Yep, I exist – but do you?

I’m choosing a dress for my anniversary. We’re going out to the movies and I want to look nice. I’m shuffling through my half of the wardrobe and I come across this fitted, black on white print with a low scoop neck and no sleeves – and I think, wait a minute!

‘This,’ I tell my boyfriend, as he pulls on his least worst jeans, ‘is a dress I bought at the opportunity shop about, let’s see now, thirty five years ago! How about that now?’

He agrees that it’s a long time to keep a dress. He doesn’t know the half of it.

I’m fifty-two now, but back when I was twenty-five, I ran away from my husband of four years to live with my best friend. We slept in the day, we went clubbing at night, we woke up with strange men in the morning, and we visited op shops in the afternoon. In this dress, I lay in front of our fake fire, on the floor, and had champagne poured over me by some boy who’d obviously read that it was a turn-on. For the record, it stings!

I don’t tell my boyfriend this story: it wouldn’t be an auspicious start to our evening. But then, there are so many other stories – in the wardrobe, on the walls, littering the dressing table. We live in a house of ghosts.

The ring I wear, for instance. It’s a beautiful opal, set in gold, and by rights it should never have been on my finger. It was given to me by a man who thought it would make up for a litany of infidelities so tediously predictable that an episode of fidelity came to seem like an interesting surprise. I should have given it back, but I liked the stone. When I wear it, I always think viciously that it probably cost him a fair bit, and for what? A starring part in my diary as Baldy-Headed Pig Face.

There’s a painting of horses grazing on my wall. That’s Miguel, my Colombian. He was the best kisser I ever did meet, although he went overboard on the love talk. ‘I could drown,’ I remember him saying once, ‘in your eyes.’ Since the windows to my soul look like oysters with a nappy rash, I asked him why he felt the need to say things like that. ‘In Colombia,’ he replied, looking deep into my oysters, ‘girls get very upset if you don’t. They expect it.’

‘Well in Australia,’ I said tartly, ‘we think it’s mushy.’

Anyway, before he was deported, he gave me a picture he said he’d picked up at a sale. I always thought it was one of those brightly coloured paint by numbers efforts people sneak out to the garage sale while the faux-artist is at the beach, but no, it’s a genuine somebody or other. Perhaps the back of a truck was involved.

That pink feather boa? That was Geoffrey, who longed to tickle me with it as we lay sprawled in our candle-lit boudoir – but we never did. Those fishnet stay-ups? That was Alistair, who used to bring me things to get me in the mood – firewood, jumpers. Alistair once had an art teacher – here we are back to art again, how circular life is – who wore long white grandfather shirts and black tights. So ever since he’s been trying to get the objects of his desire into black tights. I was supposed to lounge about in these fishnets and say impossibly filthy things while Alistair did a Toulouse Latrec. In reality, the elastic tops make my thighs bulge like Arnie’s biceps, and if I lounged about in them for more than five minutes my legs would probably go numb and then gangrenous. The firewood came in handy though.

There’s a faded hanging on the wall, eucalyptus leaves of pink and purple and jungle yellow. It was a wedding present from my sister, and it’s seen every torrid affair I ever had. Thank god it’s not a video camera.

It’s not all about long-lost lovers, though. This morning, I had a sudden thought.

‘I wonder where Oobigoo Pikelet is?’

My boyfriend, who isn’t a morning talker, gave me an irritated look.

‘Who the fuck is that!’

Oobigoo Pikelet is a New Guinean carving, a household spirit or protector, who used to hang in the hallway of my childhood home in Sydney. My father brought him home from New Guinea when he was stationed there in the war, and now he’s mine. Morning Oobigoo, I still remember my father saying. Just as well to be polite, you never know.

Somewhere, in cardboard boxes, is everything I ever wrote, from the note to my mum when I was small ‘My Mum is Boring!’ to the novel I penned about a shy yet sensitive university student when (coincidentally) I was a shy yet sensitive university student. Every ticket to every show, every birthday card sent me by doting relative or hopeful suitor. Every tourist leaflet collected from every faraway place I’ve ever been and seen. The lot.

I’m not unique in that, I know. Every old lady I’ve ever visited in the course of a long charitable career has her special things, the things that remind her that she HAS had a life, even if it’s nearly over now. I was, I am – here’s the evidence.

So I know I, at least, must exist – but do you?  What’s your proof?





  1. I tend to get rid of everything related to ex-partners, but since my brush with death I’ve been filling memory boxes with silly things for my husband and son to remember me by. Tickets for Russell Howard, place markers and napkin rings from our dinner with the Mayor last year, silly notes that hubby leaves by the bed for me, that sort of thing. I also have earrings that belonged to the close friend of mine who died of a brain tumour, and a passport photo his father gave me. Then there’s the signed print of Katy Manning that a friend got me from a convention (I resemble her, loved Jo Grant as The Doctor’s companion and so my friend told her all about me). I have signed pictures, a letter and a birthday card from actor friend Mason Kayne (best known for playing Gene Hunt’s ghost in Ashes To Ashes). Things that possibly wouldn’t mean a lot to many people (and even my husband gives me odd looks sometimes, on account of my keepsakes) but things that mean the world to me 🙂

    1. You are a jackdaw like me, Mrs Tribble! But I think you’re wise to chuck out ex-lover things. I don’t – I think I need the reminder that someone liked me enough to give me something, or whatever it was. But my partner is not pleased to be surrounded by these keepsakes, which is fair enough.

  2. Your special things are far more exciting than my special things. Sometimes I feel like I was always so busy working to get where I needed to be that I missed out on adventures along the way. Oh well, there’s still time, right? 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you found my blog because it’s how I found yours. As for things, I have far far too many, including small plastic purple robot found on the beach in Hawaii when I was a tot and the islands were not yet a state. My best “things” are family and friends – so now you know how old I am. Still working at leaving my legacy and then the collections of things won’t matter at all.

  4. How odd! As a Male, I have always maintained that the fewer things you own, the better. i had a mobile 10 years when everything I owned had to fit in a steamer trunk and gt shipped globally, so as soon as something has outlived it’s usefulness, it’s gone. And of course I exist – I can see myself in a mirror

    1. What about when there is no mirror? Like when you’re deep in the forest all by yourself? But yeah, I’m a bit attracted to that ‘no things’ idea – I just can’t make myself do it, so far. Things tie you down and obsess you, one is kinda better off without much..probably.

  5. I sometimes think I did not have a past…it seems to be a blur. The mementos from my husband…those I keep. Sometimes I examine them and try to remember what it was like to be loved and cared for by him. I did have a lover, a husband and a best friend.

  6. That’s a very sad thing to say. I know what you mean about the past being a bit of a blur, though. Did we really do all those things, know those people? People can disappear so utterly out of our lives it’s as if they never were. But you have mementos, that’s something. I’m sorry you lost him.

  7. I love this! I’m a keeper of things who not only had to pare down for a recent move, but some favorite things somehow didn’t get to the new place with me. They were all things I got for myself because I’ve had way too few boyfriends. Anyway, your writing feels effortless (I know writing never is) and fun. I enjoyed this.

  8. Wow. I have a mega-ton of things with DM. I have oodles of pics, since we travel a lot. After reading this post, though, I was wondering how long it would take to delete all the pictures of him, but keep all the pictures of the beautiful places we’ve traveled. I don’t think that’s very sentimental at all. I have a lot of pictures of his kids as well. The dog pictures I’d keep; especially of Harper.

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