Recently I conducted an experiment.
It didn't involve Bunsen burners, test tubes, white coats or chemicals. Although by the end of it, I did feel more than ready to be collected and taken into care by men in white coats, and I would have quite happily ingested any amount of chemicals to make me feel sane again.
I need to tell you that I didn't conduct the experiment without prior knowledge of what I was getting myself into and that I knew the risks, so before you read on I need to make this disclaimer.
No one was hurt during the conducting of this experiment.
Except for me.
It's been over two years since I worked a regular '9-5' and during that time I've freelanced and I've worked for free. There have been times when I've had lots of money and times when I've had none. I've been approached by recruitment agents that have promised me the world, but like finding yourself on a third drunken date, recruitment agents have such a way with words that you may find yourself bending over backwards and considering any position they want you to be in, only never to hear from them again once you've fulfilled their needs. It had got to the point where I was starting to view recruitment agencies like brothels and every one of their agents like a pimp, so with that in mind, I decided to branch out on my own, or even better I decided to go legit.
This time I wasn't going to sell my wares to the highest bidder and I wasn't going to let anyone do the dirty work for me. I was going to accept a full time position and I was going to go back to the daily grind. I was going to go back to the early morning commute and I was going to become part of the 1pm lunch crowd.
Except it didn't really work out. I jumped from the frying pan into the fire, dived from the life raft into a sea of sharks and danced straight out of the disco into a dull and diabolical place.
I am a writer and it is how I describe myself when someone asks what I do, so naturally the jobs that I would be interested in and qualified to do involve putting ideas down on paper, or on a lap top, or maybe even on a wall somewhere. I'm not really able to do anything else unless it involves smiling or talking (the only other two things I'm good at). I've also 'worked' in the fashion industry as a writer / designer for the last 24 years so if you put fashion and writer together what do you get?
Someone who is pretty unemployable by today's standards or is unemployable but pretty when the mood and the lighting is right.
I finally accepted a job writing for a fashion website and a highly regarded one at that. To begin with it was fine, even though the department I worked in was pretty low down on the fashion food chain (so much so even our office was based in a kitchen). I became part of the 'copywriting' team or in other words, I wrote about handbags and glad rags. Just a few short lines of copy that went a bit like this:
'Wear this fabulous (insert designer name here) dress because it will allow you to get roaring drunk and not wear any underwear on a Saturday night. It's also crease free so it's perfect for the walk of shame home. Oh, and it will match your earrings'.
Well, that's what I wanted to write and it kind of gives you an idea of the job. Anyone can do it right? It's hardly rocket science, open heart surgery or adding up someone's shopping in a 99p store is it? I should have found it easy and it should have given me the shot of creativity each day that would get me through the 9-5.
Except it didn't work out that way.
It sucked the life from my creative veins and left me feeling like a vampire left out in the sunlight. I was in an office full of vampire hunting (would be) fashionistas who were baying for my blood. I was Count Dracula in the Twilight age. I was passed it, my fangs were shrinking, my face didn't fit and in the end I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and throw myself onto a stake laced with garlic. ( I hope you know that's a stake laced with garlic, not a 'steak' laced with garlic). I was done in by a gang of (would be) fashionista's and not even pretty ones at that.
My experiment of throwing myself back into the working world had gone horribly wrong. When you've already lived the high life you become adept at noticing the low life, the social climbers and those who are so insecure that they hide behind last seasons 'It Bag'. There aren't many things I haven't seen, personalities I have had to deal with or smiles I've had to fake at faces that all I've wanted to do is slap. I've worked in offices full of pretension and I've listened to accents that have been acquired whilst climbing up the career ladder. Not much gets past me but I've learned as I've got older that sometimes it's better to observe and listen, rather than open your mouth and give your verdict. So, I observed and I listened.
And this is what I heard:
"5:2 diet, God, I have soooo many Mulberry bags, my boyfriend is soooo divine / dumped /dead, 5:2 diet, there are soooo many calories in a carrot (what??), I hate her, She's a bitch / whore / fat, 5:2 diet, Daddy lives in Ascot, 'Made in Chelsea', I love Britney, 5:2 diet, She's a bitch / whore / fat, Do I need more bronzer?"
As you can imagine, for a creative mind, it was mind bending. I've worked with the most gorgeous, glamorous, intelligent and fun people in the fashion industry but I've realised the lower down the fashion food chain you are, the less you'll allow yourself to eat and the less intelligent conversation you'll be able to have. So my experiment came to an end and I threw in the towel, left the building and gave up the ghost, except I hadn't quite left the building when I heard this:
"5:2 diet, Oh my god, he's such a bitch / whore / fat. 5:2 diet, I have soooo many Mulberry bags, he soooo never fit in here, there are sooo many calories in a carrot, I hated him soooo much, 5:2 diet. Do I need more bronzer?"
The conclusion and results of my experiment are this:
Mulberry is soooo five years ago. There are about 40 calories in a carrot. Give up the 5:2 diet and go and eat a steak laced with garlic, and for heavens sake, please don't wear any more bronzer, you already look like you've spent the past two weeks in a Tandoori oven.