After successfully ticking off most of the elements on our list of 'Things We Require For a Happy Life' (nice apartment, comfortable furniture, supermarket that sells almost normal food, a good sushi place) H1 and I are nearly completely settled in New York. Just a couple of things to go. Hairdresser is one of them, but seeing as I'm too traumatised to think about going anywhere near anyone wielding a pair of scissors for the next few months, it's a low priority. Of more importance is - friends.
Yes, H1 and I are many things to each other, but we both have gaps in our lives that the other can't fill. H1's is a 'watching cars go round and round while drinking beer' shaped gap. Mine is a 'talking absolute rubbish about clothes and trash TV for hours' sort of gap.
So, this month, now that everyone's settled down a little after the rush and buzz of summer, now that we've begun to feel like we actually do live here, now that my hair has calmed down a little, seemed the perfect month to start. After the virtual financial and moral bankruptcy that was left after a couple of friends visited New York a week or two ago, we decided to start with a small scale search for people who liked the same stuff as us.
Which is how, last night, I found myself in an Italian restaurant near Union Square, enjoying dinner amid a group of 12 like minded women who were also members of this particular NYC book club.
It was a good night. A fantastic night, in fact. It was wonderful being with people similar to me, getting to know them, and talking about the things I like to talk about (it would seem there is a whole world of trash TV I haven't even touched upon yet). It ticked all my boxes for what I want from a night out this month, being (relatively) restrained, and amazingly low cost, thanks to the 'unlimited free wine with dinner' deal they had going on. We ate, we drank, we laughed, and we chatted about everything. Even the book a little bit.
And then we moved on to talking about fashion and suchlike. NYC Fashion Week is on at the moment, so it was to be expected really, although our conversation was a little more base than that. We somehow ended up on the topic of things on which people in New York will judge you (ok, for people read women, we all know they're the judges).
And freaking hell. That's all I can say. Let me just hasten to explain that I had noticed the level of grooming amongst New York women is rather higher than it is for those in London, and certainly higher than what is required of New Zealand women, and I had upped my game accordingly. I thought I had, anyway. Turns out I had no idea.
Nails (fingers and toes).
And finally - your coat.
There are other things too, which apparently go without saying. For example, not only is it possible to get every hair on your body ripped out with hot wax, it's expected. You may have hair on top of your head, and eyelashes. Eyebrows at a pinch. But everything else must go, no ifs or buts!
Thankfully, I can be distinctly 'whatever' about most of that, being lucky enough to have H1, a man who grew up in a country where women do have arm hair. That's not what gets me though. What gets me is - your coat?
Even though I can't imagine ever being cold again, I am vaguely aware in the back of my mind that at same stage the temperatures will drop, and I will be colder than I ever have been before. Keeping in mind I love snowboarding and have spent time in the middle of a Swedish winter, that's saying something. And at that stage, I will probably decide it's a good idea to add more warm layers, topped off with a coat. I just didn't realise it would become something upon which I would be judged.
I guess this is not the year I turn my duvet into a coat, after all.
Don't get me wrong. I love fashion, I like painting my nails, I like having my hair done (sometimes. Cue black look). I just think one shouldn't be judged on it. When there are so many things upon which one can be judged, far more important things, should you really have to worry about where you bought your coat?
But I doubt I'm going to be the one to change years of learned behaviour amongst New York women. At some stage, I will have to get over it. I think it may take a while, though. Therefore, this month, you will find me passing my time in a restrained and budget-conscious way, on the floor of my closet, rocking back and forth while making an agonised keening sound, surrounded by nail polishes and a duvet. My very own version of The September Issue, if you like.
*Incidentally, in NYC these are often called pocketbooks, a word which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever if you think about it. H1 and I spent a merry fifteen minutes laughing at the name and devising our own versions, culminating in 'condomtoe' (pantyhose, obviously).