By KATE HUNTER
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been running some writing workshops with the Year 12s at my old school.
It’s been great fun, going back nearly 30 years later, seeing how things have changed, shocking the girls with stories about how the nuns used to hit us (only in primary school though, as if that made it better) and filling them in on the history of their uniform.
It teams a tartan skirt with a lemon blouse, flattering no figure types. The design was concocted by the mother of one of my classmates. I’m sure part of her brief was to protect our virtue by making us the most repulsive looking girls on the station platform.
And yes, in 1984, we thought we were repulsive. And no doubt the Year 12s of 2013 think they too look hideous. But I saw them, worked with them, talked to them and they’re gorgeous. Even in that dire uniform, those girls are beautiful. They laugh easily, their hair is shiny, their skin might be a bit spotty, but it’s only sixteen years old – it’s new.
No way would I want to be sixteen, or even twenty five again. Life’s good now. What I resent at 45 is having to make more of an effort to look nice. I can’t get away with jeans and a t-shirt every day. I can’t eat whatever I like and not put on weight. A big night out hangs around in the shadows under my eyes for days.
I’m not aiming for looking hot; quite nice will do. I just don’t want to look like a hag.
It’s hard for a girl like me. I’m lazy and impatient – I dislike being at the hairdresser and I’m only mildly interested in fashion. I’d rather shop for kitchen gadgets than clothes. The joys of pedicures or brow shaping have always been lost on me.
It’s not about covering up the wrinkles or skimming the bulges with a kaftan; it’s paying attention to grooming. I hate that word. The nun who whacked us with plastic gladioli talked about ‘grooming’, like we were spaniels.
A sixteen year old can go a year between haircuts and still look stunning. At nineteen, untended feet don’t look hoary. Going to the shops in your boyfriend’s t-shirt in your twenties is cute. In your forties, not so much.
Do you see the irony?
When you’re a teenager, all you want to do is play around with make-up, do stuff with your hair and make yourself look as unlike yourself as possible.
Hit middle age, when you actually need your highlights done more than twice a year, you can’t be arsed. You’re too busy, too broke, or too consumed by making sure your kids don’t look like extras in Les Mis to worry about how you look.
That’s why magazines run features called ‘Looking great in your thirties, forties and fifties.’ Because in your teens and twenties it’s a piece of piss. Roll out of bed, brush your hair, go. When you’re older, your face holds onto creases from your pillow case.
I don’t wish I was a schoolgirl again. But I do wish I could look nice wearing anything.
Even a lemon school blouse.
Does your age affect the way you dress, do your hair and make-up?