Friday, 30 April 2010

Flash Review: MAC Studio Moisture Tint

After suffering for a year at the hands of Bobbi Brown's simply awful tinted moisturiser, which smelled revolting and gave me that kind of sweaty sheen you get when you're very unwell, I bit the bullet and bought a new one to see me through this summer. This, however, was only after months of rationalising and bargaining with myself that before I allowed myself the luxury of a new product, I needed to finish the old one.

I snapped, however, after one greasy sheen too many. So, here is a flash review of the MAC Studio Moisture Tint, my new favourite thing.

  1. Thick as thieves: The first thing that struck me about this product was that it's a very thick formula, in comparison to the decidedly more runny Bobbi Brown counterpart. Should you choose to apply your tinted moisturiser with a brush, this product makes it very easy to do so and won't run everywhere. It's got a lovely, moisturising feel and a texture which makes my skin happy.
  2. Cover girl: The coverage of this is pretty good for a tinted moisturiser, and for those are secure in their skin then this is a nice option with a bit of concealer. I like to use this in conjunction with the Laura Mercier Mineral Powder, but were I confident enough/able to use just one product on my face, then this would be my pick for summer. Unfortunately for me, I feel guilty about just using one product on my face, as the others in my medium-sized collection just sit getting lonely.
  3. Shiny happy people: In complete contrast to the heading (but you try searching for maxims/songs with the word 'matte' in them), this tinted moisturiser does not leave me in the least oily. It has a matte, silky texture which leaves my skin happily shine-free. I definitely do get dewy around the 6-8 hour mark, but who doesn't? I just tidy it up with blotting sheets and some Kryolan Anti-Shine Powder, or MAC's Blot Powder if I'm on the run and I'm good to go.
  4. Sunny afternoon: We do have some SPF in this tinted moisturiser, but only a factor 15, meaning that if you're outside a lot or live in sunnier climes, it's not enough to skip your regular sunblock. I'm a little surprised that MAC didn't capitalise on this and incorporate more into the product, but some is better than nothing.
  5. Even keel: Though this product might be sheerer than a foundation, it's actually great for evening out skin tone and concealing minor imperfections.
Overall initial impressions:
For the first time in a long time, I left the house the other week without a full face of slap on - instead I used the MAC Studio Moisture Tint on my face with a little concealer and setting powder - and I felt great! I had a huge confidence boost knowing my skin looked great, but that it wasn't due to foundation fakery. I approached this product without many expectations and it's completely wowed me. It's definitely going to be great as the warm weather approaches, and the squeezy tube means it's ideal and fuss-free for the festival season (one of which I'm going to, eek!)

Monday, 26 April 2010

FOTD #2: A Torrid Affair

Don't tell Kiwi, but I've been having an affair... with purple lipsticks. I don't really understand all of this whirlwind romance stuff with purple, however, they really have swept me off my feet. Today's look is featuring MAC's Violetta lipstick, which is available only through the Pro store. Violetta is a sultry temptress with an impish sweetness, and although she looks like she'll eat you up at first, she's a purring pussycat on your knee by the time you've recovered from the shock.

Violetta, then, looks more darkened fuchsia than scary purple on me, but it's still loud enough so as to hustle me into a bit of cool-toned unobtrusiveness on the eyes so I don't look too outlandish/old lady who still thinks she's got it.

Products used:
  • NARS Sheer Matte
  • YSL Touche Eclat
  • Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer
  • Kryolan Anti-Shine Powder
  • MAC Blush Ombre in Azalea Blossom
  • MAC Paintpot in Bare Study
  • MAC Eyeshadows in Vex, Smoke & Diamonds and Typographic
  • Shiseido Fine Eyeliner
  • MAC Greasepaint Stick in Zinc Zone
  • Diorshow Extase Mascara
  • MAC lipstick in Violetta

As I am hilariously terrible at taking photos and anything in general artistic, there is once again no photo of the eye look, and instead, two photos of the same basic angle, but different sides of my face. Rest assured, it wasn't that fabulous, but for next time I'm definitely going to work on my skillz.


Thursday, 22 April 2010

Shred Update

Oh... You wanted to know about the Shred, and how I did? Oh.

Well, after the first day, I had two glasses of wine with dinner and decided shredding was a decidedly bad idea.

The day after that, I had astonishingly doubled-over ladycramps.

The day after that progressed in a logical fashion.

And after that, I became adept at making excuses.

So now, I need to start afresh with a week one: the redux, after this week's epic fail.

I can't let Jillian Michaels win, and I'm determined (not least because my ex is going to the same festivals and gigs as Kiwi and I are this summer) to be looking my best - because feeling like a sack of potatoes, even when you're totally over someone (who your parents said was a 'loser') is still not going to make you exude confidence and sass.

So, not this coming Monday, but the one after that, I'll be starting again. Starting this Monday would be stupid as I'm in Nottingham, and I can't imagine what the other hotel guests would think if they heard me grunting and sweating whilst a scary lady shouts things - it'd sound like some kind of disturbing S&M fixation, I'd have thought.

