Thursday, 21 January 2016

Who’s Up For Some Zhooshing?!

After months of anticipation and more planning emails than I dare to count, this weekend my girlfriends and I finally escaped to Bath. Two nights. Six girls. No interruptions. It was fantabulous!

The aim of this annual event, as ever, was to enjoy great company, food, cocktails, shopping, gossip, advice and laughter. And, we absolutely did! As this was my first weekend away as a non-drinker (a story for a later blog post) I can tell you that I also experimented with various mocktails and can highly recommend a Virgin Mojito!

Due to our “baggage” we only manage this get together once a year. Let me elaborate. Between us we have 5 husbands, 1 ex-husband, 17 children, 5 dogs and 3 cats. The advance organization that goes into making sure all are safe and taken care of in our absence makes running a multinational corporation look like a walk in the park.

The lists created for the menfolk left in charge varied from a five page instruction manual including timetable of children’s activities to detailed steps on how to wash the school uniforms. Although, one of our group exclaimed last year over breakfast, as she raised her eyes to the heavens, that if she ever got knocked down by a bus the kids school kit bags would never be right again. Needless to say, her husband was not given sports kit washing duty this time. He was merely left a note saying “feed the dog”. Whilst one doesn’t want to be a control freak, delegation is not always the best way to manage one’s affairs.

The car journey to Bath took almost 3 hours but the time flew by. It’s amazing how much faster time passes when you’re not trapped in a confined space dealing with war breaking out in the rear seats and stopping every half an hour for crisps, toilet breaks and someone to vomit over the hard shoulder. Instead, we chatted, ate our
canapés and drank beverages from Coke to Becks Blue to Prosecco! How very civilized!

During the trip, I happened to mention I’d quite like to buy a jumper similar to the one I was wearing. Little did I know where that statement would lead and the impact my words would have…

The six of us shopped the next morning. They started gently, nudging me away from items I’d selected, guiding me towards others. The narrative was innocuous. It consisted of phrases such as “Yeeees, or you could try this one instead…” and “I wonder whether this length might work better…”

The team had a point. Well, many as it happens. And, let me tell you, they weren’t afraid to share. It’s lucky I love and trust them so much!

You see, I’d got myself into a bit of a clothes rut. Since the separation I’d stuck with the same white t-shirts and blue jeans almost entirely. I didn’t want to buy clothes because I hated my body and wanted to hold off until I’d lost some weight. I’ve been saying that for some time now. So, I only bought practical items when absolutely necessary, like a jumper when I was freezing cold. And I generally bought things I liked but that used to suit my old body shape not my current one (see A Different Sort Of Singleton).

They quietly, subtly, sucked me in. Their smiling faces and whispering voices drawing me closer to their hangers of choice. By the third shop, the rules had changed. The façade had fallen and the calm had flown out the window.

These loving, caring friends had turned into a plague of locusts devouring everything in the shop, rattling through sale racks, grabbing anything that took their fancy and throwing aside anything vaguely resembling the poor forgotten jumper sitting alone in my hotel room.

It was like being serviced by a team of professional dressers. Remember the nice shop assistants in Pretty Woman scurrying around Julia Roberts with a pile of clothes? It was a bit like that, only much scarier. There may have been rules about the number of people allowed in a changing area but no one was about to mess with this team and ask them to wait outside!

They each adopted an unofficial role:

1. The Risk Taker – Pushing the boundaries and getting me to try on items I wouldn’t normally give a second look. Allowing new things a chance.

2. The Barometer – Using her expressions and tone to indicate whether an item worked (applause and cries of “Yes!”) or not (collapsed on the floor crying with laughter unable to speak).

3. The Jeweller – Always ready with a necklace, often one of her own.

4. The Scarf Stylist – Giving guidance on ways to wear a scarf, patterns, which colours complemented my skin tone and which colours made me look “washed out”.

5. The Diplomat – There to soften the blow when suggestions became a little too direct.

(Ladies, if you’re reading this, I promise I love you all and this was such a fun experience!)

The team also had shared roles so all members were Colour Analysts, Confidence Builders and Zhooshers. Crikey the zhooshing was something else! For those of you with lexical interests, the verb “zhoosh” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in March 2006. Believe me there was much debate about its spelling whilst we were away. But basically it means adjusting your attire. I haven’t been yanked around and groped like that since dating my first proper and somewhat inexperienced boyfriend!

But zhooshing is essential. One poorly zhooshed jumper led to a “floppy boob with fabric tucked underneath it” scenario which wasn’t attractive but once suitably adjusted got a round of applause and a ticket to the “yes” pile.

It did, however become ever so slightly competitive. There was a points system developed so a team member who had picked an item of clothing from the rack scored a point if it ended up on the “yes” pile. On more than one occasion there was a stand off between the one who saw it first and the one who got to it first. Then a fight broke out when the suggestion of putting a white shirt under a sparkly jumper was hijacked by another for use beneath a second top. Necklaces were ripped from each other's necks in order to accessorize better than anyone else. I won’t lie, it got ugly.

But, that evening, we went out for dinner, and I wore my new skirt (I know, me in a skirt?!) and other purchases from the day. I felt fantastic. I had confidence I hadn’t experienced in months. My shape was irrelevant because the clothes were chosen to suit. The outfit wasn’t expensive and there were no designer labels, but I felt like a catwalk model. Well, almost. I felt good about myself and that shone through, making me walk taller and smile all night.

“Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something else that comes from within you.”  -  Ralph Lauren

The next morning I made a little promise to myself. I would take care of myself and take pride in myself again. Not for anyone else but for me.

I’ve been home four days now… My tracksuit bottoms and Uggs haven’t seen the light of day. Instead, each morning I’ve selected clothes that suited me, accessorized, stepped into clean boots, put on my make-up and zhooshed myself silly!

I now enjoy the performance of getting dressed each morning, thinking about who I am and how I want to be perceived. I’ve come to love taking care of myself, something that I believed for quite some time was an unnecessary chore. I love how I feel when I walk out the door each day.

It’s interesting how people have commented that something’s different about me but they can’t necessarily put their finger on it. It’s more than just the clothes and a bit of lippy. It’s me.

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world's view of us.”  -  Virginia Woolf

I’m still me. But I want to be the best me that I can be. And now I’m looking at the world through more confident, happier eyes and the world seems to be looking at me differently too.

I can’t wait to see what happens next…

Thank you to my wonderful friends. You may have excelled at zhooshing this weekend, but you exceed my expectations every single day. Without you, over this last couple of years, I’d be lost… and really badly dressed!

Now, where did I put that spotty scarf…?



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