Am I Worth it?

Lately I've been following a few discussions on my "mentor" fashion blogs like Super Kawaii Mama, Skylark and Already Pretty, and I say discussions, because the comments have been as fruitful as the posts.

These girls have been talking about why when you are clever, you have to be daggy or dorky.
or if you are a parent, you have to devote yourself to running around in track pants and god forbid wear heels on the school run.

So, why is it, when you are being the best version of what you are, that you should you feel embarrassed taking good care of yourself? Why should Style preclude Substance?

As some of you know, I am a dedicated fan of Thriftage, my new word for finding wonderful, sometimes designer, but very individual treats in charity shops. I also do a bit of ebay, and end of season sales shopping, and Outlet stores but only for things that look individual.

I like wearing these outfits to lunch, and dinner with Mr Hammie and the regular Mummies' Nights Out I have with other Special Mummies. When I am complimented, I used to come gushing out with a load of stuff about how it was from a bargain or which charity shop I had found it in. Clearly trying to make the point that it wasn't expensive.
Why? Why couldn't I just accept the compliment and leave 'em wondering. Or say, "Yes, It's Armani".

The first reason, and I absolutely cringe to admit it is that I didn't want people to think I was too well off. It is an instinct, born of a pretty depressing childhood and a mum who didn't look after herself. And as much as I hate that, and kick against it, sometimes the guilt creeps in.

My Nana died earlier this year, and if you read the post "Vale Nana" you can appreciate how hard my Nana worked in post-war rationing Australia, to make sure she, and her two little girls looked good. My Auntie, who wrote the piece went on to do the same for her two kids, my glamorous cousins. And thank god for that for at least there was a flow of sweetly perfumed hand-me-downs* coming from Sydney for me and my big Sis, because we needed it.

You can say we were too broke, and we were a lot of the time, but there was always money for ciggarettes and other things. (I won't go into that)
And as I have since learned as a Mama myself. It is possible to dress kids well, for little money. Iron things, mend things, wash, dry and fold things for goodness sake.

Yes it is different now with the big chain stores, but even in those days you could get good cheap but nice clothing FOR GIRLS, that with a little love and care would look great.
My mum didn't dress herself all that well either, and it seems we were an extension of that, the little "scraggesses" in our boyish clothes. I never felt like anyone was very proud of us.

Sorry Mum.
As you can see I have baggage on this. I don't want to play the victim. But there is always a little voice inside me saying "don't be too good, or you will be punished"; hence, the gushing about charity shops and bargain sales.
Add to this the extra frisson created by special needs parenting. Where your every minute, (and every cent) should be devoted to getting your child's "recovery"
(very big inverted commas there)
And in a country where begrudgery is the national sport; I have come across more than a tinge of judgey wudgey-ness about this in regard to skin care and nice clothes.

I remember telling a story about getting Mr Hammie to bid tactically on Ebay for Eve Lom Cleanser for me (as you do) as he is good at it. I think we were talking about the movie "Green Card" and my "marriage of convenience" (20 years this year) and someone asked if Mr Hammie knew what skin care I used. When I was explaining he bought my skincare and what the Eve Lom cleansing routine was, I heard a little exhalation as someone said:
"imagine spending 5 minutes washing your face!"

Hey, the children are still fed, the house doesn't flood or burn down, just because I am doing a bit of lymphatic massage. I do it with the bathroom door open, I can hear all clunks and bangs and yell at people while I do it, and I look and feel better when it's done.

And it is not just other parents that may or may not be judging you. When you have Social Workers involved in your life, you need to fly a fine line between having your shit together, and still qualifying for the help you so badly need, on the worst days.

So it could be tempting to appear in a dressing gown, fag hanging out of your mouth and piles of dirty washing on every surface.
But I find that if I look good, I feel good and explain my case well. My kids needs speak for themselves. Looking a victim and getting bullied serves no good purpose.

Which brings us to the other reason I carry on about bargains.

It Makes Me Feel Clever.

There are no key productivity indicators for parenting. No annual review, no pay rise. No promotions. So as a special needs parent, with no career, you have nothing to "score" yourself on. Yes, people tell you that you are doing a good job. But there are no markers. Competitive high achievers like me need that.

So when I walk out of the U.K. Cancer Shop on the Kings Road with an Armani suit for £90, like this one:

I feel like I have achieved something,
It is Actual Armani, not Emporio and hangs beautifully and looks like it was made for me. And when I wear it to conferences, and start lobbying Ministers and I feel great. Sure, the Minister for Education once told me I looked great in it once. About the nicest thing she ever said about me!

