The Year of the Wedding: Part Two

Reading time: 5-7 minutes
Recommended accompaniment(s): A large gin and tonic, served with a slice of cucumber and an environmentally-friendly straw

[Catch up on Part One]

Since my last linguistic foray into the ever-embarrassing world of British hen dos, I have attended two more weddings and one more hen. So that’s now three out of three hen dos complete, and two out of six weddings yet to come (not that I’m counting). I have also, already, got three weddings firmly in the diary for next year, one of which I have been asked to be bridesmaid – totally unexpected and totes emosh (another blog post in itself quite frankly). But before I commence my future bridesmaid taskettes, I must – as promised in Part One – divulge my second wedding-related misfortune of 2019.

Having been asked back in 2017 to be bridesmaid to my lovely friend Sophie, I had been waiting for the big day to come around like a child (or myself) waiting for Christmas. Then one sunny Saturday in June the day was finally here. Woohoo! The morning spent getting ready seemed to go very smoothly indeed. In many ways I was the model ’maid. I was first to arrive for hair and makeup; I came armed with fizz; I volunteered my painting services to the bride’s naked toes. I did have to de-top as soon as I arrived – as I came dressed in a white over-the-head strappy that would have wreaked havoc if taken off post-makeup application – much to the in-room photographer’s alarm, but, in all honesty, he was much more interested in catching the kilt-clad groom in a gust of wind, if you know what I mean, so I don’t think it caused too much of a ruckus. And anyway, as soon as we were all present we were given goodie bags by the bride, containing a fortuitous dressing gown that covered up my bra, restored my modesty and, hopefully, improved all future photographs.

With my hair and makeup completed early on, I had a good few hours to gossip, giggle and guzzle multiple glasses of champagne. It’s a hard life being a bridesmaid, let me tell you. Sophie, bless her, didn’t want to drink because of her nerves, but when a large gin and tonic arrived to our room from a mystery admirer (please Lord let it be from the groom), she couldn’t resist but take a long, lengthy, gulp. As she put down the glass and declared that first sip sound of ‘ahh,’ I asked her if she would like me to add any of the tonic water, by its side. Her eyes grew wide, her complexion rosy, she looked down at the neat gin she had just, moments before, necked. She laughed. We all laughed. Then I poured the entirety of the Fever Tree bottle into her glass. Responsible bridesmaid? Tick.

As the morning came to a close the ceremony drew ever nearer. We were made up, our hair was perfectly preened, and all we had left to do was get into our dresses. And this was stressing me out. Having tried on the dress maybe three times prior to the wedding, I, and everyone else, had become acquainted with the villainous zip. It was tough; it was sticky; it certainly didn’t respond well to human hands. It was, let’s just say, a wee bit problematic. So I was keen to get into it as early on as possible, to give myself the longest possible time with which to ease and entertain the zip up. Everyone else, it seems, was on a wavelength much more ‘chill’. I tried to meet them there, for as long as I possibly could, but after fifteen minutes of pacing and checking the time, I opened the wardrobe and pulled out my floor-length frock. This was it. This was the moment. I was going to put the ruddy thing on.

The other bridesmaids joined me in the bathroom. Getting dressed was most certainly a three-man job. I first attempted to get in feet first – to save the hair and face – but posteriorly this was not a feasible option. So we abandoned ship and went in over the head. For some reason I held my breath and shut my eyes while positioned like a stationary rocket, to try to slide in more easily. As I opened my eyes, and took in some air, the dress was on and my hair was untouched. First hurdle: flawlessly complete. The second and final challenge was to do the bloody thing up. This is the moment we had all been dreading. And it quickly steamrolled into a nightmare we could never have dreamt up.

I held my arms up in the air while Claire pulled the sides of the dress together and Sarah, simultaneously, pulled down on the material below the zip and tugged up the fastening itself. This needed serious concentration and teamwork. The zip began its ascent armpit-bound, in a not-too-turbulent transition. Sarah expertly manoeuvred over the join in the fabric – the danger zone, if you will – with ease and grace. Our tensions subsided; we were on the home straight. 