So, Monday in a week's time. Bring it on. Whimper.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Mission #1: The Fuchsia Lip

If you missed my post here, then you won't know what's going on, but I'll allow you a generous 5 minutes to catch up.

I'll wait. I'm very polite and won't harrumph or sigh loudly.

Okay, done? Good.

So we'll call this Mission 1: The Fuchsia Lip.

My arsenal for the day mainly includes nudes, which is fortunate as I wake up exhausted and I can do a neutral eye with my eyes shut. This, in turn, is also fortunate, because doing makeup with one's eyes open is certainly a challenge too far for today. My arsenal for today, then, is a mixture of blahs and mehs and all that kind of stuff in between - though there is light relief from the banality in my choice of blush and lipgloss:

  1. MAC Paintpot in Bare Study: I choose this to zing up my eye area - I look exhausted and my eyes are puffy and red. This brightens them and provides a lovely base.
  2. MAC Pigment in Naked: This evens the skin tone on my eyelid while subtly highlighting and reflecting light, making me look more bright-eyed and alert.
  3. MAC Eyeshadow in Copperplate: I use this to define and contour my eye area. It's the perfect colour because it's cool-toned and blends all nicey-nice.
  4. MAC Liquid Eyeliner in Boot Black: I go for thick, black eyeliner in the vintage pin-up style with a little wing to make me feel more perky.
  5. MAC Blush Ombre in Azalea Blossom: PINK! I choose this blush deliberately for its purplish tones, which look great against my skin and which will accent the lipstick.
  6. MAC Lipglass in Electric Fuchsia: The blue reflects in this lipglass pick up on those in the lipstick - a perfect match and it makes me feel a little more confident about my lipstick choice.
And the beast itself, which prompted this whole series of posts? Why, it's only Petals & Peacocks from the latest Liberty of London collaboration with MAC Cosmetics:

Put all together, I ended up something like this:

The day starts off inauspiciously as I uncertainly apply a smidge of lipstick and Kiwi makes the saddest 'you look funny' face I've ever seen. I then trip over my own foot (yes, I'm a clumsy oaf) on the way to the station and limp the rest of the way. I've purposefully chosen a day away from Kiwi to wear my new lipstick, so that I can get used to it myself before foisting it upon him (and smearing it all over his cheek).

So, at 10:30am I am trotting to the station feeling hideous and sorry for myself. I spot this ridiculously huge dog which is the size of a bear (it had to be seen in person to get an idea of size). I surreptitiously take a photo to cheer myself up. I start to feel cheered by my new lip colour on the train; nobody is looking at me weirdly and when I check the mirror, I don't look half as ghastly as I thought I might. I consider myself off to a flying start.

Gigantodog, Savior of the Internets. He is not looking as big in this photo as he was in real life :(

By 1pm I am motoring around Topshop Oxford Circus, which is full of my least favourite thing: crowds of squealing girls. I realise, not for the first time, that I still hate going to London as it makes me greasy and annoyed and I have to dodge those tourists who stop suddenly in front of my in the street as often as I have to check Google Maps to find out where the hell I'm going. However, I snap a shot of myself in the fluorescent agony of Topshop's changing rooms - just to prove I even left the house at all. The fact that it looks like it's a MySpace shot is just a bonus:

No, I didn't buy the dress. And how moody do I look?!

I get more confident as the day goes along, and even dare to scare smile at the checkout girl without feeling self-conscious. I pet an over-excited spaniel puppy on the train on the way home and feel like my day has been a success. Gigantadog accompanies me for the entire journey; somehow we all got on the train to London together, and were leaving it together (in the very same carriage!). A happy ending?

- A lesson I learned was to start off small with something that scares you and build it up. Starting with a light stain of this across the lips definitely helped ease me in for the full whack.
- Colour isn't scary! Next on my shopping list is Show Orchid, and I even just bought Violetta - which is a deep purple lipstick!
- Although I still feel a little unsure when looking back at the pictures, on the day I totally loved this look and will definitely be trying it again.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Finding my face shape

In today's society, it is so easy to pigeon-hole myself into little boxes which are excellent at hiding my own little quirks and complexities: female, white, European, atheist. I can subdivide further: British, dark-haired, owns a cat, cookery enthusiast. Before you realise it, it becomes an exhausting mess of Venn diagrams and bar charts and government statistics, but that's what we all are, essentially. Statistics.

And so is the next thing I'm going to talk about. One thing I've never been very adept at pinning down is my own face-shape, that genetic convergence point somewhere between my mum and dad which ended up at me. After all, shouldn't my face conform to a series of measurements and statistics, a template? It should be double this and half that and you've got a round-oval-heart shape with rounded corners. Can numbers solve my problem? I've gone through cycles and endless rounds of paranoid questioning and I've still got no idea, even when I pore over pictures of my own unsmiling self. I still can't figure it out, so I'm devoting this blog post to trying.

There are numerous guides on the internet; some miss out shapes others deem relevant, so it's difficult to weed out which information is actually useful, and whether or not my face shape actually exists within the pixellated wonderland of Google Images.

Finding your face shape is sort-of important, I guess. It defines how you have your hair cut and what choices you make, and it defines how you contour and highlight your face to show it off to its best potential.

