17 December, 2014 / General
Last night my daughter Erin (centre) and her six friends descended on our house to get ready for the school Christmas dance. Remember the joy of getting ready? It was often the best part of the night. In fact sometimes I’d feel a slight twinge of disappointment when the time rolled around that we had to actually leave the house and go somewhere. Getting ready always happened with a friend, preferably at their place, as it was always more fun to be somewhere else. And it took so long! An hour at least, but more likely two or three – ie, approaching half of a normal working day. My life these days is generally about trying to achieve as much as possible in the shortest time. I can hardly remember how it felt to have virtually limitless time to spend on something so indulgent.
Of course, it wasn’t really about applying make-up and tonging our hair. It was about being together, gossiping and sharing confidences and amidst clouds of loose powder and Elnett hairspray. There’s something particularly intimate about the process of transformation; few people see us ‘half done’, after all. I always love those old black and white photos of Hollywood stars captured in deep concentration in their dressing rooms.
Our dressing rooms were our teenage bedrooms, plastered with Paul Weller posters and heady with Lulu perfume. My friend Karen’s duvet cover was made from the same fabric as her curtains, which struck me as particularly chic. No boys were around as we caked on Rimmel foundation, although we’d discuss them in forensic detail, of course. When my children were younger I often found we’d have our most relaxed and revealing conversations when I was driving them somewhere. There’s something about being engaged in another activity – crawling through traffic, applying mascara – that’s conducive to easy and honest discussions.
Do I miss getting ready? Not especially, as it belongs to a time and a place that’s long gone. It would seem as crazy as filling empty Soda Stream bottles with illicit booze to slug on the way to a party, and I hardly ever pull that stunt these days. It belongs to an era of getting dressed in something low-key, then throwing a carrier bag containing the ‘real’ outfit out of my bedroom window (to be retrieved and changed into in a phone box en route to the disco).
Getting ready these days takes about 15 minutes, even for a really posh do. I can hardly believe I’d once have spent ten times as long dolling myself up for a ropey old disco in a community hall. But they didn’t seem ropey back then. I vividly remember the clothes we wore, the songs we danced to, and the elaborate plots we came up with in order to start conversations with boys. I remember Karen and I hitching a lift – I’d keel over from a heart attack if my daughter did that – to a disco in a neighbouring town.
So many things could go wrong with a night out. The boy you liked could get off with someone else, causing you to seek solace in too much Pernod and black. There were frequently fights in the loos and distraught friends to take care of. Worse still, that willing parent might have ignored instructions to wait around the corner, and parked right outside the venue for all to see. Putting your face on at a friend’s house never involved such horrors. The getting ready part could never disappoint.
These days I’m the chauffeur and am used to tuning out as I transport a bunch of excitable teenagers home. I know better than to quiz them about how their evening was – because all they’re going to say is, ‘Fine.’ But maybe it was merely fine, and getting ready was still the best part of the night.
Essential ingredients for getting ready:
- Best friend(s)
- Parents/siblings well out of the way, out of earshot
- Cotton wool pads to mop off make-up mistakes
- Clear nail polish to glue snags in tights
- Cheap perfume
- A zillion accessories
- Hair tongs (I thought these had died out at around the time of fax machines but it would appear not!)
- Toe separators
- All the time in the world