petite anglaise

January 22, 2007

mirror mirror

Filed under: navel gazing, single life — bipolarinparis @ 8:20 pm

I frown at my face in the mirror. Make-up still looks good in the right light, but increasingly these days I find that foundation accentuates the fine lines around my eyes instead of concealing them. I prefer myself with my glasses on, because actually they hide a multitude of tell-tale signs. The days when I dreamt of laser surgery are long behind me.

Digging out a selection of eye-shadow colours, I proceed by a process of elimination. The dark brown one I should really throw away, it’s too severe, too ageing. The pearly pale colours are too “teenaged”. Which only leaves a nondescript matt beige and a dusky pink. I choose the former, applying it lightly with a brush. Less is more. The last thing I want is to look like I’m trying too hard. My lips, full and pouty, if slightly chapped, respond well to a coating of lip gloss.

I survey the finished product. Not bad, but not quite me either. My mother used to say she felt the same inside at forty as she did when she was eighteen. I don’t feel the same exactly, but whenever I look in the mirror I think I always half hope to see my eighteen-year-old self looking back at me, and can’t help but feel disappointed that she is never there.

Padding into Tadpole’s room in stockinged feet I open the wardrobe and deliberate about what to wear. I have always been what I would call “pear-shaped”, often with as much as two sizes difference between the top and bottom halves of my body. Despite my New Year’s resolutions and recent gym membership, there are few visible improvements as yet. Now, the party I am getting ready for called for “something red” in the invitation. Hmm… A raspberry-coloured dress bought years earlier, which drapes in a forgiving way around my curves is the only red item in the wardrobe which strikes me as appropriate for a party. I might feel a little overdressed, and if I get cold my nipples will definitely show, but I don’t have time to agonise further. The babysitter will be arriving any minute.

Tadpole looks up from her book and smiles. “Mummy looks like a princess,” she says. And means it. I give her a grateful hug. Thank god for unconditional love.

Later, at the party my friend and I joke about the fact that we are actually several years older than most of the other guests present (understandable, as the hosts are in their mid-twenties).

“You can tell we’re older, because all these younger girls are playing it cool, dressing down, and here we are with our grown-up dresses and our faint whiff of desperation,” comments my friend, wryly.

“Oh god, don’t, my confidence is hanging by a thread as it is,” I reply, and proceed to enlighten her as to the meaning of the wonderful British expression “mutton dressed as lamb”, before helping myself to another glass of red punch.

I’m thirty-four years old, and until now, most people didn’t believe me when I told them my age, or gasped when I told them I had a three-year-old daughter. But something – and I’m not sure what – seems to have dented my confidence lately. Perhaps it’s because there hasn’t been anyone who I could get excited about for a while, no-one’s admiration to bask in. Or maybe it’s the fact that my last boyfriend was significantly older than me, and these days I often run with a younger pack.

From experience I know that it’s impossible to be objective about what you see in the mirror. On a black cloud day I can’t help but hate my reflection. In the throes of a hormone peak I will feel big, regardless of what the scales might read.

I’m looking forward to the day when the mirror throws me back something I like. It will be a sign that whatever was faulty has been fixed, that the storm clouds have finally lifted.

And in the meantime, I’ll just keep on basking in the warm glow of Tadpole’s compliments.

January 1, 2007

taking stock

Filed under: good time girl, navel gazing, single life — bipolarinparis @ 10:17 pm

2006 was nothing if not eventful.

I got dumped.
I bought my first home.
I got fired.
I got outed.
I was given an exciting opportunity.

2007 should be a little quieter, less turbulent. A few important dates loom on the landscape. A hearing at the industrial tribunal on 19 February. A first book to deliver by 4 July.

But the thing which I’d most like to happen sometime soon, the thing I finally feel ready for, is the only thing that you can never plan. The thing which you can guarantee will only happen when you stop hoping; when you look the other way; when you least expect it.

I’d like to meet someone. Someone I can lose my appetite over. Someone who fills my head with silly daydreams. Someone who has the power to make me smile at complete strangers in the métro. Someone who doesn’t follow this blog, ideally, as I’d like to be discovered little by little, not offered up in one king-sized serving.

I spent much of 2006 keeping men I met at arm’s length, or pushing them firmly away. Partly, I suppose, because no single person I met was “all that”. Partly because I’d been badly burned and no longer dared trust my instincts. But also due to the simple fact that there was so much going on, so much that was new and terrifying that I wanted to come to terms with all the change before I let someone else in.

Taking stock, as 2006 drew to a close, I was forced to admit to myself that there is something a little empty about this life I’ve been leading. Spending hours alone, writing about events in my past, by day. Partying a little too hard by night, whenever the opportunity presented itself. I’m no fool. I see the binge drinking and bad behaviour for what it really is: a symptom of my malaise, escapism, a temporary stress release mechanism.

It’s time to set my life on a healthier course. Time to let go of my anxieties and enjoy the opportunities which have come my way. Time to let someone in, should a worthy candidate present himself.

Time for petite anglaise to take a step back and let me do the living.

December 13, 2006

lacune

Filed under: single life, Tadpole sings — bipolarinparis @ 8:53 pm

For Tadpole’s sake, I am valiantly struggling to make Christmas feel special.

As with all treats, like a trip to see grandma and grandad, or mamie et papy, or even just the prospect of a weekend with daddy, I enjoy whetting her appetite, watching her excitement build every time I mention it, until, finally, she reaches fever pitch. Because my own childhood memories suggest that it’s the anticipation of the event which is often the best part.

