A Woman Ages (v)

In the question of whether art imitates life, it is often presumed that art will be more refined, more beautiful, than life. We see this portrayed in films consistently, with movie versions of real people often exceeding the physical attractiveness of the original subjects. The cinema has always been a distilled microcosm of beauty and escapism, ever since its inception.

Still, there has been a push in recent years for realism to take to the screen. Ambivalent endings, the occasional size 12 figure and gritty dialogue have arrived. Stories are told about ordinary people, living ordinary lives. Storylines no longer require a rags-to-riches transformation to have merit, nor are they just about the great and the good. They can be told about office work, wartime or governesses – anything goes, from living situation to occupation.

With all this realism around, surely we ought to have been prepared for a 51- year-old woman to look like a 51-year-old woman. I speak of Nicole Kidman in Destroyer.

Instead, commentary on the film never fails to mention her dishwater-coloured or grey hair, skin like sunburnt beef jerky and her overall demeanour as a dilapidated shell. Even the relatively progressive Guardian described her as such: ‘hellishly mottled, perma-dirtied skin and ravine-deep eyebags, under a mangy, unconditioned bison pelt of a wig’.

Clearly, reviewers are not ready for Nicole Kidman to look like a mere mortal.

Courtesy of People.

But let’s take a step back here. Because Kidman does not look like dried beef jerky; she does not have a ruined face. Rather, she looks like a woman who has aged normally, in a normal community, without the desire for or requirement of facial enhancers – whether those be permanent, like Botox or surgery, or daily, like makeup. Normal women have lines, eye bags and grey streaks. Normal men, too, come to think of it. Stress and trauma can add to these outward signifiers, but, at the end of the day, they are just a sign that we have lived.

With this in mind, is it any wonder that women are afraid of ageing when a balding reviewer at their favourite newspaper can dismiss  female ageing so succinctly? In this film, Kidman may not look like the red carpet glamazon we’re used to; she may not resemble Satine in Moulin Rouge, beautiful even in the throes of consumption. And I may be making these assessments based only on photos of the film, not having seen the film itself. But this is not about the film: it is about the way that we, as a people, perceive female ageing.

I write this as I am contemplating making a few changes to my own appearance, in the hopes that a new hair colour will help me get some metaphorical bounce back, or that a new foundation will make me look more glowy. It is also as I’m facing my own mortality, with a scary screening lined up for tomorrow morning. Paradoxically, I hope that I get to live to be old and yet, in this moment, I want to look youthful.

Millennialicious: Born this way (probably)

We’re young (aged 22-37). We were raised by the previous generation, and yet our habits appear to be completely alien to them. We millennials aren’t the biggest group of consumers, but our changing habits have alerted big businesses that times are changing. This list shows how and why. Of course, it is just based on my personal experience, my own consumption habits, and the need for a little giggle. So, let’s hop to it!

