When I meet new people, I automatically tell them I'm a journalist because that's what I always wanted to do. It's not exactly a lie, I do freelance on the side of my regular job. At the photo exhibition I wrote about, my Turkish friend A introduced me to the fascinating circle she moves in. I shook hands with a man, let's call him Bob, and exchanged the usual so-what-do-you-do. "I'm a journalist," he replied, to which I gasped with delight and gushed "I'm a journalist too!! Who do you work for?"
And there in the soft lights of the market, in front of a photo of a gypsy wedding, Bob said "Al Jazeera. How about you?"
Damn. I was in the presence of journalism royalty. Crap cakes! "Oh you know, no one really. Mostly health and beauty stuff..." Me telling someone from Al Jazeera that I'm a journalist is like being an extra on a sitcom and telling Angelina Jolie you're an actress too. I didn't suppose he'd heard of Black Beauty and Hair magazine or would be at all impressed that I just submitted an article on the dangers of antiperspirant, so I cut my losses and fled to the next photographic display.
Every time this happens I feel myself shrink a little, and a little more, and a little more. A is so well-connected and I met so many important journalist types on that night that by the time I left I was so tiny I had to watch out for falling cigarette butts as I walked home.
Working for any of the big names - Al Jazeera, the BBC etc. - would be my dream and it's a dream I hope I'll achieve. I spent a lot of my early 20s getting my knickers into a twist at how many doors kept slamming in my face and annoyed with myself that I wasn't the journalist type who sells their grandma for a scoop to make it big.
However, the truth is that I'm quite happy with the pace things are moving at for me. After years in the wilderness knocking on doors, I am perfectly satisfied that once in a while I'll write something about how good olive oil is for you or 101 ways to wear a sari and manage to flog it. All I really ever wanted to do with my life is write, and I'm writing, so that'll do just fine for me.
A rather more unfortunate side effect of telling people I write for women's magazines is that they clasp their hands together and say "Oh wow! Like Carrie Bradshaw!"
Oh God! Being a freelance, female, curly haired writer automatically makes you Carrie Bradshaw? Someone help! And tragically, even in that instance I end up correcting them by saying things like "Oh no, not at all like Carrie Bradshaw. No where near as successful!"