The reluctant runner...
|Dressage is NOT "horse ballet"|
I went through a phase when I was about 15 or 16 where I got a bit obsessed with being skinny. Nothing major, no medical intervention, and it was cured by a bout of food poisoning - after five days of whimpering on your bathroom floor, you start to miss the ability to keep food inside you - but that was when I started dragging myself out running. Which, incidentally, was another thing cured by the food poisoning, as it took a good month or so to not feel totally drained by everything. I digress. Running was exercise I didn't mind doing. I pretty much forgot about it while at uni, but in late spring last year, I decided to go back to it. I figured that I might as well get into good habits now, before I get to the wrong side of 27 and all that cheese and wine weight suddenly comes out from wherever it's been hiding for the last few years.
And so now I run. The first ten times, it was painful and knackering. But then one day it felt easier, more natural, and that in turn made it easier to keep at it. I remember my doctor telling me, at the height of That Anxiety Thing I Had, that exercise could really help work off the excess adrenaline that was making me feel so bloody mental. I'm still not sure if this is true for me personally - as at least once every run I become briefly convinced a heart attack is imminent - but it certainly boosts my mood. In the damp, drizzly winter months, it's incredibly hard to want to go out and get moving. You can be putting on your trainers and opening the front door, repeating "no, I don't want to, can't I just stay in with biscuits and Netflix?" but by the time you've done a warm-up jog, you've come around to the idea. Your legs - and ideally, your energizing playlist - take over, and you think "look at me go! I'm doing it. I already feel awesome!"
And then you come home to a warm house, and biscuits and Netflix, and you're snug and smug. Because that, I've found, is the thing about running - sure, it gets your heart, lungs and leg muscles engaged, it burns off some calories - but it makes you feel jolly smug. And if that's not a reason to keep doing something, then I don't know what is.
Not even a bit related...
|The very tip of my make-up iceberg|
I've written about make-up before, and as a rule, I try not to write gender-specific posts, but I read this yesterday and had one of those "Oh God, yes!" moments - and, as something of a rarity, all the comments on the piece are lovely, and worth a read. (If you don't know who Sali Hughes is, she's the Guardian beauty writer but also does a lot of other journalism work. She's mates with Caitlin Moran, and seems like an all-round good egg.)
So yeah. I love make-up. I can spend hours - and a small fortune - in Boots. I'm not insecure about my looks - well, I am, but no more than the average woman - and I don't wear it all the time, but I do love make-up. It's fun. I like the possibilities, the playfulness. I like not having to leave the house with the face I woke up with. You can be anyone - smudgy eyeliner a la Kate Moss, or classically red-lipped like old Hollywood stars. Though, if truth be told, I've yet to master either of those without looking like a child who's got hold of Mummy's make-up bag. The point stands though - it's fun, it's transformative; it can make you feel bolder, more confident. And when you're confident, you function better. You literally have your game face on.
Male friends - and I say this with love, and an unwillingness to make sweeping generalisations - don't get it. "You look great without make-up, you don't need to wear it." OK - a) I don't look "great" without it. Honestly. I don't. I see my face every day, I know it better than anyone. B) I want to wear it. I like it. I like the ritual of it - it's ten minutes at the beginning of the day that are calm; just me, doing my thing and trying not to get mascara on my eyelids. And on bad skin days, a bit of foundation and concealer can make the difference between a good mood and a bad mood. Another favourite line trotted out by men is "I don't like women to look fake... lots of eyeliner, false eyelashes - nah, just doesn't do it for me". You know what? That's because it's not for you. We do it for us. We really, really do. (Weirdly, on the rare occasions the Boy has noticed and complimented my make-up, it's been when I'm wearing more eyeliner than usual. Maybe he likes the slightly gothy look? Who knows?)
I don't like having to downplay an interest in make-up and beauty as a guilty pleasure, as something that's too "girly" and not useful. I'm properly geeky about it at times - a lifetime of problematic skin has given me a genuine curiosity about ingredients and techniques that work, and those that don't, and why. The idea that you can't be smart and bothered about your appearence refuses to die. If you express an interest in beauty, and appear to enjoy spending money on new products, you can still expect to be thought of as a bit vain or superficial. And that's frustrating, and wrong - on the Sali Hughes piece, find the comment about the woman who escaped a violent partner, got to a refuge and asked for, amongst other things, her favourite face cream. Sometimes your beauty routine - however basic or complex it might be - can keep you together, emotionally. Like I said, it's a moment of calm, a ritual. Therapeutic, almost. During WWII, American cosmetic brands gave their lipsticks names like "Patriot Red" or "Fighting Red". And in the fifties, beautiful, quirky powder compacts became all the rage - after years of rationing and the dark times of war, reclaiming a little bit of luxury and glamour became important.
OK, I've rambled on enough now.
On the subject of beautiful things, here's this.