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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Catherine Bennett

The Secret Diary of Charlotte Owen, aged 30¼: ‘I’m a Barbie girl, and a baroness.’

Charlotte Owen on her first day in the Lords, wearing her ceremonial robes with a pink sleeve showing.
‘Pink dress? Check’: Charlotte Owen on her first day in the Lords. Photograph: House of Lords

Finally!!!! Pink dress? Check. Heels? Check. Hair zhuzhed? Super-check! Not ideal picking up a peerage the same day you’re seeing Barbie but the robe covers a lot and actually it just makes the movie even more empowering and special.

Rehearse a bit of my maiden speech. Still a work in progress. Are you allowed to sing? “I’m a Barbie Girl, and a baroness. Legislation, it’s my creation.” Dadadadada, something Alderley Edge, “Life in Pugin, It’s amusin’ .” Yes. It’s already turning into something to be proud of.

If I can do this for all the women who went above and beyond for Boris but ended up with nothing, it’s easier to bear hatred that could almost have upset me if I wasn’t super-motivated and way over-qualified for a revising chamber. Didn’t I revise for every single GCSE that wasn’t essay or coursework based? Without being paid? And like Dudders keeps saying, I’ve never boasted, since that’s not my style, about the driving licence or my Duke of Edinburgh award (bronze with honours).

Inspirational quote for today: “Confidence is not ‘will they like me?’. Confidence is ‘I don’t care if they don’t’.” Lao Tzu being brilliant, as always.

Too bad for the others though. Nad’s Mail column won’t last forever. No idea what happened to Allegra. Cleo – well, I’m not a great reader and like I said to Boris before he took her off the honours list, she made it too obvious she was grossed out by his legs. I mean, weren’t we all? I do know nobody should have to marry him. And that picture Carrie posted of her rhubarb last week. Tragic. I can still see that quote Gavin Williamson used to have on his wall. “A ship in a harbour is safe, but it is not what ships are built for.” Einstein, apparently.

Gratitude note: must thank the rhubarb for reminding me it’s vision board revising time. Classic millennial dilemma: what moves up when you’ve achieved a goal beyond your wildest dreams? Something major but doable – as in Lords minister (check pay v allowances?), GB News appearances (fees v reputational damage?), a Daily Mail column (Nad’s or Vine’s?). Or aspirational, like a sweet little doggo, a second home in Cornwall, a Vogue cover?

Working on it when WhatsApp goes insane with mentors sending luck and commiserating on the misogynistic pile-on. Nigey: “No worries, they’ll soon see what you’re really made of.” Aloky: “I just wish you’d told them about your grade III piano.” Willie: “To think I used to laugh at ‘fake it till you make it’!” Bless. Plus dear old Liz: “Thought only Gen-Z wanted lazy girl jobs haha!”

And here’s one from Boris! Oh. “Salve, most brilliant blonde spad ever! If you’ve got a sec, Charlie, as the (second) finest mind yet spawned by a redbrick, those groovy Bermudas you sourced in 2021/20, are they washable? Only pair that fits. Be tremendous if you could pick up like before, mainly pants and socks, services to British laundry and all that. C sends love and says 40 degrees, could you check her bras stay in the protective bag, ie not like last time? Dilyn’s missing your walks x.”

Is that a threat? Keep on charring or we’ll tell you were a domestic? Idiots. It’s better than people saying I’m his secret daughter.

Wonder about mentioning their toga party online poetry group but a beautiful Nelson Mandela quote floats into my head. “For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.”

“Hi naughty Big Dog! Against Acoba rules. Tell Carrie this baroness loved her crumble insta!”

Collect essentials – water bottle, recyclable cup, colouring-in books, no knowing how stressful today could get – and head off.

First impressions: Ick. Hogwarts for boomers. Ross – typical – arrived early to squeeze in some networking before we all get sworn at, in, whatev, and is instantly furious when people stare at me. Has he twigged No 10 isn’t the only place it pays to be 30, blonde and female?

I remember to be the reason someone smiles today and squeeze his hand. “Shoot for the moon,” I tell him, “and even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” Virginia Woolf.

So we’re boiling in our robes when some ancient person, 55-ish, dowdy, comes up. Don’t catch her name – cleaning/cloakroom staff, by the clothes. “Hi,” she goes, “don’t worry, I felt lost my first day.” What? Do I look like a janitor? “We all suffer from impostor syndrome.” WTF? No we don’t! “The best thing,” she says, “is to identify a specialism. What are your interests?” “Well, not toilets,” I say, just before I spot her lanyard.

They’re obsessed. Even in their rank old restaurant after swearing-in – like thanks, House of Lords, for the warning you have to sit next to hairy-eared randoms who think they’re there on merit. It’s all “vital expertise” and “long-standing interests”, then expectant pauses. Huh? Since when was expertise a thing? I worked for Johnson, FFS, not Stephen Hawking. Across the table I can see Ross trying to think of a professional word for arse-licking.

I’m like, “well, work-life balance obviously. Hydration’s a big one. Coffee. And manifesting is awesome, like that’s actually how I’m here?” Sudden inspiration. “And I’m brilliant at helping older men with their smartphones without getting angry, ask anyone.”

Lord Whatever’s like, ah, rather like your, ah, fellow modernising heroine, Baroness Lane-Fox? Me: “Wow, votes for women, right, were you lucky enough to meet her?”

Escape, fully shattered from adulting, but not before passing go: first £342.00 in the bank! At last my financial freedom journey is really under way! Feeling so great I text Carrie. “Super-gutted you can’t join us for Barbie tonight, but thrilled the rhubarb means you have some pink in your life xoxo.” Silence. Oh well. Live, Laugh, Lord.

• Catherine Bennett is an Observer columnist

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