The Magic of Make-up

I decided to name this blog muminmakeup even though my devotion to make-up’s healing properties is something I’ve never really talked about before. I have always been one of those women who cannot leave the house without mascara. Not a permanently high-maintenence, full-face-of-slap kind of a girl, but someone for whom a little bit goes a long way. 
The love affair began at school, as I looked with envy at the girls who wore make-up and flouted the rules. I’ve always had translucent, Tilda Swinton-style eyelashes. Unlike the great Ms Swinton, however, I refused to embrace them. I was desperate for gorgeous, long thick Bambi lashes. I can remember sneaking into my parents’ en suite to raid Mum’s make-up bag. I’d bypass the frosted 90s lipsticks and go straight for the brown mascara (which, as far as I know, Mum switched long ago to black). I loved the definition it gave to my eyes, the hint of glamour and the grown-up world to come. 
The problem was, you see, that I was a Good Girl. My school didn’t allow any make-up, not even a hint, let alone the full orange faces so many of the girls in my year sported. I had watched them all being called out at the end of assembly and shamed for their Jezebel-like behaviour, and vowed that would never be me. So I contented myself with the entirely useless trio of clear mascara (I mean, why), light dusting of powder on my spotty face (like throwing a cup of water on a raging inferno) and Boots vanilla flavoured lip balm (smelled amazing, did nothing).
All of this meant that when I finally reached the heady land of Sixth Form I was ready to develop my relationship with cosmetics. The perfect Shirley Manson-from-Garbage kohl-ed eye. The Rose-from-Titanic nude lip. The flawless skin out of a bottle I had always craved. I could wax lyrical about each part of the puzzle, every product and why it makes everything feel better. Make-up is one of the loves of my life, but I had genuinely never realised how much I relied on it until I became pregnant. 
I had the worst pregnancy. The absolute worst. Suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yes, like Kate Middleton only for the whole nine months), I could barely lift my head off the pillow most days. For six months I was in and out of hospital. Fluids, needles, vomiting until there was nothing but blood. It was truly awful, and I lost myself. It wasn’t until my parents took over and moved me back up North to be cared for that I could see any kind of light at the end of the tunnel. That was when I began to wear make-up again. 
It was like finding myself. I could look in the mirror at a woman I recognised as me again. I applied it lovingly, every day, in a sort of ritual. Foundation, eyeliner, mascara, bright lips. Make-up gave me a boost when I needed it most. I’m sure that towards the end of pregnancy most women are buying beautiful baby clothes and dreaming about their child. I still couldn’t get past the end of each day, so buying a gorgeous new Clinique matte lipstick was enough for me. 
Fast-forward to a week after the birth. I had done the staying in pajamas all day thing maybe once or twice, but it wasn’t for me. I started to approach parenthood like a job. Up at 7.30 for a shower whilst my husband and baby still slumbered. Outfit on, make-up on. It’s another ritual, albeit an incredibly fast one, a race against my son who’ll be waking up for a feed any moment. I can do the whole thing in seven minutes, start to finish. It’s amazing; there really should be a medal for it.
Strangely, no matter how bad the night, or how little sleep, a shower, proper outfit even if just leggings and a tee, skincare and make-up routine makes me feel polished. Makes me normal. Makes me me. What’s more, somehow I feel more able to cope with a baby. Make-up is my armour, my war-paint, my shield. And here’s the really strange part: It makes me feel like a better mother, even though I know that’s nonsense. It works for me the way fashion, caffeine or running works for others. 
I know there are people who think that a reliance on make-up has more to do with men than women. A symbol of the patriarchy, of how women feel they have to look to meet society’s beauty standards. This has been discussed elsewhere and shot down by far better writers and beauty officionados than I. It may well be that way for some; but for me it has nothing to do with it. 
It just makes me happy, and who doesn’t need that? 

*Please note: a version of this post will be appearing on http://www.themumclub.Com. Check them out, they’re great!

Resolution Revolution

January. The most miserable, grey, cold month of the year, and yet somehow also the month we’re supposed to use for strict physical self-improvement. Diets, exercise, cleanses, detox, running with a personal trainer at 5am before work…

It’s never really done it for me. I’ve always been a September goals kind of gal. As a teacher I adore September, with its gorgeous warm light, morning mists, new stationery (oh, how I love the new stationery. More on that another time), and the sense of a new beginning, the mental challenge of a new academic year. I’m a geek, you see, and I’ll always be much more into mental challenges than physical ones. 

This year, though. This year is different. I spent most of last year in and out of hospital with a very difficult pregnancy, suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum for the whole nine months. I couldn’t work, so when my colleagues and students were celebrating the start of a new year, I was starting my maternity leave two and a half months early. Not for me the lovely squeak of a new board pen on the whiteboard, new uniforms and fresh smiles. I was staying in Lancashire with my kind, generous parents, which nevertheless was all a good 200 miles from my own husband and home. 

So this year, I’m embracing the New Year. I’m even embracing the resolutions, which I normally shy away from and just pick a word of the year instead. (Last year’s word was ‘adventure’. That was an understatement).

