“ Be yourself, everyone else is taken”, wrote the witty and wonderful Oscar Wilde.
Let’s put aside for a moment the personal demons Mr Wilde wrestled with and focus on the wisdom of these words. The older I get, the more comfortable I become in my 48 year old skin. I’m also embracing the zanier parts of my personality.
“Pussycat, you are becoming more eccentric the older the get!” my husband told me recently.
I was sitting up in bed hand stitching white, brown and green tulle I had bought from Spotlight to a school headband belonging to my eldest daughter. Then I sewed the leftover tulle to a beige singlet.
“ What on earth are you doing?” asked Petee, once he’d wearied of repeatedly asking me to turn off the bedside lamp.
“ I’m making a fart costume!”
“ You’re what?!”
I explained that I was making a costume to wear on national television the next day. Petee rolled his eyes, but since we’ve been married for almost 14 years he has become accustomed to my increasingly quirky ways.
“ I’ve always wanted to be a fart,” I laughingly told the Studio 10 panel and audience the next morning. “It’s a dream come true!” I had run on to the set at the last moment, ditching the bathrobe that had covered my outfit. I’ll never forge the look of horror on Ita Buttrose’s face.
As a 20- something, I would never have dreamt of pulling such a stunt. Clothed in pastel power suits, my early morning starts in the newsroom consisted of trying to get my stories of cats stuck up trees onto the evening news. However, early signs of rebellion began to emerge with my hairstyle. I resisted growing my short hair into a “broadcast bob”, that helmet of shoulder-length hair many female TV presenters wore on our television screens.
One of my bosses had suggested growing my hair slightly longer so it would look ‘softer and less severe’ on the television. The next day I turned up with an even shorter haircut. He didn’t dare ask me again to grow my hair. I’ve had short hair (of surprisingly numerous styles) for almost thirty years. Over time I realised it was my subtle, or at times, not so subtle way of thumbing my nose at conformity.
In my thirties I struggled to contain my loud, snorting laughter. I had been told by another boss to tone down the laughing. For a time I tried to take his advice, attempting to fit into a stage managed version myself. However I was unprepared for the reaction such ‘advice’ had on my sense of self. Laughing was an intrinsic part of me and had become the coping mechanism to deal with the slings and arrows of life. If you can’t laugh, you’ll cry, and I knew I had to keep laughing to remain true to myself.
During this time, I had also become a mother. Loving my daughters came naturally however the routine, sleep deprivation and numbing boredom of caring for little people ate away at my confidence. I was struggling with how to be the ‘perfect mother’. Going to the playground did my head in, as I didn’t relish playing in grotty sandpits, and pushing my girls endlessly on the swings. Apart from antidepressants, I coped by cutting my hair even shorter. My buzz cut was a sign to myself that I was okay if I didn’t fit the stereotype of what a ‘good mum’ was meant to look like.
Eventually I realised there is no such thing as the perfect mother. I knew that I was good enough. Once I hit my forties I became gentler on myself, and embraced the parts of my personality that I had kept under wraps. And that is the joy of ageing, I was caring less and less what people thought of me. No longer did I stifle my snorting laughter, and I relished pushing the hair envelope, dyeing my hair pink. Although I wasn’t encouraged by my last round of media bosses to keep up with the pink and the purple rinse in my hair. But now that I’ve left my television role I’m relishing introducing more colours of the rainbow to my long suffering hair follicles. Mermaid blue hair has been my latest flirtation. Although I have now made a promise to my husband that I’ll return being his blonde wife for a time. Well that’s for this month anyway.