It’s happened again.
Another Saturday night, and I’m sat on the edge of my bed, half made up, my dressing gown wrapped over a short black tunic, tights in a bunch on the floor, shivering with panic and self loathing. Charlie keeps butting my leg, regarding me with wide eyed concern, but Dexter’s look is more along the lines of ‘Whatever’. God knows he seen me like this far too many times for it to be alarming, and I’ve let L down, in particular, more times than I care to remember.
I used to club a lot back in the day as I love dancing. This was then replaced by salsa as I rocketed into middle age, but now there seems to be nowhere for us old birds to go outside formal ballroom dancing without looking like desperados.
L does not agree with that statement one iota.
She’s a good looking woman our L. Latin descent with obligatory big liquid brown eyes, golden skin and long curly hair, L is fearless and lives life the only way it should be lived, i.e. one be-taloned hand around its balls as she swings it around her head whilst dancing on a bar table. She deliberately and unapologetically goes out with the intention to pull, has a lover half her age, wears short dresses with heels and doesn’t really give a fuck what any one says or thinks about this. L is 55.
During the process of extricating myself from my old life, recovering my mojo and trying to build a new one, I have had to acknowledge that I have, as Aunty C puts it, quashed my sensuality, stuffed it somewhere where I can’t hear its outraged cries of protest (Hey, we’re not done here!) and denied myself any form of complementary play in the bargain. I had never categorised dance as something that leads to sexual interaction, but when you think about it, that’s what tends to happen. At least is does if you’re doing it properly.
I desperately want to not care what people think, which is why I was determined to give a night at ‘Secrets’ a go. According to L, people of all ages go to dance to a diverse and indeed some might say slapdash playlist of music, from pretty much every decade (think ‘Tainted Love’ followed by ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, followed by ‘I’m Too Sexy’, etc), and no one bats an eyelid at ladies of our age cutting a rug (SEE! Only an old biddy would use a term like that!) on the dance floor. So whilst I’d much sooner have dinner somewhere nice or see a movie tonight, I agreed to go along.
I mentioned my concerns to Aunty C (my counsellor) earlier, and she made me promise not to bail.
‘Enable the child!’ she wheedled ‘tell her if she doesn’t like it she can always go straight home!’
NOT if she’s had a skin full and has no car with her, I silently retorted, as there’s no way I can do this sober, and glumly picture myself surrounded by drunken, vomiting 20 year old chavs in the rain, and nary a taxi in sight. But I agreed I’d try. What else could I say? it would be ludicrous to refuse. it’s not like I had anything else on.
The plan was that I would go to L’s first, so we could share a cab there (and so I couldn’t bottle it), but it’s been raining solidly since 4 pm, which does hideous things to my hair, so I rang her, and we agree to meet there instead.
‘Can I wear jeans?’ I ask innocently, trying to think of the least muttony outfit possible.
L is shocked. ‘No! It’s a smart nightclub! Get yourself into a nice mini dress, a pair of heels and some bling, please!’
‘I don’t own a minidress anymore L!’
‘BECAUSE I’M 50!’
‘So what? Bollocks to that,’ says she, ‘you’re thin, you’ve got a great figure, you look good in anything, I’m sure you’ll find something. Do you want to borrow something, you could wear my black Top Shop dress, you know, the sequinned one?’
I picture myself in this less than subtle little number and cringe. Why do people insist on wearing something on a wet Saturday night in Sarf London that would be considered OTT at a drag queen convention?
‘No, that’s fine, I’m sure I’ll come up with something!’
Cursing, I rake through my wardrobes, feeling the familiar rising panic building up inside. I eventually emerge with a black tunic dress, that I usually wear with jeans, yank it over my head, pull on a thick pair of black tights and chunky heels and regard myself appraisingly in the mirror.
From feet to hips I look OK apart as looking as if I’ve forgotten to put a skirt on.
Hips to diaphragm, I’m not happy with. My stomach isn’t flat enough, and my arse is non existent. I don’t have a midsection, more of an abdomen, pronounced, swollen and inelegant. Sausagey. Urgh.
