Thursday, February 7, 2013

Becoming Beth

We all know them, the “IT” girls. Usually, in North America anyway, they are named Ashley or Shawna, or maybe Shannon, depending on how old you are and who happened to be in your class the year you started noticing them, and henceforth started feeling like crap about yourself. You might even BE Ashley, Shawna or Shannon, and if that’s the case, you’ll probably want to stop reading right now cause you won’t get a word of what I am about to say. You most likely have a golf game, hair appointment or meeting with the partners to get to, anyway.

 In my case her name was Beth Johnson, and despite our shared moniker, I can assure you we had very little else in common. I first “met” her at tennis camp, which should tell you about all you need to know. She was cute and blonde and ponytailed and sporty and consistently clad in the newest Ralph Lauren attire. In short, all the things the 12 year old me desperately wanted to be, and maybe my parents hoped I would become by sending me to said tennis camp. But since my mother insisted that dying my hair at that age would make me look like a “mini-hooker” I was stuck with polyester polo shirts from a place called Bargain Harald’s, mousy, permed brown hair and the tennis skills of a visually impaired sloth. No chance the likes of Beth Johnson were talking to me.

Since that day, I have been consistently aware of these women around me. I have tried to emulate them in Rome (disastrous sweater tying incident), London, (unfortunate high heel/cobblestone street episode) and the French Riviera (ridiculous nude beach fiasco, don’t ask). So far I have failed miserably at becoming these bastions of feminine style, grace and sophistication. For many years, about the best I could hope for was not to have them point at my Asda/Walmart jeans, scream and have me forcibly removed from their sight by their football playing boyfriend, Chad. Eventually I accepted the sad fact that I was never going to be one of those women who could master the perfect ponytail. Comfort would never be on my side, I was going to have to make an effort. And it was probably going to hurt.

So it has been since my mid-twenties; pulling it together, but never quite achieving that effortless clean beauty that Beth Johnson seemed to take for granted, and that these European women continued to taunt me with. Lucky for me then that I moved to Norway, where I have been met by an entire nation of Beth Johnsons. Better break out the hair dye and the preppy handbook, I thought when I moved here, here we go again.

In keeping with this eternal quest for self-improvement, I began checking out the Norwegian women. No, not in THAT way. In a kinda sad, 40 –something trying to fit in kinda way. I am now pleased to share with you the results of my findings.
1)      Many Norwegian women have a natural elegance. Maybe this comes from generally being a pretty tall race. Maybe I just have to say that or they will kick my a**. Being 5’8 ish myself, it is rare I feel “dainty”, except once in Fiji. That was a good week. Anyway, tall girls, this is your place.
2)      They are seriously sporty. I am often at the gym or outside for run, but these women are ALWAYS outside doing something athletic. Most of the time I notice them bounding past me in running tights that make them look like really powerful gazelles. Me? I am probably closer to one of the running bulls of Pamplona, if they wore light reflective jogging jackets and Ipods.
3)      They somehow make winter dressing look stylish. OK, so Trinny and Susannah from What Not to Wear might disagree with me here, but I have yet to see a ridiculously dressed Norwegian woman in Stavanger. Well, there was that one girl making her way across an icy parking lot last week in a humongous parka and those Lady Gaga heels that make you look like a satyr. But surely she was the exception.
4)      They have the complexions of a Disney Princess. I almost always have a zit, which is categorically un-called for at my age. I may be able to fake the blonde hair but even with the kilos of salmon I regularly jam into my gob, I have never been able to achieve that skin. Except once, when I was three. That was also a good week.

It could be the fact that I turned the big 4-0 last month, or possibly it’s the fact that SOME of the characteristics of Norwegian women are achievable for me.  I mean, let’s face it, trying to make myself over into a 5’2, 100 pound Gitanes smoking Coco Chanel clone was always going to lead to disappointment. The scarf tying alone was killing me. But here, I can work with what I have . I am tallish, blonde and have finally found a sport which doesn’t make me feel like a visually impaired sloth, so I guess I am sporty too. For once, I think I might just have a chance at fitting in with these women.

Take that, Beth Johnson.

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