My other life is perfect. The one I lead in my head.
I know it’s there because I’m always accounting for it. The rows of dresses I own, ideal for weddings I don’t go to, sprayed-on jeans and leopard print stilettos for bars and clubs I no longer frequent. A bejewelled evening gown- because you never know- and a gold sequined bikini, in case I find myself ten years younger and sunbathing on a yacht in Puerto Banus.
On a recent shopping trip, I worked myself into frenzy scooping up inappropriate clothing and then barging into changing rooms. At one point, whilst brandishing an armful of white linen trousers, I hyper-focused on an imagined scene at a Chateau in the south of France. Standing on tiptoes in front of the mirror, I pondered whether wedges or kitten heels would be more fitting for a holiday I had no plans to book. Of course, in my parallel life I was sipping Rose on an 18th century terrace overlooking ancient vines. Sunglasses propped up on my head. Skin slightly flushed from the rays, lips glossed. My hair swept up into a chignon. However, in truth, I’m not entirely sure what a chignon is.
It’s not as though a holiday in France is an impossible endeavour. It’s just that my mind has somehow edited out twin toddlers and a disobedient dog. Throw them into the mix and instead of me personifying effortless chic, I’m wearing a deeply harangued expression, brow furrowed, temples pulsing. Instead of organic white cotton, my trousers are industry spec Kaki green. What they lack in elegance they make up for in their ability to camouflage the inevitable ominous brown smudges. My top might be less military standard, but there’s every chance I’ll have a label sticking out or my bra strap showing while attempting to block determined toddlers from nose-diving into the pool. And my hair won’t be swept into anything, more like plastered down with the cohesive aid of Weetabix.
It was only upon recent reflection that I realised it wasn’t simply that my life was less glamorous since I had acquired dependents. Instead, it dawned on me that my virtual reality had never come to fruition, since it had reared its perfectly groomed head twenty years ago when I was preparing for my first ever date. Following the counsel of Just Seventeen, style bible for any aspiring teenager at the time, I had thoroughly prepared for the occasion, and envisaged strolling hand-in-hand up Bromley high street, the birds tweeting, the sun shining. I would wear my Miss Selfridge paisley dress and platform boots. We never got that far though, because in reality, he didn’t turn up. I later discovered it was because he’d substituted me for a girl called Felicity who was in the year above. She had bigger boobs.
Since then, measured against the fantasy that plays through my mind, real life has rarely measured up.
The one thing that remains constant though, in both scenarios as they play out simultaneously, is my hand tightly gripping the stem of a wine glass.
Therefore, I invite a toast: ‘To idealism and reality. Never the twain shall meet.’
And if they do, at least I’ve got the wardrobe covered.
Read more from Haley Hill in her bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’