I am what I am

Posted August 6th, 2008 by Penny Wise

I've decided to take a leaf out of my youngest son's book. He may only be 10 years old but sometimes he blows me away with his maturity. Ali is Ali and that's the end of it. He knows what he likes and what he doesn't like. He stands up for what he believes in and doesn't give a stuff what anyone else thinks. He doesn't care about fashion or what's trendy, yet is still interested in pretty much everything. If I had the same attitude as Ali, I would have saved myself thousands of dollars over the years!

Last weekend he really proved his strength of character and individuality. There we were at Eden Park watching the All Blacks take on the Wallabies in the rugby Tri Nations. This was a birthday treat for both the boys as it fell in the middle of both their birthdays and we felt it would be the perfect gift, with Liam being such an All Blacks fanatic and Ali being such a die-hard Wallabies supporter. I packed both Ali's All Black jersey and his Wallabies one, just in case he didn't have the courage to front up in yellow. I should have known though – on this occasion wearing black wasn't an option!

We arrived at Eden Park and the first thing Ali did was buy a Wallabies flag to wave at the game. There were the four of us, three of us dressed from head to toe in black, the other resplendent in gold! As soon as we entered the stadium the comments started 'You're in the wrong jersey!' 'How did you end up with a Wallabies supporter in the family?' and many more, but Ali didn't care. He took his seat in the stadium and proudly waved his flag amidst a sea of black. To be honest, I was a bit worried! What if some of the more staunch supporters gave him a hard time? I needn't have worried, Ali had an absolute ball and grinned proudly through all the harmless ribbing. By half time he had made friends all over the place, grown men who insisted on shaking his hand for standing up for what he believed in, even though he was the minority. Unfortunately for poor Ali, it wasn't the Wallabies' night. By the time the final whistle went with the score at 39-10, he was reduced to a little ball, sunk down low in his seat, sad tears slowly rolling down his face. Don't you dare let on I told you that!

Even so, he proudly took his Wallabies flag to school on Monday and copped even more flack from his classmates for 'supporting the wrong team'. It didn't matter what they said, Ali didn't care. It might sound a small thing to some people but it sums up Ali's attitude to life in general! I'm really proud of him for sticking to his guns and not being swayed by peer pressure.

I'm not sure where he gets it from but I don't think it's me! I've come to the conclusion lately that I have still been a bit of a plonker over the last 12 months. Decluttering Month proved that in July. I've decided to make August my Decluttering Month as I was away for most of July but before I left for Australia I did get as far as having a bit of a look to at least SEE what needed decluttering - and I didn't like what I saw. I'm one of these people who, while completely happy with my life, constantly feels I have to improve myself. I'm always telling myself I'm going to be thinner, get fitter, dress better, drink less wine – you know the sort of thing, and always on a Monday!

It's one of those things you have a giggle about but I never realised until Decluttering Month how much all this 'self improvement' had cost me. For example, I went through my wardrobe before I went away and counted all the items of clothing I haven't worn since I bought them. Are you sitting down? I counted 25. 25!!! Three pairs of trousers, two skirts and the rest all tops. Admittedly, they were almost all purchased in sales but why on earth have I bought them if I haven't even worn them yet? Trying to improve myself I suppose; trying to look better. I used to go everywhere in my sports gear as I was always coming to or from the gym. Usually I'd been for a run but I didn't care if anyone saw me with covered in sweat and with a bright red face, even if I did look as though someone had shoved a carrot up my bottom in Mr Patel's.

Then I started getting recognised out and about – in The Warehouse, the supermarket, I never knew where it would be. I loved meeting new people but all of a sudden I became conscious of having to tidy myself up a bit – I didn't want to run into people looking all daggy and horrible! The last straw was when I went out with Liam a few months back and we got approached six times. Liam thought it was brilliant! I was just glad I had my make-up on!

I decided I had better start making more of an effort and when the sales came along I went shopping. I must stress I didn't buy all 25 things all at once! It's been a gradual progression and although I bought things in the sales, I still went shopping on the wrong days. You know how it goes. When you go shopping and you HAVE money, you can't find a single thing you like or that fits properly. When you go shopping and you really shouldn't, those are the days when EVERYTHING fits! My clothes have stayed the same size since I bought them – it's just me that hasn't. I love chunky knits! Unfortunately I look the size of a house in them which is why they never make it out of my wardrobe.

