the skin you’re in

Jane Seymour

rarely eats later than the afternoon, so is hungry for up to 16 hours at a time.   Trained as a dancer, she still weighs what she weighed at 17 (she is now 72 ).  She has also been married and divorced four times, survived financial catastrophe thanks to one of the husbands, come through health crises, written various shrewdly marketed “I survived it and you will too” type books, designed clothes and sold art.  She is currently having a hit with her second tv series Harry Wild, many years after the first.  Jane Seymour may not be a world star but she twinkles steadily in an industry into which she and her management have long strong and professional insight.    I read this over the coffee this morning and had a bad quarter of an hour.   File AR under “could have done better.”    And then I thought.

I thought of two marriages and two divorces.  Quite enough, thank you.    I thought (sorry) that my tolerance for self help books is very low and I never wanted to read or write one if I didn’t have to.   Designing clothes that will sell and painting the pictures ditto? Well that has to be a combination of considerable luck, a recognisable name, and a willingness to put your ability at the service of

what other people think will “go”.  

If you’re discussing something with me, however and wherever we meet, I will put experience, intelligence and information at your service.   But the sound of the exchange is hallmarked.  I’m what I was, the arena of work is different.  I am endlessly interested in and moved by people.  

Jane Seymour is Jane Seymour, I am not she. 

There is a French phrase “bien dans sa peau” suggesting what the Americans call being centred, happy with and knowing how to make the best of your lot, what you can’t do without, what you must let go.  And on the way to being happy in my skin, what did I learn about myself?   

Buns stayed with friends and lived out of a suitcase for years.  I couldn’t do it.  Give me the meanest room (and I have lived in some pits) but it has to have a lock on the door.  I’ll scrub it, paint it – but it has to be mine.   I need regular infusions of privacy.

I made fewer concessions in the way that I wrote or broadcast than anybody I know.  Mind you, I haven’t spent a lot of time asking people.   It was the heart and soul of me, verbally expressed.   I was the girl who was asked for advice at school, in the typing pool.   I went on learning and I went on finding ways to express the things I was interested in, because they obviously interested a whole lot of other people who couldn’t find the words – but you couldn’t fake my interest, it was real, and you couldn’t write my lines. They were too.

I learnt that I cared much less about fashion than about style.  I have known women who keep on colouring their hair long past their sell by date but I went grey and then white, encouraged and endorsed by complete strangers as well as dear friends – always bearing in mind the man who sat opposite me on a train and said “ You’d look quite pretty if you coloured your hair !”   

I learned that I could live without flowers but I had to have books.   I learned – painfully – that you can do your absolute best for somebody but if they don’t want to help themselves,

you’re not going to get very far.  

I learned respect for my health, physical and mental, and when my son asked me the other day if I worried about wrinkles, I was able to say truthfully “Only on a bad day” though reaching for my slippers, I see the skin of my arms creased like tissue – and that’s age, nothing to do with care or cream. 

I like my skin, the one I’m writing about.  It suits me and it sounds as if Jane Seymour likes hers.  Very different, one from the other, that’s the lesson – not only what we share but where we differ.    

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