Sunday, 27 May 2012

In which I bring a tender issue out in the open

Do your thighs meet in the middle? If not, then feel free to click on, maybe to a cake blog - though you might like to hang around anyway and take notes for future reference.

If your thighs DO meet in the middle, then welcome, friend! This is a circle of trust. There will be no mocking here; no pointing and laughing. Together, we're going to finally bring a topic out in the open. It's not glamorous or sexy, but it has gone unspoken in society for far too long now and needs to be given a good airing - quite literally, because the topic is inner-thigh rubbing. BOOM. There, I said it.

I remember the first time I ever spoke about my summer affliction. I was 18 (that's 18 years of silent wincing and secret Sudocrem application on beach holidays, folks) and in Paris with two friends for a post A-levels holiday. It was July, it was boiling, and as skint students with a moderate fear of foreign public transport systems, we did loads of walking. Because it was our first time in Paris we'd decided to dress as we imagined people who had cool, romantic encounters in Paris dressed - mainly floral sundresses from Dorothy Perkins - and, it being boiling and the footless tights revolution of '05 yet to kick off, we were bare-legged. 

After about two days of sweaty traipsing round le hotspots touristique, one of us bravely brought it up. I don't remember which one of us it was, but it would have gone a bit like: "Do your… um, I mean… does it hurt when… like, y'know… are your legs a bit… raw?" "YES!" we shrieked back in glee. And then we realised we were normal, and it was a beautiful moment. Even more beautiful was that we solved the problem together by cutting off pairs of nude tights into comfort shorts, and wore them merrily underneath our frocks for the rest of the week. C'est le mode de Britannique, innit?

(other anti-chafing products are available)
Since then, I've been on a mission to bust the taboo. Because like IBS and those single, wiry hairs that start growing out of your neck in your mid-20s, it's something that bloody loads of people experience yet NOBODY TALKS ABOUT. If ever mentioned at all, it's dismissed as the preserve of the Seriously Fat (see: 'chub rub') - not fairly average, size 12-14 legs like mine. Every summer I watch women with thighs no smaller than my own, cheerfully strolling about with legs al fresco, and truly not understand how they're doing it.  "Is it Lanacane?" I want to bellow after them from the ice cream queue, "Or do you have special frictionless skin? How do I get some? ENLIGHTEN ME."

But the most likely truth is that while these ladies are all smiles and freely wafting chiffon on the outside, they're secretly nipping off to the loo every half hour to whack a bit of hand cream on the damage and sit with their legs apart, quietly groaning. If we're all suffering, sisters, then why must we do it in silence? It's possible that the reason our olden-day counterparts always wore stockings wasn't the damned patriarchy, but avoiding an uncomfortable incident on the way to the hat shop.

From time to time though, I'll find myself in a thigh-rub 'safe space' and be able to discuss it openly. My flatmate coined the term 'lady-rubbage' at uni after a particularly chafe-y summer walk, and it has been a source of endless debate and cosmetic experimentation ever since. Is the desirable result, we ponder, dry skin that doesn't grip, or, um, lubed skin that doesn't rub? "Before we ever talked about lady-rubbage, I used to take a little container of talc out with me everywhere," admits another friend. Noted.

Of course, one option is just to keep your tights on for 12 months of the year - and believe me, if body temperature and comments from strangers weren't a consideration, I'd be all over it. But the best solution I've found in recent years is rocking a natty line in brightly coloured cycling shorts under dresses, hopeful that they say 'on-trend 90s revival' rather than 'meaty thighs prone to friction rash'.

Rather than a solution, though, what I'd really like is awareness. Let's all talk about it, girls! Let's get Beyonce on side! Let's make it officially ok to stand up and say, "No, I can't spontaneously climb to the top of that hill because it will rip my inner thighs to shreds. Warn me next time and I'll pack the comfort shorts." Is it really such a leap?

(However, if you're all reading this thinking 'sorry Lauren - it's just you…' then I'd request you kindly move on and we will never speak of this again. Thank you.)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A list of things I like to be thankful for when it’s raining

1.   It isn’t hot, therefore I can wear tights.

2.   I can wear tights, therefore no thigh rubbing.

3.   No thigh rubbing, therefore no having to discreetly walk like John Wayne into pub loos.

4.   It is socially acceptable to walk along the street in a semi-foetal position with your head down, swatting at obstacles with a spiky umbrella shield. This is generally my preferred method of walking.

5.  You need a hot chocolate! You MUST HAVE a hot chocolate.

6.   Staring out of bus windows with your iPod in takes on a whole other dimension in the rain. You are suddenly the antagonist in a US teen drama. It is the series finale. There is a mournful indie soundtrack. A single tear rolls down your cheek. END CREDITS.

Monday, 14 May 2012

In which there are too many breast puns to choose from

Those of you who follow these columns (hi, Mum!) will remember that I few months ago I wrote about my training for The MoonWalk - not a mass Michael Jackson tribute, but a half marathon walked in the middle of the night, in a nattily decorated bra. Well, I'm doing it! Literally right now! I mean, not literally literally, but if you could just suspend belief and pretend I'm writing on a small typewriter strapped to my bumbag. I'll concede to a small spoiler and let you know now that I cross the finish line alive, just so you can enjoy the next 400 words without worrying.

11am. I have put whey protein powder in my morning porridge. I am going to walk like a PRO.

