouldn’t turn out to be so bad. She’s like the old, wise woman in this tale, who’s constantly saying weirdly prophetic things, except she wasn’t actually old, and I think that was the only prophetic thing she ever said to me. Well, that and “Amber, I think you’re just about to spill that coffee down your…oh.”
So, after those Wise Words, you’re probably expecting me to say I came into work the next day, and Terry was bathed in a halo of golden light, and that was when I knew he was The One. Or even that we became good friends, and it was totally like When Harry Met Sally, but without the bit in the restaurant. But no. It took several more years for Terry and I to even be able to be in the same room as each other without bickering, and although we worked in the same department for some of those years, we didn’t really talk much. Or, you know, at all. Sometimes to this day I will look over at him and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I actually married That Guy! How trippy is that?”
In fact, Terry and I probably wouldn’t have gotten together at all if it hadn’t been for the Phone Farm’s policy of always seating people next to someone they hated. I’m not joking about this: they would change the seating plan every few weeks, to make sure you didn’t get too friendly with the person sitting next to you, because that would mean you might actually start ENJOYING work, and can you imagine the anarchy that would break out if people were having FUN? By this point, Terry and I were both “managers”. It was a small department, but we had still avoided ever becoming friends, so naturally the people in charge decided to make us sit next to each other. And THAT was their big mistake! Because Terry and I got together just to spite them, mwahaha!
Well, no, we didn’t. We did start to talk, though, and then we started to talk some more, and eventually we talked so much that we were all, “Hey, why don’t we swap email addresses? Just so we can make sure both of our email addresses are working properly?” Then we started emailing. Then we emailed some more. During the week, I was working in my first job as a journalist, and every morning I would come in to work and find a sweet little email from Terry waiting for me: often with funny illustrations, which he would draw in MS Paint. (Look, he was a student, he couldn’t afford Photoshop!) This is how he won me over: it was all because of the MS Paint.
The rest, as they say, is history. And it’s a chapter of history that involves a work night out, too many vodka shots, and Shania Twain singing You’re Still the One. I think that chapter is probably best left unwritten.
So, in common with pretty much everyone else on Twitter, I joined Formspring, which is a site where people ask each other questions and, er, answer them.
I was actually a bit wary about this. I tried something similar a while back, and a lot of the questions were a bit… well, it was like people thought I was standing trial or something, and they were the hard-bitten lawyers for the prosecution. So I dropped the whole question thing, and forgot all about it. But then everyone started joining Formspring, and if there’s a bandwagon in town, I like to be on it (albeit I’m usually the last aboard, and the bandwagon is pulling out of the station with me running after it like a lunatic), so I joined.
And then I sat and worried that this was going to turn out to be A Mistake, and that the anonymous nature of the thing would mean I’d just get the usual bunch of “Y r u so ugly?” and “How much r the combustion engines u r selling in ur shop?” and “Do u no u suck lol lol lol!” stuff masquerading as “questions”. But so far, so good, and because there are only so many posts I can write about the Mouse Man and how much the people at the gym annoy me (Seriously, people, PERSONAL SPACE. Get some.), I’m going to be using some of them as blog fodder over the next few… however long. So if there’s a burning question you’ve always wanted to ask me, now is the time to ask it, and there’s even a handy little box over in the sidebar for you to do it, although feel free to post your question in the comments box here if you prefer. It can be, like, Formspring Friday or something. OK, maybe not.
(Just nothing creepily personal, or rude, please. And no maths questions. And remember: I! AM! NOT! A! SHOP!)
Oh, here are the first set of questions and answers:
When I wrote about my shoe collection earlier this week, Madeline had an interesting question for me. Well, it was interesting to me, anyway, because it was about mascara, and I find almost EVERYTHING about mascara interesting. Madeline said:
“ Now, i’ll throw a really hard question to you: how many individual tubes of mascara do you have? I know now you’ll be counting till tomorrow (i’m evil, i know )”
Oh yeah: THAT. The mascara. Oh my holy hell, the mascara:
Oh, hai, everyone! My name’s Amber, and I’m a mascara addict. Actually, in my defence, I have to point out that at least half of the FOURTEEN TUBES OF MASCARA you see before you were sent to me as review samples, so I didn’t actually go out and buy all of them. I mean, I may be crazy, but I’m not THAT crazy. Well, not yet, anyway.
