So, there we were on Sunday 30th December, like so many other parents, faced with that annual dilemma….New Years Eve! Unless you have like minded friends (with kids) and a child friendly venue it’s a celebration which pretty much becomes a non event on entering the world of parenthood. I have ignored this fact by planning an annual ‘romantic’ (read that as you will) evening at home. The children are treated to a premature New Year’s celebration but whisked off to bed by 9pm (late enough for us to hope for a slight lie in the next morning). The candles are lit, we dress up for dinner and have a policy of not talking about the children or the weather (we are British). Our evening meal is the one chance a year to spoil ourselves. Pre- national economic slump this has been as lavish as a lobster salad, quick to prep, divine to eat and all washed down with a bottle or two of something bubbly…...naturally! However this year finances only allowed us to dream of such extravagance and our evening ‘a deux‘ was looking rather like any other night at home, except I suppose we both would be expecting sex that night….him for wanting it and me for knowing he’d expect it! We were both in denial over what was about to be our first real ‘non event’ New Years Eve.
All the way back in October we had received an invite, a very informal one, to our youngest son’s godfather’s 40th birthday party but, being the sensible and responsible (read that as boring if you will) person I’ve become, I ruled it out for several reasons; firstly it was in a pub (not exactly child friendly), secondly the birthday boy is a bachelor and the most impressive reason of all, it was in Essex. The Essex issues were these: it meant that we would have to either toss for drinker/driver roles (I always lose) or fork out for a hotel, not something we felt we could justify. The other reason, and yes, it may sound deeply insecure and foolish but I really feared standing out for all the wrong reasons! Since the big step into motherhood I have happily swapped my previously high maintenance self for that of a ‘country bumpkin’ mum. My high heels have either been sold off on Ebay or donated to local charity shops to be replaced with Hunters and Uggs; only a few precious pairs of heels loom in the back of the cupboard saved for those rare occasions when I am child free and able to indulge in the pleasure of them. I must confess I seem to have forgotten how to walk in heels, I delicately teeter, avoiding uneven surfaces, petrified of falling flat on my face….been there, done that, got the bruises and bruised ego! As for personal upkeep I am so dishevelled I make Helena Bonham-Carter look elegant and refined!
I cannot remember the last time I had a manicure and this winter has taken its toll on my nails more than ever before. They remind me of cheap sellotape, little strands peeling off one at a time! As for a glossy Cheryl Cole-esque mane, my hair hasn’t been cut since August and my highlights were last done a year ago!!! Therefore, visiting a world represented by TOWIE felt far from comfortable! I urged myself to get a grip; surely I was over- reacting, not everyone from Essex lives in a tanning salon and has their teeth whitened? My youngest Son’s godfather attempted to reassure me, telling me that he lives in the country and that it wouldn’t be anything like TOWIE, stupidly I believed him but in hindsight I should have checked ‘Brentwood’ out on a map! Staring into the next 48 hours all I could see was dull and dreary, predictable and boring so, encouraged by his words I booked a family room at the Premier Inn Brentwood (a first for me) and accepted the invite! I must confess it felt good to be so completely impulsive. We were off to Essex!
This sudden moment of madness had thrown my mind into a tailspin, I am an avid planner and spontaneous doesn’t enter my dictionary. I sat up all night making mental notes; what to wear, can I get my nails done in time and oh goodness what do the boys wear? Is there anything left that’s clean? I had somewhat abandoned the washing machine over Christmas and was starting to regret it! Regarding Mr.B (Mr Beige, my partner, not his real name but given due to his love for the safe/mundane and the colour itself…..yawn!!!), over the years I have indulged him in beautiful jumpers and designer jeans only for him to decide to do the DIY in them! As for my little men, while they are young enough not to object I love to (occasionally) dress them identically….I know it’s very twee but can’t help myself! With Essex in mind, I armed myself with their latest RL jumpers (a recent Christmas present from a godparent), white shirts and their least grass stained jeans. I had assumed that the children would be mini versions of their parents, designer clad and immaculately presented. Not often am I surprised but I was totally thrown by their outfits; there was a Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Minnie Mouse, Spider Man, and of course a few Cinderellas, no party is complete without one! The boys did me proud! I was cornered by a slightly sozzled fellow mum who praised me on their outfits and informed me that ‘Posh’ does the same thing with her boys! Given Ms Beckhams recent fashion success I took that as a compliment!
With the limited time I had, I did manage to squeeze in time to do my nails….I walked around like Charlie Chaplin with tissue stuck between my toes waiting for it to dry, much to the amusement of my very male household. As for my outfit, I opted for comfort hoping I would exude confidence…something Essex girls seem to have by the boat load! After much umm-ing and ahh-ing I chose skinny jeans, a white shirt just like the boys but indulged in my favourite pair of heels, a rather Essex style pair of patent cerise pink stilettos. I’ll confess that I thought twice and almost gave in to the trusty LBD but figured it wouldn’t be tight enough or short enough on this occasion. I locked the boys out of the bathroom for possibly the first time ever, allowing myself 20 mins of peaceful girlie time to indulge in doing my makeup. I realised just how silly it was that I hadn’t allowed myself time to do this before. The only small issue I had was my mascara had dried out due to years of neglect! Thank goodness for Essex vending machines! Problem solved!
I won’t bore you with all the details of the evening but I will say we all had a really fun night; the kids danced the night away to Gangnam Style, Mr.B caught up with old friends, I had a great laugh with all the wonderful Essex girls I met and I drank far too many white wine spitzers! My excuse at the time? It’s a spritzer, only half of it is alcohol! Ouch!!! You’d think we’d learn!
So, had all the worry been worth it? No, not really. The girls I met are slender and glam but I realised that it’s all a state of mind. They take real pride in their appearance; it doesn’t matter if it’s a quick trip to the supermarket or a night out at The Sugar Hut, most Essex girls/women care and somehow find the time to do something about it! This little jaunt to Essex made me realise that I have settled into a comfortable niche, motherhood and country living has distorted my way of thinking and I’ve lost my way a little. I had come (wrongly) to believe that updating a wardrobe was for teenagers or for moments when ‘wear and tear’ dictated a need for replacements and I allowed the (unspoken) school gates dress code to dictate my weekday wardrobe. I discovered that I no longer took on the spontaneous, well, maybe a last minute play date but nothing more adventurous than that. Ten years ago I was the queen of spontaneity; I’d happily throw myself on a plane with only a few hours notice. The expression ‘stuck in a rut’ sums it up perfectly. It can affect everyone in different ways; routine of daily life, clothes, the kids teatime menu and dare I mention sex too!?! This trip reminded me just how easy it is to stick to that which is familiar, to what you know and to what we think is ‘right’. I admired the girls all dressed up, confident and feeling good about themselves, with not a muslin cloth or nappy bag in sight. I have since made more of an effort, both regarding my physical appearance and also being less predictable. I have invested in new mascara and I am taking notes on what to add to my wardrobe for the summer. Only a few days ago I picked my boys up from school and to their surprise whisked them off sledging until dusk…..my ethos was ‘homework can wait but the snow can’t’! Long may I keep this up….
(Mum of two little boys and partner to Mr Beige)