I love a bit of drama in my life.
Not the manic swinging from crisis to meltdown, or the ‘What now!?’ series of events that can make real life look like an overblown run of a particularly unbelievable soap opera. No, I can definitely do without that. That relentless ‘never a dull moment’ vibe makes me pine for a lifetime of dull moments.
But I must admit that I’m rather partial to a little touch of the theatrical.
The way I’m built, the way I move and my total inability to stay upright in heels or simper successfully mean that I simply can’t DO cute or sexy (even if I wanted to). But standing at 5ft 10 and possessing a purposeful stride, a pale complexion and eyes that spark when I get worked up about something means that I CAN do theatrical.
I rather relish the fact that – as a friend once said, much to my consternation at the time – I “fill the room” when I walk in the door. I quite enjoy the quizzical looks from Greek housewives on the train to work as they eye my shocking auburn short ‘do’ and the slightly Boho kind of clothes I wish I had more of. And I love the fact that I can rock a bright red lipstick without feeling slutty.
Don’t go imagining that every day involves a careful selection of clothes, accessories and attitude to be stepped into before I pop into the supermarket for yet another box of the cereal my teen son gets through like a rampant flesh-eating virus, or some – ahem – ‘unmentionable necessaries’ because I’ve lost count of the days of the month again. No, more than likely I’ll be a make-up free, flustered collection of jeans, the cleanest t-shirt I could find, flushed cheeks and comfy shoes scuttering down the aisles as I try to get the shopping experience over as quickly as possible.
But there are times when I like to create a whole ‘persona dramatae’ when I prepare for the day ahead. It might be an oversized, burgundy-barneted version of a Hogwarts teacher in my full-length, sweeping deep indigo dress with pockets in the most unlikely of places, teamed with boots, an owl pendant and several tons of eyeliner. Or the nearest someone my shape will ever get to gender-bending with a a black trouser suit and tie (stolen from the Ovver Arf’s collection) worn with a fitted t-shirt instead of a classic white shirt, a kitten flick on my eyes and a slash of scarlet on my lips. And with each outfit I wear on my ‘drama days’, there’s a whole back-story (sometimes even a script) running through my head as I buy a sliced loaf or grab a coffee on my way to the office.
I suppose it’s an extension of the dressing up games we used to play as kids, raiding Mum’s make-up drawer, abusing her wigs (it WAS the early ‘70s) and pretending we were Victorian explorers, warrior queens or the first female Galactic President (I bet Mum would have been surprised at what her classic collection inspired in us back then).
Then, like now, it was a little bit of escapism into the parallel universe in which we were invincible, impossible to ignore and always at the centre of attention.
Maybe my love for the theatrical has something to do with the early contact we came into with some of London’s 1970s loveys thanks to the fact that Auntie Peggy (our irascible step-grandmother) had built an accounting business of making sure that thespians’ hard-earned cash actually stuck around for long enough for the tax man to grab his share. As kids, we were treated to West End pantos and then taken backstage to meet the stars in their dressing rooms – or at least the ones on Peggy’s books. And from the tender age of about ten or so, my kid sister and I were tolerated by actors at her client parties where we developed hopeless crushes on charming agents and accidentally snubbed stars who assumed we knew they were theatrical royalty. It all felt SO glamourous, grown-up and brighter than real life.
Having sad that, I’m pretty sure I’d be an appalling actor. Despite my love of story-telling and my colourful collection of poorly-hidden insecurities, I think my sense of ‘self’ (or as some might say, rampaging egomania) is a little too overdeveloped for me to be able to adapt an entire personality like changing my coat. I admire those who can. And I virtually worship the ground trodden by those who do it REALLY well.
Even now, as I try to ignore the big 5-0 waving at me from the far end of this year, I fantasise about getting raucously and entertainingly blotto with the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham-Carter, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandan and Emma Thompson (perhaps with a side order of Colin Farrell and Benedict Cumberbatch thrown in for decorative value).
I know it’s not going to happen – especially as I’m stuck here in the impoverished outer reaches of Europe, but a girl can dream, can’t she? And she can dress up too. In fact, I think we should do much more of it than our responsible inner adults want to let us. For the sake of our sanity, you understand.
And right now, as I sit here burbling away at my keyboard, I may look like a pathetic attempt at the 21st century answer to Bridget Jones in my sad-looking sweats, saggy fake Uggs and chipped indigo nail varnish, but in my head I’m an international woman of action, planning my next coup d’etat behind closed doors with a band of admiring revolutionaries who are all secretly in love with me.