• Alex Sim-Wise

THE BIG 4-0!



So it happened. I did an old, and I’m here to tell you that it’s fine. Don’t be afraid of age, it is natural… says the girl who quit modelling at 30 because I thought I was too old. I appreciate the hypocrisy, but I can recognise now that it was a learned fear and a taught behaviour. This idea that women’s “value” is in their youth is misogyny in action as it works on the premise that women are possessions, which we are not. If men can be found sexually attractive well into their eighties then so can women. It works both ways. Being attractive doesn’t constitute all that you are either, so don’t ever listen to the (mostly feminists) who try to negate others’ intelligence if they choose being attractive for a job. They are merely projecting their own inadequacies.

I started modelling when I was 22/23, and back in the early aughts you could technically become a glamour model at the age of 16 (which I always found icky) so I liked the extra life experience that being a bit older gave me. By the time I did my first shoot in FHM I had worked for a few years as a stripper before and through that had learned the confidence to stand up for myself in dodgy situations. As let's face it, the glamour industry was bit dodgy back then… although not as dodgy as you would probably think.


It seemed as soon as I started on my modelling career path I was forever reminded by friends, family, agents… that I was on “borrowed time”, that eventually my looks would fade and that would be it. Game over. Little did I know back then that it was an absolute fucking lie.


I still look the same (if not better) than I did twenty years ago. I might not be as skinny (thank god) but I feel a lot more comfortable in myself and my body. What society as a whole doesn’t accept or recognise is that the ageing process isn’t that rapid and doesn’t automatically make you unattractive. In many cases being older can make you more attractive. It shows you have lived and that you are experienced. Our cultural misogyny is what prevents us from celebrating all of the things that make humans sexy and beautiful, so never let it hold you back. As long as you have a stable base to work from - friends and/or a partner who appreciate you for you - then the world is your oyster.



TIFFANY’S


Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not posh. I grew up in Coventry and there is no such thing as posh people there (they all live in Kenilworth). But I do occasionally flirt with the finer things in life and was completely designer-label obsessed as a teen.

At the age of 16, when my designer obsession started, I had recently enrolled at Camden School for Girls which was a big culture shock for a townie girl from Coventry. I would rock up to school in my pedal pushers, nude tights, and Reebok Classics and feel fully out of place. Most of the girls there were incredibly wealthy and displayed the kind of conspicuous consumption that at the time I could only dream about. They seemed to spend all of their sizeable allowances in MAC and used to wear all the designer things I would rip the pictures out from magazines to put on my wall because I couldn’t afford them.



…and Lois jeans for some reason? LOL.


ANYWAY, while I would try my best sourcing discounted designer clothing in second hand shops and sales, it was always a bit of a disaster. I couldn’t walk in my (£25 Selfridge’s sale) Miu Miu shoes and my knock off Gucci Envy perfume smelt like cat piss. When it became abundantly clear that the lifestyle I sought as a teen was in no way affordable I was sent down to the Job Centre to get a part time job. I ended up working for the Royal Air Force Club in Piccadilly as a breakfast waitress, which initially I was impressed by as it was posh, but it was pretty much the worst job ever. Not only because it was in the service industry but because I had to wake up at 4am on weekends (on top of school) to go and be verbally abused by doddery old rich men who called me “maid”, as in “Maid, maid, my kippers are cold and there was no cream with my lunch yesterday MAKE SURE THERE IS CREAM!”. It was fucking awful.


As part of my 4am journey to work I would walk down Bond Street and pass all the things I would rip out of ELLE and VOGUE and see the other girls wear, like the Anya Hindmarch handbags and Gucci horse bit patent platform court shoes I coveted, while trying to calculate how many hours I would have to work in my shit job in order to afford any of it. The answer was A LOT. As I was a media studies student at the time (and hella pretentious), I would sometimes pause and eat my breakfast while looking in the Tiffany’s window, because Holly Golightly, and apparently financial masochism was my thing.