Obviously, I've no idea what shape I'm supposed to be... So I've been unwittingly doing it wrong all along. Or just ignorantly.

So, I'm going to try two methods, and cross-reference, just to see if I'm an amorphous genetic blob, or if there is any reason to all of this madness.

Alright then. Here's my mostly unsmiling visage in the form of a photo taken for my new railcard (since you ask):

I scrape all my hair back with a hairband and arm myself with my least favourite eyeliner - something I don't particularly mind wasting. Drawing the outline of your face into a mirror is harder than you'd think; I suffer from unexpected jiggles and wobbles as I try to remain absolutely still.

What results is a fairly wobbly heart-shape - at least that's what it looks like - but it could well be wishful thinking after a stab in the dark and finding a needle in a haystack.

I follow various internet guides to arrive at my conclusion:
- Measure widest point of cheekbone: 20cm
- Measure widest point of jawline: 21cm
- Measure widest point of forehead: 16cm
- Measure length from middle of forehead to tip of chin: 18cm

At this point, I begin to get frustrated due to the lack of diagrams showing me EXACTLY IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE from where and to where I need to measure.

I plod on and read through: I find I'm a round face shape - the length and width are almost the same and although I have a slightly squared jaw, it's generally more rounded.

I panic-take a quiz to confirm my result - which was one I wasn't really hoping for, but OKAY. I CAN DEAL WITH THE NEWS.

It tells me I'm a round-face as well. I download a little self-help pdf for People Like Me and learn that I should never have a blunt, eyebrow length fringe or chin-length hair and should always have layers starting from the cheekbone and part my hair off-centre.

In terms of eyebrows, I'm doing well; people with round faces should aim for eyebrows with a high-arch to off-set the roly-poly nature of their faces. Contouring should be placed at the temples, hollows of the cheeks and jawline. Highlighting should be on the forehead (as if - I get oily enough already) and centre of the chin.

All in all - the mirror method - although fairly ridiculous and fun - is stupid and doesn't help whatsoever. And it's kind of hard. The numerical side of things wasn't particularly easy either; there are no clear-cut rules on where and how to measure. Funnily enough, the most useful thing I found was a quiz on some lifestyle website which had 4 comprehensive questions.

My journey is complete, and now I'm going to go buy some self-help books to cope with having a disproportionately wide face - seriously! How do you even get a face which is wider than it is long?!


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Recent Ins and Outs

Succinctly summing myself up in list form is my one of my favourite ways to tell you what I've recently been loving and hating; I'm so often caught up in being prolifically verbose that snippet-form is a refreshing break, as much for you as for me.

- MAC Greasepaint Sticks: WOW. These are so creamy, but once they set, they don't budge. And so unexpectedly versatile. LOVE.
- NARS Orgasm Blush: Just the ticket for the makeup look I've been rockin' recently: Naked lids, thick black liner, clean face and a coral-red lipstain. This blush just works for this look every time by brightening my face and flushing it just right.
- Laura Mercier Mineral Powder: Sadly, I am one of those girls afflicted by that awful wasting disease known as anal-retentiveness, and I have loads of half-finished makeup products which just need a little bit of love before they take up their lyres and head to the big makeup non-religion-specific resting place in the sky. I've been picking up this powder recently, because it's nearing the end of its life and I keep falling in love all over again. By teaming it with various products, I've managed to stop it making my skin so oily and instead it just gives my skin a beautiful finish over tinted moisturiser (Bobbi Brown - and I hate it) for a natural, everyday look.
- MAC Liquid Eyeliner in Boot Black: Poor thing, it's got a bad reputation. For me, it's working; it creates a lovely, unsubtle thick line and I'm loving it for the right now.
- Dresses: I've got Spring Fever and I found two dresses in my wardrobe I've never worn because they're too long and they make me look matronly. I'm going to take them to the tailors to turn them from a midi to a mini, and then I shall be rocking them.
- Espadrilles: The first sniff of sunshine and all us British go crazy for it. I want some lovely espadrilles, and I've got my eye on a particularly vertiginous pair from French Connection.

- Chocolate: I've never been a huge fan of chocolate (though by reputation, people seem to think I'm a fiend for it). I'm so glad Easter's now over. I received 2 chocolate eggs from Kiwi's family, both of which have been eaten by Kiwi because I just DON'T REALLY LIKE CHOCOLATE OKAY? Okay. That was your final warning, kind people who bought me chocolatey surprises.
- Winter: Damn. I'm gonna miss that sonofabitch. I prefer cold weather because it allows me to bundle up and not think about how much blubber I've acquired. Now it's getting to warmer weather, I'm being forced to confront it - it's too early!
- MAC Beauty Powder in Shell Pearl: What is this for, exactly? Idon'tgeddit.
- Short hair: I leave this sacrificial hairbrush at the altar of the Hair Gods. JUST PLEASE MAKE IT GROW A BIT FASTER.

Much love,
Cami x

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The 30-Day Shred: Week 1

Minette the Cat encapsulates my feeling after a round with the Jillian.

