DH and I hosted a dinner party the other night. There were 20 people coming so – don’t judge me, you know I’m no foodie – I had it catered. In one way, it was nice because there wasn’t much for me to do besides make sure the tables were laid out nicely and the garden looked pretty, but that didn’t stop me from worrying, at about 4pm, that the chef might not turn up – not to mention actually bring the food I’d ordered.
“Oh well,” I said, after twitching the shutters to look for the catering truck for the nth time, “I suppose if the chef doesn’t come we could always order take-away …”
“Take-away?” asked DS. “I’ve been learning about take-away at school!”
Wow, I thought. Nutrition already. He’s only four.
“What have you learned about take-away?” I asked, imagining something along the lines of how unhealthy a diet of take-away food is.
“Hmm…” said DS, putting on his concentrating face. “We learned that 10 take-away seven is three.”
I saw in the news last week that the “vampire facial” – an icky procedure that involves drawing your own blood, spinning it in a centrifuge to extract the plasma and reinjecting the plasma into your face – has been banned in Dubai beauty salons.
A small part of me is sad it’s no long allowed. As long as the procedure’s done by a qualified doctor (as opposed to a beauty salon therapist) and done under sterile conditions, it’s a great weapon in the 40-something’s anti-aging arsenal.
I know because… (Mum, look away)… I tried it.Last year.
I’ve been toying with writing about it for a long time and I never quite get around to it. It sounds so disgusting. How vain must I be to want to try it? How desperate? But, look, I’m well on my way down that slippery slope to looking 60 when I’m only 43 and, to me, it was a better bet than filling my head with things like Botox or fillers. At least it’s natural. It’s your own plasma! There’s nothing artificial about it.
I did it while DH was away.
It was much harder than I thought it would be. Sitting in the room having my blood drawn, I wanted to get up and run. Every part of me was screaming to leave.
“Everyone who has it likes it,” the doctor told me reassuringly (yes, she was a proper doctor). “They come back again and again.”
We agreed I’d have the entire harvest of plasma injected around my eyes instead of a “facial”. I have hollow eyes, sunken eyes, black under-eye circles that never go away. The plasma would apparently be massively beneficial to this area, plumping it up without so much as a sniff of Juvederm.
“How many injections will it take?” I asked, imagining two each side.
“Depends,” said the doctor. “Maybe 30?”
Thirty injections under my eyes? With no anaesthetic? And a school run to do three hours later.
“Will there be swelling?” I asked.
“Maybe a little,” she said. “But just for a few days.”
The injections were not as bad as I thought. Only one made me jump. A nurse kindly numbed the area with an ice cube before each jab while I squirmed on the treatment bed and tried to visualise myself drinking cocktails on a beach in Bali. Needles near eyes make me feel sick.
When the 30 were done, the doctor handed me a mirror. I don’t know what I expected to see: plump, dewy skin, maybe? What I did see was the face of someone who’s been through the patio doors without opening them. Dried blood, puffiness, bruising, swelling. I was unrecognisable.
“Bye,” said the doctor, and I lowered my sunglasses over my bashed-up eyes and drove home.
It’s funny how easy it is to get away with things like this in Dubai. We’re blessed that we’re able to wear sunglasses all the time.
“Prescription,” I told people if they noticed me wearing sunglasses indoors. “Eye infection. Can’t wear my lenses.” (To be honest, this was true: I couldn’t wear my lenses – my eyes were too swollen to get them in.)
DH came home. I pre-warned him, but still: “Oh darling, what have you done?” he asked as I removed the sunnies and showed him my swelling, which had now bruised, too, leaving me with two yellow-black eyes, pricked with needle marks.
If you’d asked me at that point if I’d do it again, I’d have laughed like a hyena and said “Not even if you paid me in handbags.”
But on the second night I massaged some arnica gel under my eyes and, by the third morning, the swelling had gone and the bruising could be disguised with makeup. A week later I looked like I’d had 12 hours sleep every night of my life and never ever drank Sauvignon Blanc with a straw. The skin under my eyes was pinker, plumper; the effect was great. And, lest you forget, 100% natural.
