Our favourite Welsh lass Sarah Penney takes a break from lockdown gardening to talk about how a song can spark a memory.
During the pandemic, I became increasingly bored during lockdown. There are only so many cakes you can bake, skirting boards you can clean and gardening that you can give a go before you start to slip into a never-ending cycle of sameness. Seeking some adventure, starving for new content, I dug deep, and turned to the internet for answers. This was when, my friends, I downloaded TikTok.
Like most people over the age of 25, it started off as a joke, but I soon became obsessed, watching people dance, lip-sync and share cleaning tips (what can I say, TikTok knows the algorithm I need in my life), as well as making my own.
Tonight, I scrolled through, hit with videos of savage love, speeding pranks and endless dances, when I found an original song written by Peyton Gardoza. The song started with … ‘You know those kind of girls who look like they’re made of honey and glass, like sticky sweet ash, and you can’t get the taste off your tongue? Burnt sugar and a little bit of rum...’ It immediately struck me, and I felt my heart strings strum along to the soft acoustics. It took me back to being a teenager – that bitter-sweet age of freedom and captivity, five pound bottles of vodka in the park drowning out heartbreak and regret, the age where you feel like you know everything but yourself. I used to look at other girls like that – like they were made of honey and glass, warm, blonde hair lit by the firelight glow. Like if you held them too tightly, they’d break into dazzling pieces of sunlight and disappear, leaving pearlescent trails wandering up into the night sky.
I spent much of my teenage years being thunderous, never listening, strolling through life with the weight of my own insecurities pushing down into my skull, thinking if I shouted a bit louder, drank a bit more and became self-deprecating enough, it would lighten the load - it would change the way I felt about myself and influence how other people saw me. As I became an adult, I knew that I could never be effortless, so I made effort my personality – always saying yes, always the life and soul of the party, even when I didn’t want to be.
I’d see these honey and glass girls wander through a room, assertive yet soft, attracting people like pollen calling to bees. They’re usually slim. Nice, white smile, gentle eyes, firm handshake and I wished. I wished I could be like that. That it wouldn’t take constant pep talking, reassuring and deep breathing to convince myself that I was approachable. That I was likeable. That I was enough.
Some people may be surprised by this, but I’m actually an introvert at heart. Inwardly, I am cripplingly shy and frightened of saying the wrong thing. I’ve trained myself to use my nervous energy as excitement and chattiness and don’t get me wrong, I am always grateful and happy to have met somebody, but I’m never excited to meet them.
Laying on my bed, this song took me back to my first year of college. 16 years of age, old friends and new. The anticipation that comes with new beginnings and the excitement and trepidation that goes hand in hand with trying to reinvent yourself. Thrown into new territory and studying hard, I found out that a friend of mine had spoken on an anonymous forum about my ‘big purple stretchmarks.’ Devastated and heartbroken, I played it off. Acted like it didn’t affect me and… it did. I had been bullied my whole life – the fat, weird kid who liked to play pretend in the playground, wanted to play every character under the sun except me. Thinking about it, that’s why I became an actor, I think.
When making our show Beach Body Ready, I talked about how I don’t like being in rooms full of other women, because it makes me examine everything that I hate about myself. It’s a problem I’m slowly trying to untangle, splitting apart a decade of comparability, trawling through my psyche and trying to tell myself every now and again that comparison is the thief of joy.
It takes a lot of work, a lot of reflection, and I’m slowly beginning to be ok with me.
I try to remind myself that I am unique, I am enough just as I am and maybe, just maybe, other people look at me like I’m one of those girls made of honey and glass.