Two days before I turned thirty, I made the mistake of reading an article on how life changes in your thirties. It was full of predictions of having early nights, of patronising gloom about hangovers and not understanding popular music, and of not particularly funny anecdotes about choosing furniture. In short, it was all the stuff that is Only Allowed To Happen To Other People.
In a mixture of gloom and annoyance, I decided that I’d better make pretty darn sure I had enough fun whilst still in my twenties to last the whole of the next decade. This was clearly the only mature and rational response to a fear of becoming boring. But I only had 24 hours and 9 hours of childcare. What to do…?
I did as any sensible-thinking person would do, and opened the debate up to everyone on facebook. I asked for extremely childish challenges I could complete in that last day, and promised to actually do all the ones that looked like fun.
My lovely facebook friends came up with a list, and I figured I’d list here all the ones I didn’t in fact choose for various reasons…
- Ask if there’s pudding between every mouthful – I didn’t have anyone to ask for most meals.
- Put on a hoodie and hang around a shopping-centre food court, ignoring the sterile artificial consumerism of the environment – Lack of hoodie a problem here. (Doesn’t make me old.)
- Spend 5 hours in your room playing Minecraft and grunt in response to any question – I was supposed to ENJOY the challenges. Who has 5 hours to waste on their last day being 20-something?!
- Skip all the way to the shops – I hate looking like a girl. Unless it’s like the sort of girl your mother warned you about. Then, it’s clearly fine. (If not always appropriate or appreciated.)
- Stand outside and sing at the top of your voice – I only got this one late in the evening, and having not that long before treated much of the village to my singing at the panto, I figured they deserved a break… (Social conscience doesn’t make me old either.)
- Build a fort out of cushions and fall asleep in it – This was one of my absolute favourites. Frustratingly, I fell asleep BEFORE building the fort. But in fairness, that was down to one of the other suggestions. (Still doesn’t make me old.)
You can tell a lot about the people involved from this list. None of it is good…
Unfortunately, you can probably tell more by the list of challenges I actually accepted.
The Accepted Challenges
The day dawned, and with it began the Eight Tasks of Lodge. My first challenge proved to be a little tough around lunchtime:
- Eat ketchup with everything
It went fine with a fake-ham bagel, but having squeezed a liberal snake of the stuff onto my mango yoghurt, I felt a little bit ill. But a challenge is a challenge, and I started spooning it in and swallowing it quickly. It only hit me halfway through that there was actually no discernible difference between tangy mango and tangy ketchup. Got to prove that I have no adult taste-buds yet, surely?
Childishness score of 8.
(NB – ketchup on banana turned out to be just disgusting. Learn from my suffering.)
- Do a head stand
This was a tough one, since I’d decided to photograph all my exploits. Headstand selfies are tricky, and generally seemed to involve taking pictures of the sky or a super close-up of my armpit. So I dragooned my sister into taking a picture at a safe distance. Various items of furniture came off less well from the leg flailing.
Childishness score of 6.
- Lick the road
This was the most absurd of all the challenges. I still wasn’t sure I got it by the time I did it. But obviously, given the first challenge, I had to lick it with ketchup on. I also needed another photographer, and this time my Dad actually volunteered to help out. You’ve got to respect a parent who wants to see their child achieve their dreams.
I waited until no traffic was coming and then poured a liberal pile of the stuff on the (wet, muddy) road near my house, just next to the white line. In all honesty, it looked like nothing so much as a giant, red turd done by something suffering from food poisoning. But I gamely licked it up, and it was harder than I’d thought to taste the tarmac.
Childishness score of 7
- Go skinny dipping in the Cam
The biggest mission of the lot – this involved waiting till it was dark (I’m childish, not a flasher) and then driving to Grantchester, where I trekked across a really squishy field in the dark (and ruined my trainers – rage) until I got to the riverbank.
At this point, I realised that it wasn’t just muddy on the ground. The whole river was a giant, swollen brown sludge. It looked about as appetising as sinking my feet into the footwell of my car*.
It was also pretty darn cold. I did a pathetic, squealing strip-off into a towel whilst dancing around on my trainers to avoid getting my feet muddy. Afterwards, it occurred to me that this was pretty stupid given the state of the river, so I gave up, squelched over to the edge (after taking a pic, obviously) and then from a sitting position squelched into the disgusting oozing mud of the river-bed.
The worst part over, immersing myself in it actually wasn’t too bad. Obviously it was horribly cold, but the moment I jumped back out, the comparably warm night air felt toasty.
Childishness score of 8 (hard one to judge, but it was pretty hardcore so I’m giving myself points for that)
- Doing a knock-and-run
I was back in my well-to-do village by this point, and the person who suggested it happened to live there. It made total sense to make him the victim of it, and I headed over to his house laughing gleefully to myself.
I then crept up to the door, and pressed the bell – which turned out not to work. But hearing movement inside, I legged it and only just managed to hide behind the family car in time for the door to open.
Instead of my equally immature contemporary-ish (25, so obviously on the younger, less enlightened side) I had done a knock-and-run on his long-suffering Dad. Who then discussed the fact that he’d seen someone for a while before, mercifully, going back inside.
If nothing else, the exercise got my adrenaline going. I’m hoping the concerned person did not let on to his parents that it was me. Either way, I’ve not brought it up since – and I ran most of the way home.
Childishness rating: 9.5
- Having a midnight feast – and making a cocktail out of all the really gross stuff in the drinks’ cupboard
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually pretty hard to mess up a cocktail. Even the worst once conceivable seem to come out tasting like vimto. I just tried not to look at this one too closely, as the congealed creamy ones floating around in the fruity or coffee-based ones were just not appetising.
For the midnight feast element, I added in a couple of cakes appropriately raided from my parents’ supply, and settled down to scarf it all in bed.
Unfortunately, the main effect of the cocktail was to knock me out in about 20 minutes, so I didn’t get to post photos on Facebook. But darn it, did it remind me of being a child. (And in particular, of that family BBQ where a load of us made a disgusting concoction out of all the drinks we could find and christened it Thames Water, after which one of our number was violently sick into the corner of the gazebo.)
Childishness rating: 7
All in all, the day of challenges did exactly the best thing possible. It made me feel like a massive child, and got me through until the 30-years-old morning when I realised that I hadn’t grown up in the slightest.
Originally, I left it there. But I’ve since realised that doing things that are challenging, silly and childish are actually utterly empowering** – which is why I’ve decided to do a day of challenges each month of the Year of 30.
I want everyone who reads to get involved. Post your suggestions below – and make them silly! I’ll do everything that isn’t either dangerous or really expensive (I also draw the line at actually hurting other people. Unless it’s really, really funny and they’ll laugh afterwards… :-D) – and since I missed the 8th, I’m going to do Thirty-Going-On-Twelve day this Thursday the 27th of February.
There’ll be photos, and havoc, and I promise you a good laugh if you check back…
Gytha Lodge is an award-winning writer and director, as well as a single parent of one totally nuts three-year-old.
She has a hit online fantasy series for young adults (and grown-ups) on Wattpad, the first book of which is the Watty Award nominated The Fragile Tower.