Land of the Beautiful People

Posted March 5th, 2007 by Penny Wise

Apologies for my recent abrupt departure! Have just returned from a long weekend at the beach. Unfortunately, seeing as my laptop has now been officially written off as 'toast', I was unable to notify anyone of our few days in the sun. Sigh, losing my laptop feels as though I have lost my left arm (not my right arm, I'm a leftie) but my some miracle my insurance policy appears to cover me for idiotic wine spills to office equipment and suchlike, so I live in hope of a replacement before too long. Anyway, after last week's mishap it was particularly nice to be offered the use of a friend's beach house for several days at no cost so Ali and I picked up Noel and Liam, fresh from a hectic week at school camp and headed off to sunny Whangamata. It had all the makings of a real Simple Savings holiday - free accommodation, food brought from home, no expensive activities on offer except free ones such as picnics on the beach and jumping off the wharf. I truly think this bustling seaside town is just about my favourite place in the world - every walk along the beach is like a tonic for the soul. If only it also served as a tonic for one's self esteem. It has to be said; during the summer months at least, Whangamata is largely populated by the Beautiful People. Buff male bodies and bikini babes abound and I truly feel as though I am the only person in the district who dares step out of the front door wearing larger than a size eight. I kid you not, each brave venture out into the public makes me feel more and more like a Sumo wrestler.

The scariest thing of all about Whangamata though, is the prices of these miniscule pieces of clothing. Alas, I have to admit I have been neglecting myself lately in the wardrobe department. In sensible frugal style, I decided months ago that I would buy no more clothes until I had lost weight. Unfortunately I'm still waiting for this to happen but have been ruthlessly chucking out all manner of garments in the meantime - painted on, worn out beyond the point of decency, you know the thing. When it came time to pack for the beach, I realised that I owned next to nothing any more. Yes, I know that's supposed to be what us women always supposedly say, 'I haven't got a thing to wear!' but in my case it really was true. It was only when Noel returned from a fishing trip on the second morning of our stay to find me wearing his polo shirt and his board shorts due to me having nothing of my own that he literally ordered me to the shops for a restocking trip. And what better time could there be for a wardrobe revamp, with all those 'end of summer' sales on? I couldn't wait to head off the next morning and pound the pavements, eager to see which bargains would jump out at me first. I excitedly grabbed half a dozen garments to try on at the first shop but my bubble soon burst when I discovered I could barely stuff one thigh into the funky looking shorts. The '25% off' rash shirt I had set my heart on splashing through the waves in was set to live up to its name all right - it would definitely have given me a rash every time I tried to painstakingly peel the darn thing off. Needless to say, everything got put back on the rack but not before I spotted some brilliant boyswear for Liam that I knew he would look great in. Fortunately, not even my most hopeless Sad Sally traits from the past could convince me to fork out $65 for a 10 year old's t-shirt emblazoned with a design that my three-year-old niece could probably have done - and improved on considerably.

The next shop looked somewhat more encouraging, not least because it appeared to be the only one still stocking shorts which actually do up around the waist, rather than slung around the hips. Better still, they were all 50% off! I decided to be optimistic for starters and picked size 'Medium' but was in the changing room only 30 seconds before dashing out and swapping them for 'Large', then 'Extra Large', followed by 'XXL'. Makes a girl feel fantastic I can tell you - NOT. Mercifully the XXL's did actually fit so I sidled up to the counter with my purchases and tried my best to appear smiley and bubbly along with the chatty shop assistant while she scanned what she must have surely thought to be elephant-sized singlets and board shorts. Unfortunately she was having a few problems getting the computer to accept the discounted prices and it was then that I saw it - the sizing guidelines stuck to the side of the counter. The XXL clothes I had resigned myself to making do with were actually equivalent to a Size 14. While this revelation made me feel a whole lot better, I wondered how many other average sized women, struggling with budgets and low self esteem had left the store without ever seeing this notice and feeling as I had been, about six inches high. Like the woman who asked the shop assistant right after me whether they stocked swimsuits in size 18, to be told condescendingly she would have to drive 40 minutes to a different town as they simply didn't stock that size here. After that shopping experience I vowed I would never set foot in the high street shops again and instead stuck safely to the beach, doing fun stuff with the family and admiring how healthy and handsome my boys looked in their non-labelled, $10 t-shirts.

Until Ali got sick, that is. Not that he let that stop him for a day or two; so keen was he to go and catch a marlin with his dad but eventually even he had to give in gracefully and we spent most of today at the doctor's. $30 later we hadn't learned anything that we didn't already know, apart from the fact that his migraines are becoming a problem. Funnily enough I had kind of worked that out myself over the last couple of months but at least it was reassuring to hear that he didn't need to be hospitalised. Still, we decided he was better off at home in his own bed so packed everything up and went to pick up Hubble and Tui from the boarding kennels, where we learned that Tui was now regarded as a canine hero. Apparently, in his efforts to escape from his doggy confines, Hubble had got his head well and truly jammed under a gate, unbeknown to his carers and was becoming more and more distressed and in pain. Had it been much longer, it would have spelled curtains for Hubble, had Tui not raised the alarm by literally screaming at the top of her voice. Being rather out of character, the owner came out to see what was the matter with her and managed to free Hubble by taking the gate off its hinges just in the nick of time. We never gave Tui much credit for having much in the brain department before but she's worth her weight in gold now! So, we're home again and drowning in all the vegetables my mum has been kindly harvesting from the garden while we've been away. She also gave me a stack of magazines to read while at the beach and I found lots of articles on how to reduce waste and save money, identifying bad spending habits and coping with the post-Christmas cash crisis. All very interesting reading but do you know, there wasn't a single thing in those articles I hadn't already learned long ago from Simple Savings! Honestly, where have these people been?!

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