Then, about two inches below the finish line, the zip decided veer off course. It became caught in the fabric; its journey to the summit suspended. The tension in the room returned. We decided the best course of action was to retrace our steps, a couple of centimetres or so, to disentangle the fabric, and then resume our valiant climb. We went down, but this only pulled in more fabric. We went back up, and even more became entrapped. And then, very unaccommodatingly, the zip decided he’d had enough. This up- and down-motion had tired him out; he was not, with all his might, going to move any more.

Tension transitioned to panic. The Mother of the Bride was called into the room. An emergency was announced. 

With just fifteen minutes to go until show time, the other bridesmaids, mother, and bride needed to get dressed too, so I was passed on to the unsuspecting hair and makeup artists. Greeted with an increasingly sweaty armpit it didn’t take them long to assess the situation. We had hairpins, tweezers, and all manner of appliances to try to prise the zip free, albeit to no avail. The scissors came out, as a last solution, but no amount of interior trimming had any impact whatsoever; it was stuck, I was stuck, but the show had to go on.

A safety pin became the next fixation, in order to join the flap at the top. Alas, of course, one was nowhere to be found. With my arm by my side one would never have known the mishap, so this is how I was to spend the duration of the day. This was actually surprisingly easy, and only required a slight toning down of my dancing to YMCA, Mr Brightside, and (hen do favourite) I Predict A Riot.

As midnight struck the dance floor emptied and we headed back to our rooms. I tasked my boyfriend with the mission of getting me out of my dress. He trained as an engineer, after all, and so would make light work of the unmovable fastening. Twenty minutes later, with tweezers, eyelash curlers, and anything else remotely tool-like from my makeup bag scattered around us like a pair of beauty junkies, we headed down to reception to find something stronger. Not whisky, unfortunately, but that might have made the whole fiasco a little less painful.

The night-hours receptionist was really rather handy. He got for us scissors, pliers, and, in fact, a fully-fitted-out tool box. Gijs started with the pliers, aiming to bend the metal slider cleanly off the troublesome teeth. If anything this held its grip tighter. Then came the scissors: he was going to have to hack. He started off tentative, not wanting to harm me and only minimally disfigure the dress. This tactic, though admirable, was not getting me any closer to freedom.

Opportunely, fellow bridesmaid Sarah entered reception from the bar. She saw the scissors in Gijs’ hand; his pained, nervous expression; and took matters into her own hands. Literally. (After all, she did used to be a hairdresser.) After a few savage snips the zip was cut loose; the fastening released; Django was finally unchained. The dress, on the other hand, was ruined. 

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Musings on Life, Happiness & Writing

Reading time: 5-6 minutes
Recommended accompaniment(s): A large glass of full-bodied red wine, ideally from Southern Italy, served at room temperature

Some people want to be a doctor when they grow up. Others want to be a teacher. Others an entrepreneur; an astronaut; famous (whatever that nowadays means). So many dreams harbour in the minds of naïve and ambitious children and teenagers, and even as adults the idea of ‘when I’m grown up’ is a state not yet accomplished. My current biggest wish is to have a bedroom door (the perils of a studio apartment); when I was younger my aspiration was to be happy. Truly happy. And it still is. Hence the name I have chosen for this blog.

I remember a class we had on this during high school. We must have been about fourteen years old, and – no doubt as part of our one-hour-per-academic-year session on things that actually matter in life, as opposed to the ‘everyday applications’ of trigonometry or the internal musings of Caecilius while in horto – were asked to write on a scrap of paper what we wanted to become when we were older. I wrote down ‘Properly happy’, with a very intentional, nay crucial, opening adverb.

“Are you not happy?” asked one of my friends, genuinely confused, who caught sight of my sheet after scrawling down ‘actress’ herself. 

“Are you?” I countered, just as confused with the concept of whole-hearted contentedness.

“Yeah,” she shrugged, as she joined the queue milling out into the corridor and onto our double period of I.T. with an ethically, and child protectionarily, questionable male teacher.

To me that said it all. I mean, a shrug and a non-committal affirmative are not exactly signs of absolute agreement, are they? She felt exactly the same as I did. She just wasn’t as aware of it.

