How I began to appreciate my age through the magic of the holiday season

Dear Readers,
I hope that your Christmas has been as fun as mine – alone with my beloved husband, the telly and some fantastic grub. Not what I used to find very glamorous but, with my present job, relative silence and not having to help anyone seem like fantastic luxuries.
One excellent anecdote about Christmas Eve at The Olive Tree: a very glamorous customer asked whether smoked salmon is cooked. Even her boyfriend pissed himself – but I dutifully held it together and said it was cooked in the curing process but the texture was an acquired taste. I think that shut her date up. It also angered my boss – because I was devoting too much time to customer service when I should have been trying to get the punters to order, eat and bugger off in the least amount of time possible. To his credit, my lack of enthusiasm for being in employment on Christmas Eve meant that I got the early dart. And he got a small (well, quite big – due to my gratitude, you understand) kiss on the cheek. Merry Christmas, John!
Now I have a total of 5 days off. The luxury! However, as I spend every day wearing a formal uniform, I feel no great compulsion to dress up as I usually do. I’ve done luxury knits and good jeans, instead. And I am loving it. No black uniform then home to velour (please don’t comment – I know) and cashmere socks (ha ha – I do retain some style) with hot chocolate. Instead, it’s leisurely baths, new perfume, soft, tactile clothing and a constant feeling of being ‘lightly toasted’ – due to starting each day with alcohol filled coffee. Supplemented with cordials such as the legendary ‘Black Velvet’. Which does not count as a cocktail because it is ale based: that is a rule of life and incontrovertible. True fact.
So…what have I been wearing this Christmas? Well, first, I accessorised with flashy jewellery. Yesterday’s pale, pearl grey, ‘cashmillion’ (I don’t know what that really is either), hip length, cowl neck jumper went well with a lovely Russian bead necklace. All black enamel and Russian doll style paint. Then, today, I went with texture. My waterfall cardie is covering a pale pink blouse which incorporates ruffles of legendary proportions – Alex Curran would love it. Except it’s not skin tight or in leopard print. Tomorrow, I am planning something with an interesting print. Exciting. Then it’s embellishment. Oh yes…and all without any pain or – worse – real fitting.
So, that is my real secret: I am avoiding wearing anything that might cling too much. After all, I am anticipating a rapidly changing body shape. Basically, any fabric I wear is ‘skimming’ my body. And allowing room for expansion. Thus, I am comfy, feel normal (isn’t it surprising how constricting fitted clothes feel after four consecutive days of pigging out?) and can pretend I’m doing the cold weather version of Jennifer Aniston style.
I love my new look but did have a waiver as it seems so much, well, somehow ‘less’ than normal. Maybe it’s how easy it is – quite wash and go (it does have that whole ‘scrubbed and shampooed’ gloss level) and much less tortuous than I am accustomed to. Anyway, I mentioned that I seemed to be getting more smasual to my husband and he said ‘subtly sexy but full out would look slutty as, well, you are in your mid-thirties now’…Well, that sealed the deal – unlikely as it may seem. After all, ‘age appropriate but still marketable’ has got to be better than ‘desperate Cougar divorcee’, ‘small town girl who can’t accept that High School was her social pinnacle’ or ‘high maintenance control freak’. Or, in a more objective tone, the woman who doesn’t worry about their weight or overeating. Who actively enjoys spending more than twenty minutes getting ready to go out and who owns a handbag organiser so that they can move the contents between the bags – which they switch according to outfit. I know this woman – because I used to be her. Like most of us.
However, any way that works for you is good – after all, back then I didn’t have as many of the responsibilities or obligations which make my life today rewarding. I was a ‘butterfly friend’ who sweated the small stuff too much. I co-ordinated my sunglasses with my clothes, I always wore three eyeshadow colours and I ironed everything. I freaked out about the smallest physical blemish. Worse still, I sometimes remember those days with a kind of bitter fondness – bordering on envy. I should be realising that I just don’t have the inclination to make the effort. Perhaps we all forget that the things that change the way we look are often badges of honour – stretch marks from pregnancy, a burn mark from an accident whilst cooking a roast meal for dear friends, a scar after an operation that meant renewed health…the list goes on.    
However, after my contemplations, the subject of how to Christmas yourself up seems a good diversion. I advise starting with a standard: red lipstick. Or any bright shade of lippy. Worn with some neutral, shiny eyeshadow – gold seems appropriate – eyeliner and mascara, the look is easy to apply and requires little effort. To make it super easy, wear a translucent red – or a bright gloss. Then you avoid the disastrous ‘weird ring of colour around otherwise normal (but tiny) looking mouth’ scenario. Which can look a bit like a cat’s bum (thank you for that analogy, Sam Hoople) – and even more so if you smoke.
Then, as I have discovered, jewellery: blingy earrings or cocktail party rings or a statement necklace or one of those bib things which are super popular and easy. The list is whatever is possible really. I also advise embellished clothing as an alternative – you (hopefully) won’t spend all your time faffing around adjusting it. Good news. I would offer one snippet of warning wisdom: arm or wristwear looks great at a party but not if you have to eat anything – at a table it will just scrape or bang the furniture constantly. And, if it doesn’t annoy you, it’ll bloody well annoy your friends. Click, click, click, click, click. Ahhhh…still, if you do smoke you’ll know what your friends hear as soon as you start to. 
On a similar note, regress a little bit and embrace your inner child: pick up that diamante hairslide or feathered headband and go with it. Why not? You may not even leave the house…only the dog, cat or partner will ever know. And your children won’t bat an eyelid. Except, in the case of daughters, nieces or friends’ kids, to compliment you on your fantastic taste.
Lastly, coloured shoes are brilliant. Full stop. No arguments: they just are. Flat or high,they’re always fun – but especially when worn for no good reason whatsoever. Red suits Christmas and you know what I’m going to say…yes, ‘there’s no place like home’.
On that note, it’s back to my pink, medium dry prosecco. I’m not in Liverpool anymore, friends – I’m in Christmasland. And it feels great. Goodwill to you all – and I wish you as much joy as I feel now.
Sophie xx
As a quick post script, I have a fashion confession – I have bought what the retailer described as a ‘bubble skirt’. I prefer ‘tulip skirt’. It’s in a kind of black brocade and site a little bit above my knees. I have, in short, broken every rule – it’s too short, a silly shape and made of very ‘look at me’ fabric. In an effort to negate those factors (which are its appeal to me – as Leila would have predicted, I’m afraid), I intend to wear it with opaques, high heeled Mary Janes (court shoes that actually stay on your feet if you experience cobble related problems) and a plain, long sleeved, fitted, relatively sober black top. I have a cocoon-ish gold brocade coat (I’ll have to remove and hide it immediately upon arrival so that I don’t have brocade clash!) and a black clutch that fits a pair of flats. So – in short – I’ve managed to stick to some of my principles and somewhat disguise my tendency to look like the inside of magpie’s nest! Although I did buy it in the first place, I suppose… 


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