Chick Tick Four: Changing my tuna

When I first wrote The Chick List all those months ago, there was one thing I was more frightened of than anything else. And it wasn’t the speed dating. Or the crime.

It was the fish.

I am terrified, absolutely TERRIFIED, of trying new foods.

The list of foods I’ve never tried include olives (black and scary), oysters (slimy and scary), avocado (green, slimy and scary), beetroot (red, slimy and scary) and up until last week, tuna.

I don’t know where the fear originated from. I am aware of how irrational it is. But the thought of putting something in my mouth that has the potential to taste bad absolutely petrifies me.

Plus, (and I’m getting on my high horse here), it seems like a waste. Why use up valuable stomach space on things I might not like when there are brownies, bread and Bailey’s in the world?

Now up until a year ago, I was under the misguided idea that it was the things I HADN’T done that made me interesting. I’d never ridden a horse. I’d never been sunburnt. I’d never been to a music festival. I’d never eaten guacamole.

And you know what? There IS some value in not doing things. I’m stoked that I’ve never smoked a cigarette. I’m pretty pleased I’ve never worn socks with sandals. And I’m proud to say that in 29 years, I’ve never murdered anyone. Like, EVER.

But when I started this adventure, I realised that those other things – the places I hadn’t been, the experiences I hadn’t had, the foods I hadn’t tasted, didn’t make me a more interesting person. That I shouldn’t be defined but what I HADN’T done or DIDN’T try. That the only person who was missing out was me.

That said, I still wasn’t rushing out to buy tuna.

The thing about tuna is, IT STINKS. Eating canned tuna in a workplace should be declared illegal. And no matter how many people have told me that it tastes good, I’ve never been able to get over that smell. It’s utterly, utterly disgusting.

If it had been left up to me, it would have been the last thing to be ticked off the list. Or conveniently forgotten all together.

But my housemate planned a sneak attack.

She offered to cook tea. The hot plate clicked on. And when I wandered over to ask what we were having, she gave me a guilty look.

“Tuna steaks,” she said, with an air of defiance. “It’s time, Claire.”

I’m not going to lie. My stomach did a little flip. After 29 years of solid Tuna Fear, the moment of truth was mere minutes away.

I wondered if there was anyway I could refuse. Could I pretend to be sick? Hide in my room? Just flat out run away?

But I knew I had to stay. Trying tuna would make me a better person. Plus, I’d have something to blog about!

It was served up. As I lifted up my pink cutlery to take my first bite, I had a moment of sadness. I would never again be The Girl Who Hadn’t Tried Tuna. I would be just like everyone else. And I was about to taste something that could potentially be totally, totally gross.

I took my first bite.

And you know what? Tuna’s not that bad.

Kinda tastes like chicken.

Chick Tick Three: Pulling focus

The year was 2011. My mental state was fragile. I was fresh in the throes of a break up, and while I’d never been skinnier, I was also prone to unexpected crying, incessant oversharing and occasional sleepwalking. It was rough.

There was a ball coming up. A ball I went to every year. And, in a decision which I’m sure was made just to TORTURE ME, The Ex decided he would go, too.

So.

I needed a dress. A dress that made me look HOT. That showed The Ex just what he was missing out on. A dress that took advantage of my food and sleep-deprived body. An, “eat that, bastard!” kinda dress.

In other words, probably NOT a dress I bought while drunk shopping.

I’ve told you a bit about drunk shopping before. Basically, you go out for breakfast with your best girlfriend, and have a couple of sneaky champagnes. THEN you go to your favourite store, and try on all the pretty dresses. You dance around a bit in said dresses. You might even pretend to be a fairy. And if you’re just tipsy enough, you put on a black, sparkly frock, decide you look amazing, slap down $300 on the counter, and stumble out of the store, boasting about your fashion genius, and sudden desire for hot chips.

Needless to say, I awoke the next morning in a cold sweat. Sober, and terrified. The shopping bag sat in the corner of my room, seeming to shine like a beacon. WHAT THE HELL had I bought?

I gingerly pulled the dress out.

And it was beautiful.

Well, thank God for that. “Good work, drunk Claire,” I thought to myself as I felt the tulle skirt, and admired the splash of silver and gold sequins. It was undoubtedly fun, but classy and a bit sexy at the same time. It showed off my legs and my collarbone, and my new, super skinny waist. It was truly gorgeous. I was beyond relieved. And a little bit excited. This dress was the one!

The next day I picked up a magazine. And saw this.

Bindi Irwin

Yep. Bindi Irwin. The daughter of the Crocodile Hunter. The then, 13 YEAR-OLD daughter of the late Steve Irwin. A girl named after a prickle. IN MY DRESS.

Now, if a celebrity has the same dress as you, you ideally want it to be someone classy, elegant, awesome. Someone you aspire to. Cate Blanchett perhaps. Gwyneth. Megan Gale. NOT A 13-YEAR-OLD ZOOKEEPER WHO HAS HER OWN KHAKI LINE.

