On Khloe Kardashian, Self Esteem, Liz Hurley & White Jeans

Having a new baby means being awake at all sorts of ungodly hours. Thanks to The Husband’s generosity and pragmatism, we have a night nurse. I say “pragmatism” because he knows how grumpy I get when I am sleep deprived and he knows there is a practical – albeit costly – solution. Her name is Precious. She taps me gently while I am sound asleep and says with urgency:

“He’s awake!”

I fly out of bed in response to the urgency in Precious’ voice, dash to the nursery and then flop into the feeding chair and sometimes even fall asleep while Precious changes The Prince’s nappy and readies him for his feed. And then I generally sleep through the feed until she prods me and tells me it’s time to change sides. I can safely say that I would trade in my car if I had to, for the luxury of a night nurse. I feel human the day after Precious’ shift and like a dead woman walking the day after her night off.

Most nights I crawl back into bed and pass out after the feed, but some nights (and, fortunately, so far, not many) I simply can’t get back to sleep. This was the case a few nights ago. I was so wide awake that I eventually crawled out of bed at 4am and crept to the TV room.

I happened to turn on M-Net just as a show called The Talk started. It featured a bunch of women sitting around a table. Amongst the women, I recognised Sharon Osborne. As the introductory music ended and the audience applauded, one of the women introduced the first topic of the talk show with the solemnity one would expect were she reporting on a grave political crisis: Khloe Kardashian’s poor self esteem.

khloe-kardashian-279718138

The camera then cut to this round-table of female presenters looking traumatised by the news and brimming with empathy for the reality TV star. In order to give viewers a real taste of the emotional hardship endured daily by Khloe, the presenter quoted Khloe who had said that “being compared to somebody else every day does sort of beat up your spirit and soul.” Apparently Khloe reported that she had been called the “heavier” and “less attractive” of the sisters. Luckily for Khloe, Sharon Osborne was the first to comment with a statement that is bound to reverse all her psychological trauma:

“I just think she has the BEST personality out of everyone!” Sharon gushed, to rapturous applause from the in-studio audience.

Thanks, Sharon. You do know that you basically just called her ugly? When my dad was at university in the sixties, the prevailing catch phrase for an unattractive woman was: “She sure can cook!” With the emancipation of women and Woolworths microwave meals, the modern version of this maxim has morphed into: “She sure has a great personality”.

I konfess that I just kan’t watch Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie Kardashian/ Jenner and their show at the best of times, although I can’t think of a better cure for insomnia than Khloe Kardashian’s complexes. If only I’d been able to keep the TV on for an extra minute or two, I would have been able to pass out from absolute apathy.

Aside from bad TV at 5am, the weeks following the birth of a child can be tough. Especially when they happen to be the very weeks when Hyde Park and Sandton City go on sale. About a week after The Prince was born, The Husband’s favourite Hyde Park store was offering 50% off all their merchandise and he was looking to spoil me. What could I do under the circumstances other than engage in aspirational acquisitions? I was immediately drawn to a gorgeous pair of white, skinny jeans with gold zips. Tres, tres St Tropez or tres, tres Sandton. But as I picked them up, I was reminded of something a friend told me last year. She told me that it had been said (by some famous and fabulous male stylist, I think) that if you’re a woman and your name is not Liz Hurley, you simply should not wear white jeans. Sorry, honey. Although I agree that I am not Liz Hurley and that I should not wear white jeans, I have always loved white pants and am delighted that white jeans have made a comeback. So I now have this pair – that cost 50% less than usual – hanging in my cupboard, staring at me and taunting me. I should somehow sticky-tape them to the fridge…

Liz Hurley Leaving Her Home London June 17, 2008

But since that’s not terribly practical, I decided to re-join Weight Watchers instead. I polished off a cupcake in the car on the way there and arrived ready to take a deep breath and step on the scale. The last time I attended Weight Watchers was before I found out that I was pregnant with The Prince – a time when I weighed a lot less than I do now. For this reason, I made a point of mentioning to the Group Leader that I had stopped Weight Watchers because I’d fallen pregnant (they don’t allow pregnant people to follow the programme) and that I was returning because I’d just had a baby. Clearly, however, I did not place enough emphasis on the word “just” because a few minutes later I climbed on the scale to hear the Group Leader say (raised eyebrow and all):

“I see… yes… well…your weight has gone up quite a bit.”

“I literally just had a baby eleven days ago!” I snapped.