And at one "do" I was waiting to bend the ear of the Minister for Communications about ABA as usual, and people kept lining up behind me to ask if they could have a moment with the Minister. They thought I was one of his staffers. Me?

Bitchy Bitchy Confession:
I also feel a bit superior to those people who always buy retail, but badly. ( miaow)
Like they cover themselves in velcro, run into House of Fraser and buy everything that sticks. You meet these Yummy Mummies at charity do's, and the look is always teamed with Tango Tan,€150 highlights and the latest "It" handbag. Which probably cost more than my car.

So yeah, I feel a bit smug in my Johnson's Holiday Sun lotion, Early 90's MaxMara double breasted plaid jacket, A 15 euro Armani skirt and Five buck Bally Boots.

But the truth is that shopping in big shops just does my head in.

Oh, I'm not afraid of the shop girls, I used to be one and I know they put their Karen Millen Slacks on one leg at a time like everyone else. It is the actual clothes I fear.
I don't like racks of identical garments in a choice of sizes, guaranteed to bring out all my size insecurities and body shape issues. When you don't fit into the size you thought you were, and the next one up is too loose in places. And you stand there in your undies looking at 3 different views of how you want to be taller, slimmer, bigger boobed and longer legged.
They should hand out prozac with the little number tag as you go in. Or put a wine bar at the other end as you go out.
In a charity shop if you find an item you like, you try it on.

If it fits, you feel like Cinderella.
Like I did in these Louboutin Wedges.

If it doesn't, there isn't a choice. So you don't blame yourself.
You just get back out there and scan the racks again.

So, from now on, when I have put together a little outfit from Fashion Finds and Thriftage; and I get a compliment, I am just going to say
Because I'm Worth it.

* Keen Freudians will spot a pattern here. My cousin's hand me down clothes were heavenly to me, so I continue to seek them out. And the perfume? Avon's Pretty Peach.


Elizabeth said…
You are worth it. You could make it your mantra.

You deserve to feel a little special, have a pretty outfit, be a girl, wear something beautiful, and most of all, you really rate a compliment.
Lisamaree said…
Thankyou enc. It is the likes of you and Super K and all the fashion bloggers that have lead me to self analyse and admit this.
Thankyou for your fabulous help.
Skye said…
First of all - those sky blue wedges are divine!

Second of all - a mighty "here here" to every word of your magnificent post. I had the opposite mother though - a super glam Alexis type (married 4 times) who taught me how to shop designer (no matter the dire poverty only the very best will do, and will get the man) and use my feminine wiles. I'm sure that's why I'm an op-shopping tomboy with the heart of a femme fatale. A very complex beast in my own way, just as you are.

Thirdly - the curse of judginess among mothers is a terrible one. I truly don't understand it. If we could overcome it we mamas would surely rule the world!

K.Line said…
Where do I even start with this fantastic post?!? You know, every one of us is dressing to achieve some purpose - to express some persona. So I completely relate to your wanting to look great without screaming "rich". (I have a friend who, for her own reasons, is hellbent on looking "rich" at whatever cost!)

Why haven't I paid more attention to my own motivations, I wonder? I mean, it's gotta be more than "I like pretty things." I love thriftage (great term) because it makes me feel like I'm in some kind of movie. And because I love the uniqueness (hmmmm) and because I too feel superior to all those people just finding stuff regular style and paying regular style (though, lord knows, i've done that too and had a great time).

And I've struggled with the whole "I need an at home spa" moment, with the kid pounding for my attention - while I wanted to ring her whiny neck (sorry, but I should be truthful) because I just want a few minutes to myself to feel special and "free".

Thanks for writing such a thought provoking piece, H. You will get that book deal. I know it.
Sister Wolf said…
How can I tell you how much I love you?

You are always willing to 'go where no man has gone before...'

I have never analyzed why I shop like I do. But I've always screeched "Yes, and I got it for 3 dollars!" when someone praises a thriftshop masterpiece. I only wear thriftshop or high-end because I hate middleness of any kind.

Women who say shit like "Imagine spending 5 minutes washing your face" are just bitter and undermining. Fuck them!

You do not owe anyone any apologies. You are allowed to love and pamper yourself. Wearing nice things is not a sin. When you feel good about yourself, you are actually a better mother, correct?

You are more justified than most to shop your ass off, if money is available.

And tell us your effing size already for the love of god!
Anonymous said…
We are all apologizing for ourselves in some way or another arent we? Its hard but I say just be beautiful, be smart, be outrageous, be arty, be yourself and never apologize for it.
Seeker said…
What a fantastic post!

