“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
If anybody was ever suited to give the above advice, it was Oscar Wilde. He was himself when people thought “coming out” meant going to a debutante’s ball.
When I was a child, I lived in a semi-detached house. You’ve probably all seen pictures of these 1930s houses, that are so numerous in London that you must have wondered how anyone ever finds their way to their own house, because they all look the same.
In truth, there are many subtle differences, but the house that adjoined mine was a faithful mirror image, down to the leaded fanlights and the front porch. But things looked very different from next door. When I visited there, I got my first inkling that my friend Janet was different from me, and that prompted me to wonder what it might like to be somebody else. Everything in Janet’s life seemed to me to be vaguely uncomfortable. Clearly she was living life the wrong way round, and I was glad to be able to go home at night and get life back the right way.
In those days, Madeleine was an unheard of name so I was always Maddy. If I wasn’t accused of being Mad! I would be repeatedly asked “what’s your name again?”…. “What?”
So I had a considerable interest in being a more fashionable Tracey, or ideally, a Lorraine.
Visiting other friends’ houses was rather like trying on a completely new identity – not only a different house, perhaps a new street name or even a different suburb. The garden layout would be unfamiliar, the plants had been chosen by others, and there was a new set of parents and siblings.
It was always fun and interesting to meet other people and find out how they got to be like they were.
But it was so comforting to go home, where I knew who I was dealing with, and things are the right way round. So Maddy it was. And Maddy it has remained. What a good job all those other lives are taken!