I kept up the 'new me' for a while and it was duly noted by my friends. I bought a hair straightener and used it at least twice and never went out without being smartly dressed and with full make-up on. You know what though? I couldn't keep it up – it's just not me. Maintaining it didn't even fit into my Simple Savings lifestyle. I drop the kids off at school in town every morning and go to the gym before work. If I need anything at the shops, I always get it then to save me another trip later – hence everyone still sees me in my gym gear. By the time I get home and start work there's no point getting poshed up as nobody's going to see me anyway! I soon discovered there's no point wearing anything decent to go and feed the chickens in the rain. If the dogs jump up on me with muddy feet when I get home in my gym gear it doesn't matter but if they were to do the same if I was wearing my flash gear, I'd be constantly putting them in the laundry. I'm also the messiest cook in the entire universe as Noel will vouch and anything decent I cooked in would soon end up with stains on it. Just ask my Mum – half the clothes I wore on holiday were hers. She insisted on lending them to me so I wouldn't be wandering around Queensland with dirty great stains all over my front!

I don't know what I'm going to do with them all – I mean, some of them are really lovely! Do I try and sell them, or give them to charity? Some of them I'm always going to look horrible in – you know, the ones you spot as you're walking out of the shop and grab it off the hanger thinking 'I haven't got time to try it on but I KNOW it will fit' only to try it on some time later and find it looks absolutely revolting – and that's if you can squeeze into it at all! I've decided to wait for now before deciding what to do with them. I'm not going to keep them indefinitely but I have given myself a time limit. I'm helping the local gym organise a 12 week 'Biggest Loser' challenge and at the end of that 12 weeks, that's when the decluttering will really begin!

It's not just clothing which has caused me to make some dreadful and expensive mistakes either. Do you remember several months ago I asked for help on the Forum for my 'pizza face?' The members were all so helpful and gave me some brilliant advice. I was spoilt for choice but ended up going for a bottle of witch hazel for toning and I picked up a bottle of Bio Oil on special for moisturising. For the first month it was absolutely brilliant, my skin had never been better! But then all of a sudden it totally packed up. I broke out in pimples, eczema, you name it I had it. With my Aussie trip coming up I didn't want to meet everyone looking so terrible so I went to a local pharmacy and asked their advice.

What a mistake! On the positive side I scored a free makeover. The beautician was very helpful and explained what was going on with my skin very well – apparently the Bio Oil I had been using was doing a great job of feeding my skin but it wasn't getting anything to drink – the eczema had come about as a result of my face drying out. She used some Shiseido products to cleanse, tone and moisturise my face, and also used an eye cream which I have never used before in my life. Apparently these were extremely gentle and would soothe my poor angry skin. They certainly felt good and were highly recommended so I bought one of each. I figured sometimes it was better to pay a bit more for skincare in the long run if it brought the desired results. The beautician then had a field day with make-up – oh dear, one of my long-buried Sad Sally vices was about to rear its ugly head. By the time she had finished I felt fabulous - and had also parted with a small fortune.

Still, it was decluttering month I figured, and now I was all set. I could get rid of all my old grungy make-up and skincare and simply learn to survive off these few bits and pieces. I couldn't wait to try out my new skincare and applied them religiously to begin with, much to Noel's amusement who actually went to the trouble of timing me in order to prove that it now took 20 minutes longer for me to get ready in the mornings. I didn't care – I looked on it as grabbing some precious 'me time' and enjoyed every minute of it.

Until day three, when my skin began screaming in protest. My face was stinging so much I could no longer bear to put anything on it and the eye cream had created a huge eczema break-out around both my eyes. I was going to Australia in just a couple of days so had no time to take it back and complain. This happened over a month ago, it still stings and I haven't been able to wear make-up since, with the exception of the SS picnic, where I had to plaster it on with a trowel to cover up all the eczema! What an absolute plonker – and what an expensive mistake. Noel sighed and shook his head. 'I don't know why you even bothered in the first place – your skin was much better when you didn't put anything on it at all!' So at present I am still stuck with four nearly-full bottles of Shiseido gunk. I am going to try and get the chemist to take it back – after all, the beautician did say to come back and see her if I had any problems with it – but I don't like my chances.

Ah yes, it's been a hard and expensive lesson and the moral of the story is – Penny, just bloody forget about wasting time, money and angst and stick to being yourself. I would like to think, hand on heart that this is a mistake I won't be daft enough to make again. In fact, I've a good mind to take a photo of my wardrobe and keep a copy in my purse to prevent such a thing from happening. Sporty, casual clothes and a make-up free face suit my lifestyle and that's the way I like it. Next time someone sees me out and about looking like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards I'll probably still be mortified, but I'll endeavour to remind myself that I'd much rather keep fit than sit around looking posh all day. I am what I am!

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