My addiction to mascara has been with me since my early teens. It began at roughly that point life when you start to become aware of your appearance, and one day you look into the mirror, and think, “Damn, who stole my eyelashes, WHO?” In my case, no one stole my eyelashes: they do exist, but, as is the case with many redheads, they’re so pale that they may as well NOT. I guess the correct term for them would be “strawberry blonde”, but mine are more blonde than strawberry, and if I wasn’t wearing mascara, and you were standing close enough to see (or rather NOT see) my lashes, you would probably think I was some kind of half human/half reptile hybrid, and you would call up Will Smith and ask him to take me down.
That would never happen, though, because there is basically NEVER a time when I’m not wearing mascara. (And also because if you ever try standing that close to me, I will cut you. I really hope you’re reading this, woman at the gym who got onto the treadmill right next to mine yesterday when there were TEN OTHER COMPLETELY EMPTY TREADMILLS AVAILABLE… ) Seriously, my mascara consumption is the stuff of legend. When I lived in halls of residence at university, the fire alarm in our building would frequently go off in the middle of the night, and we’d all have to pile outside to stand in the freezing cold until the fire brigade arrived to switch it off again. With just a few short minutes to prepare myself for this ordeal, my choice was simple: I could either throw on some clothes, or I could throw on some mascara. That’s why, every single time that fire alarm went off, I would be found standing shivering outside in my dressing gown: but by God, my eyelashes looked marvelous.
These days, of course, I dye my lashes, so I’m less likely to be mistaken for an alien, should anyone ever see me without makeup. Dying lashes only changes the colour of them, though: it doesn’t lengthen them, or curl them, or volumise them, or do any of the other wonderful things mascara can do. This was the truth I learned as a young teenager, when I would leave for school in the morning completely bare-faced, and mysteriously manage to arrive there with half of the Cover Girl counter on my face. My plan, if my parents ever found out about this, was to claim to have been mugged by a makeup artist. Because, seriously THAT’S WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE.
That’s why, throughout my formative years, my most frequently asked question wasn’t “How many pairs of shoes do you have?” but “Are you a drag queen?”
It’s also why I have a Sephora loyalty card, even although I don’t live in a country they deliver to. GOD.
Seventy-one pairs of shoes. That’s the answer to one of my most frequently asked questions (The others: “If my husband’s grandfather’s dog’s sister’s auntie was a ginger, but I have black hair, do you think my children will be gingers too, and can I drown them in a sack if they are?” “Will those boots you wrote about in 2007 fit me, do you think?” and “Can I buy three of these dresses, please?”). It’s usually followed almost instantly with, “And what do you actually DO with all those shoes?” To which I always answer, “I thread them all onto a piece of string and wear them around my neck, obviously, what do other people do with shoes?”
I bring this up because I’ve been asked The Question a couple of times recently, and only found out the answer myself last night, when I decided to actually count the damn things. (Counting shoes: not as interesting as you might think, kids! Bit like counting sheep, actually…) Seventy-one pairs, not counting running shoes, and wellingtons, and those ancient ballet flats I really should throw out, but God, they’re so comfortable, maybe I’ll just give ‘em another week. I’ll be honest: I thought the magic number would be higher than that, and my first reaction was “Wow, that’s hardly any! I’m really letting the shoe-blogging side down, here, must buy some more!”, but of course, seventy-one pairs of shoes IS quite a few, I suppose. Well, a few more than “a few”, hmmm?
I just realised this post sounds like it’s building up to some kind of dramatic “I’m giving up shoes for Lent!” type of declaration. But, er, it isn’t. For one thing, being a complete and utter heathen means I don’t have to give up ANYTHING for Lent (which is awesome, especially when other people give up chocolate. It leaves more of it for me.), and for another thing: AS IF. So I’m not giving up buying shoes. I am, however, going to start trying to wear them all more often, rather than just that same pair of tan peep toes (summer) and black boots (winter) all the time. Then I will …well, then I will probably buy some more.
