Quick style post!

It wasn’t until I got to work today that I realised I was wearing a collar awfully similar to the detachable ones I was forced to wear during my days in private school. Who would have thought that my highschool uniform would have had such an influence on my corporate sartorial style.

I guess the purple hair discourages people for mistaking me for a nun...

I guess the purple hair discourages people for mistaking me for a nun…

At least now in the office I don’t get lectured for wearing the wrong type of earrings…

Another step forward in the Visa process – Fingerprints

“I don’t want you to freak out,” I cautioned the constable, watching with minor concern as he pulled on a pair of latex gloves in preparation to take down my fingerprints, “but I’m missing a couple of fingers.”

He paused, and shot a barely concealed glance of surprise down at my hands. Probably wondering if this was my idea of a joke. It wasn’t. “Uh. Should be all good…” He mumbled, turning away from me momentarily to retrieve what I could only assume was the Queensland Police Fingerprint Manual for Mutants. Constable Roberts was a big guy. Not in the ‘I eat McDonald’s three times a day’ type way, but big as in he looked as though he could bench press a paddy wagon without breaking much of a sweat. A brown shrubby beard covered his boxy jaw, and he was at least six foot. A stark comparison to my petite barely-five-foot-three physique. But still he somehow suddenly managed to look awkwardly uncomfortable in my presence.

“Don’t worry,” I smiled, “That’s as far as my superpowers go!”

Const. Roberts didn’t get the joke.

Over the other side of the room, another officer looked up, “It’s probably good that you warned us!” He grinned, “Roberts would have run straight outta here if you just sprung that on him!”

Const. Roberts shifted his solid weight from foot to foot and muttered  humorlessly “Probably. Just because it’s a break in procedure and I wouldn’t know what to do.”  No bedside manner at all, this guy.

I guess before I go any further I should stress that I’m definitely not a criminal. Apart from the odd parking ticket, and that one time I stole a Cherry Ripe chocolate bar from my grade 3 ballet class fundraiser (age six, I showed budding promise as Victoria’s youngest chocolate thief) (Mum, if you’re reading this I swear it wasn’t me), I’ve never been in trouble with the law.

The fingerprints were needed for the final stages of my U.S. Visa application, one part of which requested a police and fingerprint check. Even so, as the officer began to awkwardly cover my hands in thick, black, foul smelling ink, I couldn’t help but feel kind of nervous. “Why don’t you guys use digital technology?” I squeaked.

“S’not protocol for visa applications.” Came the short reply. “But for you, would’ve been easier.”

Oh. Okay then.

“Where are you going?!” The second officer jumped back into the conversation like an excitable puppy wanting attention. Everything he said ended with a giant exclamation mark  and a wide, happy smile. I tried to work out whether or not it was because he felt sorry for me, or he just really, really loved his job.

“America.” I supplied readily, “I’m getting married.”

“You might as well stop the process now,” he said grinning, “they don’t accept immigrants who’re missing fingers!”

THANKS FOR THE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE, QUEENSLAND POLICE.

Const. Roberts remained silent, except to begin grunting commands at me. Roll my fingers this way, press my palms that way, more ink, less pressure, it was obvious he wanted to be back at his desk reading the newspaper, or getting cheeky with the receptionist I’d seen him chatting up as I’d first entered. (If Constable Roberts knew how to be cheeky. I somewhat doubted he could.)  I complied dutifully, because, you know. This was a police station. Regardless of my spotless track record with The Law, I didn’t want to somehow end up on their bad  side.

As we came to my unfortunate right hand, he paused as he flipped through the manual, grim mouth moving silently as he read through the instructions. He coughed awkwardly, and said, rather apologetically I felt, “I’m….I’m going to have to ask how it happened.”

“The proposal or the fingers?” I joked.

Officer smiley over at the desk guffawed appreciatively, but Const. Roberts looked at me like I’d insulted ten generations of his family and replied flatly, “The fingers.”

I’ve had the same question so much sometimes I take to making up exciting stories because the truth – that I was born like that – is so terribly boring. Instead I’ll tell them that I was mauled by lions on an African Safari, or my fingers were shot off by Hungarian warriors in Budapest. Ridiculous scenarios that push the limits of believability – but because people can’t seem to handle any sort of physical defect without getting flushed and awkward, they’ll stare at me in awe and breath “Wow. Really?!!!”

Somehow, I didn’t think now was the time to start telling tales, so I replied in the traditional airy fairy sing song voice I adopted when answering a much repeated question: “Oh, I was born like that.” The constable nodded, and diligently recorded this down in the empty boxes where my prints should have gone. Once this was done, he straightened, and grunted toward a large tin of foul smelling lanolin. “We’re done here. You can clean your hands with that.”