I then had to decide whether I was wanting too much from life, or if other people were not wanting enough. I chose, and continue to believe, the latter, and hope that I am onto something. Of course I don’t believe in a life smelling of roses and consisting of unadulterated bliss, but I do believe, and am optimistic about, a life centred around people and love and happiness and experience and honesty and creativity and connection and passion and joy and gezelligheid (non-Netherlands-residing readers are invited to look this term up, and be prepared to be jealous of my new country’s favourite concept).

The next immediate hurdle is figuring out how this life can be achieved alongside the unavoidable requirement to earn money / keep financially afloat. For those whose life’s passion is to be a brain surgeon or lawyer, I really do envy you. For those who are carrying out these jobs sans satisfaction, I honestly don’t know how you do it. The idea of a nine-to-five job – no matter the field or level of challenge or mundanity involved – to me is so excruciatingly depressing (literally, I’ve been there) that I have simply had to look for an alternative. Which is where the writing has come in.

Starting a blog – this blog – while travelling in 2017, aged 25, was where my love of writing developed. Though I never dreamed of being a writer when I was younger; I stopped studying English at the point where it was a choice; and I have never been an avid bookworm. I don’t have any of the characteristics or merits of a successful writer, yet this is the perhaps preposterous aim. (I’m counting on the fact that innate talent and determination win all, and, of course, that I have at least a sliver of both of these things.)

My journey as a writer so far can be viewed in two very different ways. With optimistic eyes, it is going swimmingly. Through a short series of rather random circumstances a London-based publisher read my blog, liked my writing, and commissioned me to write for them a book. (I mean, does it get any more fairytale that that?) It is to be published first in Chinese and then in English, perhaps this year, and hopefully translated into a number of other languages thereafter. Spurred on by this experience, and, again, following a random (or fateful) meeting, I am 50,000 words in to my second book, which I hope to be taken on by a literary agent, sold to a publisher in a bidding war, and turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. This is not even an exaggeration; this is truly what I hope it becomes.

Under a pessimistic, or perhaps realistic, lens, things can sometimes seem somewhat futile. I was paid a pittance to research and write an entire book that is yet to be published and may never materialise. I haven’t received a decent pay check in over two years, and rely financially on others to stay afloat. I spend much of my time alone, typing away on my laptop, crafting a manuscript that may never be read by more than a handful of people. But I continue to do this, and believe that I should, because the glimmer of hope that I might become successful feeds me much more than the thought of a steady and secure and strangling employee situation. After all, if I don’t give it a go then it is definitely not going to work.

But that doesn’t mean to say that it’s easy. Writing, as a career (if you can call it that before you have been aptly monetarily rewarded), for me, is like being in a constant battle, in so many ways. It takes time, of course, to create a masterpiece, or something at least vaguely masterful, during which time you are constantly aware that you might be simply wasting time. I feel I need to be ‘in the zone’ to write well, but have not yet figured out whether creating that zone – both mentally and environmentally – aids my writing, or whether consciously writing something of value or elegance transports me into that all-encompassing sweet spot. I want to have integrity and commitment to my goal and beliefs, but I also want to have the disposable income to be able to go clothes shopping on a whim. I am unsure of when tiredness and illness bleed into procrastination and self-absorption. I feel brave and worthy and confident in my abilities, yet constantly worry about judgement from others for my choices and lifestyle and tendency for a mid-week lie in. And I am uncertain, or undecided, as to whether that mid-week lie in improves my focus, when I do start writing, or is a brilliant, self-sabotaging, scheme I dreamt up through utter laziness. And those are just the thoughts I’ve had while enjoying my porridge-based breakfast.But to achieve that life of love and happiness and experience and honesty and creativity and connection and passion and joy, I know I have to persevere. Because those pulls of uncertainty and doubt and niggling nags are not through an unwillingness to continue, but through an unknowingness of where this might lead. Of whether I will succeed. Of whether this turmoil will pay off. And I’m willing to take that risk as the alternative is, quite frankly, not an option. For me, anyway. Wish me good luck. (And for heaven’s sake – if it comes out – buy my bloody book, please.)

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