Tuesday 27 January 2009

Ladette to lady.

For much of my life, my Dad has made it his mission to get me to be 'more ladylike'. (Buy a girl a Derby County season ticket at nine, and what do you expect?) First it was my accent. (Ditto.) Then my insistence on wearing trousers to school instead of a skirt. (That all changed during assembly one day when some little tosser enquired at considerable volume, 'Oi, are you a transvestite?') Next it was my swearing. (He's since admitted defeat on that front.) And then my binge-drinking. (Kind of a mixed message when your Dad works in brewing and buys you four cans of Red Stripe for your 15th birthday.)

I was never a total tomboy. Just tomboy-ish when it suited me. It was a conscious – and pretty successful – decision to get boys to like me. Being 'one of the lads' was my Way In. Liking football was my USP. (An old boyfriend often talks about the first night he came back to my place and how, as he was unbuttoning his shirt, he turned around to find me checking FA Cup scores on Teletext.) But, after finally reaching a new ladylike low in the week in which I discovered that my legs are in danger of getting hairier than my husband's, and revealed on Twitter that I once peed into a Pringles tube at Glastonbury (classy, eh?), I fear it's time I took my old man's advice. 

And so I write this from my loo seat, with legs apart and blinds closed. It's where I've spent much of today, actually – the suggestion from the radiotherapy staff that my symptoms would peak seven to 10 days after treatment had finished was, again, bang on the money. I reckon my skin is just past its worst now, but I've been feeling a bit on the groggy side and wound up with my head down the loo earlier on today. (A little tip: when doctors say, 'You might find that...' what they actually mean is, 'This is a dead cert.' Derren Brown has got nothing on the staff at my hospital, I tells ya.) But fortunately, this current toilet trip is more out of choice than necessity. And the legs-akimbo stuff is nothing kinky, I assure you (hell, I'm not that good at multi-tasking). Instead, I'm waiting the 10 to 12 minutes recommended by Veet while the Straight Pube Phenomenon becomes a thing of the past. 

I'd forgotten what a palaver personal grooming was. With all the hairlessness and pyjama-wearing of the past few months, getting dolled up has been something of a rarity. Not that I'm dusting off my gladrags tonight – I'm preening for a night in with P. He's been away this weekend and, what with getting back late last night and leaving for work early this morning, tonight will be the first he's properly seen of me for a few days. And since I'm keen to avoid looking like an extra from the Thriller video and instead unearth the fairly presentable girl who's hiding in here somewhere, the practice of prettifying is something of a must.

I suspect radiotherapy did most of the damage. If you'll excuse the sweeping generalisations, fellas, I fear 28 sessions of radiation has helped me acquire a few more typically male traits (or helped me lose a few typically female ones). For starters, I have a new reluctance to dance at discos. As predicted a few weeks back, I've become pretty good at doing the YMCA. So good, in fact, that it's time to announce my retirement from the dance. Sad as it may be, I suspect the world just isn't ready for my perfectly honed routine, YMCA Jedi Master that I am. (Come to think of it, 'Young man, I was once in your shoes' sounds a bit like something Yoda would say, don't you think? 'Once in your shoes, I was.') But if I'm a Jedi Master in the YMCA, I'm a Jedi Grand Master when it comes to parallel parking. Six weeks' practice of reversing into hospital bays, and I can squeeze my Astra into a pram-sized spot faster than you can say En-Ra-Ha. And it's taken a good month and a half, but I've also perfected the art of leaving the flat within 30 minutes of waking up. Alarm, phonecall from P to follow up on the alarm, shower, aqueous cream, clean teeth while cream is drying, put on clothes abandoned on bedroom floor, pull on the boots that don't require socks, tie my headscarf on my way out of the door – job's a good'un.

It's not necessarily that I feel like a man. But nor do I feel particularly womanly. And I sure as hell can't remember what it's like to feel sexy. (The one thing that always made me feel flirty and feminine was my hair. Well, my hair and my boobs. And when both of those are shot to shit, what else have I got to work with?) I doubt I'll be causing any sharp intakes of breath by telling you that cancer is basically a sex-free zone. The mere mention of the word is the ultimate moment-killer (not to mention its effects on your appearance) and with the added, menopause-inducing effects of Tamoxifen, it's no huge surprise that I feel the way I do.

I wonder, though, whether my fall from femininity has less to do with my lack of oestrogen, and more to do with the simple fact that I'm just out of practice when it comes to being a girl? Cancer does not a woman make. Nor a man, for that matter. When you're in the throes of The Bullshit, you're neither man nor woman – you're a being. A being with one function: survive. There's just no space for anything else. Not shaving your legs or waxing your bikini line. Not spraying yourself with perfume. Not choosing a pair of earrings in the morning. Sheesh, not even putting on deodorant (it was banned during radiotherapy).

But now that my active treatment is over, there's suddenly some newly vacated room in my brain for face masks and moisturiser and nail varnish and bronzer. So I guess P's return from his weekend away couldn't have come at a better time in my cancer schedule (after chemotherapy and radiotherapy comes beauty therapy). And since one of my new year's resolutions was to look hot by the time I hit 30 – and stay that way – that gives me exactly seven months to re-learn all the stuff I forgot over the same amount of time. Better get started, then.