There is no way, though, I’ll keep something going for an entire year. No way. I’ve tried it before and just failed on a hideous level, beating myself up with it from February to December. I can’t imagine that being much better with a little baby in tow, either. It’s a waste of my time. So I’m doing things a little differently. I had a good idea. 

I’ve seen people use old jars for things like this before. ‘Happiness’ jars, where you write down one nice thing that happened in a day and place it in. That kind of thing. So I decided to wash out an old coffee jar (I don’t have lovely Kilners hanging around, and any I do have are put to use), write down twelve different monthly challenges and pick one out on the last day of each month. Some of them are health-related, but many of them are just nice things I’ve been meaning to do for ages but never got around to. Like reading a poem every day. I adore poetry, and every now and then my husband and I spend a pleasant hour just reading our faves to each other. I’m aware this makes us sound like over-educated douches, and I must stress that we never plan it, but still, this is what we do sometimes. Or practising the piano every day for ten minutes, which is what I beg my students to do; ‘Just ten minutes a day and I swear you’ll notice a big difference!’

So… here’s what I came up with. 

Some of these are the more traditional health and fitness goals, but you’ll notice I’ve made them achievable. ‘Lose four stone’ is something I’d really like to do by December, but let’s face it, even breastfeeding like a demon I’m very unlikely to manage something that huge, and it’ll just haunt me and make me miserable. So I’ve made them tiny, bite-sized goals. I love the brain resolutions the best. I love listening to the ‘Coffee Break French’ podcast anyway, so doing that once a day will be a joy. Doing an online course? Ooh! Fun! In what? No idea, but I’ve got time to think about it. I’ve tried to do those pesky Morning Pages (from the book ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, every frustrated creative has a copy) so many times, but failed because I was expecting to do them EVERY MORNING FOREVER. Clearly unlikely. 

I’ve given myself permission to put a resolution back if it doesn’t seem like the right time for it. If I have loads of events then five fruit and veg per day might be a stretch, whereas reading the books might still be achievable. You get the idea. 

If you’d like to try it for yourself then please, go ahead! 

*Disclaimer: I still picked the most boring one for January. No sugary treats. Because, well, it’s January. 

Let me know what you’re doing this year!

Hindsight. 

Looking across the aisle of the train carriage, I realise that I’m looking at the old me.

 

She looks like a student on her way back to university after the holidays, with a backpack and battered suitcase. Her hair is scraped back, she wears no make-up (she doesn’t need any), she’s in a comfortable hoody and trainers, looking sweet and wholesome and on the cusp of life’s adventure with her problem skin and three day hair. I wonder if she had a big last night at home with her friends, perhaps a boyfriend at some other uni across the country who she’ll break up with when she realises what love really is. I wonder if she has siblings, a warm, loving family with a joker of a Dad and a fierce, house-proud career Mum. 

I wonder if she’s looking at me, the mother with the pram, and wondering about me, my baby and our life. Except I know she’s not. I never did. But nevertheless, in my heart I wish her the joy I have known since my own student days. Of falling in love, of wild nights and adventures spend with friends, of travel and joyful, meaningful work. Of the sweetness of returning home to her family. Of the magic of building a new one, with mortgage and car and marriage and baby. Of looking at pictures of herself as a younger woman, shaking her head as she realises how pretty she really was in her youth. I wish her all of it, and more. 

It’s a beautiful life, little student girl. Enjoy. 

Sleep Deprivation and Retail Therapy

Artoo has a cold. Poor little mite’s eyes are streaming, he has a cough and has been delighting in wiping his snotty nose all over my clothes. I thought this was a development that came later, but apparently kids learn early. Sleep last night was broken broken broken; he wanted to sleep on me and nowhere else, thanks. 

After a delightful trip to the doctor this morning during which poor A screamed the place down whilst the bewildered man examined him (apparently having your ears looked at is excruciatingly painful), I needed a fix. 

I’m NOT a clothes shopper. I find it depresses me in the extreme. Everything I like is too expensive, or it doesn’t fit, and right now post-birth when I’m as big as I’ve ever been I couldn’t be less up for trying on clothes, particularly with a baby in tow. 

When it comes to appearance shopping, I am all about beauty products and accessories. If I’m not buying books and music, this is what I spend most on. Which is why I found myself trudging bleary-eyed to my local Sainsbury’s. Actually, the original plan was to get presents for the children of all my uni friends who I’ll be seeing at our Christmas celebration next weekend, but that died a death. “I’ll just get myself a little treat”, I thought. “It’ll cost the same as a coffee and sandwich, but last much longer.”

In the end I walked away with a new wrap which looks like it’ll be useful for breastfeeding, and a whole load of Dirty Works products which I haven’t tried before but have been recommended by beauty guru Sali Hughes. Well, the brand has, anyway. 

I’ll let you know if they’re wonder prods or not, but it’s certainly worth saying they didn’t break the bank. Not even my bank. £38 for all that seems a bargain to me. Now, I’m off to do a face mask and hope that King Arthur stays asleep.