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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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.