Let's just say it was Gemma's fault. In her quest to lose some weight, she unwittingly created a bandwagon for everyone to jump on: The 30-Day Shred, led by the rather terrifying Jillian Michaels. As heaps of people jumped on the merry bandwagon, I thought about it too. After all, how hard could 20 or so minutes a day be?

My reasons behind this decision stem from having had breast reduction surgery. Having seen my self-esteem plummet in indirect proportion to the amount my boobs kept growing, I just sat and ate and didn't do loads of exercise. I'm fairly lucky in that I started off slim in the first place, but after having not been allowed to exercise after my surgery for 8 weeks, and having spent most of my final year of university sitting on the couch and writing my dissertation, well, I just continued to slowly bloat out to a size I'm completely unhappy with.

So, the Shred. At the 5 minute mark I'm still bouncing about enthusiastically and doing the jumping jacks with all the energy I can. At the 10 minute mark, I'm yelling expletives and wishing I hadn't been so spendy with my energy for the easier exercises. After 15 minutes I stop, feeling the swirling grey nausea of the incredibly unfit. Other things I'm also feeling at this point are indescribable rage, the need to cry and profuse sweating. I mark this first try as a trial go, a dress-rehearsal before the real thing. I chalk it up to being too enthusiastic and trying all the 'advanced' exercises, when I should have just stuck with the 'baby-steps' approach.

After my first half-go, every muscle is screaming, my legs don't feel my own and when I go to get the soap in the shower, my arm pathetically claws out into the empty space, stupid and unsteady. The day after, today, it hurts to do things and I'm no longer as sprightly as a kitten. I feel old and decrepit and, goddamnit, EVERYTHING HURTS.

Things I've learned from the first go:
- I need to weigh myself and find out my start weight!
- Despite the fact that I'm short, I'm really strong in my arms; I can pick up the 6'3" Kiwi and carry him about. However, for reasons I cannot explain, I CANNOT do full press-ups. I have to do them like a 'lady' - the shit way.
- I need to keep going with this - I am woefully unfit.

Until next time, then kill me kill me kill me :)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

5 makeup looks which terrify me (and my attempts to pull them off)

I am scared of a lot of things: spiders, wasps, being stuck in a lift for hours with only a weirdo for company, public transport late at night, makeup...

Yes, makeup.

There is a Pandora's Box in my mind which I'm increasingly feeling compelled to confront; the key to it is thrown away into the Bermuda Triangle at the deepest, darkest end of a swirling sea surrounded by fiery volcanoes and 6-foot spiders. Such is my fear of the following innocuous trends, that I'm going to have to force myself to break the habit. If I don't, I might just get stuck here, perched uncomfortably on this picket fence surrounding my beautiful garden of sanctuary, of neutral eyes and matching lips, of black liquid liner and pre-approved mascaras.

There are 5 makeup looks which give me the chills, the terrors, the decided collywobbles (yes, I'm trying to stage a comeback for the word 'collywobbles', go forth and sow the seed of the wonderful British English!). In this series of blog posts, I'm going to tell you about them, why they terrify me, and then attempt to wear them.

There is only one rule, and that is that whilst wearing said look, I must leave the house.

So, to divulge these iniquitous looks I'm scared of, then...

  1. Fuchsia lips: It took me almost 22 years of my life to confront the red lip, and now I'm in love. My recent purchase from MAC's Liberty of London collection, a lipstick in 'Petals & Peacocks', has me swooning until I put it on. Learning to like this one is going to be a challenge... but I'll get there. I'm going to wear this with thick black liner and a pinch of pink in my cheeks. See how I got on here!
  2. Going natural: I loathe 'the natural look' of makeup with a passion; it's blah, there's no fun to it or innovation. And it involves leaving the house without my safety net of black liquid liner and a lovely lipstick to cover my discomfort. It's the easiest one to execute, but I have a feeling I'll start to look really tired and not-me-ish around midday.
  3. Neon eyes: I've always wanted to try this, and mistakenly veered towards pink shades like the magpie I am. Pink anywhere near my eyes makes me look like I've contracted kind of awful disease. This time I'm going to try neon orange, and hope for the best.
  4. Nude lips: My ultimate demon. I don't want to look like I've got (pardon the unsavoury comparison) jizz lips, but I think this is going to be awful. I'm pretty sure I'm going to feel awful and look awful, and my teeth will look more yellow and it's just not going to work. I need to try, and I'll show willing, you cruel, cruel mistress, you. I'm going to wear this one with smokey eyes so I don't feel quite so self-conscious.
  5. Yellow eyes: I don't like the colour yellow, not a lot anyway. Having seen the Gaga's (I hate her so don't be fooled) latest muzak video (this video confused me beyond belief), I'm inspired to try yellow eyeshadow à la lovely Beyoncé. Jaundice central, I think.
So there we have it, and I'm already cowering from writing out these descriptions.

Are there any makeup looks you just won't touch? Why?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Depotting Project: Making my lipsticks more travel-friendly

A couple of weeks ago, I rummaged in my handbag on a night out to find a lipstick to wear. Instead of just finding one, I found five, and what's more, two glosses. As one of my male cohorts for the evening put it: 'AHHH, XX Chromosome overload!'