I’m not going to lie. Come the night of the ball, “Claire vs Bindi, who wore it better” became a trending topic on Twitter.

So there I was.  Being compared to a C-grade celebrity teenager. Avoiding The Ex from the other side of the ballroom. Bemoaning the shortage of champagne (SERIOUSLY, IT HAPPENS EVERY YEAR). Feeling generally miserable.

When I heard my name being called from the stage.

Looking back, I think the Universe was feeling sorry for me.

I’d won the raffle. And first prize was a camera. An awesome, expensive camera with a twisty lens, lots of buttons and serious hipster credential.

And you know what? If you’re having a super crappy night in an unfortunate dress, carrying a giant, free camera home does make you feel somewhat better.

WHICH IS A HELL OF A LOT OF BACKSTORY.

Here’s the point to all of this: I’ve ticked another task off The Chick List. This week, I learned to use that very camera.

I went on a photography course in East London. I learned words like ‘aperture’ and ‘depth of field’. I took photos of bread and boats.

And books.

London books

Most importantly, I learned something I have long suspected: I do not possess an artistic bone in my body.

But I can tell a hell of a story, right?

Chick Tick Two: Rolling with the oldies

Remember when I dyed my hair red? Turns out I should have dyed it grey.

Because I’m starting to think I might actually be an old lady.

I’m slowly working my way through my Chick List. For those who need a recap, my list of challenges included:

  1. Dye my hair red
  2. Try a new (and preferably strange) type of exercise. Tai Chi, capoeira, handball, something like that
  3. Take a photography course (and put some pictures on the blog)
  4. Buy some Doc Martens. And wear them
  5. Go speed dating
  6. Buy something expensive and selfish
  7. Take a trip on my own
  8. Make pastry
  9. Try tuna
  10. Break the law

Well, my hair is definitely red. And this week, instead of starting an exercise regime (because, frankly, that doesn’t sound that fun) I skipped ahead to number seven. I went on a holiday. ON MY OWN.

And where did I go on this brave, exciting trip? Somewhere exotic? Somewhere warm? Somewhere packed with young, hot, eligible bachelors?

No. I went to Bath.

Bath is a beautiful, clean, English city. It has rolling green fields and beautiful architecture. It’s freezing cold. And IT’S FULL OF OLD PEOPLE.

And I fit right in.

The oldies and I had a fabulous time rejuvenating in the thermal waters of the Bath Spa. We all rushed the Jane Austen Centre, for a lecture on the town’s most famous resident. We discussed the merits of afternoon tea, as we indulged in Bath’s renowned Sally Lunn bun (I went for lemon butter topping, while the old gent next to me chose scrambled egg). And we all made sure we were tucked up in our hotel beds by 7pm, after a sneaky Bailey’s in the lobby.

I swear, I didn’t see anyone under the age of 50 the entire time I was there.

And you know what? I bloody loved it.

The famous Sally Lunn bun: afternoon tea choice of oldies (and awesome 29-year-olds) everywhere.

The famous Sally Lunn bun: afternoon tea choice of oldies (and awesome 29-year-olds) everywhere.

It’s not the first time this has happened. A few weeks ago I decided to take myself out for the day. And like most normal, cool 20-somethings, I chose to see the West End musical ‘Top Hat’. It’s a staged version of the old Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, and features a lot of tuxedos, tap dancing, and Irving Berlin standards. It was me and a bunch of pensioners in the audience. And we ALL smiled, sighed and sang along as each new classic began. I mean, who DOESN’T love ‘Cheek to Cheek’? It’s a wonderful song!

So, what’s going on? Am I an old lady in a 29-year-old’s body? Am I two steps away from playing Mahjong and wearing socks with sandals? And am I ever going to find a pastime that puts me in the path of age-appropriate, single men?

Oops, got to go. It’s time for bingo!

Chick Tick One: A new ‘do

So a few weeks ago, I made a Chick List. A list of things to do, changes to make, that could lead me to love and happiness.

To recap, the list included:

  1. Dye my hair red
  2. Try a new (and preferably strange) type of exercise. Tai Chi, capoeira, handball, something like that
  3. Take a photography course (and put some pictures on the blog)
  4. Buy some Doc Martens. And wear them
  5. Go speed dating
  6. Buy something expensive and selfish
  7. Take a trip on my own
  8. Make pastry
  9. Try tuna
  10. Break the law

Within a minute of posting the list, my phone started buzzing. This was a typical piece of advice from one of my best friends:

Do NOT dye your hair red. It clashes with pink!

From there, the feedback kept flooding in. Hair colours (with handy Google pics for reference), Doc Marten choices. As far as my appearance goes, it seems my friends and readers are really invested in my future.

It took THREE DAYS before anyone mentioned anything about me breaking the law.