  1. Millennials smell. Okay, this one’s a bit weird, but it came up on the Mail a while ago. Sensationalist as the Mail is, I know I shower less than the rest of my family did when I was growing up. This is because our planet is running out of water, and having a full shower every day is nothing short of wasteful. Future decades will see water become the new petroleum; we’re just getting prepared. As for the lack of deodorant that the Mail seems intent on shaming us for, we’re just aware that these chemicals lead to cancer. Bring on the tea tree oil, and leave paraben-laden sticks to old people who don’t listen to us.
  2. Millennials are murdering chain restaurants. Seriously, die a good death. For the most part, we want to know where our food comes from. Particularly for those of us with allergies, chain restaurants with blasé staff are exactly the kinds of places we want to avoid. Why would we go to a mid-range restaurant to spend £60 and leave feeling as if something better could have been made at home?
  3. Millennials are killing the napkin industry. As someone who never considered buying napkins as an adult, I’m not surprised by this. Paper napkins are made from trees, and we grew up wanting to save the trees. So knowing that we avoid unnecessary paper products in a way that is noticeable makes me very glad. Or maybe we just eat more tidily.
  4. Millennials buy avocado toast but not houses. In the face of unrivalled student debt and high house prices, this is true. Avocado on toast is attainable when a starter home is not. It should not be assumed that we buy avocado toast instead of a house, though. That would be foolish.
  5. Millennials boycott diamonds. There are a few explanations for this. First, we know about blood diamonds and don’t want to support this industry. Also, fewer people are getting married. Even those who are getting married recognise the diamond engagement ring as a ploy by DeBeers. Lastly, Kate Middleton had a sapphire. Enough said.
  6. Millennials don’t wear bras. Or stilettos. Maybe we’re just not a sexy generation – at least not in the way that the Victoria’s Secret-idolising generation perceives sexy. We have Stoya, Kiera Knightly and Carey Mulligan; who needs pushup bras with them around? Or, maybe we’re just aware of our health. This study indicates that bras are not only bad for our breasts’ perkiness, but also their general health. While I haven’t burnt my bras, I did stop wearing them years ago. As for stilettos, our mothers had ingrown toenails, bunions and feet that curled inward. I’m not going to apologise for wanting to have healthy feet.
  7. Millennials eat less meat. I have a vegan+honey diet myself, so I do fit this bill. Again, we go back to the environment: the meat industry is one of the most water-hungry and polluting industries on our poor Earth. Even if we grew up eating meat, we know when the previous generation made a mistake.
  8. Millennials are killing golf. I don’t think I need to go over our debt again, so who wants to pay for clubs, house fees and then spend four hours walking very slowly in spiky shoes? You’ll probably stab an earthworm, you monster. Not to mention, courses destroy wildlife. Pesticides, overwatering, petrol used to cut the grass – for pretending to be in nature, it’s awfully managed. And there’s the association with a certain president who bullied Scottish residents until he got a course. Give us crossfit and nature walks.
  9. Millennials don’t eat marmalade. Okay, I have no excuse for this. Marmalade is delicious. Also, that Metro article is hilarious.
  10. Millennials don’t know how to defend their country. I read this opinion in the local paper when I went to visit my mom. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link for it, so you’re just going to have to trust me.) Thus, it may not be a universal belief, but it hints at the general disdain heaped upon us. The reason we are so reluctant to be combative and thus so quick to ensure the protection of ‘safe spaces’ and inclusive speech is because we know that the next big conflict will be the last. With the creation of the hydrogen bomb and its presence in so many countries, taking the time to listen to each other is imperative. If we come off as thin-skinned and hypersensitive, so be it. But the old models of conflict must be rejected.

The fact that the economic trends have been noticed is, in itself, great news. It means that voting with our money really works. It also means that businesses will need to adapt to our needs if they want to stay afloat. More transparency, fewer chemicals.

My main conclusion about us as a generation is that we are more focused on living naturally, with a sense of conscience regarding where our stuff comes from. While we appreciate doing things the old way (let’s not forget, knitting is on the rise), we’re also focused on understanding what cannot be sustained. Unlike those younger than us, we haven’t yet accepted that the climate change-based flood is definitely coming. Likewise, unlike those older than us, we know that it’s probably coming, and our own actions can make a difference. We can’t do what they did if we want to survive.

New Book: Shopaholic to Minimalist

Shameless plug time! I have a new book coming out. It’s out in e-book format today, and will be available in paperback next week, on the 26th. If shopping addiction (or shopping to impress) has ever been a problem for you, then my own experiences may provide a roadmap for getting you out the other end.


Available here!


Shopaholic to Minimalist is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of research, learning and hard personal graft. Also more than a decade of shopping addiction.

This is my third book, but my first piece of nonfiction. I’ve read before that anything longer than 3,000 words makes you look at yourself with a microscope, and the writing process definitely did that for me. I hadn’t realised how entrenched some of the lies I told myself were, nor how pervasive they are. In a time when many of us feel the need to keep up with the rich kids of Instagram, getting out of the shopping addiction cycle is more important than ever – both for the planet and for our bank accounts.

Just to be clear, all available irony is not lost on me. The truth is that I am selling a book on shopping addiction, presumably to shopping addicts. Of course, I feel that my own experience is worth sharing, and that the words have value. However, the only real goal is to encourage others away from buying too much. Consider me the Pied Piper of the Mall. If you can do this on your own, then fab. If you are able to do this after reading my book, then I thank you for your support; it means so much.

XO, Lady Hamilton.

Now, without further ado, here’s the full description from the back cover:

In a world of consumerism, this book addresses the addiction to things which many of us have. Through its pages, we’ll work towards finding abundance in what we already own rather than always feeling that we need more stuff to make us happy, or take the edge off our anxiety. Most importantly, we’ll look at our beliefs surrounding stuff to see what is resonant and true, and learn to let go of our unnecessary purchases – both past and future.

To do this, we need to understand where our addiction to buying comes from so we can learn to avoid our triggers. We’ll also begin to disengage from the consumerist cycle so we can experience more freedom, greater financial independence and a sense of knowing our true self. This will clear the way for uncovering what is important to us at our core.

The ultimate goal is an internal self-reliance without the intrusion of commercial influences, and becoming in tune with the body and its own messages. Additionally, there is a section on clearing out in time with the moon. I hope that this book will help you feel satisfied with what you already have, to clear away the things you don’t need and provide you with the tools to make the right shopping decisions going forward.