Choices, it seems, are difficult for me. In general, travelling (I would hesitate to use the word 'gallivanting') for me is about making choices. Outfits, appropriate shoes, what books do I need? and how much makeup can I stuff in my bag that will allow me the luxury of choice but without taking up too much room? And if, horror of horrors, I get too far into my head, it all descends into complete madness: what if I fancy bright eyeshadows? I'll need lipsticks to match. And what if I fancy rocking a red lip? Glosses? Lip balms? Kitchen sink?

I can create endless dilemmas in this way, really. Endless sophistry, eternal false reasoning plague me in my sleep with an awful 'but what if it's hot and all you've got is sweaters?!' chorus.

As it happened, a genius in the form of a lovely lady on YouTube provided me with an answer, at least for the lipstick dilemma, which is something I've been having trouble streamlining for some time. Instead of taking whole tubes of lipstick with me on my travels and goings-out, I've been depotting them, melting them into metal pans and putting them in a travel-sized quad.

It's all pretty easy, really, and far too simple - so simple I can understand why I didn't think of it sooner; it's just something so easy to overlook.

You will need:
  • Lipsticks of choice - matte lipsticks are more difficult to depot, however.
  • Metal eyeshadow pans - I got mine from Stars Makeup Haven, though I can't personally recommend their service. They are the most prominent place to order from.
  • Surgical Spirit/Isopropyl Alcohol - this is to sterilise all your utensils.
  • A knife/cutting implement
  • Tweezers
  • A candle
  • A fire-maker
  • Magnets/Magnetic tape to affix to the back of the metal pan
  • Something to cut on - I just used a plate which I sterilised beforehand.
  • A quad/palette to store your finished pans in.
  • Labels - so you know what's what!
  1. Start by sterilising everything - the pan, the knife, the tweezers, the surface you're cutting on... Everything. You want to keep your makeup as sterile as you can.
  2. Cut a small amount of lipstick from the end of your lipstick - don't be scared! If you're using a MAC lipstick or one of a similar width, the amount pictured in image 'a' should be about right. Deposit the chunk of lipstick into the metal pan.
  3. Light your candle (carefully!) and grip the pan with the tweezers - preferably off to one side.
  4. Carefully hold the pan over the candle flame and melt the lipstick, shaking the pan gently to disperse the product evenly, as shown in image b.
  5. Carefully set it down - don't touch because you WILL BURN YOURSELF (and it really hurts). Allow to cool and set - it shouldn't take very long at all.
  6. Affix magnet and place it in your quad. Admire your new handbag-sized lipstick collection.
Of course, the downside of this process is you need a lip-brush to apply your lipsticks. For me, it isn't much bother and I'm happy to trade that in for the ability to carry 4 lipsticks around with me and have the opportunity of choice.

And anyway, you could always apply with a (clean) finger in a pinch, and dab it on lightly like a stain.

And if you get a bit depotting-happy - you could always store them in a MAC 15-pan palette whilst you've already got your top 4.

At least I have an excuse to carry 4 lipsticks around with me now, anyway. Even if it's still a bit excessive, at least I have more handbag space :)

Friday, 9 April 2010

A difficult post to write: me and my cosmetic surgery

There is something of a knee-jerk reaction evoked when the very idea of cosmetic surgery is bandied about. Is it still that taboo? Is it representative of a disturbing illicit subculture, so desperate are we fair maidens vying for outward perfection?

I don't think so.

The cruel arc of the surgeon's scalpel has chop-chopped its way through my fair bosom, and the surgeon's had her pound of flesh (literally) - it's just that I paid for it to be that way.

So, I broke the taboo. I've had cosmetic surgery, and now I'm talking about it.

First I'll tell you how it came to be.
This is a difficult post for me to write because there's backstory, history, relationships, recriminations. It all starts in a very normal way: a teenage girl gets boobs. And then keeps getting boobs. And then she goes on the pill. And then there was no stopping them.

And the problem wasn't ever the boobs, so much; it was how people reacted to them which dictated how I felt about myself and how I eventually came to react. Without incriminating the driving force behind my unexpected decision last May, this is most likely the best juncture to introduce you to my mother.

Sometimes it feels like a disservice that I'm her daughter; I fumble my way through life being absolutely nothing she had ever expected. In every sense but two, I am my father's daughter; I've got a fairly dry sense of humour with a geeky twist (thanks to my avid Terry Pratchett-reading father), I question to the point of pedantry (I'm working on it...) and I love my food. And those two senses? Well, for one, I'm stunted, undersized, short. And for the second... I've got a very fiery temper.

So when my mother, in all her halting English, begins to label me as 'fat' and 'unattractive', screaming rows were to be had.

Now you understand why I said it's difficult. She never really meant fat; she was only ever referring to my boobs after all: in the most lexically-challenged way possible, what she meant to say was 'Christ, your boobs are huge.' Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I wish I'd understood her when I was younger... But, you know, the fiery temper thing...

And this is how, 4 years after it all started, I ended up in a hospital gown at 7 in the morning with my mother's words of 'I'll pay for it' ringing in my ears.