To this, my fellow members responded as one would hope the Sisterhood would respond with remarks like:

“Oh my gosh, I’d still be in bed!” and

“You look amazing for someone who just had a baby!” (From my observations and my own behaviour, women say this to one another post babies, no matter what, but somehow it’s still nice to hear even if you know it’s a big, fat lie.)

I automatically felt better.

But sisterhood or no sisterhood, I still have to find a way into those designer white jeans before they go out of style again.

The Dangers of Housewives Alone in Coffee Shops

I confess that I am not used to strange men approaching me in coffee shops. This happened a few weeks ago when I was replying to some e-mails in a coffee shop in Benmore while The Princess was at school. I’d walked in and seen only one table with three casually dressed guys who appeared to be in the midst of a business meeting. I’d deliberately chosen the table furthest from these guys so as not to fall prey to accidental eavesdropping.

Whilst fully immersed in all-important, housewife admin on my I-pad, I sensed that a figure had approached my table and I heard a deep voice say:

“Howzit, doll,”

I could not believe the audacity of this man and began lifting my head with the full intention of blurting out:

DON’T YOU DARE CALL ME DOLL !

But as I looked up, something stopped me and I realised that I would have deeply offended (or amused) our good friend Erik, who relocated to Windhoek six months ago.

I had to remind myself that not too many men want to pick up a chick who’s eight months pregnant – at all – and certainly not at ten in the morning in a coffee shop.

This past week, however, “it” happened again. I was sitting at a table outside at Europa, Melrose Arch, guiltily devouring actual sushi with raw salmon and everything. (I was busy convincing myself that French women eat unpasteurised cheese – and probably don’t give up coffee, cigarettes or wine either – throughout pregnancy, so what was a bit of sushi between me and the 3.2kg buffeltjie still  apparently growing in my tummy? He’d survived 30 Stopayne tablets the week before so I was sure he’d survive a bit of raw fish…)

I was looking down at my food when I caught a glimpse of a strange man approaching my table. From my experience with Erik, I’d learnt that it was unlikely he was trying to pick me up, so I was a little more pragmatic this time. Was he a husband coming to chastise me for eating sushi at 38 weeks pregnant? I felt slightly unnerved…

“You look like someone who’d know this,” he began. “Is there a spa in Melrose Arch?”

I guess you can take the girl out Keurbooms and put her in Sandton, but you can’t take Keurbooms out of the girl: when someone in a shopping centre asks me if there’s a spa around, I think of the Spar.

I was about to respond,

“No, sorry, there’s only a Woolies.”

But then I caught sight of my newly pedicured feet, clad in open-toed, bedroom slippers on loan from the Melrose Arch Spa. I also noticed that my “suitor” looked like the quintessential metro-sexual. He’d noticed my red nails and toes as opposed to my face – a face which still lives in fear of Botox, can’t be bothered with facials and which boasts bushy, dark eyebrows which I’m too afraid of waxing for fear the therapist will virtually denude me of any eyebrows to speak of.

I may feel more at home in a Spar than in a spa but at least I had fabulous red nails and toes which The Princess took note of immediately when I fetched her from school:

“Mommy’s nails are RED!” she announced.

That’s my little Sandtonite girl! 🙂

The Scary Sandton Hairdresser

I love myself a great blowdry. I really do. If there was a mobile service in Jozi that you could call last minute to come to your house to blowdry your hair, I’d be their best customer. But since Janine from Jeauval in Hyde Park left the hairdressing profession nearly eight years ago, I just haven’t found that perfect combination of hairdressing skills and personality coupled with a fabulous salon experience, to be a regular salon goer. I’m also fortunate in that I actually like my natural hair colour and so, because I don’t have root issues and because I don’t have a hairdresser and a salon I love, I hardly ever get my hair done.

But on Tuesday night I had a function and the thought of squeezing my bulging belly into a nice outfit for it was more than I could bear. So I figured that at least if my hair was fabulous, I’d feel better about having nothing to wear.

I managed to get a last minute appointment at the salon closest to me. I’d tried them before. The hairdresser I’d been to was a genuinely lovely person but we couldn’t have been more different. I realised this when I caught him eyeing my Woolworths water bottle. He said something which I interpreted to be critical of people who drink exclusively bottled water. I quickly assured him that this was not the case and that I refilled my bottles with tap water and only replaced them a couple of times a week. Apparently, it was the issue of replacing the bottles that concerned him. He wanted to know why I didn’t use a permanent sports bottle which didn’t need replacing…

He was also an avid cyclist. At first I thought that he did this for sport, rather than with the sole purpose of saving the planet. He told me that he did all his grocery shopping by bike, but this did have some limitations, especially when it came to items in “unnecessarily large packaging” such a as boxes of cereal. Still not really understanding I said:

“But why don’t you just take the car when you need to stock up on cereal?”

