Although blessed with two X chromosomes – the biological spec for a human female – I struggle with being a lady. This may be surprising to you, given that the harp is often considered to be the most ladylike of all instruments. And I love shoes, baking and knitting (and playing women’s rugby – sadly no more after nearly breaking a hand before an important gig…)
But it’s not lady-like activities I struggle with. It’s the rest of the girly stuff – the presentation. My nails are nibbled and scratched. My hair is perma-frizzy – straightened only for high days and holidays. I tried curlers once and ended up looking like I’d lost a battle with a power socket. My house is a mess – I wish for the elegant surroundings of the Domestic Sluts but end up with piled books, crumpled papers and stinky trainers. I don’t wear makeup, except for gigs and big nights out. And I bloody hate romantic comedies.
I don’t fare any better in the clothing department, as witnessed by my previous post on fashion. Although I love dressing up for special occasions and gigs, you can guarantee I’ll spill something down my front – toothpaste, coffee, curry are my favourite accessories. I would love to wear ditsy little cardigans, but I get cold too easily. And far from being a co-ordinated heaven of colour-matched scraps of silk and satin, my underwear drawer is bursting with ASDA socks, sturdy bras and M&S pants.
As a cyclist, I’m stuck with the fluorescent cycling jacket and helmet-hair. And I’m more often found in my sports kit or jeans than flirty tea dresses, which have a tendency to ride up terribly under my rucksack. Ah yes, the rucksack. Probably the single thing that does most to quash my femininity. Because I cycle, I’m usually hauling huge amounts of crap around (change of clothes, packed lunch, knitting, puncture repair kit, kitchen sink….), I rely on my trusty rucksack. Although it’s highly practical, it’s not exactly elegant or ladylike. And when I do venture out without it (feeling strangely exposed), I have a small selection of practical and sturdy corduroy or felt shoulder bags. None of which are very feminine.
To rectify this situation, I recently bought my first proper handbag. It’s big, it’s purple, it’s leather, it has a pink satin lining and a massive shiny clasp, and it cost more than I would normally spend on a suitcase. It does not have a long shoulder strap – portage is solely in the hand or cheekily slung over the shoulder and tucked under the elbow, like a proper lady.
Over the past few weeks, a combination of poor weather and illness mean I have been unable to cycle to work. So I have been experimenting with the handbag, hoping that it will be my first step along the road to true lady-hood.
Preliminary results are not promising.
For a start, I miss the protective turtle-shell of my rucksack – the reassuring clasp of the padded strap as it clips around my waist, and the balanced weight on my back. One problem with having a handbag is that it drags you down on one side, like Quasimodo in heels. It also makes me feel vulnerable – anyone with a firm grip and a bit of determination could snatch it. Just try doing that to a rucksack buckled on in two places!
But the biggest problem with the handbag is the issue of organisation. I cannot find anything in it. The other night I ended up squatting on the floor of an achingly trendy bar, pulling out knitting, hair straighteners, knickers, plastic bags and rogue receipts in a desperate attempt to find my purse. It’s like the bloody Tardis in there – I’m sure I spotted a Dalek when I was looking for tampons. Perhaps there is some secret lady-trick to organising your handbag that I have yet to be initiated into. Or maybe I just need to wean myself off carrying so much crap around.
My quest for femininity continues. I am slowly learning to stop biting my nails (and resist chewing off any coating of polish I manage to paint on). I am making an effort to actually shower and change out of my sports kit when I get to work – although my colleagues are a tolerant (and apparently anosmic) bunch, it’s not terribly professional to scamper off to important meetings in leggings, T-shirt and trainers.
But it also strikes me that being a lady takes up so much time and effort. Putting makeup on and doing the hair every morning, managing to pair up (or even just buy) matching bra and knicker sets, doing the nails – and (of course) the hours spent rummaging in the multi-dimensional handbag. I could be spending that time sleeping, eating, practising, or even just managing to do the bare minimum of laundry to stop me being mistaken for a tramp.
Do you feel like a proper lady? If so, how do you manage it? Or do you shun the dictatorship of hair’n’face’n’nails? And does anyone know I can take control of my handbag?