Monday, 10 June 2013

How to Look a Million Dollars

We all know it’s hard to look your best (or anything close to it) in those weeks and months postpartum. For a start, you’re lucky if you can get five consecutive minutes to undergo a basic ablution strategy before you head out the door, let alone another five to fix up your face and comb out that naughty little dreadlock that’s been secretly knotting itself since you misplaced your hairbrush god knows how long ago. And then there’s the simple fact that absolutely none of your clothes fit properly anymore; your pregnancy ones make you look like you’re five years old dressing up in mummy’s clothes all over again and if you do manage to jiggle and squeeze into your pre-pregnancy pants,  you risk never being able to get back out of them again. All of a sudden, you have to learn how to dress yourself with one hand and if you succeed in actually going out into the Big Wide World with only one remnant of vom, poo or gloop down your front, you’re doing very well indeed.

Since the birth of my daughter, I have had several fashion misadventures. You’d think I would have picked up a few tips the first time I had a baby, especially after the unforgettable afternoon when my son was just a couple of weeks old and my in-laws took his dad and me out to lunch in a fancy restaurant. One would think that fancy restaurant would equal fancy dress. At least that’s what I thought at the time – or maybe I was just so happy that fancy dress actually fitted me that I forgot to think.  

Halfway through our meal, my breastfed baby awoke, ravenously hungry. I suddenly realised I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. I know that breastfeeding is completely natural and every woman has a legal right to breastfeed her baby wheresoever she may choose, but I’m not so sure that the right extends to doing it in a fancy restaurant with your dress pulled right over your head! I spent the next half hour sitting on the loo in the restaurant’s bathroom doing just that. Why didn’t anyone tell me I wouldn’t be able to wear a dress for at least six months after becoming a mother? Or is that one of those facts that comes under the heading of ‘common sense’ and which, therefore, I was never going to be privy to?

But nearly nine years later, it seems I’m still not very good at dressing myself. Several weeks ago, I decided it was high time I went for a walk. I went digging around in my wardrobe for my sneakers, but surfaced empty handed. I rummaged under the bed, but all I found was one dirty sock, one of last year’s newspapers, a teaspoon and a toothbrush. Don’t ask; I don’t know. Exasperated, I decided to locate my tracksuit pants instead, hoping the shoes would present themselves in the meantime. I looked again in my wardrobe, then in my son’s wardrobe, in the very bottom of the washing basket and even in the garage. No tracksuit pants. I was rapidly losing motivation for this walk. With my last glimmer of hope, I searched for something to cover my top half that would be both comfortable enough and warm enough. I hunted under the sofa and under the bed in the spare room, I dismantled the linen cupboard and upended the ancient clothes stored away in my suitcase. That’s right, you know it- no warm, comfy top to be found.

At this point, you may be excused for wondering, as was I, how long exactly had it been since I last went for a walk??

With diehard determination, I resolved that desperate times called for desperate measures: I grabbed my partner’s baggy tracksuit pants, threw on his oversized hoodie and donned his pair of black sneakers (two sizes too long and about three too wide). I buckled my baby into the pram and ventured into the Big Wide World …

In the midst of all this havoc, I had completely forgotten that most people usually brush their hair before leaving the house. The idea that my head might resemble a bird’s nest never even occurred to me until I passed two yummy mummies walking towards me at a rate of about four times the pace of my leisurely stroll. They were clad in tight, bright lycra and their ponytails swang back and forth as they bounced along the path, rays of Autumn sunlight radiating from their glossy tresses.

‘Morning!’ I greeted them with solidarity.

They sized me up from me bird’s nest to my oversized booties and back again, then mumbled something incoherent before bouncing away in the other direction.

When I arrived home, my son, who had not been home when I left, gave me the exact same look.

‘No offence’, he said slowly (don’t you love that schoolyard disclaimer, that indication that whatever comes next is going to be highly offensive indeed?).

‘No offence mummy’, he repeated, ‘but you look like a man!’  

                                               **********

Fervently resolved to not appear man-like for his sake, I put on a skirt and a pretty pink top to go and pick him up from school a few days later. Usually he would catch the bus, but that particular afternoon I needed to pick him up myself. When I do go up for the school run, it’s usually an uneventful procedure and no-one really talks or even looks at me at all. This day was rather different, however, as it was the first time I’d taken his baby sister with me. Nothing draws attention like a 4 kilo baby in a teeny weeny dress.

The unexpected social interaction was quite uplifting and when we got home, I was smiling away to myself. But that smile was quick to dissolve when my son suddenly looked at me aghast and said:

‘Mum! Why are you wearing your top inside out?’! 

Oh, what a blighted co-incidence that I should happen to pay such little attention to detail on the one day that some other mothers were actually talking to me! 

                                             **********    

I had all but given up hope of ever looking respectable in public again, when something miraculous happened: I made another of my rare school pick up trips. It was quite run-of-the- mill really, but when we got back to the car, my son announced seriously ‘Mum, you look really important today’.

‘Do I?’ I replied, amazed (I am wearing a pair of jeans that are almost as old as my son himself, a weathered pair of black shoes I bought from Big W for $15 and a plain black jumper I got at the same bargain boutique for even less). I am, however:

1. Not sporting a bird’s nest upon my head

2    2. Not dressed as a man

3    3. Wearing all my garments in the direction they were intended to be worn

‘Yeah’, he nods sincerely, ‘You look like you could be the Prime Minister or something!’

So ladies, take note, forget the salon, the day spa and the shopping spree. All you need to do is stay in the house for a month or so in your raggiest pyjamas with greasy, fuzzy hair, then one day, surprise the family by having a proper shower and scrub, wash and brush out the bird’s nest, dress in whatever you like (so long as it’s female daytime wear applied correctly) and you’ll feel like a million dollars. Or perhaps even a Prime Minister …