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?

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Girl talk

Another week goes by, and Facebook informs me that ANOTHER friend is engaged. ANOTHER friend is pregnant.

Me? I’m still single. I’m still working on the job thing. I DID eat some pretty life-changing gelato last week… but still, it feels like I might be falling behind.

Fortunately, one of my new London friends has diagnosed my problem:

Apparently, I’m too girly.

Now, for those who don’t know me, here’s a brief rundown: I wear a dress every day. I wear pink shoes every day. My tights are covered in love hearts. I sleep under a floral doona. And the following items in my life are pink: my toothbrush, my hairbrush, my mobile phone, my iPad, my hair straightener, my drinking cup, my cutlery and my handbag.

Now I don’t want to brag, but having a signature colour is actually a GENIUS idea. People just buy you things all the time! In my life, I have been gifted countless pink things just because someone saw them and thought of me: bottles of pink nail polish, cute pink bags, pink measuring cups, a pink computer keyboard, a pink bin… my ex-boyfriend even gave me a pink car cleaning kit!

I know. I really should have dumped him.

ANYWAY, I’m a girly girl. And there shouldn’t be a problem with that, right? Doesn’t every man want a woman who will bake him a cake, while wearing a full circle skirt and pretty pink shoes? A woman who will keep the house full of pink flowers and her glass full of pink champagne? A woman who dresses, well, like a woman?

So the last time I went out with this new London friend, I dressed as I normally do. Vintage floral dress, patterned tights, pink lipstick, bag and sparkly pink shoes.

Thing is, Londoners aren’t so into dressing up.

For London girls out on a Friday night, it’s Casual City. They wear jeans. And flat shoes. And minimal makeup. They’re effortlessly cool.

In comparison, I look like some sort of Drag Queen Butterfly.

Or, according to my new friend, whispered in scandalous tones:

“You’re confusing the men. You look like you’re trying way too hard to prove you’re a girl. They all think you’re a LESBIAN.”

Ah. You win some, you lose some. Any ladies out there looking for a woman who can bake?

Bridget burnout

So, last week I re-read Bridget Jones’s Diary. And then proceeded to have the stupidest weekend of my life.

I felt a sudden urge to diet, and immediately cut breakfast and dinner from my daily meal plan. I didn’t alter my wine intake to suit. I got horrendously, terrifyingly drunk. I got lost in central London at one-thirty in the morning. I got in a fight with a taxi driver. Yep, another one. I went on a mini-break where I packed three pairs of tights and a tube of toothpaste, but no toothbrush, deodorant or spare knickers. I went to a party as someone’s fake date. I tried to awkwardly flirt with a man who wasn’t said fake date. I offended both guys and then had to act like I didn’t mind dancing both parts of ‘Summer Nights’ on my own. And I ended the weekend alone, in my track pants, eating a whole block of fudge and weakly singing along to Christmas songs on the telly.

When Bridget does it, it’s funny.

But you know what I figured out this weekend?

BRIDGET JONES ISN’T REAL.

Bridget Jones is awesome. And hilarious. And very possibly my spirit animal. But she’s also fictional. She doesn’t really have to deal with the hunger, or the hangovers. She doesn’t have to deal with the shame, the confusion, or the embarrassment.

And I do.

So, Bridget. You and I are having some time apart. You are no longer going to be my inspiration. The New Year is coming. And I am going to be a brand new, healthier, happier person. I am going to be responsible. I am going to drink less. I am going to flirt with appropriate men. And not fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomaniacs, chauvinists, emotional fuckwits or freeloaders, perverts…

Ah crap.

The naked truth

I’m going to make a confession. Yep, another one.

Sometimes I exaggerate things on this blog.

Shocking, right? Look, it’s not something I’m proud of. But in my defence, exaggeration is in my nature. Every story I’ve told in the last 29 years has been a little… embellished. Numbers get bigger. Shoes get higher. Insults get ruder. Food gets tastier. I figure if you’ve got someone’s attention, you might as well make the most of it. Be entertaining. And perhaps, just a little bit creative.

But there’s one thing I can solemnly swear I have never blown out of proportion. My bedroom really IS the smallest thing in the world.

Getting in to my room requires the sort of acrobatic contortions last demonstrated by the Russians in their group hoop routine at the London Olympics. First, you have to breathe in, bend your body just the right way, and squeeze around the door (it only opens halfway before hitting the base of the bed). Once you’re through, you have to make a weird, awkward leap OVER the bed, to land on the room’s sole patch of clear carpet. Now, this leap’s a tricky thing. Your landing zone is less than a metre square, and boxed in by a wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a mirror, and the other side of the bed.

Still not impressed? Now imagine you’re doing this in a towel.

AND EVERYONE CAN SEE YOU.

One of the many quirks of our little brown brick house is my window. No, not my window. My PORTHOLE. Who wants a regular, rectangular, curtain-friendly window, when you can have a nautical, quirky porthole? Sometimes I feel like I’m the victim of some joke the whole of England is playing on the wayward Australian – as if it’s shouting, “welcome back, convict!”

Now being round, this porthole doesn’t have a curtain. Or a blind. Or any sort of light-blocking, modesty-protecting contraption. And with my room being so small, it means there is actually NOWHERE I can stand in my bedroom without being visible from the street. I live on a street full of children, you guys. And I’m really worried for them. They do NOT NEED to see me naked.

