Do you care how you look when you exercise?
That's how it started out: a lovely girl named Sophie wrote to ask me. She was thinking about the fuss the media (i.e., the FEMALE media: boys have other things to think about) were making about Katherine Jenkins allegedly running wearing make up. Turns out, she wasn't, just lip gloss. As Stephanie Marsh from the (London) Times tried to point out to her, some girls would be thrilled to bits if people thought she was wearing make up. Not Jenkins. And not me, either.
We actually met her, my husband and I: it was a black tie event at Coutts bank, a dinner, with Bryn Terfel singing duets, love songs - show tunes by Rogers and Hammerstein, the stuff that makes me cry - introducing a young singer, Katherine Jenkins. When we met her after, one of first things that hit me was, this is a pretty girl who is a girl's girl. Not competitive. I didn't get that vibe.
Which is why I can't imagine anyone feeling threatened by her, or wanting to be bitchy about her. It seems to say more about them than her.
I'm noticing that we women tend to fall into two camps: those who see life as a race, a competition with winners and losers, and other women as competitors, and those who just want, you know, to be liked. I could totally relate to Jenkins being upset that women would be jealous of her beauty. Not that I'm a super model, but because I'm not wired to think that way either. ('I honestly think I just have this face', she said in her defence). And over the years, the friendships that last, and the new ones I form, are with women who feel the same way I do.
So when Sophie contacted me and offered me a free pair of trainers from SportsShoes, if I would talk about my feelings about how I look when I exercise, I had to explain that she had the wrong girl. I'm not a runner, I'm a swimmer and a yoga doer, and I don't wear make up for either. But I do care about my 'gear', in the most low maintenance way. I am very sensitive to colour, for example. I care about wearing the right swimsuit. Not expensive, because chlorine eats them alive, but I like a nice H&M bikini, or if it's a Speedo one piece, I like it as plain as possible. The wildest I went was to get one with hot pink trim - I like hot pink with black, but HATE red with black. Or orange. But I like orange AND hot pink with black. So yes, I do care about how I look.
And I don't do trainers as fashion, aware as I am of the trend. I'm more of a Converse or even Keds kind of sneaker girl. But again - it's like with wearing simple black lines to yoga - it's more of an aesthetic. That said, yesterday I couldn't stop thinking about what our yoga teacher was wearing - she's Indian, and against her dark skin, the white loose lacy knit over white sports bra tucked into black yoga pants looked fab. That's what was going thru my head during downward dog. And the way Katie Grand has styled her trainers for Hogan.. nope. Still not for me.
But I asked, can I get a pair for my husband? He does run. He's training for a triathlon, which means he needs to swim, which is great for me, as we're now exploring swimming options all over the place. This was weeks ago. 'Pick a pair, any pair, honey, long as it's not black and red or orange.'
So what did he do? You guessed it. Orange and black, Halloween colours.
'It's for my blog,' I said, 'Can't you choose something blue?' 'They're RUNNING SHOES, Jill,' he replied. 'I really don't give a shit.'
So I chose these. And he's running in them. And he's happy.
And just as I was about to do the post, which is like two weeks ago now, or more, we had come back from swimming at a pool in Surrey, the heat wave had started, and I remembered I left my phone in the car. First time that happened. I went out into the mews, which is quiet in the summer, and there were three Italians: two girls and a boy. Alessandra and Hilaria, with this giant suitcase on wheels, were doing a photo shoot, right outside our house. For their fashion blog.
Explaining that I used to shoot streetstyle, I ran up to get my camera. They were wearing Nikes, finishing each others' sentences in their version of English, explaining that it's the trend, trainers, everyone's wearing them, and I tried to explain about the post. Gave them my card, said I'd send them the photos, and maybe hook them up with Sophie. Help them launch their blog.
Later, I heard the sound of wheels on cobblestones, and laughter and Italian sounds, as they finished their shoot and disappeared into the twilight.
And never heard from them again.
And I love Sophie's take on it: 'maybe they got tangled up in another adventure.' That's exactly how I see it.
It's a funny old thing: London in a heatwave is turning everyone Italian. People are driving crazy, lovers are actually showing public displays of affection, babies are crying louder, and tempers are flaring, people are talking with their hands. Loudly.
Even while we were doing our little impromptu shoot in the mews, my husband was shouting from the window 'Jill, you're freaking out the CAT.' It's like one big Fellini film.
So I told my husband yesterday, how nice Sophie is, and how patient - that I STILL haven't done the post. The irony isn't missed on him: I'm basically not rewarding the nice girls for being nice.
There's a concept of favour that I remember a boyfriend teaching me, the one whose brother wrote the Karate Kid about him. The Japanese concept that when you do someone a favour, you forget it. It's done, gone. But if someone does YOU a favour, you never forget. In theory, if everyone subscribes to that theory, you have a most harmonious society.
So going back to my original question: do you care how you look when you exercise? And are you on board the trainer trend train?
With gratitude to Sophie Tanner, and SportsShoes. AND Katherine Jenkins.