Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's My Party And I'll Make You Dress Up If I Want To

After putting so much effort into my meandering thoughts-on-a-birthday post, I wanted to follow it up by sharing one of the much happier aspects of being so obsessed with my birthday - the kick ass party.

This year, I decreed the party was to be fancy dress, and made my guests interpret the delightfully vague theme "Imagined Futures". I suggested a couple of ways they might like to interpret this - they could come as what they really wanted to be when they grew up, what their parents imagined they would be, or just part of how they thought the future in general would be. Because my friends are awesome, clever, and love an excuse to dress up, there were some fantastic outfits on the night. One person came dressed as Lois Lane (in an amazingly gorgeous purple pencil skirt), her partner came as a starving artist complete with a sign saying "Will Art For Food", and someone else came as Huntress. Unfortunately, I didn't get photos of everyone because I was kind of flat out partying, but I did get a few, and my ridiculously photo happy friend Lucas got a few of his own. Because I'm a ginormous nerd I'm going to go ahead and put people's Twitter handles in with their names, so you can go and follow them if you like. Which you probably should, because my friends are great.

My friend and neighbour B (@goblinpaladin) is depicted here doing Science. Science with Whisky, but Science nonetheless, because this is apparently what he always thought he would end up doing with his life. In an amazingly pointed example of how your life hardly ever turns out the way you thought it would, B ACTUALLY grew up to be a medieval historian with far more opinions about Beowulf translations than is healthy.

My friend Heli (@helicalsymmetry) and her husband Shaun imagined themselves surviving a zombie apocalypse, which could still technically come to pass. I'm pretty sure Heli would actually survive, but I'm not so sure about her husband.

A very old friend of mine, Riley (old as in length of time known, he's not actually very old at all despite the hair) imagined himself growing up to be imaginary, so that's what he came as. I get the feeling Riley would have been a pretty interested kid to try and get to know. But seriously, how awesome are his robes?! His mother, who happens to be a costume designer, made them for him.

This is my absolutely bangin' friend Anni (@annisugar), who imagined herself as Chell, the protaganist from the Portal video games. For those of you who haven't played them, I included a reference photo to show you how completely awesome this costume was.

This is Lucas (@lokified), who interpreted the theme in a delightfully original way. His costume is one possible version of Superman from the future, as portrayed in Batman Beyond - which I think definitely qualifies as an Imagined Future. Not HIS imagined future certainly, but Lucas isn't the kind of guy to reveal anything personal about himself when he can make an incredibly obscure geek reference instead.

My beloved Mr. Reluctant Femme (@euchrid) read far too much William Gibson and cyberpunk in general at a very formative age, and so had an enormous amount of fun putting together his Cyber Hacker outfit. He had even more fun whipping the floppy disc in and out of the dock, and jamming the phrase "black ice" into as many sentences as possible throughout the night. Don't worry, I've already told him he's never to wear those sunglasses without the rest of the costume.

And of course, there was my outfit. I think a lot of people were kind of underwhelmed at my costume, because my friends have amazing imaginations and went all out, whereas I just dressed up at the most honest answer I could think of to the question, "What did you want to be when you grow up?"

In case it's not particularly obvious, I dressed up as a Librarian. But not just any librarian - the cool librarian who lets you borrow more books than they're supposed to; the one that lets you take out things from the adult section when you're only eight; the one that makes you and your nerdy friends "Library Monitors" so you can hang out in the library every lunchtime and avoid the bullies. I crossed paths with a bunch of amazing, kind, and unbelievably generous librarians over the course of my childhood, and for a long time what I most wanted to do as an adult was pass on all the things these librarians had done for me to other children.

The amazing, incredible, utterly perfect skirt for this outfit came from a Melbourne based independent label called Betty le Bonbon. They specialise in swing skirts in a fantastic range of fabrics, and offer custom fittings on pretty much everything they sell. Their custom skirts like this go for between $70 and $90, which is honestly the most I've paid for any single item of clothing for some years, and I was expecting something pretty fucking special in return for cracking open my cheapskate purse and shelling out that much money. I gotta tell you, I am not disappointed in the slightest. I couldn't even count for you the number of compliments I've gotten on it in the month or so I've owned it - everyone, everywhere, seems to love this skirt. The shape is perfect, the measurements are perfect, even the weight of the fabric is just perfect - not too light, not too heavy. I've actually already gone back and ordered one of the (considerably cheaper) plain black versions of this skirt, and I will be putting my pennies aside to get more patterned ones.