Before I got to ask any more questions, he’d disappeared to file the paperwork, returning only briefly to make sure I could find my way out.

Officer Smiley waved from behind his desk, “Good luck in the States, mate!” He called after me. I waved awkwardly in response, hoping that if ever there was a chance I’d need another set done, I might somehow miraculously sprout two extra fingers. The whole experience was terribly, terribly awkward.

Guilty Pleasure

Right now, I’m living and breathing Diana Gabaldon’s historical romance “Outlander” series and I hate myself for it. I’ve all but devoured the first book (“Cross Stitch,” for those playing at home), and I’m chomping at the bit to get set into the second novel. Sadly, the cover looks like something you’d pick out of your Nanna’s nightstand, and the somewhat prosaic title certainly does it no favours. But oh my god it is embarrassingly engaging.

The plot is simple enough: Claire, a wartime nurse steps through a stone henge in 1948 and appears moments later in 1700s Scotland. There’s a bunch of good looking Highlanders prancing around in kilts (props to Gabaldon for avoiding overusing the word ‘rugged’, I guess), with thick accents and even thicker….ahem. You know. (Really. You do. This book is not one for your 13 year old daughter.) Anyway, Claire falls madly and passionately and deeply for some wonderful, handsome, dashing red head, and romantic shenanigans ensue. The story is so engrossing, Starz have developed it into a TV series. For reference, here’s your rugged hero:

Suddenly it all makes so much sense....

Suddenly it all makes so much sense….

Admittedly, some of the content is hard to swallow for a self-confessed feminist, what with the domestic abuse and women-as-man’s-property undertones but, hey! It’s old timey Scotland! And female oppression is sexy when at the hands of a broad-chested clansmen, right???

It’s a cheesy, historical romance that I honestly wouldn’t have ever picked up if not at the insistence of my best friend, but as it turns out, the recommendation is one that I needed; with all the stress I’ve got coming my way in the next few months, I’m grateful to have such an easy read. And it turns out I’m apparently really into fictional ginger Scotsman. So there’s that, too.

I thank my lucky stars, however, that I’m in possession of an eReader, so when someone on the bus asks me what it is I can’t take my eyes off, I can declare loudly enough for everyone to hear “David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, of course.” Cue impressed smiles, and I can go back to my Scottish smut.

My unfortunate jeans

Shopping for jeans is not an enjoyable experience for me. If given the choice between gargling bleach and trying to find some well fitting denim, I’d be tossing back a bottle of peroxide like there was no tomorrow.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve never been given the option to sample the supermarket’s finest selection of bleaches, and so on Thursday night after work I bit the bullet and made my way into the city in order to find the perfect pair of plum coloured pants. (Because everyone needs a pair of plum jeans, right? It’s basically a human necessity. Like water or shelter or something.)

A moth drawn to a bright flame, my reluctant journey took me into the back of the department store that boasted large discounts on marked prices. I managed to work out my sizing in the weird measurement system most denim companies insist on using and things were progressing well. (That is: I’d not flown into a murderous rage and ripped the store apart. I did have a thorough grumble to myself that nowhere on any of the tags were the words “PERFECT FOR SHORT GIRLS WITH STUMPY LEGS AND FLAT BUMS” though. Kiiind of what I was looking for.)

After rifling a little through the racks, my hands fell upon a beautifully soft pair of maroon jeans. At 70% off, I nearly fell over myself in excitement as I searched desperately for the size at the waist. 25inches. About three sizes too small for me.

Still, the fabric seemed stretchy enough, and aside from the fact the jeans weirdly didn’t possess front pockets, they would have been absolutely perfect for what I was after. So I threw caution to the wind, and took them with me to the change room. I reasoned if they didn’t fit I’d just go hungry until they did. Because that’s healthy.

Strangely enough, they fit.

They don’t look terrible, right?!

I did all the tests. I bounced. I karate kicked. I crouched. I pliéd and demi pliéd.  The small space of my change room became a NASA testing pod for all sorts of bizarre leg movements (you never know when you need to break into an Irish Riverdance), until I’d mentally ticked all the boxes and decided that these jeans were perfection and comfort personified.

The next morning, I pulled them out of my bag, congratulated myself once more on my shopping prowess and went to pull the tags off.

Then my heart sank.

I stared, slack jawed at the description on the back of the tag, which I had quite obviously missed in my excitement the night before.

