Elf Lyons Says: Why can't I be that woman?
I am not a ‘sassy’ woman. Sassy in my voice and opinions perhaps, (when I’m on stage and I’ve had two whiskies to get me there), but not, say, in my day to day life… I am more what one would call a ‘scrubby’ woman. You know… the type with dirty glasses.
My socks are often dirty, my hair is often wet from the shower because I don’t dry it properly. I usually smell of kitchen spray. Coffee stains are always on the kneecaps of my jeans. My bras are not sensual lace creations but grey, compact and severe like 19th century boarding school matrons. My underwear never matches, rarely do my socks. My shoes (all three pairs of them) all need to be resoled.
My lips are dry and my leg hair is as cantankerous and fierce as a forest. My bathroom is full of half empty shower gel bottles. l don’t have clean hands and manicured cuticles - they are weathered and long with the texture of a school desk that has been jammed and scrawled into with a compass.
My body is not toned. It’s the shape of a HB Pencil with blue tack stuck to it. Even if there is a perfectly nice chair to sit on, I prefer the floor, like a dog.
Despite the fact that this is pretty much how I’ve been for ten years now, I’m still longing for the mutation where I one day wake up and become one of those ‘sassy’ women… y'know, those ‘clean’ ones, with an organised book shelf.
I’m jealous of them. Even though I’ve never met one IN THE FLESH, I’ve seen them… the enigmas. The lady success werewolves of the city girl world. The girls who always looks graceful, sassy and appears to get shit done.
You see them looking sassy on the tube or on a busy walkway, power-walking but without bashing into anyone. Those girls who progressed from the school girl who always managed to get their homework in on time, but in a cool casual way, to the girl who manages to work ‘Smart Casual’, drink herbal tea, and have a PhD at the same time.
I remember my friend Henrietta being like this. I’d ask her, as she handed in yet ANOTHER bit of coursework in on time, her hair perfectly clean and nit-free, (unlike mine), ‘"HOW DO YOU DO IT?!”. She’d reply happily, “I just do it on the day when the teacher gives the work to me and then I don’t have to worry about it later!”
She was also the type of girl who would say modestly “I speak a bit of french” which would basically mean FLUENT. I was screamingly jealous, Even if I TRIED to do that, I still relied on extended deadlines and even though I now LIVE IN FRANCE my french is still tres tres terribles.
In preparation for my new show, which is about mother daughter relationships, I’ve been thinking a lot about the woman I want to become and age into. The lady I want to grow into.
I’m 24 and a half now. My mid twenties loom. It’s not really that big a deal, but from the way my friends facebook birthday invites call out you’d think we were all just about to die: “BECCA IS GETTING REALLY OLD… LIKE… REALLY OLD… THE BIG TWENTY-SIX”, “ONE DAY I WILL BE DEAD. JOIN ME DRINKING. I AM TURNING 28. LOVE JON”, “MY YOUTH IS GONE, I AM 20”.
It’s a pressure so many of my friends face too it seems, at the back of their minds. We are constantly asked to ‘define’ ourselves, group ourselves with another group or a community. Even in our feminisms and our beliefs we are asked to specify EXACTLY rather than being allowed to say “well… erm… I’m still working it out?"
The fear and anxiety that I was doing being a person wrong, and not just any person, but a WOMAN, hit me the other day . I walked down the road and passed a woman. She looked like the type of woman who you can imagine that if you were able to write directly from their mind to paper their thoughts would come out as perfectly as Simone de Beauvoir prose.
I looked at her and suddenly imagined her life… I thought: Your bag has no leaking pens in it - I bet YOU know what all those weird compartments of the washing machine are for - I bet you know how to make Brioche. I bet you have a vase with nice flowers in it.
As I stood there in my dungarees and turtle neck, and looked at her and her imagined life in awe and mild jealousy I started to panic. I can’t be that woman!
I have NO idea how my washing machine works! I don’t bake! I buy cheese from the shop and pop it on the plate. I get pizza and stick it in the oven at 2am and then under cook it and dip the remnants in houmous!
I bought what I thought was a vase from Ikea and in the end it just turned into a carafe - which you think sounds cooler, but it was definitely a vase and it didn’t turn the wine into anything better. It still tasted like Sainsbury's table wine. Wine that is so bad it can only go with a table.
I bought my brioche from the coffee shop (because I can’t make my own) and then went back to my flat, to drink cold coffee from my dumpy caffetiere at my desk with my blobby little cactus Bob. I looked at my dungarees and my turtle neck and even though I really LIKE them, I thought “Do other women feel like this? Did Audrey Hepburn ever look at herself and go 'Am I doing this wrong?'”
To conquer my mild pathetic melancholia, I had a bath (because apparently that’s what every woman must do in times of stress). I don’t really like baths… but I’ve been told time and time again that baths are relaxing and that ‘reading magazines in the bath’ is the perfect glamorous female activity.
Obviously baths can be fun, but after a while you are just a wet mammal in a small container and if you’ve ever tried to read a magazine in a bath you’ll know too that magazines effectively melt once the heat hits them and you end up with remnants of ‘Pick Me Up’ floating in your soapy dead skin water.
Anyway, after a whole day writing in my flat - I put some clothes on and went to the theatre.
My friend who I was meeting greeted me with: “Oh my god Elf, you look so glamorous!”
“Yes. You always look so well turned out. I love your style. I’m jealous. I couldn’t pull off the clothes you wear.”
I blushed. Oh. right. Oh-kay then. Thanks babe. Clearly somethings gone wrong here. I’d spent almost the entire day in a dirty onesie with unwashed hair and body until about 90 minutes ago. Also, this ‘jealous friend’ in question is one of the funniest, coolest dressing females I know… why she would be jealous of my style, god knows.
I repeated this sentiment to another female friend who then also agreed.
“Yeah Elf, I’ve never seen you look shit. You always look cool.”
Wow. Someone thinks I AM THAT GIRL?! What? Jeez. Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe I am doing okay?
Maybe this is how the Queen does it? Maybe Audrey Hepburn spent 19 hours of her day in pyjamas before going out and being an icon? Maybe this 24 hour glamorous woman doesn’t actually exist? Maybe I’ve made her up.
But I can’t have done.. I’ve read about her… I’ve seen her in Yogurt Adverts ALL THE TIME.
Perhaps we are all Secret agents to sass?
As I sat on the tube home a little bit flattered and a little bit overwhelmed, I realised I need to stop comparing myself to other ideals of femininity and focus on what makes me unique. If I did that, perhaps I’d get more work done. Perhaps this is how the SASSY girls do it.
Who knows, maybe that girl outside the cafe is suffering with her tax return just as much as me. Perhaps she doesn’t even HAVE a washing machine.
Who cares anyway?
As long as she’s happy.
Anyway, I should probably put some clothes on and do some more work… Actually, why should I put clothes on? It’s my house. It’s my life. I’m my own woman. I set the deadlines now.
I’m gonna make some coffee first.
Written by Elf Lyons
Comedian, Writer and attempting to be Barbarella
"A comedic force to be reckoned with" ★★★★★ Broadway Baby
"Elf demonstrates what it means to be the voice of a generation […] you so enthusiastically fall under her slightly awkward, sexy, nerdy spell" ★★★★★ Dirt n Candy
For updates on gigs visit www.theelflyons.com and follow @elf_lyons
Creator of The Secret Comedians and Co-Director of OddFlock