“Oh no,” he said, “I sold my car years ago. I really don’t want to leave any footprint at all.”

Ooooooooh! I suddenly got it. He was what the Mother Figure calls a “greenie beanie”.

That was just over four months ago. This time, with my last minute booking, I was given a new guy in the salon: Benji. Benji introduced himself, took one look at the tufts of pregnancy hair growing vertically from the edge of my forehead, raised an eyebrow and said in a camp Joburg, drawl:

“Oh my GAWD! What ARE we going to do with THOSE?”

Me: “Um… Hide them?”

I explained that they were from pregnancy and that they’d disappeared a few months after my last pregnancy so he shouldn’t be too shocked etc, etc. Still, he looked mildly horrified.

Once my hair had been washed, I asked the lady not to brush or comb it while it was wet as I had a problem with split ends. I then explained this to Benji.

Benji: “This is a special salon brush. The bristles are springy and they bounce off the strands of hair so they can’t split them. But these ends look like they need a really good cut.”

Me: “Yes, yes, I know, this was just last minute and I have a scan in an hour from now so I’ll make a plan to come back when I have more time.”

A pregnant (excuse the pun) pause ensued…

Benji: “By the way… exactly when last did a pair of scissors go near these ends?”

I begin counting the months in my head as I prepare to answer but Benji is quicker:

“1642?” he suggests and promptly cracks up at his own joke.

Hahahahahahahahahaha!

Me: (squirming in my chair) “Um, about four months ago, actually.”

The truth is closer to five months but I decided to round down…

But Benji has more in store for my ailing self esteem:

Benji: “Maybe your ends are in such bad condition because of this bad dye job?”

Me: (spluttering decaff salon cappuccino in shock). “Actually, this is my natural colour. The last time I dyed my hair was in 2006.”

Benji: (with a raised eyebrow which seems to be his specialty) “Really?”

He then takes my split, obviously lighter, probably somewhat sun-damaged ends and places them against my roots to demonstrate the difference in shade.

“You see how much lighter your ends are compared to your roots?” Benji looks at me smugly like a detective presenting a criminal with damning, hard evidence.

Dude, why don’t you just cut to the chase, call your new client a liar and tell her she has crap hair?

But it gets better.

“Or, is it possible, that these ends still have dye on them from 2006?” Benji looks as though he truly believes he may be onto something.

Despite dear, sweet Benji I do walk out of there with a beautiful blow dry, although my pregnancy tufts are threatening to start standing up any minute with the spontaneous downpour that begins just as I step out of the salon’s door…

Who needs a shrink to sort out your self-esteem sh** when you can just get some tough love from a scary hairdresser?

Size Matters. Duh.

I have a theory about us Joburgers, our states of minds and what makes us the moodiest of all. I’d like to suggest that it’s not Ju Ju, it’s not load shedding and it’s not even the traffic. Sure, the traffic gets our blood boiling but how else would we break the ice in meetings? In my (past) experience, the subject of traffic instantly bonds business people like nothing on earth:

 

Meeting Participant 1:     Sorry I’m late. The traffic was horrendous…

Meeting Participant 2:     Where do you stay?

Meeting Participant 1:     Pretoria East

Meeting Participant 2:     (Nodding sympathetically) Ja, I live in Centurion. I left home 

                                     at 4 this morning and I only just made my 8 o'clock.

Meeting Participant 3:     It must have been that broken down truck at Allendale?

Meeting Participant 2:     Ja! Right next to Allendale.


It’s a beautiful scene: a roomful of total strangers, bonding like old friends over their shared experience of “the traffic”.


But back to my theory: which is NOT that “the traffic” makes us moody. No. I believe that nothing makes a born-and-bred Joburger quite as grumpy as bad weather. It’s as though we subconsciously know that despite all our issues: the smog, the smash 'n grabs, the roadworks, the lack of beaches, the dry air …we’ll be okay, because at least we have the weather. And when the weather is shite, then Joburgers are cold, wet and above all, grumpy.

