Keen as mustard. And other relishes.

Three days in a full-time job. I am a wreck.

I write to you in my comfiest pink track pants, nursing an emergency wine and full of my last, hidden Easter egg. I plan to be asleep by nine. I am absolutely shattered.

But stoked.

Finally, this chick has a job!

And with it, our story has a new setting. A totally cool, totally trendy new restaurant. One with a charming, enthusiastic chef, a sweet, shy manager, and an army of beautiful waiters in designer sneakers.

And how do I fit in?

Firstly, I am OLD. Some of these kids were born in 1994. 1994! Guys, I remember 1994 like it was yesterday! I bought ‘The Sign’ by Ace of Base! I went and saw ‘The Lion King’ and cried about Mufasa! And some of my coworkers WEREN’T EVEN ALIVE! It’s terrifying stuff.

And, I don’t know if it’s because I’m old or what, but it turns out I am keen. SUPER keen. Embarrassingly, enthusiastically, but unstoppably keen.

It seems like this chick is always the one with her hand up to answer a question. Offering facts that no one asked for. Jumping up to lend a hand. And yes, leading the role play with an overly enthusiastic and pretty awesome Tyrannosaurus Rex impersonation, if I do say so myself.

Yep. I am a total dork.

But I’m happy.

For the foreseeable future, I’m going to be super busy. I’m going to make money for the wine fund. I’m going to flirt shamelessly with young, gorgeous boys.

And I’m going to eat a criminal amount of free hot dogs.

It’s all pretty delicious.

Here comes the sun

I’ve got a problem. And it’s pretty serious.

I guiltily confessed it to my housemate on the tube this week, glancing around so that no one could hear.

“I think I’ve lost my mojo.”

“Your mojo?”

“Yeah, my mojo. My sparkle. My shiny….ness. Basically, I feel like a big dork.”

And I do.

It’s been a gradual thing. But the confident, flirty, interesting girl who got off the plane in London all those months ago seems to have lost her touch.

None of my clothes seem to look as good. My makeup seems wonky. My stories aren’t as interesting. On Saturday night, it took me an hour to get served at a bar. AN HOUR. NO WOMAN SHOULD BE FORCED TO WAIT AN HOUR FOR A MARGARITA. And as soon as I’d drunk it, I decided I’d rather be reading a book instead, and went home.

Walking back to the little brown brick house, I pondered my situation with increasing anxiety.

What is wrong with me? Is this what happens when you get old? Is my face starting to LOOK old? Is it wrinkly? Oh God, is all this thinking GIVING ME WRINKLES? OK, hold your eyebrows still. Maybe it’s that I’ve been single too long. Have I lost confidence? Have I forgotten how to talk to people? Have I lost the power to charm men? That’s it, I have! Oh, why did I WASTE the power when I had it? Think of the THINGS I could I have got if I’d used it wisely! I could have DIAMONDS! And they would DEFINITELY distract from the wrinkles. I AM A HIDEOUS, WRINKLED, DIAMOND-LESS MONSTER THAT NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE!

Fortunately, back on the tube, my ever-wonderful housemate was there to stop my pity spiral.

“You haven’t lost your mojo. You’re just dealing with your first London winter. You haven’t seen the sun in four months. You’ve been shivering since August. It rains every day. We’re all used to feeling like crap for half the year, but we have the good sense to stay inside and drink wine. It’s just you, trying to pretend everything’s good when the winter is trying to beat all the joy out of you. Just hide under your doona, and everything will get better in April. Or May. By June, definitely. We will definitely see some sun in June.”

JUNE?

It’s too much to bear.

Which is why I write to you from Changi Airport, Singapore, halfway home to Australia.

I AM going back to London. But I’m just taking a little break in the sun. A few weeks to hug my cousins, drive a car, eat potato salad and not have to deal with black snot (one of the more disturbing aspects of London living).

Who knows, I might even find my mojo.

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!

Almost famous

This week was a big one for my little blog.

I got ‘Freshly Pressed’.

It sounds kinda sexy, and indeed, it is. My post on my unsociable fear of pets was featured on the WordPress website, and brought hundreds of new readers over to My Chick Lit Life to have a look. And apart from the slightly depressing fact that it’s made all my other stats look puny and pathetic, it’s by far the best thing that’s happened for the blog.

The feedback has been hilarious. A lot of people have given me serious advice on how to correctly approach cats (apparently scratching under the chin is the secret to getting a cat purring. I will not be doing that). I’ve been confidently told my life will not be complete without a dog. I’ve been assured that ‘cat rabies’ are not a big problem in the UK. Guys, I didn’t even know cat rabies was a real thing. I thought I’d made it up! But now, I am legitimately afraid of cat rabies. THANKS A LOT.

In all seriousness though, it’s been really exciting. I’m thrilled that so many people have read at least one chapter of my chick lit adventure. I hope a few stick around.

And in a classic chick lit twist, all this online attention and excitement has come during a week when THE INTERNET HAS STOPPED WORKING. I’ve had to bask in my online glory over a 3G connection, huddled over my phone screen. Honestly, it’s like it’s 1993 in our little brown-brick house at the moment. We haven’t had a connection in more than a week. And we’re all starting to go a little mental.

I, for one, don’t know how much longer I can last. Right now I’m pretending to be the world’s oldest university student, just so I can use a lab computer at a friend’s workplace. And just being in here, I’m starting to feel like I have an assignment due and a pimple growing. It’s tense stuff.

Apparently, it’s getting fixed tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me and my internet connection, dear readers! And, in the meantime, THANK YOU for reading My Chick Lit Life.

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!

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.