I don’t do “Thriftage” because we haven’t any place to do that. It's a pity, besides finding some unique pieces it’s also a good thing to environment and to mother Earth.

I can see that judges among mothers are tough as it is among career women, who judge everyone that don’t dress with “the uniform” as less proficient.

The values in which I was raised have its roots in the Jewish Christian culture, so I understand perfectly the little voice inside saying "don't be too good, or you will be punished".

However mother always did efforts so we could dress “stylish”. She even sewed our clothes, furthermore the tough times the island was more isolated than now.

So my 2 cents are that a woman doesn’t run out with just an aspect of herself, whether it is fashion, family, or career.
To be a woman who likes fashion doesn’t mean that she is vain or superficial.
Fashion is more than material clothing. I believe clothes are ideas. Hence, fashion is also intellectual.
The body is our first home and it's ok if we want to adorn it, it should make we feel good. No need to feel guilty about it. (Easy to say than to feel)
Fashion can, and is, shallow for a lot of people. But in its purest form, I’ve found that fashion can also be inspirational. True fashion is simply an expression of identity.
Creative expression is spiritual... so even fashion can be a way to know your divinity.
And that can definitely bring you a little closer to the Universe.

Let people know that you're in charge of you and that you can take over the world.

YOU Worth it!!

Lots of luv

PS- A Home Spa day was indeed a great way to lower my stress levels.
Thank you!
Lisamaree said…
Seeker: I'm speechless. You express so much so well, you should do a whole post on it on your blog.
Cybil: as much as I want to; I always have this nagging little voice that wants everyone to like me; so I listen to all the crap.
But my blog buddies are helping to replace those internal voices, post by post.
Sis, I'm such an Aspie it took me years to work out what that Mum was getting at with that comment. Alot of that begrudgery flies over my head, which is a good thing I guess? And if I had the dough I would be the same. or maybe I would use my riches to fly to all the best capital cities and shop vintage and thrift there. Then go back to my 5 star hotel to go through my goodies.

K-line: As for shopping for whatever one wanted for full price, I think we would miss the thrill of the chase. From what I hear, even celebrities love "goody bags" full of stuff they could buy themselves. And as your working, and child rearing, I can feel that extra pull on your time. Your guilt that you should be spending your non-working time being a mum; leaving no space for being YOU.
One advantage of being a special mum is that there is no way I will ever work in a paid job again.There is no back up position for holidays and sick days. So I get to shut off one part of the demands of the modern woman. And I make up the "me" time when the kids are in school.
I think a lot of Mums do that, Try and get a waxing or hair appointment next Monday when school goes back. (At the moment we all have skunk re-growth and hairy armpits)
Book the time for yourself. As an appointment.

Skye, now I am jealous of your mum.
I agree now about the real world of judgey mums, but the blogomums are the opposite! You guys are very encouraging and supportive. Makes me wonder where they find all those bitchy cut-throat women who end up knee-capping each other in the boardroom on The Apprentice?
Would we all sit there and ignore "The Donald" (Or Sir Alan)while admiring each other's latest shoe find?
I hope so.
Thankyou all again.
Seeker said…
My dear Hammie, now it was my turn to be speechless with your so deep comment in my blog.
I do believe that there are no coincidences and when someone enters our life it's because we are part of each other path.
Thank you for being part of mine.

Style On Track said…
You definitley are worth it and I don't think you should ever feel like you arent, or anyone else for that matter.

I know from times in the past that when I have felt depressed or sad I do not take care of my image and the way I dress, so I do take extra effort to make myself feel nice now that I am out of those dark times.

Another fantastic post that I just want to forward to all my friends :)
I can vouch for just how shit-hot you look in a 15 euro Armani skirt. Don't be too hard on yourself, just think that ciggarettes were your parents attempts to look fashionable.
Anonymous said…
Hammie, you are an amazing, gal. You know that, right? RIGHT?

That is SUCH a good point about shopping vintage and charity: Since it's all luck, you don't have to deal with going up a size, because there IS no up-a-size. Brilliant observation, and a good tool for anyone who indulges in a little self-esteem self-flagellation whilst shopping.

As for the rest, it seems like you've reached the one and only correct conclusion, but just to reinforce: YOU ARE WORTH IT. You work your ASS off every day, and some of those days make you want to lay down in traffic, and anything (barring illegal narcotics and torturing baby ducks) that you can do to make yourself feel gorgeous and serene and GOOD is smart and worthwhile. That includes face wash, lovely clothes (thrifted or new), shoes, massage, chocolate, and jewelry. And sometimes the magic of style is that, even if we feel a little rotten on the inside, if we can cobble together a chic exterior, a few mirror glimpses and well-timed compliment can kick-start the healing.