This was nearly 11 months ago. If you asked me now if I’d do it again, I’d say yes. Three days of swelling was worth the result. Only I can’t go back because it’s now banned. Shame.
It started with a ballet outfit when DD was four.
Having done ballet aged three in a pink tutu, DD’s ballet school declared that four-year-old ballerinas must wear white. Out went the pink leotard, the pink tutu, the pink socks and even the pink leather ballet shoes (onto which I’d hand-sewn the elastic straps – spare a moment, please, for my pain). In came a white ensemble made from spun gold and angel breath – well, you would think that, given how much it cost – and, into the dressing-up box went the pink outfit.
A term later, DD gave up ballet. To be fair, she’s not a natural. Into the uniform drawer went the white outfit.
Then DD took up gymnastics. I think this was the year of the London Olympics. She really enjoyed watching the gymnasts. After about two weeks of gymnastics, I was asked to buy the official leotard. The school year ended, gymnastics stopped, DD’s interests moved on.
The leotard still sits, hopefully, in the drawer. (I bought it big; it may still fit).
DD developed a love of dance. “I really, really, really want to do a real dance class,” she begged. “In a proper dance school.”
I agreed: DD has the rhythm. She’s a great dancer. I’d love to see her develop that further. I enrolled her at a dance studio and, guess what? They had a compulsory uniform. I sold my collection of Hermès bags and bought the uniform. DD loved the dance class. She did it for a term. But, when term ended, she didn’t want to go back.
“I’m nearly nine,” she said. “I’m the oldest in the class. It’s so babyish.” I had to agree – she was a good couple of years older than the rest of her class, but too young for the next class up.
The dance uniform sits on top of the leotard in what I now call the drawer of discarded uniforms.
Then DD took up yoga. I admit I encouraged this. I love yoga. But I was dubious and the drawer of discarded uniforms haunted my thoughts. I ignored DD’s pleas for baggy yoga pants and sent her to yoga in her PE kit. After a term, she came home with a letter.
“Your child requires her own yoga mat,” read the letter. “You can purchase this from us for AED [ridiculous].”
“You can have a yoga mat,” I told DD. “But not that one.” We took her to Decathlon and bought a yoga mat for a sixth of the quoted price.
“How was it?” I asked after her first class with her new mat. Would the other children have noticed her yoga mat didn’t have diamonds and rubies embedded in its latex?
“Fine,” she said. “But the teacher says I need yoga socks. Special ones. Here’s the letter…”
So the Dubai Food Festival (not to be confused with Taste of Dubai, which is another, um, Dubai food festival) is on at the moment. My Instagram feed (see what I did there) is packed with photos of exquisite little dishes prepared by top chefs snapped by my foodie friends.
“Mmm,” I think suppose I’m supposed to think. “That morsel of something obscure from the bottom of the ocean speckled with space dust harvested from Mars looks yummy. What a clever chef and what a discerning foodie my friend is! Nom-nom!”
But, really, I just don’t get it. Food’s a functional thing to me; I eat to live and not vice versa. Seeing pictures of food is about as interesting to me as seeing, say, pictures of shower gel.
But these days I seem to be surrounded by “foodies” – people who spend their days thinking about, researching, preparing, photographing, writing about and eating beautiful-looking food.
It’s an exclusive club. If you’re not excited by the opening of another restaurant that serves spiced fairy wings with unicorn ice cream in a golden Burj Khalifa-shaped glass, you’re just, like, not cool in Dubai these days.
And I find the whole thing a bit of a paradox because, having said all that, I cook a lot. I probably cook a lot more than many of my foodie acquaintances do – but I don’t love cooking either. I can’t say it makes my toes curl with delight to know I’ve a shepherd’s pie to make before school pick-up.
So, I’m neither foodie nor chef. What I like, though, is to know that the food my family eats is made from love, with good ingredients. It doesn’t matter if their dinner’s not fancy; it doesn’t matter if it’s not trendy. If the food I put on the table is nutritious, if it’s fresh and if the family likes it, that’s enough for me. See you at the LitFest!