Next section, diaphragm to shoulders is OK, boobs held up by bra, no back fat as yet. OK, we’re not doing too bad so far.
The latter in the form of my hot, flustered, freshly scrubbed, un-made up face comes as something of shock considering I see it every day. It looks as if some cruel, twisted, scientist with Human Centipede-esque tendencies has superimposed a boiled ham with a wig on it onto the neck of an anorexic farmyard bird, then stitched this vile combination onto the body of a 40 year old. I can’t seem to tear my gaze away somehow and am the verge of hysterical giggles.
Hyperventilating wildly, I scurry to my lap top and look up the ‘Club Secrets’ website. Not only does the ABOUT section confirm that I absolutely cannot wear smart jeans but everyone in the GALLERY section looks to be in their twenties! What happened to people of all ages?
Shaking, I drop my head between my black, 60 denier clad knees, clutch at my ankles, intermittently patting Charlie’s sympathetic little head, and berate myself wholly.
‘Stop being stupid! It’s only a club! Go and put some make up on. Nothing bad is going to happen.’
The phrase starts as a whisper, and then builds slowly and steadily into a mantra, finally culminating into a football match style chant in both volume and impact.
‘can’t, can’t, can’t go, can’t go, I can’t go, I can’t go, I CAN’T GO, I CAN’T GO!’
I feel trapped in some horrendous twixt ‘rock and hard place’ limbo where I either make a total wanker out of myself or let down one of my closest friends. AGAIN. I perch on the end of my bed shivering for 20 minutes, whilst all along knowing what the final outcome will be.
I fumble for my mobile.
‘L will you drive? Come and get me? I don’t want to let you down this late, but I know if it’s down to me, I won’t get out of the door?’
‘I can’t Hon, I’ve had a gin and tonic now. You OK?’
Whilst she knows I am prone to hibernating and get ‘a bit of depression’, she thinks it’s the ‘common or garden’ kind. You know, PMT, time of the month, chocolate craving, jobs a bit stressful, jeans don’t fit kind of depression, which is kind of like comparing a summer breeze with a tsunami. L doesn’t really know the extent of my condition.
I take a deep breath.
‘I can’t do it L. I look like a side of over hung mutton.’
‘No you don’t, you always look amazing and you’ll certainly look better than some of the women there.’
‘I absolutely cannot wear this outfit.’
‘Let me tell you, some of the sights I’ve seen at Secrets beggar belief; women the size and shape of bowling balls in bodycon dresses and stockings grinding away with the nearest bit of chicken without a care in the world…..’
Omigod. She doesn’t know it but she’s making it worse.
‘….coming onto guys and falling over outside, being sick in the gutter, believe me no one is going to see you in a derogatory way….’
Oh God. The embarrassment. I will fucking die of the embarrassment if I’m seen in there. I don’t want to appear in what sounds like a reenactment of ‘Shameless.’ A full on panic attack has set in.
‘I can’t do it L, I’m freaking out here, I’m so sorry, I’m such a shit friend and I hate myself but I can’t do it. I really wanted to give it a go, but I honestly can’t go out like this, I look ridiculous and I……’
This goes on for another twenty minutes of me making my excuses, pleading for her understanding, and hating myself for letting her down. L for her part is phlegmatic and resigned to her fate.
‘Don’t worry! I just thought you’d enjoy it, but if it’s making you freak out this much, it’s not worth it. I’ll just wash my make up off, take out my rollers and watch telly.’
After another ten minutes of trying to reassure me that everything is fine, that she honestly doesn’t mind that much and really, truly doesn’t hate me for doing this again, the poor woman manages to extricate herself from the conversation, turn off her phone and sit down to ‘Dancing on Ice’, no doubt congratulating herself from having narrowly escaped an evening with a paranoid, self conscious, self obsessed nutter.
And for thirty seconds, feel blessed relief.
Swiftly superseded by the ever present loneliness, sadness, despair and rage.
How I wish I had someone to talk to; I’m in an awful way.