I always wanted to be older, more grown-up, longing to do the things that my parents did like drink and smoke and swan around, seemingly without a care in the world. Whereas my world was full of angst and fear and slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (W. Shakespeare, Hamlet). No matter that my parents had endured their own slings and arrows, having survived WWII. I’m still coming to terms with the privations they must have suffered as a result of that ghastly war.
So, after reading Kerala Taylor’s excellent Medium piece, My Daughter is Gorgeous, and I Wish She Wasn’t,
I want to modify Shaw’s quote and say that beauty is wasted on the young. Most babies are born beautiful – that skin, the innocence, the trust – and they haven’t a clue. Then later, the long, leggy, gawky teenagers with pimples – not one iota of understanding about their youthful beauty, so agonized by the acne.
Only with the benefit of hindsight, I can see my own beauty when I look at old photographs with a certain amount of objectivity. I had no idea at the time. I was so full of insecurity and fear (that word again), that I was blinded by the fright of it all.
I’m now at that strange stage of being seemingly invisible. I forget I’m a middle-aged woman and sometimes expect, but then miss, the looks of men in the street. They look right past me.
Back in the day (New Zealand men were slow to grasp the concepts of feminism), I had mixed feelings when guys on building sites whistled at me. I knew it was somehow wrong, but I liked the attention. And if I was quick enough, I would get in first and whistle at them. It gave me a bit of a thrill to see them perched up on their struts and nearly falling off at the shock of a 20-something female whistling at them, way below on the street. Cheeky tart
We used to do that kind of thing a lot. The shock factor was a little bit thrilling. Back then, there were such things as public bars that wouldn’t serve women. So, with our burgeoning feminism strapped tight across our chests, we would storm such bars, demanding to be served. I remember at one bar in Wellington, circa 1971, the barman suggested that I might like to go into the ‘ladies’ parlour’ because I mightn’t like the language of the men in the public bar.
‘I don’t give a fuck,’ I said, standing my ground. He chuckled and gave me my drink. Part of why I got away with it was because I was cute.
Still in my 20s, I got a job reading the news on a regional television news programme. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of my journalistic chops.
And that led me to the conclusion that there’s a bit of a double standard operating between the genders. My male colleagues who went on to have stellar careers in front of the camera did get the jobs because of their chops. It sure wasn’t for their looks. If women looked like some of them, they would never have got near a camera.
The attention was still a mixed bag, because when our little new program first went to air, I didn’t like being written about in the local newspaper. But I was lucky because in the early 80s the so-called cult of celebrity still hadn’t reached these distant shores and my private life stayed private.
Unlike my fellow Medium scribe, Kerala Taylor, I'm still worried about too much attention (although I’d like a few more kind followers, hint hint, so I can have a crack at being paid) because I haven’t been trolled and am wondering how I’d cope if someone wrote something nasty in the comments.
It also brings to mind another quotable writer, Oscar Wilde, who cleverly said, 'There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.'
After being such a compulsive writer for so long (I was a journo for 30-odd years), I’ll keep going in the chance that maybe one day I’ll earn a buck or two because my writing, not my looks, will earn me the recognition I deserve.
But I need to get 100 followers first.