On Faltering Follicles

On Faltering Follicles

I found my first grey hair today. I glanced up unsuspectingly and there it was, mocking me from a mirror that is not my own, in a hotel room that is rented by the month, in a country where I, try as I might, cannot communicate enough with the locals through grunts, sign language or Google Translate to ask in which isle they keep the Nice & Easy.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would get my first grey hair before having my first child, I would have smiled knowingly and smugly looked away. Not only because the Krugers are born with exceptionally strong follicles, but because I had it all planned. Finish my Masters degree (check), marry The One by 27 (check), move to one of the most beautiful parts of the world (check), settle down with two dogs (check) a cat (okay, we had three, so I slightly overdid that one) and a veggie patch (erm…) and start a family once we’re all nice and cosy and ready for the logical next step. How hard can it be, really? I mean, everyone does it. Even drunk teenagers get it right completely by accident. It’s the path your life has to follow so that you fit in with the norm. Love. Marriage. Kids. Retire. Death. Easy. But we were never the norm. My husband’s work took him away from home often so, besides not being overly keen on getting intimate with a turkey baster when there wasn’t ‘t even someone there to hold my hand,  we never seemed to get to the next, logical step. There was never the security of a whole family, complete but for the pitter-patter of little feet. The only thing I felt that was missing from my life most of the time was more of him. So I dealt with the “When are you?”’s and “Why haven’t you?”’s as best I could, often having to field the questions on my own and wondering why that alone wasn’t enough to tip off the questioner. I don’t think people are cruel on purpose. Most probably they’re just making small talk and don’t know what else to say. Or they’re just so completely and utterly in love with their new bundles of joy that, being the caring friends that they are, they want that for you too and they’re convinced your life won’t have any real meaning until that bit is sorted. The same amnesia that sets in after childbirth and ensures that women all over the world think what the hell, let’s push something the size of watermelon out THERE again, also makes them forget how being childless makes you feel like you no longer belong with the very people who used to be your mirror. They forget how you start wondering whether you can do enough with your life to make up for the fact that you are not a mother. Whether it matters that you have your own successful company, have ridden Space Mountain, can make homemade croissants from scratch and once improv’d on stage on a cruise ship, if you have failed at the most basic of female purposes. Or maybe it’s just me. Erm. Where was I? Oh yes. The best laid plans. So the kids hadn’t happened yet. But we weren’t worried. 2012 would be The Year of the Kid. I didn’t even tell my husband that this was my thinking. Rather under promise and over deliver right? Just in case. I am 35. A number biologically more important than Fibonacci’s sequence. Whatever happened, we had to make it work. We would grow my business and my husband would give up his contract work. We would finally have a stable home environment and we would not spend months apart ever again. Sure, financially it would be a little scary, but we had a plan. Or so we thought. Then, overnight, it all changed. As much victims of the current economic climate as of the type of unscrupulous people your mother warned you about, my business would no longer support us and we had no choice but to pack up our lives, say goodbye to our friends, family, home and animals and head for China. Read the rest of this entry




On faltering follicles

On hairy crabs

On Mandarin

On torture (or what to expect from your bed in China)

On being 36 and childless



Supermarket products: Little Sheep Mutton Kebabs, Yurun hams and sausages

Make your own: Tortillas, Sundried tomatoes

Chinese food (they just call it food): Shanghai street food

Chinese dinner table etiquette

Coping with China’s hard beds


Useful links:

CNN Go– Packed with info on where to go, what to eat and curiosities to look out for.

Lost Laowai  – Lots of expat info and informative pieces on everyday life that will make you feel less like you’re going it alone.

China Expat (Facebook) – Informative forum on Facebook that also collates the weird and funny moments China throws at you every day.

Life on Nanchang Lu– Everything you ever wanted to know about Shanghai street food.

City Weekend: Shanghai  – Up to the minute listings of restaurants, spas, theater, nightlife and all things happening in Shanghai.Guides for Beijing and Guangzhou are also available.

A totally impractical guide to living in Shanghai – Will have you going “Yes! That’s totally how it is!” every time you read it.