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A Slattern’s Diary #5: The Slattern in the Mirror

In her regular column Margaret Cabourn-Smith lays her slattern-ness out for all to see. In this instalment she turns her attention to the woman behind the mess.

Illustration by Joanna Neary.

Illustration by Joanna Neary.

So, what does a slattern look like? Many are quite good at going undercover – I, for one, take delight in ‘scrubbing up well’.

There will almost always be a clue or two, though: a wonky tights seam, a ripped heel or a glimpse of bra strap. And by the end of the night a shiny nose and a wine-y lip are the closest I get to a ‘signature look’.

This is not necessarily a bad thing; at least it’s distinctive. My husband got to know me by asking a mutual friend “who the girl in the inside-out top was”.

It can be taken too far, though.

It was sheer luck that led me to glance in a mirror as I left the house for college once, only to discover that I had what looked like dried blood smeared across my eyebrow. On closer inspection it turned out to be Marmite, which was a relief – humiliating, but a relief (I didn’t get much action at college).

During my temping years, I was once approached at the coffee machine by a desperately embarrassed woman from a nearby department who whispered that I had my skirt tucked into my knickers. I thanked her and adjusted my equipment.

The company was in the process of moving offices and I didn’t see her again for four years, when I bumped into her in a lift. I smiled while she, weirdly, still looked mortified.

“Get over it,” I thought, somewhat irritated. It wasn’t until I got out of the lift that a glance in the mirror set me straight.

That’s right – my skirt was tucked into my knickers. In her eyes I had gone from scatty to monstrous exhibitionist in one sloppy toilet break.

“On closer inspection it turned out to be Marmite, which was a relief – humiliating, but a relief.”

Sometimes you have to accept things about yourself. But other people have to as well.

When playing a (very rare) glam role a few years back, I was tarted up for the dress rehearsal. The young handsome lead flirted as if he hadn’t just spent six weeks rehearsing with me. In my younger days I might have fluttered a bit. This time I just thought: “Nah mate – if you don’t fancy me in my specs and corduroy skirt, you don’t get me blow-dried and in a kimono.”

Not a bad motto. I should print it on the back of my knickers so everyone can see it.

@MCabournSmith

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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.