And the chick came out the other end stunning.
Which is something all us chicks secretly aspire to, whether we say so or not.
This week I went shopping for a little black dress. Favourite Man has something special planned for my birthday which requires dressing up and going out on the town - two things we don't do very often, so much so that I actually haven't owned a dress or a skirt in 3 years or more. I found my dress, but also realized that unless you have the WNTW team paying for your shopping spree, any physical upgrade doesn't come cheap. It took me a day or two to get up the courage to pay for said LBD, although in the grand scheme of things it probably wasn't the most expensive item on the rack. I then went shopping for appropriate heels and stuff - but simply couldn't get up the courage to pay for anything more that day, knowing that there are still practical things like groceries, fuel and business expenses to cover, as well as Xmas looming large.
Which brings me to a couple of dilemmas when it comes to my desire to be better at 40.
Firstly there's the whole ageing thing. Changing room mirrors love to tell you how badly things are bumping, lumping, drooping or sagging - and my shopping expedition has shown me just how old I'm getting.
Next there's cash. If I'm ever to upgrade how I look it's going to cost me. A lot. And I'm not the type to throw money at frivolities if there's better places to invest it, with longer-term rewards (such as keeping us alive or growing the business). As a quick indication of some basics:
- Underwear starts at over R100 for a basic bra and around the same for decent panties. Head into WonderBra territory and we're hitting around R300. For one item.
- Want a shirt? Fork over R150+, even at the cheap shop. Plain t-shirt? Around R60 if you want something that won't wear out in a month. And if you're investing in clothes, they really shouldn't wear out in a month, so you can't shop at the cheap shop.
- Jeans - unless you buy them at Pick 'n Pay (which I do, because they fit well and are comfortable and cost R110), you can expect upward of R300 at Woolies.
- Other pants - eish. (Yet I hear jeans are not the thing for a 40 year old to be wearing, nor t-shirts so other pants must eventually be considered)
- Jackets, jerseys etc - eish again. If you can find decent quality ones, you'll pay for them through the nose.
- Shoes. Hmmm.. I must be one of the few women who don't have a shoe fetish, mostly because I baulk at paying over R200 for anything and tend to live in a single pair of takkies from the Chinese shop. However, I do need shoes - and I have size 8 feet, which aren't easy to shop for. When you do find something that fits, it's another few hundred bucks. Get it in lasting leather, pay a whole lot more.
Then there's the face. I stopped in at Edgars to enquire about foundation, another thing I haven't had a drop of in years. Found the right colour at the Clinique counter - the bill is R320. "I'll be back" I say and exit rather quickly. Head down to Clicks for the cheaper options like Revlon, but now I need "age defying" stuff because I'm not 20 anymore - another few hundred bucks, if you can find the right colour actually in stock, and someone willing to help confirm your choice. For the rest of the things we plaster on, I can get by with cheap mascara from Rialo (R35), blusher from the same (R30), and lipgloss too (R25) - plus an assortment of eyeshadows and other things that have lasted me for years because they don't see much action. As for moisturizer, it appears they're draining baby softness directly from babies to put in the bottles, and then flogging them on at an appropriate cost. I don't even dare ask what those little vials of top beauty house liquid cost, as I'd prefer not to "fall flou" in the mall.
On to hair. Mine is waist length mostly because I haven't had the time to see a hairdresser in ages. Today it's time to find one, and hopefully get a decent cut out of it that will last a while - especially at the R200+ price tag. Colour? Hell no, out of my salary bracket. Best I can do is perhaps a home kit that doesn't cost the earth - but that unfortunately also doesn't look too professional. So my "highlights" are the grey streaks slowly taking over :-) And the style? Plaited. Out of the way of drills, network cable and e-waste. Would I like to have a sweep of silken glamour, artfully arranged? Of course. Who wouldn't. And I hope to aspire to it one day, just not today.
Hair in other places? Well some go for salon waxing and zapping with lasers - it lasts, but you do pay for the privalege. Brow shaping, tweaking and dying/bleaching, same thing. You must maar do what you can with a razor, a box of Mandys wax strips and a tube of Refatocil dye. Which takes time and can hurt like the blazes.
Of course all this is a bit of a moot point. As lovely as it would be to swan around in kitten heels, luxurious fabrics and actually look like a perfectly groomed small business owner, there's reality to think of. Yes, I own the business, but I don't just meet & greet and sit in an office chair. I'm required to climb into and onto client's roofs, pick up and transport excessively dirty and old electronics, and do all this driving a leaking 35 year old Land Rover that it would be best to be prepared to dive under at a moment's notice should something break. Just this morning I was under it topping up the transfer box oil.
Can you see me doing that in heels and business attire? No, me neither. Even something as simple as a coat of nailpolish goes terribly wrong a few hours later when I'm required to clean an item with acetone. On any given day, I can go from admin to rooftops in one foul swoop - and have found that if I do make considerable effort to look good in the morning, those are the days I'll be required to do the dirtiest work.
I've come to the horrifying conclusion that, good intentions notwithstanding, 40 is unfortunately going to look much like 39 - except that now I have a pretty little black dress in my cupboard.