“MATERNITY JEANS.” The tag proclaimed with all the smugness in the world.

I’d bought bloody maternity jeans.

Suddenly it all made so much sense.

Suddenly it all made so much sense.

Horrified, I gaped at the stretchy waist. The area where pockets usually are had been replaced with elastic. They sat about my hips slightly further down than a regular pair of lowrise should, with an obvious dip in the front.

“Well, damn.” I breathed.

After a moment’s hesitation, I sighed and pulled them on, reviewing my appearance critically in the mirror. The fit was pretty great, and they were incredibly comfy. I could make them work. For a pair of pants reduced from $140 to $30, how could I possibly go wrong, maternity jeans or no? There was absolutely no reason I should be that horrified at what was simply a label. The label didn’t matter. What was important was that I felt amazing in them, and could also tell people that I was totally wearing a size six.

Also, it meant I could eat all the food in the world, and not have to unbutton my pants, and at the end of the day, that’s a pretty great thing.

The Things I Lost in the Fire

Piece appears over at XOJane’s “It Happened To Me”

In the winter of 2008, my house burned down.

 It happened exactly how you’d imagine it: a burning candle left briefly unattended, an inexplicable draft angling that supposedly innocuous little flame toward a surprisingly ignitable curtain and then within a matter of minutes an entire double story home was alight, a towering, smoking wood and brick monstrosity with the kind of blazing innards you’d see as a ten second space filler on the 6 o’clock news.

 Like winning the lottery, like being struck by lightning or contracting some kind of horrid flesh eating bacterial infection, a house fire is one of those unexplained life altering events that could happen to anyone and no one. Easily avoidable until it isn’t, it’s a personal disaster that’s generally only softened by the mantra you take up in the aftermath. “I’m okay. No one was hurt. It was just stuff.”

 When someone asks how you’re doing, you’ll shrug and assume an air of downtrodden nonchalance, “I’m okay.” You’ll pretend that you’re not crumbling on the inside, you’ll feign strength with every shaking muscle in your body and slap on a self-deprecating smirk, because god forbid you’d want anyone to feel sorry for you. “No one was hurt.” You’ll find yourself parroting the same phrases over and over again until your voice cracks and the words don’t even sound like words anymore. “It was just stuff.” Baby photos and handmade quilts and your great grandmother’s antique vase.

 Just stuff.

 Now, as I stand in my bedroom running a stocktake of the possessions I’ve collected six years on in preparation of a big overseas move, I’m mulling over the effect this house fire had on me, and I’m beginning to think maybe I may have developed a teensy tiny shopping problem. I would have thought that losing everything I owned in the space of 20 minutes would have been a freeing experience. A chance for me to embrace Swedish minimalism! Or to take up Vinyasa yoga and stop shaving my armpits! To realise that my life was not made richer by the totally adorable Marc Jacobs tote I bought on sale for 30% off (plus 10% David Jones staff discount. Oh my god, I miss that tote) but by the people in it. Sadly, this epiphany escaped me, and apart from getting really drunk and crying a lot, I did none of it.

Hell, I didn’t even start up my own Fight Club, and I’ve always wanted to start up my own Fight Club.

Nope. Like a drug addict who’s discovered their stash has run dry, I went into complete withdrawal for stuff. Then I overdosed. Big time. And (jeeze, this is so cliche) retail was my drug. Every time I flicked my card through the EFTPOS machine, I would experience a rush like no other; my heart would thump a little faster behind my rib cage, my palms would tingle for the weight of the shopping bag, my fingers twitching in excitement around the handles as I floated out of the store, eyes glinting with satisfaction of a battle well fought. Or purchased. Whatever.

I developed a game I liked to call “Debit Card Roulette”, whereby I would not check my bank balance before buying something really stupidly expensive and instead just pray to the Department Store Gods that my card wouldn’t get declined. (No matter if it did, of course! I’d just whip out my credit card with a practiced flourish).

 I’d create elaborate back-stories to go along with my completely ridiculous and totally useless purchases, too. That $3,000 gaming PC I probably didn’t need because I was only really into The Sims and the occasional game of Dragon Age? Totally for my (imaginary) boyfriend. Who was currently touring with Cirque Du Soleil in Europe. Why yes I am a great girlfriend and yes he did teach me how to do a triple backflip, by the way can I get a discount on my monitor with that?  The $400 Irish Wedding ring I purchased? A group gift to a very dear friend who was leaving us all to go on a very exciting archaeological dig in Ireland. She totally has the same size fingers as me, thanks. By the way do you have any matching earrings?  The lies were as fun as the purchase, but were also a thinly veiled attempt to stifle the overwhelming guilt that overtook me every time I beamed at the sales person and exclaimed breathlessly, “I’ll take it!” Something I didn’t realise until much later on.

