IN SOME kind of waking nightmare, I find myself standing in a vertical coffin getting sprayed orange by a nonplussed Cork girl wearing a surgical mask.
“Please tell me,” I mouth, “why am I here?” Her brow furrows as she tackles the backs of my legs and misses my plea.
It was more existential than literal anyway, so no harm. Never do I feel the futility of existence more keenly than in a beauty salon.
I close my eyes and will myself away. The sound of drilling forces me to come to. Now I’m sitting stickily at a nail station, having hardened plastic talons glued onto my bitten fingertips.
“Only gorgeous!” roars the girl as she takes my credit card and shoves me out the door.
It’s a blustery, squally day but I’m wearing flip-flops to let my pedicure set, and my bra has been confiscated, lest the strap-marks disturb the tan, my whole look is that bit unhinged.
What is this strange, punishing ritual for? Is it an elaborate prank or a brave new way to raise money for a worthy charity? What on Earth could justify such masochism?
I’ll tell you what. A wedding. More specifically, being a bridesmaid at a wedding. I am one of four in a matching set of green-dressed women of varying heights and weights.
There’s 250 people coming to the wedding, and I’m pretty sure, if you go back far enough, I’m related to all of them.
It’s an Irish family wedding, and as the most recent émigré among them, I’ve got to have my story straight.
Family are blunt — when they ask “How are you getting on over,” anything less than an end-of-year financial report showing a major upswing and an engagement ring with a cute backstory is sure to disappoint.
To put their minds at ease, I plan on wearing vulgar diamond jewellery and talking loudly on my phone about stocks and shares (“Sell… buy… Tokyo” — things like that) before shifting focus onto the wedding cake (“What do you think the middle layer is, lemon drizzle?”).
When talking to people back home about moving to Britain, it’s important to strike a balance between “I love it there” and “Home is good too”.
I remember one friend, back for a flying visit from her new LA home, looking around the café we were sitting in in Dublin, sighing, and saying: “I mean — people just make more of an effort with their appearance, plus they’re just better looking over there. You know?”
I nodded, hiding my face behind an almond croissant as I adjusted the twine holding up my dungarees.
So, I will throw my orange shoulders back, put my witchy hands on my hips and fib my little heart out. It was the best move ever, I’ll say.
I’m really making it over there. I’ll look my family in the eye and tell them I don’t miss home at all.
The only problem is — they know me pretty well.