 

As a Jozi immigrant who spent years dragging myself through rain- and wind-storms on UCT’s campus, Joburg weather doesn't often get me down. But I confess that last month was so bad, I found myself catching the meteorological malaise. I was in this mildly depressed state when I happened to wander into a shop called Helen Melon at the BluBird centre. A couple of warm, fluffy winter gowns had caught my eye, so I went to investigate. I was approached by Helon/Helen herself. Because it was 11am on a Tuesday morning she correctly assumed I hadn’t had to brave any traffic to get to her store and so she went with a more universal ice-breaker: the weather. She couldn’t believe how cold Joburg was and she was from Cape Town and it was actually warm there and she'd never been this cold in her life, etc… etc…etc…

 

I admit I tend to get irrationally competitive on the whole Cape Town/ Joburg thing: if I’m voicing my own opinion, then Cape Town may sometimes be better than Joburg. However, since I live in Jozi, if someone else ventures the opinion that CT is better than Joburg – so help them God. And so it was that I found myself standing in front of Helon Melon and recounting tales of being practically blown off Eastern Boulevard by the Cape Town South Easter. Jozi would be re-instated as “Weather Capital of SA” if it was the last thing I did.


Fortunately, Mrs Melon decided to change the subject. I told her I was interested in her winter gowns

and would like to try one on. And then she committed Sandton retail suicide. Here’s what she said: "Would you like to try an extra-large? I think the medium might fit you but I wear an extra-large because they are so much longer than the smaller sizes, so they keep you so warm around the legs.


I was speechless. Did she just say "extra large" out loud? I admit that I was somewhat comforted by the fact that Helen herself is absolutely tiny and here she was telling me that she wore this gown in a size extra-large by choice. Only somewhat comforted, though. I was still mostly mortified at the thought of owning an extra-large garment. I think it must have been a mixture of shock and horror that caused me to temporarily lose my mind and stammer, “Er, okay, I’ll try it.”

 

She looked relieved because she thought I had seen her point of view about the long, warm, extra-large gown.

Her relief gave her renewed confidence in our retail interaction and she went on to say: “It’s just that most of the women who come in here won’t buy anything that’s a size bigger than their normal size. Just because of what the tag says – can you believe that?”

 

What I was thinking was: “Lady, you should see the size of my aspirational wardrobe. It takes up the entire spare room and has been gathering moth balls since 2005.”

 

But what I said out loud was: “Gosh! Really?”

I guess I sounded convincing because Mrs Melon was like, “I know! Isn’t it mad? Hahahahaha."

And so it was that, in an attempt to come across as an equally psychologically stable woman with a healthy body image, unperturbed by frivolous things such as size tags (just like Helon Melon), I found myself purchasing an extra-large dressing gown.

I was totally going to take it back and swap it for a smaller size on a day that Helen was safely back in Cape Town. Totally. But the next day I remembered that I’d violently ripped out the size tag somewhere between the shop and the parking lot, leaving the gown with a giant hole where the tag used to be.

And if you’re wondering whether the extra leg warmth has made up for the psychological trauma of owning a Donna Claire-type garment, the answer is a resounding “no”. I think the gown’s about to get booted to the spare room – I’m just not mentally strong enough for this sh**

Sooo Sandton

The Husband and I finally made it back to Sandton on Saturday night to collect The Sister. We’d been up at 4:30am for three days in a row a couple of days earlier, so we were yawning our heads off by the time we got home. Nonetheless, we were determined to show my 26 year-old sister that old farts in their thirties can still shake their bedroom slippers on the dance floor.

Because Taboo only opens at some ridiculous hour like midnight or something, we decided to go to Koi for dinner first. That way, we figured, we’d be right next-door to the club and hence less likely to make a dash for our beds at 10:30pm.

I’d forgotten what good people-watching Koi offers on a Saturday night. Boy, it sure was good to be back in the big, bad city! There was a dolly in a stretchy lycra sequin skirt which ran from her hip-bones to her upper thighs. And when I say her upper thighs, I really mean her groin. Who knew that sequined spandex was back in style? Could its resurgence be connected to Whitney Houston’s recent comeback?

Hmmmmmm.

Anyhoo, back to the bitching. There was another dolly in her jogging suit. Honestly, it was a full-on tracksuit, except it was skin-tight and made of apple-green velour. All this with a pair of glitzy heels. Mooi. On the one hand, she looked hilarious, but on the other hand she had this look that screamed “I-know-what-you’re-thinking-and-you’re-thinking-I-look-stoopid-but-if-that-really-is-what-you’re-thinking-then-YOU’RE-stoopid-cos-you-don’t-know-that-this-look-is-HUGE-in-L.A-okay?”

The people-watching was so good, even The Husband was getting into it. Alas, several bitching sessions and cocktails later, it was time to hit Taboo. The Sister and I tottered over – The Husband in tow – to join the queue. We were greeted by two of the largest human beings I have ever encountered. They looked like larger, slicker, suaver, suited versions of BA Barracus. They were also much, much taller than BA. Not to mention SO much wider. And you could see they weren’t wide because of fat. Kind of like rugby props where they look chubs but if you were to poke their tummies they wouldn’t be mushy – you’d encounter a wall of bulk. After being sized up and sniffed at by the 6-foot,clipboard schmodels, we were deemed suitable for entry.