I had no idea that I was trying to fill the pervasive, gnawing emptiness and sadness that was burning a hole through my heart with trinkets and brand names. (I was probably suffering from some sort of minor PTSD too, but hey, I’m no shrink.) Aside from the initial high triggered by the glorious ring of the cash register, it wasn’t really making me happy.  

I’ve since grown a little wiser with my money, and while I often find myself still living paycheck to paycheck, I’m no longer attempting to fill some void in my life with material possessions. In part because I already own everything already, but mostly because I’ve learned to appreciate the people in my life, more than the things. I have a wonderful, supportive group of friends and a beautiful, loving fiancee, and my life is mostly a delight. Now that I’m moving – not simply a suburb away but to an entirely different continent, I’m coming to understand that a majority of these objects in my room just collecting dust? They don’t mean anything to me. And it’s like the sun is coming up.   

 And if I’m being completely honest here, and more than a little sentimental, I’d rather be with the person I love most in the world than have any of this junk — no matter how adorable or great it makes me feel. I’d toss it all out tomorrow if it meant seeing my fiancee a little sooner. I’ll be okay without it. It won’t hurt if I have to downsize because, after all, it’s just stuff.

Don’t worry, though. I won’t be taking a match to any of it.  

New blog!

What do you do when you accidentally bump into someone you haven’t seen in years?  You’ve spotted them from a distance and done your best to evade them, you’ve fiercely avoided eye contact, you’ve quickened your pace, hell, you’ve even attempted telepathy by internally shrieking “DON’T LOOK AT ME!” until your brain rattles inside your skull and your ears ring. But, because diving headfirst into a rosebush isn’t exactly socially acceptable practice, your valiant attempts at evasion fail and you’re forced to stop. Even worse: you’re forced to interact.

“What have you been up to?” They ask.

After mentally kicking yourself for not being the first to draw blood, you gulp back the overwhelming urge to scream “NOTHING. NOTHING! LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” And you stare into the black abyss that is Small Talk. How do you handle this? What do you do?

WHAT. DO. YOU. DO???

It’s bad enough knowing you have to endure the longest, most agonizingly painful three minute conversation of your life. Worse still, is when someone upstairs is feeling particularly vengeful, and the conversation goes on and on and suddenly you realise there’s no eject button and your engines have died and plane is on fire and you’re HURTLING TOWARD THE CLIFF FACE WITH NOTHING TO SAY AND OH GOD WHY DIDN’T YOU CALL YOUR MOTHER MORE OFTEN?!!!

Here’s the thing though: you do have something to say. Everyone has something to say. Unless you’ve legitimately been living in a box for an extended period of time (in which case, even then, I’m willing to bet money on the fact that you can still find things to complain about), there’s stuff you can pull out that won’t make the catch-up chat you’re having feel like you’re gargling bleach. You don’t have to be Ghandi to keep a conversation rolling, kids.

“But Nikki,” you protest “some people suffer from social anxiety, you know.” I do know!  I’ve suffered from it most of my adult life, which many of my friends might find completely surprising given I am, in fact, a human foghorn. So I get it! I acknowledge that sometimes it’s way easier to stay at home in your flannels watching Ghost Whisperer reruns and demolishing the entire contents of your fridge and cupboard. Dry pasta over social interaction? Yes please!

But the fact is that we’re all social morons at least 40% of the time. (I made that statistic up. See?!) We’ve all got weird hang ups, and we all get nervous or use the wrong word at the wrong time every once in a while. We’ve all said “suppository” when we meant “depository”, right?

RIGHT?!

And when we run into that person we haven’t seen since high school, we all flounder at that dreaded question: “So what have you been up to?

So how do you deal with it?

I’ve been up to a lot, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed in the details of the last, say, seven years of my life that I end up shrugging comically and responding with a self-deprecating “Oh, not much. Ha. Ha. Ha. I like television.”

Aaaand that’s how things get awkward.

I figured I’d start up this blog to document what it is exactly that I’m “up to” these days. There’s some massive changes coming my way in the next few months, so I thought it might be a nice idea to put it all down somewhere easily accessible, and invite you all to find out what’s going on in my life. Maybe even share what you’re doing in your own!

That way, if you see me on the street, you won’t have to stop and force me to endure your small talk. And that’s perhaps the best reward of all.