Well, first lesson learned. People care more about how you look than your moral compass. THAT’S where I’ve been going wrong all these years! Armed with a bunch of pictures of Katy Perry (during her kinda-normal red-haired phase, not the crazy purple experiment) I sought out a London hairdresser, and a brand new look.

I’ve written before about how I’m not very brave. I’ve had a variation of the same haircut my entire life. My natural brown hair hasn’t been coloured for more than a decade (after a traumatic highlights debacle that inspired the name, ‘Skunkhead’). So understandably, I was a little nervous as I made my rambling pitch to the hairdresser. “I want it to be RED. But not SO red that it looks fake. Natural red. But a bit darker. A BIT fake. It has to look like I’ve been adventurous. But perhaps, it happened by itself. Oh, and I want to look FANTASTIC. Can you do that?”

This is the point where the hairdresser is meant to reassure you, to tell you you’ll look great, and everything will be OK. Well, not this guy (yes the hairdresser was a guy. Also, straight!).

“This is going to be a MAJOR change,” he said. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” He looked dubiously at my face. “You’re pretty pale. You’re going to have to wear a lot of makeup. And those pink lips? You’re definitely going to have to change that.”

WELL. You can call me pale. You can criticise my split ends. You can even point out my grey hairs (and he did). But you will NEVER tell me to abandon my pink lipstick. Pink lipstick DEFINES me! Emboldened, I told the man to chuck even more red into the mix, and get dyeing.

And now, it’s done. You are reading the work of an adventurous, red-haired, pink lipstick-wearing blogger. One who might not conform to the colour rules of her local hairdresser (what do you know anyway, STRAIGHT MALE HAIRDRESSER?) or her caring friends, but one who feels PRETTY DAMN FABULOUS.

Next stop, bizarre exercise!

The Chick List

One of the best things about writing this blog is the fact that I can read as much chick lit as I like.

Once upon a time, chick lit was my guilty pleasure. When book shopping, I’d always force myself to buy a ‘serious’ book. It was usually award-winning, and usually excellent, but guys, reading it was HARD WORK. The prose was always beautiful, but vague and convoluted. The characters were usually terrible people. The ending never satisfied. I was culturally enriched, but secretly more excited about the OTHER book I’d bought myself – the one with the beautiful pastel cover, featuring a picture of a shoe, or a handbag, or a dress. My reward read. Where the main character is flawed but lovely, the dialogue is current and witty, and while they’ll face some obstacles along the way, the main characters will always get a happy ending.

Now though, chick lit counts as research. If it’s not pink, I won’t even buy it. On the tube, I proudly hold my chick lit novels up for all to see (even though they have the most ATROCIOUS names – ‘Where Rainbows End‘? ‘The Brightest Star in the Sky‘? Come on, Marian Keyes!). If anyone asks, I can tell them I’m working!

And now, all the reading’s paid off. I’ve found some book-to-life-life inspiration!

Even from the title, I knew this book would be a good one – Lindsey Kelk’s ‘The Single Girl’s To-Do List‘. It’s a great read. Charming characters, gorgeous, muscly men, a painfully realistic break-up, and a journey of self-discovery. As the title suggests, the main character, Rachel, and her friends put together a ‘to-do’ list to help guide her through her newly single life. Scrawled on a napkin, Rachel’s list includes:

  • Get a makeover
  • Start an exercise regime
  • Bungee jump (or similar)
  • Find a date for Dad’s wedding
  • Get a tattoo
  • Write a letter to the ex
  • Buy something expensive and selfish
  • Travel somewhere new
  • Contact your first crush
  • Break the law

Frankly, I think a couple of these ideas are terrible. A tattoo? No way. Write a letter to your ex? Just move on! But the book did make me wonder if it might be that simple. Write a list of things to do, check them off, and find true love.

Strangely enough, before I left home, I did start a list of my own. I hadn’t looked at it in months, but inspired by the novel, I took a look at the quick list jotted down on my iPhone under, ‘London life list’. Here’s what it said:

  • Dye my hair red
  • Buy Doc Martens
  • Wear scarves
  • Learn to use my camera

Yes, it appears that three months ago, I had a secret longing to turn myself into some sort of moody, gothic artist. Where did that come from? I’m not even sure I like Doc Martens!

But you know what? I’m inspired. I’m putting the lists together. And I’m going to see them through. Here’s my very own Single Girl’s To-Do List. My Chick List.

  • Dye my hair red
  • Try a new (and preferably strange) type of exercise. Tai Chi, capoeira, handball, something like that
  • Take a photography course (and put some pictures on the blog)
  • Buy some Doc Martens. And wear them
  • Go speed dating
  • Buy something expensive and selfish
  • Take a trip on my own
  • Make pastry
  • Try tuna
  • Break the law

Some of these make me nervous. The thought of eating smelly fish is downright terrifying. Will the list make me a better person? Will it help me find true love? Or am I just setting myself up for a terrible new look?

…I’m calling the hairdresser right now.