So let's just pause it here for the chronic skim-readers, just to prevent further mud-flinging and false impressions. For those of you in the coercion camp, let me dispel the notion that my mother's behaviour (and, in fact, my mother) forced my choice. It was actually down to my own lack of self-esteem, the fact that my work blouse would pop open when serving customers, the lack of attractive underwear, the buying of larger-sized clothing to accommodate my large friends, the back pain and my absolute and burning hatred for huge knockers. Anyone who has felt down about any of the above problems that their bundles of too-much-joy can bring could probably empathise: if you're offered a positive change, then you grab that shining chance.

You see, there's always been a thing about my boobs.
When I was 18, I found a huge lump in my right breast. It was about 5cm across and I cried myself to sleep every night, convinced I was going to die of cancer and was never going to live the life I wanted.

The lump, luckily enough, wasn't cancer. It was a disgusting lump of 'gristle', a fibroadenoma, which I promptly had scooped out when told it could grow to the size of a tennis ball if I was particularly unlucky. So, having previously undergone some kind of surgery, another kind in the same area didn't bother me. In fact, I was excited.

The surgeon, a buxom Greek woman clearly making the most of her (huge) assets, approached me with consternation and perhaps a little disappointment. Was I sure? They're still so youthful and pert, she cooed while drawing on me in marker pen.

The whole process was fairly quick, but only because I was privileged enough to have the operation done privately. The risks were explained to me repeatedly in black and white; both prose and doublespeak. In the surgeon's mind, she was sure I was too young, too pert, had nothing that was out of place. In my mind, the changing-room mirror in shops mapped out my body in harsh lighting; I felt ungainly and cruelly prevented from attaining a body I wanted.

So, let's talk about the risk-factor.
  • Permanent scarring: It fades, but it's not attractive.
  • Loss of nipple sensitivity: Your whole nipple is taken out and moved, and cutting out of the breast tissue could damage its connection to the milk ducts. Meaning...
  • Possible inability to breast feed: If you want to breast feed any future progeny, this could scupper your desires.
  • Thrombosis: It's rare, but it can happen.
  • Bruising, swelling, infection: See above.
This is not something you can passively enter into and it's not a fait-accompli. Your body is your body, just like the other patient's body is her body. What applies to a does not necessarily apply to b.

If you're wondering about Kiwi's opinion throughout all this... He was the epitome of calm. He actively encouraged me while quietly reminding me in the midst of the maelstrom, that if I wanted surgery then that was fine and he'd love me whatever. However, once I'd set the snowball rolling (mixing metaphors is probably as bad as mixing one's drinks), I was single-minded and resolute. Whaddyaknow, he's still here and he doesn't cringe in horror when he catches sight of my scars.

Enough preamble.
Most people aren't silly-minded enough to think surgery is a walk in a lovely park dotted with flowers on a sunny afternoon which is neither too hot or too cold. Cosmetic surgery is painful and exhausting. You're essentially signing a disclosure for someone to dive right in and either insert or remove things from your body which are not necessary. So yes, surgery is painful, and perhaps the fact that it's unnecessary is the factor which amps up the pain stakes.

How's it done?
For most women, the procedure consists of two incisions, plus one around the areola. It's called the 'anchor scar', because it circles the areola and proceeds vertically down the middle of the breast, where it curves around underneath. After that, the fat and excess tissue is removed, the nipple and areola are shifted up (and in some cases made smaller) and you're sewn up and in the recovery room. The whole experience takes around 2.5 hours and is more dangerous than having silicone implants put in.

My experience.
My experience was far from perfect; my surgeon was determined to be cautious and from the moment I was wheeled out of surgery after the first operation, to bursting into tears 10 days later while the dressings were removed, I think I knew there was something not quite right. After the first operation, I'd gone from a 32GG to a 32E. As the nurse tried to reassure me and gave me an awkward hug (I don't mind hugs but when I can tell someone isn't the friendly type, I'd rather not have one thankyouverymuch), I agreed to see my surgeon and cried all the way home on the bus. Thankfully Kiwi held my hand the whole way.

You see, I'd asked for a 32C. There was no medical reason why she hadn't gone the 'full whack', so to speak, so I was absolutely gutted beyond belief.

As for that meeting with my surgeon: I brought my dad. He told her in no uncertain terms that I was unsatisfied. She scheduled the surgery for the next week; there happened to be an opening. At that point, I didn't even care that I had exams the week after my surgery, or that my dissertation was due. I just wanted everything done.

The second round of surgery was the worst; I knew what to expect and it was worse than that.

So less talk of sizes and more talk of the hospital stay.

The anaesthetic was the worst; my body hates it. After 2.5 hours in surgery, I'll be blunt, I was desperate to go to the bathroom. The nurses didn't want me to get up, but I felt fine, I insisted and stood up. I should have listened. Instant nausea and dizziness made me stagger but I took deep breaths and swallowed a lot and I championed through.

After that, I remembered to stay in my 'bed-goes-up-bed-goes-down' à la Homer Simpson. The very worst thing about the whole experience was not, in fact, the hospital menu, which Kiwi ate most of; it was the blood drains. These, which Kiwi referred to as my 'blood bottles', were connected to my body through a small tube in each armpit. Every time I went to the bathroom, I had to pick them up and trot in. The amount of times I dropped them and froze, terrified that they would smash and I'd be covered in my own personal biohazard, was unimaginable.