“Why shoes?” is always the next question in this particular conversation. To which I say: why not? I can’t claim that shoes are the answer to world peace, or that they have shown me the meaning of life, or anything deep like that: I just like them. Always have, right from the moment I slipped on a pair of those toy “high heels” once childhood Christmas, and probably always will. Shoes are fun. You never have to worry about whether they’ll make you look fat, or clash with your hair. They last for years (many of the pairs in my collection are pensioners in shoe-years), you don’t ever have to iron them, and they’re good to look at. What’s not to like?
Anyway, hopefully this answers the burning question on at least two people’s lips this week. And I have to admit, it’s nice to get a question I can actually answer for once, rather than the usual stuff about “ginger” babies…
Yes, folks, we’ve reached that time again when I have absolutely nothing to write about, and so I fall back on answering the questions people ask me through my keyword referrers – the terms people type into Google which somehow lead them to this here site. Oh, come on, you love it really. And if you don’t, well…. just pretend.
Today we’re kicking off with…
how come hot summers in Scotland are so horrible?
Oh, you poor child. Hot summers in Scotland are not “horrible” – they’re fictional. No, really, they don’t exist. We haven’t had a hot summer here since 1976, and I’m starting to think even that one was probably just an urban myth. I mean, there is a reason I go to Florida every summer, you know: it’s the only chance I get to wear all of those summer clothes I keep buying.
(Seriously, this is really starting to annoy me this year. I have all these clothes, just BEGGING to be worn, and can I wear them? No, I cannot. Well, I mean, yes, I can, but only if I want to freeze my ass off.)
should i tan my butt?
Ooh! OK, I’m going to assume you mean “tan” as in the Fake Bake variety, here. The answer to your question is… dunno. Up to you, really. I, personally, have indeed chosen to “tan my butt” this year. I made this difficult decision a few weeks ago, when I noticed a ghost at the back of our Body Combat class. What was strange about this ghost was that, rather than being scary, it was kinda trying to work out along with the rest of the class, its pale skin shining like the moon as it bumbled its way through the kicks and punches. And then I realised that, yes, that ghost was me. And as soon as I got home, I hit the fake tan, hard. (By which I mean, “you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference, but I can no longer stand in for the moon on a dark night.”) Somehow it actually worked out for me this time, and it didn’t go streaky or orange, like it usually does. I fully expect to have jinxed myself now, just by writing that. Expect an “OMG, I am orange!” entry soon, but probably not until the day before I go on holiday. I did mention I was going on holiday, didn’t I? Good.
what do you call a black person with red hair?
Body Attack and Body Pump in the same night?
What are you, the Duracel Bunny?
Can I leave a Bichon Frise all day?
Only if you don’t mind getting your radiators peed on.
Can I wear jeans to a christening?
OK, go to the bottom of the class. NO, you cannot wear jeans to a christening. Or to a wedding. Or to any formal event, unless it’s being held inside a Western movie. Seriously, what is wrong with people? Why do they always want to wear jeans to EVERYTHING? Put down the jeans. Step away from the jeans. FORGET THE FREAKIN JEANS for ONE DAY, is that too much to ask?
(OK, I overreact. Wear jeans if you want. But if it was MY christening – or my baby’s christening, anyway – I’d probably be a little disappointed that you couldn’t be bothered making just a little more effort than that.)
Can you wear coloured cardigans with black dresses?
There’s no specific law against this, as far as I’m aware. Unlike, say, the “jeans to a christening” thing, above.
How can I stop people making fun of my red hair?
I normally just smack them in the face, to be honest. If they don’t like it, I tell them to get a freaking sense of humour already, d’uh!
Photograph of a book called Forever Amber?
You are welcome.
(p.s. You should all totally go and read this article , which Alex wrote for BitchBuzz – made my day!)