Though supporting small businesses and buying less are gaining popularity, large fashion conglomerates and credit card companies are still making money from us. This book is for those who recognise their actions as destructive to themselves and wish to grow towards healthier habits when they can’t seem to quit. It is also for those who are recovering from shopping addiction and wish to change their lifestyle, as well as receive encouragement to let go of the relics that addiction has left behind.

The Honourable Miss Dixie

Today, I would like to take a moment to celebrate my feline daughter, Dixie. Eight years ago today, the Laird Hamilton and I brought our little cat home from the RSPCA. On the car ride back, he lectured her on her future behaviour and the fact that he expected her to not die. Ever. It was a very good chat and I think the information would have been well-received if we hadn’t just adopted a deaf cat.IMG_0922

She was deaf from birth, and so her previous family gave her to the RSPCA to be rehomed. We were told that they lived on a busy road, and so they were worried about her getting hit by a passing car. I know I will probably never meet the people whose cat gave birth to mine, but I hope they know she’s well looked after. Or at least as well as she will allow, being of a fiercely independent nature.

At any rate, the adoption process wasn’t terribly easy, but it’s probably intended to put off those who aren’t completely serious. There was a waiting period as well as a house inspection from the RSPCA, then two checks at three and six months. It would seem we were considered safe pet parents. Prior to that, though, as soon as I opened her travelling box after our drive home, she was out and suddenly nestled in with my shoes. She stayed hidden for the first three days and didn’t want us near her.IMG_0371

Slowly, though, she grew to used to her surroundings. It took her about two years to be affectionate, though, and she still doesn’t enjoy being held. I suppose she’s just being a teenager – it’s probably very uncool for you parents to hold you. However, she will sleep next to me these days, and has been known – once or twice – to get on the sofa. As yet, laps are off limits. One of her favourite things at present is to chase around my pattern pieces as I cut out fabric. Most pieces are now held together with lots of tape.

Though it seems like just yesterday that we brought our cat home, I am rather taken aback to announce that today is my cat’s eighth birthday! Well, adoption day. I hope that introducing people to my lovely cat will encourage others to consider adoption when looking for a companion animal. Though some people seem to think that animals from such agencies are mangey or abused, I can assure you that this is not strictly the case. Most are well adjusted, and many are young, having been given up for adoption when their original family had an unexpected litter.

Since then, we have adopted two dogs from the same centre, and all get on very well. By which I mean that, if the dogs are unruly, the cat bops them on the head. Order is restored. IMG_1191

As I write this, Dixie is actually face-first in my vanity drawer, trying to get at a bottle of perfume. This is typical grown-up cat behaviour, and I hope that it never changes.

Art v. Dodgy Politics

My dilemma at present is a moral one: what can I, in good conscious, watch of an evening? Royalty pennies from my subscription filter back to films’ creators, each member presumably receiving a proportion based on their contract, if not their importance in the piece. And, of course, the more times a film is viewed, the higher it is ranked via algorithm and thus the more likely it is to be viewed by others. With this in mind, what can I choose?

This is not simply a question of taste and whim, mind you. My views and time are transmuted into financial gain for someone, and I want to make sure that the receiver is someone who I find worthy. The line between worthiness and unworthiness, however, is blurred.

None of us is completely clean. We’ve all committed venal – even mortal – sins. Laws are broken in passion and in evasion. Yet, we often learn from our mistakes, collect our guilt and move on, vowing to not return down that path. We can forgive ourselves if we learned a lesson that improves.

But what if a law was broken habitually – or, if in breaking a law even once, someone else’s life was ruined? If that outlaw was not ourself, would we choose to support that person? How do we deal with a much-loved film or a piece of literature if we learn that the creator/trix lived a life inflicting cruelty on others? What if our hard-earned money went to those who commit atrocities against the most vulnerable?

That’s them, of course. Now to us. Should we be made to forgo what are arguably cultural masterpieces in the face of unspent convictions like the still-at-large Roman Polanski? Is it too extreme to consider that we avoid a film all our friends discuss? Do we forgive them once they’re dead, like the abusive, womanising Hemingway? Or do we simply forgive them because they create art: that highest form of human expression?

While we cannot change our tastes, perhaps we can look for others who embody the same qualities we appreciate, even if their glimpses of genius are still granular, still uncultivated. Hopefully, with the same financial backing and nurturing that those toppled (or, indeed, still standing) paragons of poor virtue once received, the artists in less controversial standing will be able to take their place and create the art that we all need to heal.

The Titty Tax

This is going to get heavy, but I promise it will get better. Just probably not today. Unfortunately, this isn’t even an article about bras.