So, when I sat on one of those tubes and accidentally disconnected one from its hermetic little structure, causing blood to leak all over myself, I completely freaked out, believing myself to be bleeding, dying OH MY GOD THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG.

Clutching my precious drains the day after surgery #1. Saucy hospital gown with an open back? Check.

The nurse just laughed and cleaned me up.

The blood drains are essential for removing fluid build-up and blood which occurs during surgery. For the most part, apart from having to carry them around (though I did stick them in my handbag) the worst part of having these drains was the removal, for which I had to have a half hour break while I recovered from the rising waves of nausea. Admittedly, the nausea had been so bad the second time that the on-call night doctor injected me with anti-emetics (which later formed a sizable clot in my puny wrist). All the same, the sensation of having stitches in a place I can't quite see pulled at with a blade-handy nurse, and then the added sensation of having what felt like a metre of plastic tubing (in reality a couple of centimetres or less) being pulled slowly out of you... And the whistling and making 'phut' sounds as the air rushes into it...

Well, I really came over all queasy, and I'm not squeamish.

  • Pain: As you'd expect, there is some. Don't roll on your front in the middle of the night, or accidentally knee yourself in the boob (not explaining that one). Your body will ache, and for the first 4 or so days, you may need help doing basic things like sitting up. You need to sleep propped up so you don't get stuck on your back like a sad tortoise in the mornings. I was provided with both paracetamol and codeine before I left the hospital, in addition to precautionary antibiotics. Pain is of course a wonderfully subjective thing, but in all honesty all I needed was some good old paracetamol. My pain threshold is fairly low (and I'm a whiny bitch when in pain), but paracetamol was more than strong enough.
  • Things with buttons: It goes without saying, but loose, comfortable clothing with zips or buttons (or both, if you're recovering extra snazzily) will be your closest friends. Doing simple things like looking down to fasten your jeans become difficult (thankfully the mystique in mine and Kiwi's relationship expired like a damp squib a long time ago).
  • Other difficulties: Showering was a big one; and Kiwi lovingly washed my hair over the side of the bath everyday. You can't get your dressings wet because it may hinder healing, so feeling clean is harder than it should be. You can't lift anything heavy and don't try and reach for things in high cabinets if you're only 5'1". It is inadvisable, trust me.
Dressings and undressings.
The dressing will vary as per your surgeon's personal preference (ha!), but I ended up with a fairly serious and awful bandage of hugeness stretched right across my chest. In addition to this attractive medical deliciousness, you're strapped (forced and manhandled protestingly) into a sports bra while you're only semi-conscious and dozing in and out from anaesthetic. This sports bra will become your home for the next 6-8 weeks. Learn to love it or it will consume you.

The other dressings include large gauze nipple dressings with hilarious nipple holes cut out, disturbingly reminiscent of a low-grade peephole bra. And you'll expect some steri-strips, to hold your wounded knockers together while they do their thing.

After a week, a nasty kind of chemical reaction begins to take place between the adhesive in the dressings and your unwashed skin. This was the number one RIGHT UP THERE WITH THAT TIME I DOT DOT DOT on the scale of pain. The operation? No sweat. Having dressings ripped off your tender skin, and then alcohol wipes to help remove the excess adhesive? I THOUGHT SHE WAS GOING TO TEAR MY NIPPLES OFF.

The pain was excruciating.

See that white thing? That's the dressing. Now tell me it won't hurt when they rip it off.

The result.
After the dressing was first removed and I considered my new body for the second time, the sight is not pretty. The scars are puckered and there are still bits to heal and settle. Over time (and after applying copious amounts of Bio-Oil), the scars heal and begin to fade. As long as you follow the marching orders of your drill sergeant, there shouldn't be any real problems. And, as a plus, I lost over a kilo, and I had to stop and think that all of that weight had been taken out of my breasts! I was fairly impressed.

I ended up at a bigger-than-I-wanted 32DD, and yes, I was disappointed. However, having compared before and after shots (just like they do in weight-loss adverts), I noticed how much less hump there was in my lady-lumps (I'm so sorry for any affiliation to the Black Eyed Peas). I looked, for the first time, flatter, more in proportion and my buttons on my clothes fastened without my usual prerequisite hidden safety pin. It was kind of a miracle moment for me.

I remain philosophical, however. I didn't get what I wanted - maybe that was for a reason. Right where I'm standing right now is a fairly good place to be. However, I can't rule out the possibility that I won't get it done again, some time in the future when I'm hoping my maternal instinct kicks in and I end up with some gene-pool tadpoles (even though I hate kids).

As regards the whole cosmetic surgery thing - well, I don't plan on ever getting anything else done; I'm just not that kind of girl. But for the meanwhile, I am enjoying what I (have no longer) got, and thankful I've been so incredibly fortunate to have been allowed this opportunity.

