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 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!

Animal instincts

OK. I’m going to admit something. And a lot of you are not going to like it.

I don’t like pets.

No. I REALLY don’t like pets.

I’m not a dog person, I’m not a cat person. I am a, “Oh God, get that thing away from me!” person. The kind of person who crosses to the other side of the street if they see a dog walker approaching. The kind of person who leans away awkwardly when someone asks them to pat their cat. The kind of person who gets disproportionately annoyed when people post pictures of their pets on Facebook. I don’t like the way pets smell. I don’t like their fur. I don’t like the fact that they hang around all the time, but don’t talk. What’s the fun in that?

I blame my parents. Growing up, we never had a pet (apart from a brief dalliance with crazy crabs foisted on us as a birthday present. We didn’t feed them. They died). My Dad, when he was a kid, conducted experiments on his pet cat, in an attempt to disprove they theory that they always land on their feet (he grew up to be a doctor, not a serial killer, by the way). My brother was allergic to dogs. As a family, we didn’t look fondly on pets. And with three siblings to play with, I never saw the need for a four-legged friend.

It wasn’t until I reached adulthood, that I realised that not liking pets was something of a social faux pas. You are meant to tell people their dogs are cute, even if they’re slobbery, barking, dirty, pooing, well, DOGS. You are meant to pat them. And not rush to wash your hands immediately afterwards. You are meant to find a story of a cat bringing home a dead bird amusing, rather than HORRIFYING (the only thing worse, for me, than the thought of an animal, is the thought of an animal with another dead animal in its mouth).

And when you meet a potential partner, you should do the same. Act interested when they tell you about their pet. Pat said pet when introduced. Go along with talks about the future, which involve a house and a dog. Try not to recoil in horror at the thought of a house with dog hair all over it. A future where you have to get home early, to feed the cat. A future that involves shovelling dog poo. For some men, the pet question is more important than the baby question. A future, with a pet, is non-negotiable.

So, I’ve been pondering this point a lot lately. Wondering if I should tone down my pet hate. Seem a bit more flexible about my future, be more polite about other people’s animals. Bury the fear and disgust, and just chill out.

Because this new me should be able to do it, right? Think about all the brave things I’ve done this year, the acceptances I’ve made, the maturity I’ve shown! Being cool around animals is just another self-improvement I can make!

Well yesterday, the universe decided to test me.

I was sitting inside, working on a job application, when A CAT JUMPED THROUGH THE WINDOW. INTO MY HOUSE.

And what did the new, chilled out, pet-accepting Claire do?

Screamed. Shouted, “Go AWAY! Go AWAY! I don’t LIKE YOU!” Decided I could probably touch the cat with the bottom of my shoe, without getting cat rabies. Tried to push it tentatively towards a door. Shouted some more. “Go AWAY! Get out of MY HOUSE! I really don’t LIKE YOU!”

After five traumatic minutes, the amused cat decided to take pity on the crazed blogger and wandered outside. I collapsed on a couch, heart pounding, vowing to never open a window, EVER AGAIN.

Yep, cool as a cucumber.

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.

Prologue

I’m not the world’s most adventurous person. I don’t have a tattoo and I’d never jump out of a plane. Let’s face it – I haven’t even tried tuna (it smells bad, OK?).

So when I decided I was going to quit my awesome, stable job and move to London for a year, people were surprised. Perhaps me most of all.

But the fact was, I needed a change. Last year sucked. I had my heart broken and found myself morphing into some sort of sad couch potato, watching hours upon hours of Gossip Girl and eating sliced cheese for dinner. I was so busy feeling sorry for myself it took me months to realise I’d been handed an opportunity. No one to tie me down, no one to tell me what to do. No one to consult if I wanted to pack up my pink shoes and have my very own adventure.

So now I’m taking charge. I’ve got a ticket booked and my passport ready. It’s the stupidest, craziest thing in the world but I’m going to do it. Even if it’s awful. Even if I end up starving, lonely and crying myself to sleep in sub-zero British temperatures.

It’s like the start of every good chick lit book I’ve read. Heartbroken girl off on a scary and exciting new adventure. Will I meet a host of zany characters? Probably. Will I embarrass myself in dozens of awkward ways? Absolutely. Will I meet the man of my dreams??

You never know… I might even try tuna.