I hadn’t been to Taboo for years and I have to say that the music was as fabulous as I remember. What I didn’t remember was the cheesy, dress-up hen parties. Saturday night appeared to be the night of the cowgirls. Yeeha. I’m assuming these hen things are a regular feature these days as they’ve installed a pole – apparently for this purpose. Brides-to-be (and wannabe brides) were shaking their little tushies and practically shagging this poor pole while the entire dance floor looked on. For me, the addition of the pole was a real incentive to go easy on the shots, ‘cause after a few tequilas I would’ve been up there with the best of them. Or the worst of them, to be precise. White chicks who can’t dance (yours truly inclusive) should not be allowed near poles. Poles should be strictly for the professionals.

While The Sister, The Husband and I were discussing the cowgirl doing the Lambada with the pole, she was joined by someone who could only have been a pro. After much debate, we decided he/she must be a Lady Boy. He/she was not only working the pole, but working the club too. I have to hand it to her – she had the best legs I’ve ever seen. And I did see ALL of them since her dress/ top only just covered the essentials. But boy, could she pole dance! What did I say? Leave it to the professionals…

We eventually stumbled out of there at 2am. Both The Sister and I managed to avoid the pole, although we were less successful at avoiding The Husband’s suitcases. All signs of the mountain biking pro that has been inhabiting our home for the past few months disappeared as The Husband rediscovered his penchant for Jackie D and passion fruit cordial. Needless to say, Sunday was a dog show. I’m not sure which was the greater cause of my temple-splitting headache: the tequilas or The Husband’s non-stop, “Aargh, I can’t drink anymore. Someone must’ve spiked my drinks. AaaaaaaaRGH!”

Vanity Fair at The Lab


I have to admit that I’ve worked hard at taking my sabbatical seriously. Having said that, travel research, travel bookings, packing for travel, actual travel and then recovery from travel, should not be under-estimated.

As a result, I was still deep in recovery phase late last week when an ex-colleague called about some contracting work (bearing in mind that I have not engaged in actual work, per se, since April ’09). When we met to discuss the project, she looked so fab in her tailored shirt, fitted skirt and pointy shoes that I felt a rush of nostalgia for the glamour of a working wardrobe. “I miss suits and heels!!!” I thought and promptly accepted the piece of work. As it turns out, I ended up doing the work at home in my PJ’s. I can’t say it was exactly brain surgery but it was a bit of a shock to the system – what with its deadlines, timelines, frameworks and all those other workie-type things.

So when I finished the work yesterdday, I really felt as though I deserved a reward. I thought about it and then settled on a mani and a pedi at the Blubird’s Nail & Body Lab.

There are many things I love about The Lab. I love settling down into the big, leather Lazy Boys and coming out with perfect little, bright red fingers and toes.

The part I enjoy less is the: “Howz-i-i-i-i-t, D-o-o-o-o-o-o-ol!” (think: ULTRA nasal).

“Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd! You look a-MA-a-a-a-a-zing!”

“ Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd, I’m so exh-a-a-a-a-usted. Ricky had a Board function last night and all I’ve had today is two freezocinos and a Super C.”

“Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd!” And so forth.

Obviously if the cheerleaders actually spoke to me, I’d put on my best nasal drawl and drawl right back,

“Ah my G-o-o-o-o-rd! You ‘usso’ (read ‘also’) look aMA-a-a-a-a-zing!” But since they don’t, my strategy is to look intellectually intimidating. I take along a copy of Vanity Fair and smugly immerse myself in one of the regular articles by Nobel Prize-winning economists such as Joseph Stiglitz.

That’ll teach ‘em. Today, however, I have a somewhat post-modern moment at The Lab. Instead of the latest Vanity Fair, I take along the book I’ve just started reading: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young (it inspired a recent movie by the same name). Turns out, the book is actually based on Toby’s experiences as a writer for Vanity Fair itself.

A chapter or so in, it dawns on me that my visions of the magazine as the seat of cutting-edge journalism and the mouth-piece of world-renowned economists, may be somewhat off-base. From Toby’s descriptions, Vanity Fair is starting to sound more like Cosmo – except the editors are richer and bitchier.

And then comes the quote that pretty much settles it: APPARENTLY (according to Toby), Vanity Fair was once described as “a magazine read by women in Illinois while they get their nails done.” Touché, dol.