Modern life: 'Regrets, I’ve had a few. Eight, to be specific...'
The other day, Dawn French said, in passing, that she regretted not having taken drugs when she was younger. No one was remotely shocked. This is what 50-somethings do: keep a running checklist of things they should have done when they had the chance, which they can no longer do (or not without consequences).
Nine times out of 10, the reason you didn’t get round to doing these things at the time is because that wasn’t who you were, it would have scared you witless and you never had the opportunity. But the temptation is to see our lives in terms of missed potential rather than just the way things were. My suspicion is that most of us are in the same boat when it comes to regrets.
For example, 1) I wish I had worn more pretty things and not just black and more black, head to toe, for roughly two decades. In particular, more very short skirts because there is only a tiny window of opportunity when you are at peak leg. (Men wish they had made a lot more of their hair — longer, taller, wider — and branched out on the jazzy shirt front before jazzy shirts started to look a bit midlife crisis. We sometimes think we should have had a Billy Idol hair phase, or really committed to the New Romantic look. But they are much worse. Your average 50-something man is dying for the opportunity to dress up in a skintight Ossie Clark velvet jumpsuit and a wig. They look at pictures of themselves 30 years ago and Cannot Believe they didn’t see how gorgeous they were, whereas women adjusted to this years ago.)
2) Wish I had worried less, or not at all, about where I was going to end up. (Men wish they had worried a lot more, not got married so early, had much more sex and taken a year out to motorbike across Africa.)
3) Wish I had twigged a bit earlier that men who make you feel you have to rein it in are not worth the trouble. Also, that it is perfectly possible to be romantically involved with a man who only loves you because you love him. (Men wish someone had told them that the woman you marry will have a more profound impact on the quality of your life than your choice of career, friends, money, where you live, anything apart from your health. Hardly any of them work that out until it’s too late.)
4) Wish I had learnt a language. Especially now that it seems very wrong to have just 10 words of French and six of Spanish. (Men wish they had worked harder at university, learnt the guitar and been in a band which once performed live in front of 2,000 screaming girls.)
5) Wish I had never wanted to be thinner when I was perfectly thin enough. (Men have zero regrets about this but spend the whole time wishing they were thinner now, just at the point that we have got over it. They think about calories all the time. It’s the weirdest of the late onset gender role swaps. The other ones are: insisting on kitchen tidiness. Really caring about cooking — and never taking short cuts. Being good at packing. And being patient.)
6) Wish I had bought a nice flat — back when it was possible to buy somewhere just by taking out a mortgage. (Men: same.)
7) Wish I had taken more pictures, or rather that someone had taken more pictures. I’d like a moody one of me on a sofa, three-quarter profile looking out over a misty lawn, aged 23. (Men wish they had taken better care of their albums; as in vinyl.)
8) Wish I had persevered with piano. Riding. Ballet. Tennis. (Men have secret hobbies, like watching The World at War, and they still play sport with their mates.)
We’re probably pretty evenly matched, regrets wise.
Let’s hear it for over-the-knee boots
So, to over-the-knee boots or not? I know what you’re thinking. You Cannot Be Serious. They’re for Cara and J-Lo, and possibly Melania, and about as relevant to my life as a Mexican wrestling mask. Fair enough. But there are ‘glamour’ over-the-knee boots — like these ones, above, favoured by Rita Ora — and then there are ‘civilian’ ones. And the fact is that after several false starts and rumours of this trend gaining traction, OTK boots have tipped over into normal territory. I can’t believe I am saying this, but any minute now they will be everywhere.
Theresa May has been wearing OTK boots since autumn 2013, so the seeds were sown at grass-roots level three years ago. Since then, they have become a lot more wearable. Less piratical. The Captain Hook swashbucklers have made way for the mainstream OTK boot which is comfy, stretchy and positively sensible. They’re the new Yummy Mummy staples. They’re the mother-and-daughter fashion sandwich in some parts of the country.
Think of someone you would never imagine wearing OTKs, and that person probably wants a pair for Christmas. Of the females you could swear would never touch them with a barge-pole — your mother-in-law, the vet, your never-out-of-trainers 14-year-old daughter — two out of three will be converts before you can say “…Are you sure?” The way things are going we are talking Ugg-esque saturation by the first quarter of next year.
OTK boots are this winter’s sexy heels, without the discomfort. And you don’t have to be 18 to wear them. You don’t have to act on this; just thought you should know.