For anyone who pays attention to American news, this has been a triggering couple of weeks. Victim blaming has reminded many of us why we stayed quiet in crucial moments. The credibility of those brave enough to speak has been called into question because the women were young, drunk or both. Anger has made me shaky and hot. Then freezing. Then hot again.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse, harassment and rape. All these things happened on more than one occasion, and I never reported any of them to law enforcement. In almost all of those instances, I felt that I shared part of the blame. I gave myself reasons for this. For instance: I didn’t fight back hard enough (even though fighting at all made the agony worse). I was asleep naked (as if that were an invitation). I had been too close to the perpetrator. I was related to the perpetrator. I hadn’t bought myself a lock for my bedroom door.

Add these to a culture which, where I lived, shamed women who were not virgins until they married. My ‘greatest gift’ was gone. I was used. I was that chewed piece of gum held up triumphantly in sex ed to the rhetorical question, ‘And who would want a chewed piece of gum?’ I’d chewed my boyfriend’s gum once, trying to get a raspberry pip out of my teeth. It fell apart in my mouth. No one wants chewed gum.

And yet, telling my mother that I had chosen to have sex was easier than telling her that I’d been forced. It carried an air of rebellion with it, a rejection of the religion that would now reject me. Months later, when I told her the truth, she didn’t want to hear about it – but she did  ask me questions that put me on the back foot. Was it the first time I’d had my clothes off around him? Why was I alone with him? Was it still going on? Rather than feeling supported, I believed that I’d had a hand in my own rape. Never mind that I’d bled for days afterward, or that the stress nearly made me lose my mind.

Not every girl’s ‘loving family’ is ready to give her agency, especially if the family religion belittles anyone without a hymen. Best keep it quiet.

But back to the present day. I write this after Christine Blasey Ford provided testimony filled with vivid detail, including the increased volume of a stereo when two men closed her in a bedroom with them. Her silencing was the most frightening thing for her. She also spoke out knowing that it might not make a difference.

Throughout the internationally reported ‘pre- and post-hearing’, the phrase ‘ruining a man’s life’ has been bandied about with particular abandon. As if barring a man from sitting on the Supreme Court ruins his life (not that he’ll ever know). Moreover, this attitude ignores the women’s lives that have been ruined by male entitlement. The hours of therapy we have paid for, the silence, the learned helplessness, the loss of confidence, even the inability to show complete love to our chosen partners – these are the tax of being a woman with a past of compromised safety.

Blaming women for not reporting their own abuse is fairly standard these days, usually accompanied by the implication that future victims are on the first victim’s head. However, the low rate of conviction (or even belief) also begs the question – which of us are worth protecting, and which of us are to be left without justice, our credibility compromised by our own vulnerability? Within this framework of partisan justice, is it any surprise that so many of us stay silent?

Fear and the Art of New Stasis

My husband and I are currently planning a move to the US. I am reluctant to engage with this decision because I am reluctant to go. Our life in the UK is lovely, and I’m convinced that a move to a less expensive part of the country would solve all our problems. He is unconvinced, and felt that the solution lay in a complete upheaval. It’s clear which side won. Let’s speak no more of.

In complete denial of this upcoming departure, I spend up to an hour a day scanning properties on Rightmove, looking for the perfect three-bed-with-garden-plus-large-kitchen and a view of some sort of watery feature. It doesn’t matter that the husband (and anyone else who knows of this habit) finds this exercise pointless, because maintaining it means something to me.

Yet, I am unsure as to why I am so focused on what is clearly a lost cause. This has happened before, namely after our last move from a flat to our current house. I spent months rearranging our old flat via floor plans so that it could accommodate everything my husband wanted in a place – never mind that a new Mr and Mrs had already settled in between those same walls.

The fact is that I’m scared of too much change. Small changes, such as the local pub changing hands, are jarring at the best of times. Big changes, on the other hand, knock me for six in my old age (30). All I want to do is get to the point at which we’re going to be when the whole mess is sorted so I know where the metaphorical chips lie. Stake out a piece of high land in advance of the flood and learn to grow my own turnips, if need be. But I want that routine now, so I can get used to it before it becomes a requirement.

And I want it in the UK, because the US seems altogether more volatile. Socialist medicine and gun control are anathema, but these are things we take for granted locally. Moreover, I feel we’ve reached some sort of plateau in the amount of crazy within our borders. Of course, this is not true – Brexit hasn’t even taken place yet. But I live in hope that Article 50 will never complete.

In the meantime, I’ll content myself to keep writing and, in spare moments, browse Rightmove. I feel that the breakthrough property – the one that makes my husband say, ‘Ah, that’s superior to anything Stateside!’ – is only an advanced search away.