The shirt is one of my second hand finds, and doesn't have a brand in it anywhere. The shoes are the absolute most comfortable pair of heels I've ever found for my square, hobbity feet, from Planet Shoes. Like the skirt, they were a little pricier than I would normally pay, but they came highly recommended and I haven't regretted their purchase since I first discovered I could scamper around in them all day without wanting to chop my feet off. If you follow the link above, you can actually get them for around $90 less than I paid for them, so if you have trouble with heels I would highly recommend taking a look.

The necklace was a gift from Mr. Reluctant Femme on the night, and as it turned out was actually the PERFECT accessory for this outfit. I don't know how many of you have read the book that the movie The Neverending Story was based on, but I did. When I was eight, even though it was in the adult section of the library where it rightfully belonged, because not only is it physically enormous, the existential questions it raises are even heavier. While the movie was largely a boys own adventure, the book is all about the compromises we all have to make when navigating our path from childhood to adulthood, and examining what is essential to take with us, what must be sacrificed, and the consequences of those choices. I didn't know that when I begged the local town librarian to let me borrow it - I just knew I loved the movie and I'd read the Young Adult section through twice already. The librarian knew I'd read everything deemed appropriate for my age, and also took a guess that I was mature enough to deal with the themes in the book, and because she was kind enough to risk getting disciplined by letting me borrow it, it became the first book I ever truly, obsessively loved. Immediately after finishing it, I decided I was writing my own book, and this sparked a writing habit that's lasted on and off for the rest of my life so far.

That same librarian did me a million other favours over the next couple of years - let me take out twice as many books as I was allowed because she knew I'd read them, ordered in more sci-fi and fantasy, attempted to track down some books on Buddhism when I read the word bodhisattva somewhere and became fascinated...all well above and beyond the job description that her relatively poor salary was based on. She did all these things for me out kindness, and understanding of a weird, ever-curious kid stuck in a country town with nothing to do but drink in books, books, and more books. Because it was this wonderful, kind hearted woman that had given me the gift of my favourite book, I've always associated The Neverending Story and my awe of librarians ever since.

When I moved away to another town, I had the incredible good luck to run into another librarian who was equally kind, if not even more so. She was young, and cool, and from Holy Sydney, The Big City, and I thought she was just the most awesome person I'd ever met in my life. Because the town I'd moved to was much smaller, there was only the single librarian who ran the whole library, and I'm pretty sure me and the senior citizens were the only ones who ever visited regularly. The librarian responded by ordering books that catered to her extremely limited customer base - a million large print romances for the seniors, and a ridiculously well stocked sci-fi and fantasy section for me. I ended up spending so much time there of a Saturday that she made me a semi official library monitor, and put me to work reshelving books in between telling me about the next amazing series I should start reading. At the same time as this was happening, my school librarian had noticed my friends and I getting pretty ferociously bullied by a bunch of kids at school, and offered us semi official library monitor roles there as well, so we could hide out in the stacks. For a year or so, I lived a blissful bookworm existence of classes, hanging in the library at lunchtime, more classes, then spending my Saturday at the town library. It. Was. Awesome.

Eventually though, my lovely town librarian got a chance to move back to The Big City, and she obviously took it. I was pretty heartbroken to see her go, but she left me with a parting gift of the first two books from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. She had been trying to get them into the library, but there'd been some administrative snag, so she put down her own money and ordered them online for me, so I'd still have something to read when she was gone. She even wrote me a couple of letters once she moved away, which is something I appreciate more and more the older I get. She was a 20 something, intelligent woman who I can only assume had better things to do than write letters to some weird kid from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, but write me she did.