11.02am. Do professional walkers exist? Is that a thing?

12.30pm. I have purchased every energy bar and blister product in North London. There's a chance I might be using charity as an excuse for consumerism.

2pm. My walking pal Lizzie and I are finishing off our bras. We have opted for a Worthing-inspired seascape, with waves, boats and a blue ribbon 'seaweed ' trim. In a fit of resourcefulness (and lack of fabric paint), I've used blue eyeshadow to create a dappled sky effect.

8.40pm. We are in a giant tent full of pink. It seems everyone got another memo we didn't. There are pink trousers, pink hoods and pink anoraks everywhere. A band on the stage are playing 50s rock 'n' roll covers, and women are applying temporary glitter tattoos to any available flesh. It's Tit Glastonbury. In a way, I feel I may enjoy this MORE than Glastonbury.

9pm. We have devised MoonWalk Bingo! We get points for spotting the following: a celeb, a lady weeing in the street, an unintentional nipple. If Anneka Rice has a pee behind the tree does a jiggly shake-and-wait, we might win the jackpot.

12.00am. And we're off! We've started! Last weekend's blister is already rubbing, but it's no match for my determination and excessive Nurofen supply.

12.15am. Is it too early to crack open the Percy Pigs?

12.58am. 3 miles! We are still in Hyde Park in the dark, so in the absence of other entertainment I am drawing on my strongest talent - whistling. I whistle my way through In The Mood, to get Lizzie in the mood. I am a one-woman big band. I think she appreciates it. She doesn't hit me, anyway.

1.12am. We are playing 'would you rather?' Every option I can think of involves romantic shenanigans with an overweight politician. The game dies quickly.

1.30am. 5 miles! Various onlookers and cheerers-on are positioned along the route, shouting motivating things and waving as we pass by in our bras. Liz and I are now playing a game called 'Supporter or pervert?'

1.35am. A Twitter follower has helpfully pointed out to me that it is possible to be both.

2.32am. 7 miles! We are crossing London Bridge. A 43 bus is going past. If we just hopped on it, we could be at the end of my street in half an hour. Who's going to check?

3.49am. 11 miles! I have reverted to earlier tactics and am whistling the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody. By the time I get to the Galileo Galileos Liz is threatening to slap me, but I'm too committed to stop. 

4.10am. 12 miles! On with the foil blanket. I always thought a foil blanket would make me feel supremely athletic. It doesn't. It makes me feel like a slutty burrito.

4.20am. We've done it! We've ruddy done it! My hips are screaming. I cannot feel my feet. I will NEVER walk anywhere again.

4.27am. I am running for a cab. Running. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

In which there is little gain but plenty of pain

Which would you rather read a column about: the mice in our flat, or my recent dental work?

ONLY KIDDING. You're having both.

So last week, I left you on tenterhooks (humour me) as I trotted off to my first dentist appointment in an embarrassing number of years. I'm happy to tell you it was fine. Pleasant, in fact. I've managed to find myself a Lovely Dentist - and not only lovely but award-winning (according to his window stickers), and says nice honest things like, "the cheap metal NHS fillings are actually stronger and better than the expensive white ones. Get those."

I left floating on a cloud of optimism and adult efficiency. I promptly went and changed my address with Natwest, only a year and a half after I moved house. I was on a life-admin roll.

Then before my two-fillings appointment, by way of useful distraction, we’ve gone and got mice in the flat again. Although “gone and got” infers unfair responsibility on our part, when everyone knows that mice simply run inside to escape the rain, and prefer clean houses to dirty ones anyway. Or is that nits, with hair? Anyway. Mice. Still, our ingenious plan to scare them away by having all of our radios on at all times means that I'm learning a lot about bluegrass from Radio 2, so there is always a silver lining.

Back in The Chair of Dental Doom, Lovely Dentist continues in his honest vein, and tells me the injections will be "pretty nasty". 

To try and distract myself, I use my mum's favourite trick: mentally running through all the contestants in a named reality TV show in series order. I start with Strictly. "Lesley Garrett," I say in my head. The drill starts. "Umm, Natasha Kaplinsky". It feels like my tooth is spraying over my mouth. That can't be right, can it? "David Dickinson." Can it? Are tiny bits of tooth going everywhere? "CLAIRE SWEENEY."

Whether there's any pride in being really hard to anaesthetise, I'm not sure - but if there is, please let me say that I took FOUR injections, baby. I'm just that tough. Although by the fourth I'll admit my ability to distinguish pain from 'cold', 'noise' and 'foot cramp' is waning. Am I in pain, or is this just how I feel generally? I start paying disproportionate attention to my lower limbs. Are my feet positioned weird? Should I try to cross them, nonchalantly?

I try to cross them nonchalantly, and in doing so accidentally flinch my top half - which Lovely Dentist interprets as pain and gives me more anaesthetic. Score! So it continues, the drilling and the flinching, until I've reached series 6 and am mentally re-running Heather Small’s cha-cha-cha.

An hour, £50 and some vague, ignorable mutterings about a future root canal later, I’m back in the Mouse House, alone. There are ominous clunkings coming from a cupboard. But I can’t employ my usual tactic of ferocious whistling because the bottom half of my face is completely numb and flopping around like vulcanized rubber. 

“Rachel Stevens, Lisa Snowdon, Tom Chambers!”

The clunking gets louder, and more mouse-in-trap-y.

Onto series 7.