For the record, I do the same thing when complimented: Immediately tell folks what a bargain the item was, where they can purchase it, gush, gush, anxious, uncomfortable. And it stems from a desire to look awesome without looking like an overindulgent princess. The human brain, right? Never settles.

Anyway, you rock on, sister. You are clearly a thrifting goddess, and deserve every designer dud you unearth and then some. Sounds like you've got some good Bargain Mojo working ...
Candice DeVille said…
Absolutely cracking post my dear Hammie. Growing up I couldn't have asked for a better fashion mentor than my mother. She herself grew up in a very puritanical household, where proper attire was required, but anything embellished, fashionable or solely for decoration was frowned upon. So she learnt to sew and be subversive, and then passed these passions on to me, which of course I took and magnified x 100.

As for shopping in Charity shops, I do it for the thrill of the hunt, and yes, the feeling of being super clever when I find a gem.

When it comes to judgmental mothers, I find myself on the receiving end of some crackers. I've reached a point though where it actually doesn't bother me anymore. An unwavering sense of self belief (Leo / Virgo here) goes a long way. I think a big part of feeling judged or feeling worthy comes down to how you measure your success and self worth. For me, I am very competitive, but I have learnt to only compete with myself. This drives me to always want to be a better version of myself and is a goal that only moves in a positive direction.

And the best part of being "worth it", is the stellar example you are setting for your children. Pass to them the mantle of "Worth It", it is the most empowering gift you could give.
Lisamaree said…
Super K Mama:
I'm still blushing at your post. I had to run in to tell Mr Hammie with the laptop in one hand and specs in the other! That is so wonderful about your Mother. We all need strong women in our lives. And I hope I give my kids a sense of pride in their Mama.
(My niece thinks I am pretty cool)
Sal, more warm hugs back at you. I had never analysed the change room self hatred, I just knew I enjoyed thriftage more than when I "had to go and buy tops, grrr" type shopping. Thrift shops tend to be small with daylight filtering in, whereas dept' stores and big chain stores seem to suck your soul out and make you lose your sense of time and space by the time you have trudged out of the changerooms with the pile of NO!s
On Track: That's great, thankyou for the vote of confidence. I love your pretty blog.
Immie: thankyou. I forgot I wore that oul thing when we had our fling in Londres. Princess Diana will never look the same to me. xx
Anonymous said…
Umm.... Wow...
Sharon McDaid said…
I shop in the high street, in sales and outlet places. Though I am not so good at fashion, I like to look good, and dress fairly well every day, in comfortable but attractive clothes. My children don't go to school so some days I might not see anyone outside family. It's tempting to just slob about all day but I decide that the day goes better as I feel better when I look good. (I just take the time I need to pluck, scrub and cream and let the kids amuse themselves.)

I love any chance I can get to dress up too. Hell yes we're worth it!

Oh, and I'll be checking out the fashion blogs. I always appreciate ideas.
Nick McGivney said…
As you well know, Sister Hammie, I am the least qualified person to speak about fashion. I knows what I likes etc ec, and I seems to likes looking like a train wreck mostly in the sartorial dept. I envy the way that suit hangs on that Clooney in that movie Out of Sight, but whatcha gonna? Anyhoo, what I will say is that after a good few too many years in the advertising business, I know how you will be judged by how you look. Instantly. And I know that this is skewed against women, as is the whole machinery of the fashion industry. They are not on your side. They are ruthless corporate monsters who each want more of your money than the others. You have a good handle on that already, as Goddess of Thriftage, so keep stickin' it to em, I say. If I could line up all the €700 Fendi Bag-totin' idiots I know well then that would be a start, wouldn't it. But some people will put all the spiritual and intellectual property they own into externals. And good luck to them. I hope the buzz lasts. But somehow I think not, and that is what the cyclical (sicklical?) nature of Milan etc knows too well. And not to dwell on it, but kudos too for climbing out of the wreckage of the past. Not everybody has the chutzpah to achieve it, and you should pat yourself on the back just a little. Look good and feel strong, Hammlet. You're worth it.
Anonymous said…
really hammie u posted this at 4.49am????? are u truly super woman r just demented! LOL very inciteful and as a fellow rummager I salute your style!!

fdsfsdd said…
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