Being a grown up is rubbish for many reasons:
– having to work all the time
– paying rent/mortgages
– paying bills
– having to be aware of how much you spend on bills
– curbing your spending on more fun things to make sure you have enough left to pay the bills
– assembling flat pack furniture
– buying flat pack furniture
– spending a whole day of your precious weekend looking at and buying flat pack furniture
The list could go on forever, but in many ways the worst aspect of modern adult life is the relentless obsession with how you look. Some would say this peaks during teenage years, but really that’s just the beginning of a lifelong torturous routine of spending hours of your time and oodles of your cash trying to look a just little bit different than you do naturally, and even more hours being annoyed that it hasn’t quite worked.
Since becoming a parent it has gradually become clear to me how much of my time, money and energy I have wasted on the way I look. When my son walks in to my bedroom and says ‘what mummy doin?’ I give the simple answer: ‘straightening my hair’. This is followed by a puzzled but accepting look. I imagine him thinking ‘That’s weird – why do that when you could be doing jigsaws or running up and down the hallway? Seems like a waste of time to me.’
Numerous instances of this exchange have got me thinking: what am I doing? I spend about 30 minutes every morning getting myself ready: washing hair, drying hair, straightening hair, putting on make up (if hair straighteners confuse him, god knows what he thinks when he sees me drawing lines of concealer across half my face in an attempt to hide my sleep deprivation!). Pre-baby I spent about twice that time. If I spend about an average of 3.5 hours a week just getting ready (almost certainly an underestimation) since I officially became an adult at 18, I have spent 2548 hours just making myself look a little bit better than I did when I woke up. 2548 HOURS!!!! That’s 106 full days of my life.
Just looking at the figure makes me feel sick. Imagine what I could do with an extra 106 days! But I won’t change, I know I won’t. Occasionally I leave the house with my hair tied up instead of straightened and I genuinely believe that’s progress. I’m brainwashed. I really feel I need that 30 minutes of pampering before I can face the world, or rather let the world face me.
That’s why being a grown up is rubbish. Kids don’t think like that. My son won’t accept he can’t keep wearing the same nappy until it’s so full it falls round his ankles and stops him from playing ready, steady, go. Twice I have picked him up from the childminder to find him wearing pyjama tops because they had cars on and he wanted to wear a car that day. He doesn’t care that he looks like no one can be bothered to dress him in the morning, he’s got a car on his top!
How many of us have sat in conversations with friends who are intelligent, sensible and rational in every way, except when they begin checking the calorie content of a snack bar, complaining they need to be healthier then later that evening ordering a large glass of rosé? Or listened to them moan about how skint they are and that they can’t possibly come and met you for a coffee but, oh yes it is a new top. Do you like it? I bought it last week. On sale of course.
In my view, one of the best and simplest things we could do for our children is to protect them from this bullshit. Particularly the girls. Some boys and men may fall prey to these too, but we all know that in our society it’s the women who come under the most pressure to look a certain way and who are constantly objectified and sexualised.
So why, oh why, oh why do I keep seeing children in bikinis? CHILDREN in BIKINIS! They are not a practical choice for charging round paddling pools or jumping off water slides (any grown woman who’s had an embarrassing slip at a holiday water park could testify to that!). They are boring – what child would choose pink leopard print (one of the joys I saw in the park today) over Peppa Pig or multicoloured spots or giant stars? But most of all, they are just too adult. Literally, they are designed to cover up the adult parts of the body which children either don’t have or should not be worrying about yet. I can just about forgive the frilly spotty crop top and shorts I saw last week, striking a balance of just enough frills to be childish and just enough covered not to be garish. But when a child so young they have no curves and still giggle at the word poo is running around in just enough material to cover their nipples, with briefs held up by the flimsiest of ties, I can’t help but cringe. Clearly copied from a design intended for women to highlight their best assets, it masquerades as swimwear but is actually a sign of how little we have come to respect childhood. It might be fun to dress a child up in a suit for a day, to give them a t-shirt which matches their dad’s so they look like a mini-me, but that’s what it should remain. Fun. Dressing up.
Teenage years and adulthood are fraught enough with concerns about out sex and appearance – why the hell introduce your child to all that when you could wrap them up in an all-in-one wetsuit covered with colourful fish? Plus, you’d save a shed load on suncream.