The kindness and acceptance these women showed me shaped so much of who I grew up to be. If I'd met librarians who were stricter on the rules, or weren't as charmed by my boundless curiosity, or who made me feel weird about the weird things I wanted to read about, I would have turned out so differently. But they always made me feel appreciated, and most importantly, less alone. They were also some of the most powerful women I'd encountered. Every one of the cool librarians I encountered were women, and they were women in charge of something I considered to be precious above all other things - books. They also looked, to my childhood eyes, like they were in total control of their libraries. I discovered much later that they were actually bound by a bunch of really frustrating restrictions and regulations, which they chose to wilfully ignore for my sake. But they came across to me as so in control, so in charge, so smart and powerful as well as being so kind. So when I decided that maybe being a writer wasn't the most practical of dreams, my obvious second choice was to be a librarian just like them. I wanted to give back to other people the kindness they'd shown me, and help make some other weird little kid feel less weird. I wanted to keep up the grand tradition that I'd experienced, so other people could grow up knowing reading everything you can get your hands on is a GOOD thing, not something to be embarrassed about.

Unfortunately, university stood between me and this aim. As it turned out, despite being very good at school, I was appallingly bad at university. There are jobs for librarians without degrees, but not very many, and they weren't the jobs I wanted. So I let the dream go. But it was really nice, dressing up as a dream I've abandoned. It was nice to imagine, if only for a night, that things had turned out differently.

So that's my big long justification for wearing what was technically just a normal outfit to my costume party. I'd be really curious to hear from you guys what you would have worn, had you been able to come. Would you have come as something you dreamed of being? Or something your parents wanted you to be? Or just an imaginary future version of a fictional character? Tell me how you would have interpreted "Imaginary Futures."


  1. Oh my goodness, your skirt is divine! I spent my school years in the library too and reading this brought back memories of my awesome librarians. Happy Birthday :)

  2. Those librarians sound so lovely. I'm so bummed I missed your party, I wish I could have been there! I was going to go as a Stepford Wife... That's a worthy ambition, right?

    1. Who ever said your ambition had to be worthy? ;)

  3. Such a lovely imagine of librarians. The one at my highschool was a raging (I really want to say 'bitch' right now but I'm trying to cut down on gendered insults) nasty lady who I quietly called "Pug face" to myself. Not very nice. But you paint a vivid picture of lovely librarians!

    If I were to have dressed as how I imagined myself in the future, right now I am where I imagined from 15 years old onwards. Before that, however, I wanted to be a vet, a childcare worker, and in my early teens - a rock star! I learnt guitar for 2 years but have sadly forgotten it all.

    That skirt is amazing!

    Much love,

    Jess xoxo

  4. I've said it before, I'll say it again; I freaking love that skirt (and kind of want it!)
    Your friends are awesome at dressing up.

    When I was little, I had my heart set on becoming an author. I don't even know how I would dress up as that... this is why I suck at dress ups.

  5. Ohhhh my turn to reminisce about librarians! I wasn't necessarily bullied at school, but sometimes my friends just didn't want to play with me, or I didn't want to play with them. The library was my sanctuary in school and I also loved my librarian, Miss Walsh. She suggested such a great range of books for me, introduced me to my favourite authors, tracked down books for me and talked to me about all the great stories.

    The library is also where I learnt to thieve. They brought in a library card system with a hi-tech scanner and barcodes, and if you didn't have your library card with barcode stuck on the front, you couldn't borrow a book. Now you tell me what 8 year old carries a wallet with their library card in it in the pocket of their school uniform? So I learnt to pilfer the books via my big ring binder so I could still take them home to read. With the exception of The Little Princess, which I am ashamed to say, I kept, convinced that NO ONE could possibly appreciate it as much as I did and therefore I deserved it.

    On the down side, since I became a grown up, I find librarians are not as kind as they used to be. I think it's because when you are a child, they want to open you up to a world of possibilities. But as a grown up it's like "oh you're just a dried up old lady and gave up on your dreams, and now you want to get a book for FREE?" Or maybe I've just been unlucky with my local libraries.


    1. UMMMAAHHH stealing from libraries is SUPER BAD!
      Don't worry, I "liberated" a couple of books in my time too, and The Little Princess is a fine choice. My most common library crime was when I was a library monitor at my school library, and had the responsibility of checking out books for other students. We had one of those "thunk" type security systems where you had to rub the book on a spot on the desk, otherwise it would set off the alarms. I'm sure you can imagine how careful I was to do this when checking out books for people I hated ie. not at all. And when the alarms went off, I'd let the librarian tear strips off them without saying a word.

  6. Death to Zombies!!
    I considered becoming a librarian just before starting my publishing course. Still not sure what I'll be when I grow up. But I know I'll survive the coming apocalypse. That's SORTED.


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