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I’m not a girly girl. I’m not a girl at all, actually; my age gives me a far more up-close-and-personal view of my 50’s than I ever imagined I’d get. Not because of the whole Crohn’s, lots of surgeries, given two years to live in 1988 thing, but more because when you’re young you can never imagine being any age other than a few years ahead of the one you're at.

When my mother was 50, she became a grandmother to my son. Fortunately – as far as I know, at least – that’s unlikely to happen to me. Although, I probably shouldn’t make such predictions. I do have a healthy, intelligent, ambitious 20-something-year-old son, and accidents can happen, as we all know. But I’m gonna assume not. The thing is, I thought my mother was at a perfectly appropriate age to be a grandmother when I turned her into one. Now that I’m over 50, it doesn’t seem old enough. None of which is my point, really.

My point is about being girly. I’m not sure what other word I can use — feminine doesn’t cover it. I’m definitely feminine, and feminist, and female. For many years, I was a girl but I have never been girly. To me, being girly is not an age thing. I’ve met women in their 90's who are fantastically, gorgeously girly; it’s about make-up and clothes and… prettifying. Maybe that’s it. I’ve never really been a prettifier. A girly prettifier.

I usually wear lipstick if I’m going to leave the house, but not always. I sometimes just forget. In the same way that I forget to put on earrings or my watch. I’m a bit of a twat like that. I like to wear nail varnish too, but that’s become an almighty faff out of all proportion to the pleasure I get from seeing funky coloured nails on the end of my fingers, of which more later. Sometimes, when I’m going on a night out somewhere nice – fancy, or celebratory, perhaps – or if I just feel like going that extra few centimetres, I might put on a bit of mascara; at a push I’ll draw a line on each eyelid with a coloured pencil designed for just such a purpose, but that really is pushing the boat out for me. It’s as far as I feel capable of going. Show me face powder, foundation, blusher or any of those other things people put on their faces, and I’m at a loss. I feel like I don’t have enough face to fit them all on, even if I knew how to apply them and where exactly they’re supposed to go.

Don’t get me wrong; in my head, I’d quite like to be girly. I’d like to be the kind of woman who wears heels all day, has well-groomed, tv commercial-worthy hair, looks stylish in whatever she wears, whether it’s jeans, legging, or a Prada suit. **Pauses to get back onto bed after falling off laughing at the idea of ever owning a Prada suit. I’d like to be all those things if it took no effort and didn’t make your calves ache like they’ve been stretched on a medieval rack for seventeen days. But frankly, I can’t really understand how anyone can be arsed. Even if they don’t have the obstacles I do.

But back to the nail varnish. I’ve always felt I had that sussed. Despite my suppressed immune system, multiple surgeries (and all the joys that chronic disease has to offer) my nails have always been healthy and strong. They grow fast and don’t split or break all that easily, so painting them has been a pleasure and a small joy of girliness in my otherwise mostly girliless existence. What I’ve always done is put nail varnish on late at night, after I’ve eaten and taken my full complement of codeine (meaning I have a couple of hours before needing the toilet again) and letting them dry as I watch telly/read/eat chocolate that doesn’t need unwrapping. Oddly, I’d hardly painted them much in the last couple of years, since having the bag. But I started again recently. Only to find another piece of my teeny tiny girly armoury is under threat.

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I’ve never changed my bag in a public restroom, until now

I changed my bag a few weeks ago, a day or so after using nail varnish I’d not used before. It wasn’t a cheap one either. Well, it was, in that I got it free with a magazine — the only reason I bought the magazine. But it was an expensive make; too expensive for me to buy if I’m honest. It was a great colour, a kind of petrol bluey green. I loved it. I loved how my nails looked when I had it on, like a smaller, chubbier version of the hands of a well-groomed woman. A stylishly dressed woman. The kind of woman I’m not. It amused me that the hands of such a woman were about to get busy ripping off my bag of poo and replacing it with a clean, fresh, empty bag that would then fill with more poo.

I did the first bit — pulled off the old bag, set about cleaning my stoma and the surrounding area in preparation for the new bag, and noticed a couple of flecks of petrol bluey green on my stoma. It’s odd when you need to wipe things off your stoma, it has no nerve endings so you can’t feel anything. You could really damage it and not know, if you weren’t careful. If you were an idiot. I picked off the bits, realising that as I did it, more little chips were appearing everywhere—in the sink, on the wipes, mixed in with the powder when I applied it; the powder that protects my skin and stops it getting red and raw and sore. I wasn’t sure tiny dots of nail varnish would contribute to that job. Manically, I wiped them from everywhere they appeared, or tried to. In the end I gave up, reasoning that if my stoma was going to be surrounded by poo, flakes of nail varnish weren’t really going to do that much harm, but it wasn’t nice. It was icky. Though it made me laugh when I saw them floating around in my bag later, giving my poo a whole new look. A kind of girly look, if you will.

I put nail varnish on again a few days ago. Not the crappy, chippety, expensive "free" one. This time an old, dependable, purpley one. But even that wasn’t to be. As soon as I’d applied it and settled down, I felt an itch under my bag. An itch can mean a leak is imminent. Obviously, a leak means a lot of mess – nasty, pooey, wholly unpleasant mess – if not caught in time. The itch can be seen as a warning and is ignored at your peril. In this case, I wasn’t going to get caught out, but I reckoned I had a few minutes. Enough time, certainly, to take off my perfectly applied, reliable, long-lasting, lovely, still-wet nail varnish so that I wouldn’t hamper the necessary bag change with smears of purple and horribly smudged, possibly poo-stained (who knows what happens when poo mixes with wet nail varnish? Not an experiment I’m about to embark on. If you want to do it, be my guest; let me know the outcome) nails. With a heavy heart, I removed the lot, then hurried to the bathroom to check just how urgent my bag change would be. Not urgent at all, as it turned out. Whilst an itch under the bag can often mean a leak is just moments away, it can also mean nothing. Absolutely nada. Sometimes an itch is just an itch.

So, how girly am I? Let me count the ways – lipstick, the occasional bit of eye make-uppy stuff, nail varnish if I ever dare again, and I think that’s it…

Oh wait, I’m forgetting something. Girly women love bags. They collect them, crave new ones, store them carefully. Well, I’ve got that one covered. I get a box of 30 every couple of weeks — new not second hand. And let’s not even consider what vintage would mean… they’re not Gucci or Mulberry, but then I’m not that kind of person. If I could afford a bag that cost a couple of grand, I’d be more likely to buy a double oven and an American style fridge. Those are the kind of purchases I can get excited over.

I should point out that there are lots of women out there with ostomies who look girlier than a Disney princess. They look gorgeous and pretty and perfect. I have no idea how they do it, and they have my unending respect. But I’m happy for it to remain a mystery to me; I’ve long since come to terms with not being girly. My bag’s just given me another excuse.

Article credit: My Bag Lady Life