Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Celebrate the inappropriate

I am on campaign for that. In my armoury, I have unboxed, from a recently out-turned attic, a tight-wrapping skirt that binds my knees, a sleeveless silk top cut like a corset, and a pair of velvet kitten heels with the stitching worked loose.

The children are horrified. When rustling silk announces my arrival, and I enter stumbling with a wobbly heel, Squirrel sinks her face in her hands and whispers the words 'oh no'.

Squirrel, I know that to you this undoubtedly appears as mama's new and inventive means of humiliating you in public.

To me, it is a find of pre-birth Whistles and Escada, certainly not new, and not particularly inventive. I'm doing nothing more than following the well-trodden path of late-onset womanhood: the route marked definitely inappropriate, probably irresponsible. The route that you do not identify as motherhood, and the way that miserlies and miseries, to keep us women defined on the broad path where there are pinnies and sensible shoes, might call mutton dressed as lamb.

But I've started on this late women route, wending a path down the hill and into the valley from where there's no escape, and I am determined to celebrate all that I shouldn't, so watch me go.

You, daughter, over there on the other side of this hill, are just stepping out. You will already be aware that both of us have to daily face the judgement and expectation of others.

Yes, I think you should be left alone to find your own way; to spray pink ice-cream sparkle on your fingernails and wear plimsolls good for climbing trees. That should be yours and my delight, and who's to say I won't hitch up the Escada skirt and join you, at least to the first branch.

But you won't be left alone in your innocent exploration, like I won't be left unjudged when I go out in a blaze of fashion glory c1992. But where I have a brass neck, you are more vulnerable.

Look at the quick fists of market power. They know I am a lost cause. So they will try and snatch you up, turn out your pockets, and spit you out in the High Street like every other replicant doll consuming a new wardrobe each new payday.

Holding out their hands to keep this power at bay, the dress-them-all-alike brigade urges that your daily choice of outfit should exclude your opinion and include uniform grey. That, they probably like to imagine, will keep you safe from the mistakes of your own making and the predations of others.

So, given your present choice between a rock and a hard place, learn from me. You may as well. I have experience in making people feel uncomfortable from five hundred paces.

Celebrate your own clothing choices and your not-conforming hair. Enjoy your ripped jeans and that pink blouse I'm soon to quietly remove from your options. Dress to create your who-you-are; delight and comfort in the feel of cloth and, above all, have pleasure in what you wear.

Me, I'm off down the Co-op to buy cheese. Things might get tough for you from here on. But, as I go tottering off, avoiding the tarmac pot-holes with my wobbly velvet heel, consider that I'm doing nothing more than hundreds of other women who have gone this way before me: suddenly we ladies of a certain age wake up, horror-struck that the days are growing shorter and time is gobbling itself up. Me, I catch myself worrying about my teeth and wondering whether that strange clacking going on between my thighs is the presage of the elderly. Watch out. In time, you will too.

So this could be my last hurrah for the green silk corset cut. Consider me retro, vintage chic, mutton dressed as lamb. Take your fingers from your eyes. I'm just enjoying it, so let's clap our hands and have pleasure while it lasts.