I like Christmas. Always have. But, like a lot of people, I battle with mixed emotions amongst the happiness and good cheer. It’s no time to dwell, but there has to be a reason I steadfastly resisted the pressure at work this week to dress up in antlers, or a Santa suit. It just made me feel anxious.
Anyone who knows me knows I love to dress up. I vividly remember waking up to find a cowboy suit on my bed on Christmas morning when I was five. It caused such jealously in the kids across the street they threw my pistol in the river. Later, Mum made me a Zorro cape which I swished about in with a sword made out of sticks. When I was older I walked about the neighbourhood in a home-made spy costume. Moustache. Dark glasses. Cocoa powder on my face. I was pretty conspicuous.
When I started playing in bands in my teens I would always buy a loud op-shop shirt to achieve the deliberately dressed-down/dress-up effect of the alt. rock scene. All part of getting up on stage.
When I turned 19 friends threw me a surprise party, giving me a pair of ‘ironic’ leopard skin tights. It’s the last thing I would have worn. But I did.
I loved the dress-up parties my friends threw. Glam-rock (too easy), mask, famous art work (Diane Arbus, kid with grenade), dead famous people (Spot the dog) etc etc. I recognised how it disarmed everyone’s persona. It was liberating. Revealing. Fun.
The ‘dress-up’ aspect was one of the things that attracted me to acting in my 20s, especially when fast costume changes were required and you needed a ‘dresser’ to get it done in time .
Dance parties were another excuse to be someone else. I got in the newspaper with one effort (not the one above). Thankfully the Pride dance party where I performed on stage naked except for a few crucial lengths of glad wrap happened before everyone started photographing everything.
So why didn’t I embrace the chance to get out of my dull work uniform on Christmas Eve? There’s more to it than the options being better suited to my 90% female workplace (antlers make girls look cute/fun/sexy. Guys look silly/neutered. As for bows, sequinned hats and Santa suits… well).
It’s because it’s 10 years since the whole family I was with dressed up for Christmas.
It was an ominous day. My partner at the time had chosen it to announce to her family she was pregnant. Her staunch Catholic parents had been arrested outside abortion clinics more than once. But it was fun. And the costumes were great. It was decided I should be a pregnant Mary. In a burka. To mix it up.
While the stifling burka gave me a headache the day was a great weight off. Which made the irony of Boxing Day so ridiculous. We were flown by helicopter to hospital across a dark, quiet city while my soon-to-be ex miscarried.
Some things can get so far in the past you forget to remember them. I can’t forget that day. What it meant. But I never dwell. My life has moved on to much better things. I have a beautiful daughter who is spending Christmas with her mother. I am well loved. But it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that I remembered the son lost 10 years ago, wondering once more what I could have done differently to nurture his life.
There is more. Another miscarriage 12 Christmases ago. My mother, gone, four Christmases ago. My daughter so far away on Christmas morning. Sisters now living in a foreign land. But today is for celebration no matter how you dress it up (or not).