Eventually, after a couple of months, I got fired or I stopped turning up to work (I forget), and decided that because the job was SO SHIT that I should do something nice with the money I had earned and saved so that it wouldn’t be a wasted experience. So I got up early for the final time on a Saturday and took myself to Tiffany’s as a customer. There was a silver Elsa Peretti heart necklace that was huge at the time that I had my heart set on. All of the rich girls at school had it. I walked into the shop visibly shaking as it was so posh and I was terrified, but I found the necklace I was looking for, shelled out £250 (or however much it was), and wore it religiously for the next ten years. I still have it now, although it needs a bit of a clean.



I must have told my husband this story as my 40th birthday gift was being taken to the SAME Tiffany’s on Bond Street from all those years ago, and being assigned a personal shopper so I could pick something new, which was equal parts terrifying (I know nothing about jewellery) and touching. As I said, we are not posh people and my husband works in the emergency services so I know how hard he must have worked to be able to afford to take me there, which to me means more than a gift from someone who is minted. Weirdly, I picked the same necklace my husband had (secretly) chosen: a gold and turquoise Elsa Peretti orb which I shall treasure together with the original heart.



Obviously in my old age I have (somewhat) grown out of my designer obsession. I still like nice things, but I prefer buying less and choosing things that are timeless and well made to things that are expensive just for the sake of it. I try and keep away from fast fashion and invest in handmade items that will last. My main aim at the moment is to get rid of all of my clutter and just keep things that are useful or “spark joy”, although I would still die for those Gucci horse bit court shoes.

ICELAND


As you can tell by the above story I spent my birthday being thoroughly spoiled by my immediate family. I thought we were only going to London for my birthday, for cream tea at Fortnum’s, but the night before we set off my husband revealed that we were going to Iceland as well! Which was a major bucket-list aspiration of mine and a total surprise! I was a bit nervous as we hadn’t travelled since the beginning of the pandemic, and I was also a bit terrified about air travel, but it was actually fine. My husband had planned ahead and gotten us all the relevant tests so other than having to wear masks it wasn’t that different to flying pre-Covid.



I can’t explain the feeling I had when I got off the plane in Iceland but it felt like I was returning home. I have always preferred colder climates (being ginger in the sun is not much fun) and there was just something about the landscapes that felt really familiar, like I had been there before. I don’t really tell anyone this but I often dream of Iceland, of flying onto the black beaches and finding giant black basalt sex toys (don’t ask) among other things. I think maybe in another life I was Icelandic. Outside of Reykjavik the landscapes of Iceland look like you are in outer space. There is literally nothing, not even road signs. It’s like a colder, more violent and expansive Dartmoor, with ice and volcanoes.



The first day we spent in Reykjavik and ate Icelandic meat stew and explored the (very expensive) shops before it got dark. On the second day we hired a car and explored the Golden Circle, going to the Thingvellir national park and to a natural hot spring (not the tourist trap by the airport, but a real one) before attempting to visit one of the waterfalls and almost getting blown away by the wind, so we went to see some geysers instead. We were only in Iceland for a couple of days so didn’t get to explore any volcanoes or try to find the black beach dildos (or see the northern lights) but we decided we would very much like to return for a longer visit in the near future. My daughter absolutely loved it. Despite all the inherent natural danger present, it felt calm and safe.



Björk



One of the most surprising things about Iceland is how they don’t reference Björk AT ALL, and the people there go very quiet if you mention her. I later found out that this is because she still lives in Iceland part of the year and as it is a small country, they are very protective over her, which I thought was very cool. In Scandinavian countries they don’t seem to suffer the same idolatry towards celebrities that we do, which I think is a positive. Celebrities are just people after all.