If you have any questions, then let me know! :)

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

FOTD #1: Sleek and Simple

Due to my own lack of artistic vision, I don't really 'do' taking photos of myself for an FOTD post; I always end up with awful, blurry photos or I look much uglier immortalised in pixels than I do in real life. However, today the sun is shining and I'm feeling the proverbial spring in my step, so I dug out my digital camera and had a little point and shoot session.

Sure, it took me about 12 photos to reach my desired outcome, but I'll put that down to the necessity of choice. At least with 12 poorly-snapped options, it's easier to sort the downright awful from the startlingly mediocre.

So, without probing too far into Alanis Morisette territory, it does feel a little ironic (and let's not even go there with Ms. Morisette's version, which isn't even real irony anyway), that the moment I get a bunch of new shiny playthings for my eyes, I'm turned completely off colour and have gone back to my roots: thick black liquid liner and the lovely red lip. There's something in the simplicity which makes me feel satisfied and pretty; nothing ever goes wrong and my feathers don't get ruffled when I've tried to blend all my eyeshadow together and it looks horrible.
My first FOTD: simple, unpretentious and gratifyingly so; barely any thought put in bar the little pop of colour (blink and you'll miss it) on the lower lashline.

Products used:
  • Chanel Mat Lumière Foundation in Faïence
  • Touche Eclat
  • Laura Mercier Mineral Powder in Soft Porcelain
  • Kryolan Anti-Shine Powder
  • MAC Eyeshadow in Concrete for the brows
  • NARS Blush in Orgasm
  • Shiseido Fine Eyeliner in Black
  • MAC Liquid Eyeliner in Boot Black (newly-rediscovered love - perfect for the thick liner look)
  • Diorshow Blackout Waterproof Mascara
  • MAC Powerpoint Eye Pencil in Grey Utility on waterline
  • NARS Bellissima lightly over lid and as a highlight
  • MAC Eyeshadow in Birds & Berries on lower lashline
  • MAC Pro Longwear Lipstain Marker in Tomorrow's Coral
  • Balm Balm Lip balm
I'll let you into a secret about that Lipstain Marker... Kiwi picked the colour and I'm totally in love. I don't care if Temptalia slated these as I'm all over them (as predicted). Perfect for me.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Friday Five and my Friday Playlist

I'm so glad to be home again; travelling leaves me feeling like a burnt-out firework where I've fired through my visit with aplomb and am thoroughly drained in time for the journey back. I generally don't have any objection to sitting on a train; laziness is definitely one of my fortes, but it's the time-wasting and waiting for trains and changing for another train which just leaves me craving a sofa and a cup of tea.

This week's favourite links are disparate and distant and have very little to do with one another - but isn't that what you've come to expect from me? :)
  1. Post Secret: Perfect strangers share their innermost secrets (some funny, some shocking) to the vast expanse of the internet, via the medium of sending a postcard to one man, who posts them on his blog. I look forward to this every Sunday.
  2. Two Thousand Trees Festival: Because I'm obsessed with Frank Turner at the moment, I'm even considering going to this festival - which involves (shock, horror) CAMPING (UGH) and an experience completely out of my comfort boundaries. I'm a pretty sedate (read: boring) person really, but this sounds like my kind of festival - slightly hippy and people even take their little indie children.
  3. BOB DYLAN!: Bob Dylan is still rockin' at age 68 and is playing a gig at the Hop Farm in Kent, which is right next to the village where I lived my whole life out until 2 years ago. It'll be weird to be back there again - but when I rang Dad he was as excited as me and urged me to book tickets for everyone. Family outing? Yep :)
  4. The Best Free Software of 2010: An article which starts with the question 'are you really still paying for software? ... wow' grabs my attention, especially in conjunction with the words 'best' and 'free'. This is one of the definitive lists and includes anything from the mundane data organisation software to video-editing.
  5. Trololo Cat: I'm not sure if I find this disturbing or hilarious. Judge for yourselves, I think.
This week's Friday playlist is sadly inspired by rain, because that's all it's bloody done irrespective of which end of the country I've been based in:
  1. Soko - It's Raining Outside: Soko is a ridiculously cute French singer who has many other awesome songs to her repertoire. She sings in English and has charming little misadventures with the English language... Sometimes her lyrics remind me exactly of the way my mum speaks (and after over 40 years in the U.K., my mother still can't pronounce the word 'squirrel').
  2. The Beatles - Rain: I was brought up on a diet of Bowie, The Beatles and various other 'old people' music artists. So where would I be without The Beatles in my list?
  3. Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights of Thunder: Jingly jangly happiness from a little Danish tweepop band. Just the ticket to cheer me up when I'm staring out at the unrelenting greyness.
  4. The Weather Girls - It's Raining Men: Don't tell anyone, but when the flat's totally empty and it's a Friday and I need to clean the bathroom, I totally put this on at full blast. I sense this week's Friday Playlist is descending into silliness. I'd better end it on a good note.
  5. Bob Dylan - Hurricane: Yeah, yeah. It's not strictly about rain. But I couldn't bring myself to end my list with B*Witched (who remembers them?!) with 'Blame it on the Weatherman'. This is actually one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs (another is Subterranean Homesick Blues) - I love the drama and building atmosphere of this song.


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