I type away, feeling particularly good about myself as I sit waiting for a train. It’s one of those moments where I feel not just grown up but successfully grown up. With my laptop out, and my book. My green jacket and checkered grey and black scarf hung over my hand luggage. Yes, I think, far too smug, I look the part. It’s a lie, of course, I’m not sure if the jacket really goes with the jumper. Or if the boots are too much. Technically they are snow boots and it is not snowing. But I’m cold, really cold, I mean it’s after midday and the fog still hasn’t lifted. I’ve seen other people wearing them already, so I should be okay, shouldn’t I. Not a complete newbie. And the scarf, which I love, is one from Zara and I’m afraid I’ll walk past someone else with the same one like it’s high school, and that matters anymore. Beyond that, I don’t really know how to wear it. It keeps slipping off my shoulder, and I keep flipping it back up but I think it’s a battle I’m losing.
Suddenly I smell nail polish. It’s very particular smell fills the – let’s call it a cafeteria – that I’m sitting in. Who on earth is painting their nails in an enclosed space like this, I wonder, morphing into my grandmother, who regularly told people off for behaving in ways she deemed inappropriate. I find the girl, young, sitting a table across from me. Slowly painting candy pink varnish onto her fingers. I’m still undecided about nail polish, I don’t wear it. One of my closest friends does, and occasionally I have moments where I think I should, but whenever I do, my nails feel like they are covered in plastic and I peel it off. I want to tell her to put the lid back on, that the noxious stuff is currently poisoning us all. I don’t though. I think about messaging my husband, it would make him laugh. He seems to enjoy that side of me. The side that I find self-righteous and shameful but unable to quieten, at least in my own head.
Her nails match her shirt. And her jacket. A polyester filled parka that was probably made in China somewhere, by children or at the very least, people working under horrendous conditions.
‘It’s gluten-free, organic, chemical free, sustainable, not made in China and no children were harmed in the making of this (Insert appropriate item here)’ says my husband every time he returns home with something new. It’s become a joke. I’ve become a joke, it’s better that way. Otherwise, I’m just overbearing.
I think its sweet her nails match her jacket, then I see her shoes. All are shades of the same candy pink. It’s too much. With her long, lank brown, nothing color hair, and her long horse-like face, I wonder who she will be when she grows up. She has all the awkwardness that I had at her age, all the awkwardness I still have, it’s just hidden beneath clothes that are a little more stylish, well, today at least. I wonder if I will ever grow out of that awkwardness? That complete and utter insecurity that runs to the core of me, the part that wonders whether everyone else can see I’m just winging it.
Certainly, I’m more sure of myself now but I think what I’m more sure of and more at peace with is just how completely and deeply flawed I am. I still want to get everything right. Still have to get everything right. Still want to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect friend, the perfect human, to get this one life right, to not waste another minute not living this life right, to be loved, not just liked by everyone, but at least now I find it funny. I’m a ridiculous cosmic joke.
I remember reading Lily Brett’s work. I love her work. I read everything she wrote during my twenties. And what I learned, was that after years and years of analysis, she wasn’t fixed, she was just better at accepting herself. In my twenties, I was convinced there was a better way, a way to be fixed, and I was determined to find it. I practised yoga like an addict, I went on spiritual pilgrimages, I learned the way of the dragon, which gave me visions and nightmares, I took up meditation, which terrified me, so I stopped, I devoured books, I wrote, I completed courses that promised to transform my life and when all that failed, I too started therapy. Nearly a decade later, and now approaching my forties, I’m less convinced I can be fixed, but I’m also less inclined to want to fix myself. The very flawed human that I am, has kind of grown on me.