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Sunday, 6 September 2020

All I wanted was to be fabulous. That's all.

Me aged three

It is all I ever wanted from life.  From the earliest days, I understood that I was a fairy.  Being a fairy was not something I aspired to.  I was one.  I, Antonia Rolls, aged about three, was just like Tinkerbell. You could not tell us apart.  There was something so right about being a fairy, with a fairy's right to wear anything that glittered and do whatever she wanted.  My aunt had some spare material from a dress she had made for herself, a deep turquoise nylon with silver glitter threaded through it.  I wrapped myself in this and at five years old, I knew I was magnificent.   I drew pictures of fairies with wings and tutus on all my books, on the walls of my bedroom and wherever I could get away with it.  It was my world.  I believed in the magic, the beauty, and the wonder of fairies; no wonder I decided to be one.  If, of course, I did decide.  At the time, I had no doubt that I had been born one. 

The real thing
At my primary school, I discovered rival fairies.  A gang of girls decided that only those born in 1959 or 1961 were fairies.  When I said, "But I was born in 1960 and I am the real actual thing," they laughed and told me that the fairy queen, who they all knew very well and was a friend of theirs, said otherwise.  And she should know, they added spitefully. If I wanted to, I could ask her to agree that I was a real fairy.  She lived, the rival fairy gang said, in a tree outside the sports hut.  Go and ask her, they said.

All my lunch breaks for many weeks were spent standing under the sparse little tree outside the games hut waiting for Esmerelda to show herself to prove that I was a fairy.  My rival fairies checked in on me often, laughing unkindly, and I was too small to understand what they were doing.  Eventually, my mother asked me what was happening. I had become more and more withdrawn and unhappy and although the rival fairies had made me take this thing called a vow, which meant I could never, ever tell anyone, I did eventually tell my mother.  She was so lovely to me as I cried, and went to the school with me the next morning.  At lunch time, the rival gang came to find me, to tell me that Esmeralda had got it all wrong, and that I was a fairy after all.  They were very nice to me and I thought it was because my superior fairy-ness had won out.  Of course, now I know my mother had gone to the school to see all the gang, in the presence of the head teacher, a very fierce little nun called Sister Zita, and read them the riot act. 

All my life I have wanted to be fabulous.  This fabulousness was never a sassy, practical, hard nosed
The Cyrenians on a very good day
thing, it did not include money, power and fame.  It was, when I look back on it, about expression.  It was about the wonderful internal world that had made me believe that I was a fairy, about the belief that there was always more to life than meets the eye.  There was something else, beyond all the conventional stuff, and I thought other people knew it too.  I was always surprised when no one else could see it.  I had friends throughout my school years, lovely friends, but I had a reputation of being very arty and very odd.  I wasn't odd, I was just different.  And it amazed me that other people did not see things in the way that I did.  I was arty though.  I discovered second hand shops while in sixth form, when I was fifteen and sixteen which opened up a whole new way of dressing in odd old cast offs and hand me downs, for next to nothing.  I thought I looked wonderful but, of course, wearing a man's old torn silk dressing gown as a dress with feathers in my hair at a respectable convent boarding school did not go down well.  At university later, in the wilds of Aberdeen in Scotland, I no longer thought I was a fairy but my need to express myself through clothes went into extravagant overdrive.  My friends and I discovered the old Cyrenians thrift shops.   The Cyrenians are a charity in Aberdeen helping homelessness, but back in the late nineteen seventies and early eighties, when charity shops were less fashionable and much more like a jumble sale, we would buy all our clothes and shoes from there, whatever we bought smelling old and bedraggled, and proudly wear them.  Our lodgings did not have bathrooms, and only outside loos, so we were not terribly clean to begin with.  These dreadful old clothes we loved so much looked as if they had been removed from down and outs on the streets, and sold on for a bit of cash. I, personally, thought I looked absolutely wonderful.  Not many others agreed.  I had bright pink beehive hair too, just the thing for Aberdeen in the early nineteen eighties.  Word went round the university that I was a witch, and I lived in a bicycle shed. Whatever I was, I was smelly, oddly dressed and totally oblivious.
 
Not a fairy so much as a 
witch living in a bicycle
shed
But!  I still saw life as magical.  I did not drink, smoke or take drugs.  I drank tea, ate cakes, and discovered whole foods.  I became a vegetarian.  And I painted, drew and created - I even covered the walls in my lodgings with drawings and paintings.  I think I had trouble with boundaries.  

Being married, being divorced, raising children on my own, trying to work out this world in which I did not feel I belonged, followed.  Always, I painted.  Throughout all of the difficult middle years, whatever clothes I wore, however I did my hair, I painted pictures.  It was what grounded me.  For a long time, in my middle years, the struggle to keep going clouded the magic in the world, and kept me under a dark spell. It is enough to say that we all got through, and that the world does not stop just because we struggle.  There were many bright moments, but those difficult years taught me my most valuable lessons.  I did not feel fabulous at all then, I lost my way and lost my heart. But some of my best art work was created in those years.  Somehow, the fabulousness was still there, but hiding in a different form for when I was ready to see it.  Perhaps it needed to step aside while I learned hard lessons about life, and myself, and who I thought I was.

So where is all this fabulousness now?  How have I come to terms with it, and has my wish, so far, come true?  

All I wanted, was to be was fabulous.  I did not want to do fabulous, though of course that would be very nice.  I am fabulous.  So are you, if you believe it.  This kind of fabulous is about us, what we think of ourselves and what we allow ourselves to believe.  There has been a long middle section of my life between being born a fairy and now, when I am telling you I am fabulous, and in that middle section, I learned that the world can be a harsh critic, a hard task master and an unforgiving teacher.  I learned that I cannot wait for affirmation from anyone else to give me the right and the courage to go on.  Time and time again, the little light that I lit in my heart in order to be fabulous would be snuffed out by events, other people, and most importantly, my failure to protect it.  I ended up feeling very invisible and sad indeed.  I longed for other people to define me as wonderful, and to see that the magic was still there.  I did not understand that other people have very little interest in my magic, in my little light.  They are all learning how to deal with their own magic and little lights.  

Probably all of you reading this blog
And so now, when more than two thirds of my life is over, I can have a proper look at this question of being fabulous.  It is not dependant on my looks, which is a relief.  That is good, I don't have to be young and slim with a winning flirty smile.  It is not about my fame, because I haven't got any.  My fabulousness does not go up and down on a sliding scale depending on how many people tell me they love me, either in person or in social media likes, or I would be permanently trying to buy my followers on Instagram or Facebook, and forcing everyone else in real life to tell me they love me, so I can sleep at nights.  All of that is fickle, unreliable and at the mercy of whim.  No.  When I think of being fabulous now, I think of how I have come through, come up trumps, am still alive, and am surrounded by friends I admire and family I treasure.  I feel free.  I feel the magic is here, all around me and that I am a part of it.  So much has happened, I do not have to go through those lessons any more, I am older, wiser and still here.  And there is so much more life to come.  I am fabulous.  I do care, but not very much.  Not like I used to.  I care about kindness, love, friendship, quality of time spent with people, truth and focus.   At last, I like myself and I like who I am.   

If I say I am fabulous, I jolly well am.  And so, I think, are you. 

Fabulous. 


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