And so, in my quest to regain my girly self and make my husband fancy me, my bathroom currently looks like that Mel-Gibson-in-tights scene from What Women Want (I'm back on the sofa now, away from the devastation). The place has been beauty-bombed: tweezers abandoned on the side of the sink, chunks of my ankles in the bath, blood on my white towels, fake tan up the walls, pink hair removal cream smeared on the side of the cabinet and peeling flakes of radiated skin all over the floor. Actually, that's just reminded me about a kid at school who used to eat his peeling skin (he was friends with the transvestite-comment boy – go figure). I seem to remember he ate grass, insects and banana skins, too. And I'm the one who got cancer.


Anonymous said...


I hate being girly, it's such a pain in the arse! Or, in this case, crotch...

Have fun with Mr P tonight :o)

Anonymous said...

posting this from the bog, too. IPhone, ya know. Gotta love it.

Once again you are right on the money about The Bullshit in this post. I'm trying to feel less like a being at the mo, even with the ongoing treatment.

So your leg hair has come back with a vengeance - and I thought it was just me! Gonna email you - got some radiation-based questions I hope you don't mind answering....

Keep chin up lass, I'm sure hubby doesn't see you quite like you see yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hehe. I feel ungirly most of the time, and I don't have The Bullshit for an excuse!! I hope your ankles & pubes recover though! :)

Hope you & P have a lovely evening!

Erin. x

Histrel said...

Have a good evening discovering your girly side again :-)

gemmak said...

I'm sure 'P' sees you very differently to how you see you right now but enjoy the re-learning...a bit of tomboy is always a good thing tho!

Have a good evening :o)

Anonymous said...

Fall from femininity my arse. She’s gorgeous. Properly gorgeous. You can tell from the way she writes. Only someone really stunning could write that well. She’s better looking post-bullshit than most people are no-bullshit. Don’t listen to a word of it.

greenwords said...

Personal grooming is pesky indeed. Your beauty therapy sounds very thorough, I hope it was successful and you are feeling wildly (or even mildly!) gorgeous. Next step: Louboutins?

Anonymous said...

This is kinda trivial, but...glad to know I wasn't the only girl who used liking/knowing about football as a way in with boys! It served me well ;-) and I still like it for its own sake now.
Hope you had a fabulous evening.

Megan said...

Hehehe, 'bring on the trumpets'. I actually said that right before my last exam today. You're right, its class! (And please don't ask why I'm commenting at 1am!)
P.s. theres nothing wrong with being slightly tomboyish. Hell, even I was. I hated girly stuff and spent years wearing football shirts. Xx

Anonymous said...

I used to dip my hands in that kiddy glue they gave us at school, let it dry to a nice clear film, then scare the other kids by pretending my skin was coming off in the playground. Absurd comment obviously, but I felt you'd appreciate it. All love as ever

MBNAD woman said...

When I was seven years old, I wanted to be a Cub scout. They did things like tracking in the woods and had penknives (you can tell this was a thousand years ago). How cool would that be? Well it was so cool that they didn't let girls in so I was sent to Brownies to "see how I'd fit in". Ha! They had elves, pixies and other dead wierd things about looking in mirrors/ponds and jumping over toadstools. At seven, I didn't really get some of the darkly strange metaphors but I did think that the sight of Brown Owl and co hauling a slightly round Brownie over the aforementioned toadstool as the rite of passage to Guides was hilarious. I was sent outside for giggling. When my mother came to collect me, she was told I wasn't the "right stuff". So I grew up without the benefit of the character building afforded by Brownies or Cubs and instead enjoyed Rugby (sorry, I know it's not footie), did a decidly non-girlie degree and then worked in a totally male-dominated world. I was once called an honorary bloke ... but only I knew that I was wearing sexy pants and had tarty toenails.
Enjoy finding your inner tart :-)

Helen said...

Have a fabulous evening tonight.

I'm a bit of a tomboy. For 'a bit' read 'mouth of a sailor'. My boyfriend actually tells me to stop being vile sometimes. Usually when one too many smutty innuendos has spewed forth from my mouth.

Rebel with Cause said...

As someone who even Twitter identifies as '58% likely male', with an electrical engineering degree and long career in computing, I say being a tomboy makes you a survivor.

A request- please have a look at your face in the mirror now. Are your eyes shining?

If yes, great. Your next task of the day is to invent for yourself a game of contribution (your choice of what & where) - you will never get tired of it = I guarantee it!

If the eyes are not shining, ask yourself:
"What assumptions am I making that I do not know I am making that limit my thinking?"
As soon as you recognise at least one such assumption, acknowledge it and then dismiss it for what it is -just an assumption and not a truth or fact. Celebrate being more free each day by inventing a game of contribution where it does not matter.

And if you find yourself being overwhelmed or angry, no matter why, STOP and recall Rule no. 6! It is a magic rule. It is very simple and memorable - so stick the words on your mirror in the bathroom:
Don't take yourself so god damned seriously!

More practices to follow, once you are the shinny eyes Lisa open to new possibilities.

Incidentally, do you play any instrument?

Anonymous said...

I am a new follower of your blog and i find it amazing how you talk about what you are going through. And straight pubes?! who'd've thought! Keep it up girly! J

Redned said...

Lisa,P wont believe this but me,your invisible 50 ish cousin in-law has finally arrived in the 21st century.only just got my scouse head around blogging and now people are talking about bird watching on the net wots all this twittering about,dont forget to come see us later this year,and tell Beanpole of the Bailey he still owes me a birthday pint(oh and the hair thing you are now most definately a LYNCH

Anonymous said...

Gemmak said: "I'm sure 'P' sees you very differently to how you see you right now but enjoy the re-learning...a bit of tomboy is always a good thing tho!"

I agree totally - your husband still fancies you!!!