So, on Sunday, despite a mild hangover, I braved the department stores of the Boulevard Haussmann so that Tadpole could marvel at the Christmas windows. Her little ooh’s and aah’s of delight were almost worth the stranger danger terror each time I lost her pigtails from sight for a few heart-stalling seconds. The windows at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps have cunning little boardwalks erected in front of them, you see, and you are expected to dispatch your little darling onto the steps at one end, then wade through the sea of frazzled parents, stacked approximately ten deep from windows to edge of pavement, and intercept your child at the other end. There are some activities which are much more difficult as a single parent, and this most definitely qualifies.

On Monday I heaved a rather soggy Christmas tree home, a fine mist of drizzle making it difficult to see much through my glasses, and causing me to bump into several fellow pedestrians. After some head scratching, I finally remembered that my Christmas decorations had been safely stowed in Mr Frog’s cellar when I moved apartments. Once these had been duly recovered, Tadpole helped me to hang the stars and tinsel – breaking only two paper-thin baubles – and her gasp when I switched on the lights gave me all the validation I needed for spending € 25 at the florist’s for a tree which doesn’t even come up to Tadpole’s forehead.

The presents I cunningly ordered two or three weeks ago arrived from Eveil et Jeux by post yesterday. Or rather, I collected them from the local post office, where unbeknown to me they had been sitting for the past week. I dashed home to wrap them immediately, so that if they were accidentally found, the surprises would remain intact. There are only so many hiding places a 33m2 apartment can afford, and a single game of hide and seek could all too easily throw the whole enterprise into jeopardy.

Our Christmas cards – featuring a festive Tadpole wearing antlers as per usual – were written, signed (both by me and by Tadpole) and posted two days ago. Hopefully the old antlers have a few years mileage in them yet, before Tadpole reaches for a telephone to call the French equivalent of Childline.

It would appear, on the surface, that everything is in place.

And yet, somehow, my heart just isn’t in the whole thing. Whatever we do, it feels as though something, or someone is missing. An extra pair of eyes at the grands magasins, an extra pair of hands helping me to drag the tree home from the florists and hang the decorations, another person to help me choose and wrap the gifts.

There is a Mr Frog shaped hole in our Christmas preparations.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want to rekindle the flame with Mr Frog. It’s just that there’s something about Christmas which makes me yearn for his presence alongside us. Watching Tadpole’s delight alone is only half as exciting as watching it with him. Instead of catching his eye and exchanging gleeful smiles, I must content myself with sending pictures and short “guess what she’s done now!” texts to his mobile. It’s not the same.

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that there are some parental pleasures which need to be shared in order to be fully appreciated.

October 17, 2006

gmale

Filed under: good time girl, single life — bipolarinparis @ 9:44 pm

It is Saturday evening, a little after 10 p.m. My gmail status – currently one of the most reliable windows into my soul – reads “manshopping”.

Despite the fact that it is a Tadpole-free weekend, somehow I have managed not to sort something out for Saturday night. My inconsiderate friends have watertight alibis: in Australia, watching the rugby at the Stade de France, having friends over to stay. There has been a text message exchange with an antipodean boy I haven’t seen for a while, but even that trail seems to have gone cold.

The previous evening, a “quiet night in” to eat curry with friends spontaneously combusted into an all night chatfest, after which I slept on the couch, stayed for both a (midday) breakfast and an afternoon tartiflette. This should have made me feel better about the small gap in my weekend entertainment schedule. Should have, but hasn’t. I’m bored and borderline desperate. Although slightly hung over, and with my right nostril dripping accusingly, I still feel the need to get out. I crave company.

And so I sit in front of my computer feeling lonely, and it’s probably no coincidence that I’m back on an internet dating site for the first time since May, looking to see whether the shelves of the supermarket of sleaze have been re-stocked since my last visit. A cup of tea steams by my side and I frown at it, wishing I could wave Tadpole’s fairy wand and turn it into a medicinal mojito. My skin is rosy pink, fresh from a short, hot soak in the smallest bath in the world (TM); my towelling bathrobe keeps sliding off my dejectedly drooping shoulders.

Thankfully a girlfriend is home alone too, and available to chat:

a: In on a Saturday, duckling? Everything alright?
me: No! Bored. And ever so slightly man-achey.
a: Man-achey?
me: I need a man for, er, stuff
Wow. The pinnacle of articulacy. I’m sure you can see why I got a book deal now?
a:ah
um
ah
mm
mhm

[A six minute gap. I start to worry.]

me:I scared you off? You went to fetch a toy? Or your best Gainsbourg impression?
a:nono
a drink
similar
but less
you know
frotting

We shoot the breeze for a while, and then I plead fatigue, stick the kettle on for the last brew of the day, cast around for a DVD to watch in bed. Suddenly my mobile phone trills. It is the occasional antipodean boy. He sounds tipsy, and slurs something apologetic about his phone battery and the lateness of the hour. He is in Ménilmontant, it transpires. In a bar, with a big group of male friends. Would I like to join them?

I look at my tea, my bathrobe, and back at my tea again. It’s a ten minute walk, I would need another ten or so to make myself presentable. Hmm. A big group of male friends, he said?

* * * * * * * * *

The next day, my gmail status reads “itch duly scratched”.

a: good GOD
did you hire a male prostitute or something?
or am I going to deeply regret that question?

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