On my last working day of 2019, Friday 17th December, after putting my Out of Office on,
I went for a drink with a few work friends.
We sat around a table in the pub, sweating next to a slightly too hot, roaring fire, trying not to kick bags of last minute Christmas shopping, bought at lunchtime, which sat by our feet.
It was exciting, knowing I was finally off for Christmas, but also sad, knowing I’d be leaving this team soon.
I was asking one of my colleagues about her pole dancing class.
“Going to that class was definitely my best decision of 2019!” she said.
“Ooh, that’s a good one – what’s everyone’s best decisions of 2019?” I said.
We went round the table saying our best decisions of 2019.
I said mine was getting my ears pierced.
I wasn’t allowed my ears pierced until I was 16, which was a source of constant resentment throughout my childhood. I was desperately jealous of my friends and their earrings.
Then, when I finally turned 16, for some reason, I didn’t get my ears pierced.
In 2019, I made a list of 12 goals and tried to do one a month. It fizzled out towards the end of the year, as I lost the list and also had a lot going on, but I did achieve quite a few things (having a smear test, buying a new car, going to a pottery painting place and painting a plate, going to the theatre).
Getting my ears pierced was on the list, and was the thing I was most pleased about when I’d done it.
I’ve always loved wearing a lot of jewellery, and love having a whole new world of accessories opened up to me.
It didn’t particularly hurt (especially compared to other beauty-related procedures I’ve had, see below).
The most troubling thing about it was that I’ve never noticed before that my ears are not symmetrical. My earlobes are slightly different shapes, and I got a bit obsessed with the idea that the holes weren’t in the right places and made my ears seem even less symmetrical. Until one of my friends told me to stop being ridiculous.
I quickly told the table my best decision was getting my ears pierced, but I knew there was another best decision of 2019 as well, but I didn’t want to share.
One of my colleagues said her best decision was ending it with a guy she had been dating, who it didn’t feel right with.
Another colleague said it was not showing up for work one day, which triggered him to take some much needed time off, then reduce his hours and start seeing a counsellor.
Another colleague said her best decision was telling our managers how she wanted her role to change, which they are now putting into practice. (She’s an administrator who gets paid less than a lot of the people in the team, but she completely holds the service together. Nothing works when she’s on annual leave. Now she’s getting a promotion.)
These are my other best decisions of 2019.
Waiting for Andrew to say he loves me back
In December 2018, I had told Andrew I love him, but he hadn’t said it back, which I found really hard.
On New Year’s Day last year, we spoke about it and I said I didn’t know if our relationship could continue, if he couldn’t say it back.
He said he thought he would say it back soon, and asked me to wait for him.
I did wait, and he said it back in February.
Now, he says it all the time. The development of our relationship has been one of the best things of 2019.
A few weeks ago, he phoned me on a Sunday evening, after we’d spent the weekend together.
He said, “I got home and saw the spatula in the kitchen sink which you’d put lime scale remover on was finally clean…”
(There was something wrong with his dishwasher and everything was coming out with a disgusting layer of white all over it. I figured out it and was limescale and told him how to fix it.)
“… and then the living room looked so much better because you suggested moving the sofa, and the bedroom is so much better since you encouraged me to get carpet and build the furniture.
“And I thought, ‘you’ve made every room in my home better.’ I can’t wait until you live here.”
A bit later in the conversation, he said, “can you hear the rain! Actually I think it’s hail!”
I said I couldn’t hear anything, and looked out of the window.
“No, it’s not even raining here.”
A few minutes later, it did start hailing on my side of London.
“Soon we’ll hear the rain at the same time, as we’ll be together,” he said earnestly.
We’ve come such a long way in 2019.
Buying an expensive hair removal machine
Hair removal is the bane of my life. I hate it so much. I can’t put into words how much I hate it.
I hate the fact women are expected to be hairless from the neck down, while brutish, hairy men walk around free judgement.
I hate the hours of wasted time and thousands of wasted pounds that go down the drain.
I think it bothers me more than other women because my skin reacts so badly to any kind of hair removal.
If I shave my legs, over the next few days, the skin on my legs itches so much, my legs get bruised by me surreptitiously trying to scratch through layers of clothing during the day, and I wake up in the middle of night, finding I’ve been scratching my legs in my sleep, with blood under my nails.
After waxing my legs, they will be red raw for a couple of days, but they are sore rather than itchy, and it doesn’t last as long. I’ve tended to prefer waxing for this reason, but it’s more expensive, more painful during the procedure, and every summer I find myself in a permanent state of regrowth – too hairy to get my legs out, but not hairy enough to have them waxed again yet.
(I’ve also written about distressing bikini line waxes I’ve had in the past.)
Epilating is the worst of all evils. If you’ve ever wondered if it’s possible to be very bored while in excruciating pain, you’ve ever never epilated.
It’s noisy, painful, time-consuming, and never works properly. After setting aside an evening to use the machine to tediously, painfully pull out every hair, the next morning, in daylight, I see that half the hairs are actually still there.
I used hair removal cream once as a teenager and for days, afterwards, every fabric felt like sandpaper against my poor skin.
For a long time I wondered about trying laser hair removal, but I had concerns.
It costs hundreds or even thousands of pain for a course of laser removal sessions, and for some people it works wonders, but for others it doesn’t.
I was also worried because it uses powerful lasers than can do damage if not used correctly, but because it’s usually delivered by beauty professionals rather than healthcare, it’s not regulated.
Then, I heard about machines you can use at home, to reduce hair growth.
I did research and found that Philips Lumea devices had really good reviews.
They use impulses of light that shine on each hair follicle and send the hair into a ‘sleeping phase’ so it stops growing.
Because the machine is so expensive (about £300) I deliberated about it for a while, but one day, I read a post on Mumsnet about Philips Lumea. (Mumsnet is a parenting forum in the UK. My obsession with Mumsnet, as a childless woman, is beyond the scope of this piece.)
Loads of women on this Mumsnet thread said they were really pleased with theirs. I bit the bullet and bought my own.
You have to remove the hair from the area you’re going to treat first (otherwise the hair just absorbs the impulse of light rather than the follicle. And your bedroom smells slightly of burning).
Then, you hold the machine against your skin, press a button and it flashes a red light onto the skin. You move the machine along do it again, until you’ve done the whole leg or whichever area you’re working on.
It feels a bit of a strange sensation when the light flashes on your skin. I found it slightly hurt on one very sensitive part of my bikini line, but everywhere else, it just felt weird.
You do this every 2 weeks initially, then after you’ve done 4 fortnightly treatments, you just do it every 6-8 weeks to top it up.
I decided to only do it on one half of my body, to see if it really worked.
Now, whenever I say to anyone, “look at this photo!”, to show them a meme about the election or a photo of the Lake District, when I open up the photos on my phone, we’re both met by a sea of photos of one hairy leg and one reasonably hairless leg. Or my bikini line, with one side hairy and one side not.
While I have previously resented handing over the crisp £20 notes for a wax, or hated trying to hastily shave my legs in the shower before work, on the morning of a date, this time, I’ve enjoyed setting aside one evening a fortnight, to have a bath and shave all my body hair off, while listening to a podcast, before running a laser up and down one half of my body.
It definitely makes a difference, which is gratifying.
The Lumea side of my body isn’t completely hairless now, which is a shame, but it does say it removes “up to 85%” of hair, which I think it has done.
I think this summer will be much better than previous ones, body hair stress-wise.
Leaving my job and moving in with Andrew?
The biggest decision I’ve made in 2019 is to find another job, and move in with Andrew.
As I haven’t done either yet, it’s too early to say whether these will be good decisions or not.
But I hope they will be!