Even so, and as cringe as it sounds to say it, I have been a big fan of Björk's work for almost as long as I can remember. As a child I had a somewhat… unconventional… upbringing. My parents were super young, wildly ambitious, and fancied themselves a bit cool. Nowadays you would call them hipsters. And while there are many things I could criticise them for, their musical tastes are not one. We had a room just for music and we would listen to all sorts of stuff, Depeche Mode, The The, Beastie Boys, Barnes & Barnes, Devo, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Les Negresses Vertes… but most of all I remember listening to The Sugarcubes. I remember their bright neon vinyl covers vividly and how they felt matte and had a different texture to the other albums. I remember trying to draw the album artwork (with the crudely drawn tits, dicks, and fannies) when I was about 6-years-old and knowing that the lead singer with the funny voice was called Björk and she was from Iceland.

The first time I saw Björk on MTV, being interviewed by Ray Cokes on MTV’s Most Wanted, I just thought she was brilliant. She was so beautiful and funny and unpretentious. Her vibe and attitude were not like anyone I had ever seen before. Compared to all the polished performers we had back then, the Madonnas and the Kylies and the Paula Abduls, her voice and creativity seemed to come from another planet entirely. She reminded me a bit of my mum. A glorious oddball.

Growing up I never felt like I was on the same wavelength as everyone else, always an outsider, always thinking too deeply, never quite fitting in. But whatever stage in life I was going through there was always a Björk album. Always. Stick Around For Joy came out just as my parents split up. Debut came out when I started secondary school and really began to struggle with my ADHD. Post came out during my Tank Girl phase (didn’t everyone have a Tank Girl phase in the 90s!?) and the discovery of Hyper-ballad was a formative experience as it was the only song I had found that could verbalise the anxiety and impulsive thoughts I felt in my head.

Each album was accompanied by the most amazing music videos, directed by Anton Corbijn or Spike Jonze or Chris Cunningham. All Is Full Of Love remains one of my favourite music videos of all time (along with Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth by The Dandy Warhols and Everlong by Foo Fighters). Even as I grew older and discovered her later albums, particularly Vespertine and Vulnicura, there was always a place in my life for a bit of Björk. It was one of the things me and Von would bond over starting out on our oddball modelling adventures… so it seems fitting that my Christmas gift for both of us is tickets to see Björk live, a bucket list event for both of us!

I think we will probably both just spend the whole evening drunk, or crying, or both (like Ashnikko).


GIFTS

Gifts are a funny thing aren’t they? I am a very good gift giver, but perhaps not the best receiver. I have a weird relationship with gifts in that they can make me feel very uncomfortable. In my childhood, gifts were used either to control or to paper cracks, so I view them with caution. I think that as a whole we place too much emphasis on gifts and material goods when they have become such a transactional thing. We think that gifts can fix things or that everything we give should be given back in kind, when that is not the way life works. Gifts are better when they are joyful and spontaneous.


For me personally, I give gifts not to receive, but to feel the joy of the receiver. I like helping others by giving them things or experiences that they need. I don’t expect anything in return, especially from people that may not be able to give anything in return. The gift is the gift. Gifts don’t have to be expensive, they can be thoughtful or handmade or heartfelt… but there is no better feeling than to give someone a gift that makes them feel fully seen. It is better than receiving a gift I think and it is hard to do, even harder to explain, and I don’t always get it right, but finding something that makes a person tick is one of life’s small pleasures, best described by this scene in Amelie.



And I guess that is why I told you about my 40th birthday, because while I have given many joyful gifts, it’s rare that I am on the receiving end, probably because I am so closed off to it. But my 40th was the most seen I had ever felt by a birthday and it’s gifts. It showed me that my husband listens to me and cares about my stories. He found what made me tick and worked hard (like I did in my Tiffany’s story) to get it. He didn’t have to do that, and I didn’t expect it either, but it was touching and it was thoughtful and it is a new memory that I can now treasure forever. It makes me tearful just thinking about it.


This Christmas was our first Christmas without gifts for each other and it felt so freeing. To be set free from obligation and expectations… although I still snuck in a present from our daughter (a pair of signed wrestling leggings worn by Jake The Snake that reminded my husband of his childhood) so it may be hard for me to give up giving gifts completely.


I hope you had a good Christmas and enjoyed my ramblings, it has been a while, and I wish you all happiness for 2022!

Sim xx

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