Life choices

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A few random thoughts for a Thursday, for no reason other than this is what I woke up thinking this morning.

1) If people could choose their shape without having to concern themselves about diet and exercise, what shape would most choose? What would be desirable if it could be achieved without effort?

I am wondering how much the beauty industry relies on those who are slim feeling superior. I know that perceived beauty does not equate to self confidence, but I do think that those who manage to stay slim feel that they have succeeded where the more rotund have failed. If all could choose their shape, then would most women choose to be the extremely slim shape that is currently sold as desirable? Would most men choose the supposedly attractive muscular torso? We can choose the clothes that we wear, and use this to conform to societal expectations or not. We use dress to express our individuality, or to fit in with the expected codes and fashions. If we could easily choose our body shape it would be interesting to see what choices were made. Things that do not cost, be it time, effort or money, are rarely as highly valued.

2) If people could choose, once only, to stop their body looking older, then at what age would they choose to stop? Given that they would continue to age inside, would an outward display of youth be desirable?

I doubt that many would choose to look five or ten or even fifteen years old for the rest of their lives. What about twenty though, or thirty? Would most truly wish to remain looking young?

I am well into middle age and have found a certain freedom in my changing looks that I had not expected. I have attained a sort of invisibility, no longer seen as desirable by the opposite sex or in competition with my own. I have had my career and I have had my kids. The pressure to succeed has been lifted and I am left with only myself and my loved ones to please. I am of little interest to the rest.

I am no longer bothered by sexist fools who think they flatter me by cat calling or attempting to chat me up. I feel safe when I go out alone, there but overlooked. It is empowering, exciting and a little daunting to have no expectations to meet. This is not to say that I am always comfortable in my own skin. When I am out with my children I dread running into their friends in case the way I look embarrasses them. On my own, however, I can relax. I merge with the background; there but of no particular interest to anyone.

There is still plenty that I wish to achieve in this life but I am now doing it solely for me. It seems that growing older suits me; stopping the clock on my looks would have lost me not just this freedom, but a valuable life lesson. Time travel can be as interesting and educational as exploring new places and cultures.

If all could look young there would be issues with couplings. We respond to looks in choosing a mate. Ageing is there for a reason; without it I believe some would feel deceived.

3) When you think of success, what level of success do you dream of?

I like the idea of being the author of a traditionally published book. As I have yet to write anything that could be submitted for publication this is unlikely to happen. If I did though, I wonder if I would really want success. Of course, I love the idea of being widely read, assuming readers liked my writing that is. I have a pipe dream of seeing my book in a bookshop. Financial independence would be pleasing but to achieve that level of success, which is rare even amongst published authors, there is a cost that I know I would struggle with.

I would dread having to stand up in front of people to promote my book, to give talks or appear in the media. I feel no great need to impress the world, what I would like is to impress my little family. I suspect that they are the least likely to admire anything I could produce. Even if I achieved the perceived success of a best selling author my husband would probably criticise the quality and worth of my writing.

Given the number of people who queue up to audition for televised talent shows there are plenty of people out there who seek even momentary fame. Given the efforts that sports men and women put into improving their rankings there are plenty who crave short term success. Would all of these people be willing to suffer the costs though, the life not lived due to the pressure, intrusion and demands of fame?

I think that I would be happier with a small and quiet success, whatever that word actually means.

 

 

Three things: finding friends

This article was written for a Readwave Challenge: 3 things I learned whilst...

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I live in a small village in rural Wiltshire. Villages can be very friendly, but also very cliquey. When I first moved here I worked full time and tended to gravitate towards neighbours who did likewise. We had all moved into new build houses so knew few people in the area. Gradually these new found acquaintances formed friendship groups amongst themselves. I had different interests and desires; friendly though they were, I did not feel that I fitted in.

When my children first started at the village school I struggled to befriend the other mums at the school gate who all seemed to know each other well already. The same groups seemed to serve on the various committees that kept village life ticking over. They had coffee mornings together, looked after each other’s kids and ran the many fundraising events that all were cajoled into supporting. By then I was a stay at home mum and knew that I needed to emerge from my shell. In my quest to find friends I learned the following lessons.

1) Do not rely on first impressions.

That young mum who appears fully made up, perfectly coiffed and dressed in the latest fashion at 8.45am each morning? She is not necessarily a societal victim, but is simply interested in how she looks. Just as I am interested in literature, she is interested in fashion. How she looks matters to her as much as an opinion on an author matters to me. We may not have a lot in common outside of parenting, but she can still be a lovely person and interesting to talk to.

That pierced and tattoo’d lady keeping her head down? She may look a bit scary but her kids are amongst the best cared for in the village. All the kids have a great time when they go to her house because she does not fuss about mud or crumbs or noise, although she will expect plenty of pleases, thank you’s and sharing. She appreciates what really matters, and that is a fine lesson for us all to learn.

That mum who looks just like me and who I was inclined to get to know better? The slightly offhand reactions may or may not be shyness, but after a year of never being invited inside her house, accept that she is not interested in furthering the fragile friendship you have made such an effort to build. One sided relationships are rarely a good idea.

2) Smile at everyone

Once I realised that I was not going to naturally slip into a friendship group I decided to simply make the best of a job I had to do twice a day on every week day. As I walked between house and school I would keep my head up and smile at everyone I passed. A number of people seemed surprised by my eye contact. I did not try to engage in conversation but simply smiled as I walked past.

This resulted in people recognising me outside of school (the smiley lady) and I would be acknowledged at village functions and local clubs. I still didn’t have friends, but it gave me a sense of belonging.

3) Only befriend those you are comfortable with

This was a really difficult lesson to learn. I wanted local, adult friends so did not feel that I could decline invitations to social events when they were proffered. This led to some awkward situations when I would be sitting in a room full of people who knew each other well trying to work out if my acceptance of the invitation had been unexpected.

Many of the ladies were lovely but had radically different views or interests to me. I did not wish to go shopping or discuss the sort of television shows that they watched. I did not wish to go the the races or learn flower arranging. I wanted to talk books, films, politics, and had a habit of speaking my mind. I was often at odds with the general consensus.

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Eventually I did manage to slip into a friendship group of lovely young mums with children the same age as mine. I was also invited to join a book group populated by a disparate group of literature lovers. A few of these acquaintances have become loyal, supportive and valued friends. Others I have let go over the years because, although I may struggle with finding friends, I have learned that quality is worth far more to me than quantity.