The Old Lady of Soho

I’m always surprised that I am allowed entry in the über-trendy section of Soho where I’ve been temping. Everyone, and I mean, everyone, is under thirty, with most denizens between 22 and 26.  Of course all the kids are sporting the same 80’s fashion that I wore back in *cough* the 80’s, so I’ve been having this bizarre sense that I’m A) back in high school, B) just starting high school since everything’s so unfamiliar and new, and C) a neighborhood R.A. for adorable London kids.

They really are cute, though.  All angsty, navigating their very first jobs.  I wish I could take twenty pictures on my way to work, or when I dash into Mark & Spencer’s at lunch to wade through the labyrinthine queue.  I don’t think they’d appreciate being photographed by a random creaky lady with a probiotic smoothie and “stay full longer” M&S salad in her hands.  In the meantime, here are some things that you may recognize from the first time around that are ubiquitous in Soho right now.

#1:  New Wave asymmetrical haircuts. For girls, very androgynous.  For boys, big and moussey.

A lot of this

#2  Flats.  All colors.  Frankly I don’t understand how they walk for miles in them; they seem so flimsy.  But I guess that’s what I used to do too.

#3  Oxfords and skinny jeans.  Brown ones, for girls or for guys.  Lace-ups.  This seems to be the London uniform, the staple.  Brown lace-up oxfords with anything.   This guy (C. snapped pic from bus) sporting his own variation with striped trousers:

Am very curious about the hat, and the scarf tucked into the pants.  Not sure which part of C.’s bus route that was on, but it looks more like Piccadilly St. than Soho.

I used to have a white pair of oxfords that I loved, especially with my pants that got skinnier at the ankles.  (What were those called again?  Tapered…?)

#4:  Tights and leggings.  Oh boy.  Maybe 85-95% of females will be wearing black tights or leggings.  With brown loafers and maybe short jean shorts.  There’s that.  Or the skirty look. In any case, I feel the need to explain why I’ve wandered into their territory, as if I’m browsing in a Forever 21 store.

And it’s weird to be working at the same place as my husband, but my strategy is to kind of avoid him and now it seems fine.  The first few days we had lunch together, which felt like being at the “new kid table” in the school cafeteria.  Everyone eats their lunch at their computer, but I always want to go stretch my legs a bit after sitting still most of the morning. One of the guys that we’ve hung out with at an off-site work thing (back in the fall, spouses got to go) joked that instead of a helicopter parent, I’m a helicopter wife, making sure C. doesn’t need anything.  Which is kind of a perfect title since C. is surrounded by single twenty-something cuties all day, prancing around barefoot in breezy tunics and jeans.  Not to mention that he’s the guy who rescues their files, etc.  (Read: HERO.)

With my tendency to overthink things and then sleep on them and then run them through the mill maybe one or twelve more times, it’s actually kind of nice to be able to run things by C. about my first UK work experience.  Of course I’m self-conscious sometimes about being Too American.  At this company though (digital media), everyone’s just really young so it kind of seems like its own entity anyway.  The atmosphere is very “Hey, my parents are away this weekend–do you want to have some people over?”  The handful of over-thirties might serve a dual purpose of making sure everyone stays hydrated and no one burns anything.

I’m so glad for a bit of income, but the day is really, really long when commuting from Medway.  We get up before six, leave by 6:30, drive to C.’s mom’s to park in her drive, take the train (a mere 12 pounds instead of the whopping 32 it would cost from Medway) at about 7:45.   We get in to the London Charing Cross station at about 8:25, and walk to Soho.  Normally we’d leave work between 6 & 6:30, catch a train around 7 and get home about 8:30.  Today we got home later since  I had a Dr.’s appt. in London and took the wrong train around the District/Circle lines, backtracked, got off at another station and as a train was arriving that seemed like my train.  I’d hopped on, only to discover that was also the wrong direction.  It took me an hour to get to the Embankment stop, where I was meeting C.  Not such a nice journey.

Sometimes not easy to figure out on 3.5 hours’ sleep.

The day’s trek was starting to feel more like a pilgrimage.  I’m an insomniac and rarely fall asleep before two a.m., unless really heavily sedated.  So each night there’s the choice: do I want to feel drugged or frantic for sleep tomorrow morning?  Either way there’s rarely more than five hours when I have to get up early, and lately getting something like 3 hours of sleep is more common.

I’d been in a car, a train, and four Tube trains so far that day.  After Embankment, another train, another car trip, sunset, and then home.  Fifteen minutes of Zzzzzzzzzz on the couch and then, thinking that I was actually going to fall asleep at a decent hour, I get my second wind around 11:30.  Wide awake.  I realize that one of the guys at work has eyes just like an octopus–reclusive, deep-sea dwelling, intelligent. Plus he’s bald, so that helps the octopus look.  I wonder if he’d take it as a compliment. Probably not.

By now I’m really awake. So I might as well mention one last thing, which is that the other reason things have been feeling high schooley is that two of my friends from HS were just in town visiting their friend (who I knew then as well) N., who lives in London and works, get this, two blocks from where C. works.  Where I’m temping.  So we’re all in the same little section of the world, after all these years.  How weird is that. We got together for drinks last Friday and it was really great to go out, but strange in that I’ve been thinking about how people don’t really change very much.  How can it be that so much has happened–I’ve been through quite a few major events/life changes in the last twenty-five years–but there we were, having drinks and talking about how much we love Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns.”   (Very dark and quirky humor; you kind of have to be in the mood for it.)