Once upon a time, getting dressed was an enjoyable experience. I took my time. I tried on multiple outfits. I lazed around in my underwear. Now, it’s tense. I’m constantly scanning the street for innocent children. I actually crouch on the floor to put my underwear on (TRY THAT in less than a metre square of floor space, folks! It is HARD). The first outfit I try on, stays on. And the whole dressing process is done in a panicked, worried rush.

And the truth is, if a girl can’t enjoy dressing up, what hope is there? There’s no need to exaggerate – this is probably the most serious problem I’ll EVER FACE.

Here comes the bridesmaid

I’ve received two proposals since I arrived in London.

My first happened on a perfect summer’s day in Stoke Newington. The sun was shining. I had a bag full of new books and a belly full of cake. I was truly, deliriously happy. Unfortunately, the proposal came from a complete stranger.

“Can you spare some change?”, he asked, from his blanket on the side of the street. I gripped my bag tightly, smiled and politely declined. My beau peered keenly through his matted hair, looked me up and down and asked me the next, obvious question – “Will you marry me?”. Well, of course I was swept off my feet. We got married there and then, have bought a beautiful new box to live in, and are raising a litter of stray dogs.

Not really.

My second proposal arrived in the mail this week:

I received this beautiful gift from one of my very best friends, along with a card and message that made me cry. It’s the second time I’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid for one of my girlfriends and it’s a job that I love – not the least because I get my makeup professionally done, get to hold a bunch of pink flowers and am contractually obliged to pose for many, many photos.

Of course, I accepted the proposal with happiness. During a long text exchange with my girlfriend, where we discussed colour schemes, dress cuts and cocktail arrangements, I asked her about her plans for the weekend. Here’s what she texted back:

Having breakfast at the markets with another couple, then going to a native plant sale.

Here were my plans for the same weekend:

Friday night: Wear a really short skirt, get drunk and flirt with boys. Saturday: Stumble out of bed by midday, eat some bacon. Sunday: Play drunk Monopoly.

I was struck by a startling, worrying epiphany: my friends are growing up. And I seem to be growing down. In the three months since I left home, my friend has got engaged, AND bought a house. I have moved into a share home, stocked my cupboard with Berocca, and have decided I can legitimately wear Converse to a bar.

What’s going to happen when I get back home? I’m scared I’ll call my friend for a spot of ‘drunk shopping’ (an awesome game we invented where you go out for a champagne breakfast and then try on all the dresses in a store. It’s fun. You end up with a lot of dodgy purchases) and she’ll tell me she’s too busy darning her husband’s socks. Or renovating the kitchen. Or, GOD HELP ME, looking after the babies. Twins, because that’s where my nightmare-ish imagination is taking me.

It’s not that I don’t want good things for my friends. I do. But am I in danger of being left behind?

I’m on my way back to Stoke Newington. Maybe I should accept that proposal after all.

Seeing double

As you get older, it’s a fact that more and more people around you get coupled up. Scrolling through Facebook, you find that one of your few remaining single pals is now ‘in a relationship’. Your ‘in a relationship’ friends have suddenly changed their status to ‘engaged’. Just today, I saw a that a boy I went to primary school with, who I once asked to marry me (he said no, because he wanted to marry his cousin. The rejection!) is HAVING A BABY. Not with his cousin mind you, but shocking all the same. I knew him when he was five years old, and now he’s having a child!

It’s a good thing. I am really happy that everyone is finding happiness, blah blah blah. But sometimes, all this ‘coupleness’ can make you feel very, very single.

When I moved to London, part of my decision was to get away from Couple Land. Don’t get me wrong – I really, really love my married friends. But I know I’m not going to meet MY Mr Right, playing Scrabble and drinking wine with my grown-up buddies as they stay in on a Friday night. I thought London might be an escape from that – a chance to meet up with a different crowd, hang out with some fun single people, flirt, hook up, and all that jazz.

But as I put together my guest list for my birthday celebrations on Saturday night, I realised the location may have changed, but the situation is much the same. Just about EVERYONE I know here is in a serious relationship. Of a group of ten people invited to drink margaritas with me for my birthday, just two other guests were single.

Depressing, but I’m not alone, right? There were two others sharing my plight! Three out of ten – that’s almost a third! Safe in that statistical justification I put on my prettiest dress, threw on some hot pink lipstick and prepared to have a wonderful night, reveling in my single (and totally normal) fabulousness.

Yep, those other two singles? They totally hooked up.

A novel idea

I’ve always identified with the main girl in the chick lit novel – but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? She’s always a little bit insecure, unlucky in love, unconvinced about her appearance and prone to emotional chocolate binges. An every-woman, I guess.

She’s also usually a writer – most often, she works for a chic women’s magazine, but very occasionally, she’s a journalist. Just like me!

When I decided to move to London, the chick lit coincidences seemed clearer than ever, and this blog was born. It’s a bit of a scary concept – who knows what the next year of my life will bring? And, will any of it be interesting enough to share with the world?

But the first day totally went to plan. Wearing a floaty dress and stylish sunnies I strolled down gorgeous, flowering London streets, finding a cute little pub across from a park and setting myself up with a salad, a gin and tonic, a great view and my iPad. Searching for jobs and feeling fabulous, I drew the attention of the barman. A charming, friendly guy who offered advice on where to live, filled me in on his travel adventures and engaged in some mild flirting. Perfect! Perhaps not the one I’ll end up with at the end of the book, but definitely a great supporting player – and one with the potential to give me free drinks!

So far, so good. I was just starting to think this really could be a chick lit life, when a headline this morning took my breath away. Flicking through a magazine, I stumbled across the article, ‘Has the Gap-Year Killer Struck Again?’

Crap… I hope I’m in the right novel.