A wise woman once sang,
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”.
So that’s where I’m starting with the next version of the Ladies’ Guide. This book is all about marriage: How to find a man, how to live with a man, and what to do if you discover you don’t actually want a man. The beginning of this journey starts with Coming Out.
To Come Out in the past meant you would leave the school room, let your skirts down, put your hair up and mingle in polite society. There was no set age for Coming Out – your parents would decide when you were ready – and usually it was between ages 17 to 19. It wasn’t all balls and soirees and parading in the parks. Well it was, but all this socialising had a purpose. This public cavorting allowed a young lady to display her charms in order to catch a husband.
One would Come Out at the beginning of the Season – a time period set by the sitting of parliament. All good families left their houses in the country and went to Dublin or London. In Cork, one might also attend the assizes, the twice annual court sessions. The gentlemen worked hard doing manly things and the ladies worked even harder at looking good, attending parties and getting married as quickly as possible.
For many Coming Out began with being presented to the Queen. Young Irish women would travel to London for the honour. Strict protocol and dress were observed. In Queen Charlotte’s day, the time my next book is set, ladies were still expected to were a hoop. The regency period, is known for their slim silhouettes and high waistlines. This fashion stemmed from the French Revolution and aimed to honour the style of Rome – the first republic. Queen Charlotte, having none of this, insisted that the hooped dresses of the earlier century were worn. However she did allow a high waist line which sadly created a rather ugly appearance.
These days Coming Out means something slightly different. I still remember a time when it was a criminal act in Ireland to have sex with someone of the same gender as yourself. These days that seems hard to countenance, yet it wasn’t until 1993, that the law was changed. To be gay was considered wrong. So to come out was a huge step of bravery. You were basically saying to your family, your friends, the world, this is me………….. This is me…….will you still love me?
I think most of us face smaller versions of coming out throughout our lives. Any time we expose ourselves by admitting an opinion, any time we present something we have created…..actually any time we step outside our door and allow ourselves to be seen we are basically saying “this is me, will you still love me?”
I have started working with a wonderful mentor from the Local Enterprise Centre. I’m hoping to expand the audience for my book and this fairy godmother is coming up with wonderful tips on marketing and helpful suggestions of retail outlets I could approach. But here’s the thing: it entails me going up to random strangers, offering them my book and asking them to carry it in their shop. Or contacting random strangers, telling them about my book and asking them to write an article about it. Basically, it’s me saying to the world “this is me, am I loveable?”
The worst thing of all, is my wonderful mentor has suggested writing a piece for the Evening Echo. The segment she is suggesting is called Person to Person and it’s one of those Q&A articles where by the interviewee regales the world with her favourite film, favourite book, best holiday, treasured memory…..you know the type of thing. For years I have shied away from the limelight. I have a horror of exposing myself. I don’t even know if I have a favourite book or film. Though my best holiday was a solo trip to Malta where I had a dalliance with a man who swore his grandmother was a maid in the Russian court of Czar Nicholas and his mother was the result of their passion. I also got a tattoo on that trip – an outline of my grandmother’s wedding ring on my left ankle. I didn’t bother to stay in contact with the man but I still have the tattoo. I like the tattoo a lot.
My favourite book is Mrs Harris Goes to Paris.
My Favourite film is The King’s Speech.
Oh goodness, look at me, I’m Coming Out!