So–once again, the question.  Is massive change possible, or are people’s lives fixed at a certain point?   I still feel like I have so far to go to even approach where I want to be, what I want to do.  But if people stay the same, is that realistic?  C. keeps saying that we’re not really on the same timeline as most other people, that we had other things to deal with in our twenties, and some of our thirties, and we’re sort of just now able to work on the house and home thing.

Who knows what will happen.  C. and I debate this daily, if not hourly–he thinks we can move; I say there’s no point in going through with it just to be in a *slightly* better neighborhood with less space in the actual house.  I’m a pessimist and he’s an optimist, which is supposedly a nice balance, but we do drive each other crazy with our different perspectives sometimes.  I don’t just “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”  I fantasize outrageously and imagine the apocalypse.  C. just functions and goes into hibernation mode when necessary.

The vibrancy of Soho and a cramped terraced house in what may be one of the most notorious sections of Medway.  Such different worlds.  When I’m in London I feel like a great pretender, glancing in bakery windows as if I’m just on my way home in the city.  On our block where we really live I’m usually frustrated without a clear plan to leave the house we intended to leave after six months, max.

For now we masquerade as a couple just welding our lives together, walking through Chinatown back to the Charing Cross station.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. David
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 20:13:51

    Sadly I am not one of the “young ones” at work any longer. It is just a couple of years but there is a big difference between me and some of the junior guys.

    It has it’s perks but at the same time… I’M APPROACHING 30! When did that happen?

    I think I have missed out on turning up to work n trendy cloths etc… I keep thinking that I should dress in the fashionable and snappy shirts, shoes and coats that gleam in the shops. Sadly I’m too frugal, boring and aware that it makes no difference to my work. I’m sure soho is full of the colourful and androgynous, perhaps less colourful during work hours.


  2. taramoyle
    Jun 02, 2011 @ 20:59:42

    Oh, that’s so cute, approaching thirty. *Sigh.* No, really, I feel younger now in some ways than I did when I was turning thirty. How ’bout them apples?

    I never went through the same stage these kids are in either. I had “bohemian” jobs at their age–an indie bookstore, as a nanny, freelancer, public library, etc. At the bookstore I was able to wear shirts I’d bought at thrift stores and garage sales for like .15, though, which was good, and one of my co-workers would model something like a vinyl vest that he was wearing to a party. A lot of club kids used to hang out at the coffee shop next door, and that was fun. There was atmosphere. I’d already kind of done some wild things as a teenager though and by the time I was in college, I was done with it and became very studious. Age is so random–some people just have their own version. Maybe I’m doing my twenties in my forties, and did my forties in my twenties. That sounds about right….


  3. Kristine
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 00:16:28

    I want to cry reading about your train debacle. The high-frequency beehive of stiletto- and skinny-pants wearing slouchers in my office would have been the death of me. Except I’m quitting tomorrow. My tolerance for anything and everything has plummeted to zero. Stay strong out there…..there may not be electricity where I end up….


    • taramoyle
      Jun 03, 2011 @ 23:49:02

      Oh my God. It was horrible. There’s a sign at one stop that says Western trains, and another that indicates trains for the East. I knew which direction I wanted to go. The problem was that you’re in a corner with this stop, so you can actually only go North or South. I did want to cry. I really did. Did I mention that I’ve got a lovely maritime cold as well and was having sneezing attacks? Awesome.

      Quitting? Yikes. More queries on your FB email. There’s always room for you at our place in scenic Medway. We have electricity AND a dockyard museum with the longest naval rope in existence. Plus the highest chance of getting puked on at eight in the morning on the way to the train.


  4. Michaux
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 04:09:15

    The contrast between SOHO and Medway must be mind-splitting–and yeah, what are all those twenty-somethings doing with actual jobs? If they were really children of the 80’s, they would be tending bar and valet-parking at their parents’ club…but maybe they didn’t have the whole Gen-X angst thing in England anyway? Maybe there’s no prototype for the angst that supposed to accompany those outfits–or maybe it will show up in a few more years, when the grunge redux takes over.


    • taramoyle
      Jun 03, 2011 @ 23:54:16

      A lot of them live with their parents, and although it’s a “real” job, the atmosphere is very dorm-like, so complete adult maturity is hardly necessary. There’s a foosball room, and a lot of stay and work in the evenings.

      The grunge redux is happening, albeit slowly. I’ve seen one version of it but we’re still around 1986, so have a ways to go before we see little Eddie Vedders everywhere.


  5. Michaux
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 04:11:21

    Adorable pics, btw–I miss seeing what Londoners are wearing every year!


  6. Cindy
    Jun 04, 2011 @ 14:55:52

    Loved reading your post. I have numerous thoughts, but I do have to say that most people think YOU are in your twenties! 🙂

    You need to gather these blogs and get a memoir together–you have such great images and a unique perspective!


    • taramoyle
      Jun 04, 2011 @ 16:03:33

      Thanks Cindy! That means the world. I know you wouldn’t pass along a compliment unless you meant it. 🙂

      On the age thing–I think that still having the sense of humor of a twelve-year old helps. Plus, it’s cheaper than skin cream.


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