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Miss Personality

Emily Le Strange



One of my tutors is about thirty-five, tall and thin, and she sits with her long limbs wrapped around each other. She is serene-looking and soft-spoken, one might almost mistake her for boring. She wouldn’t be much fun to go out drinking with. But clearly she is a formidable force in her field. It amazes me that somebody can say very little, and not very loudly at all, and everyone listens to what she has to say. She is the epitome of subtle. Everything that I am not.
I am a Capricorn. I am told this means I am a leader, confident, bossy, organised, attention-seeking, responsible and reliable. I hate being put in a box.
I am a naturally raucous person, but every once in a while I have a quiet day, and everyone asks me if I’m all right. People come to expect things of your personality and get uncomfortable when they see another side of you. Me being quiet and reflective freaks people out.
The other day I was chatting with a girl from work, Maria, about my dream job, and I mentioned that I would love to be a newsreader. Being the next Judy Bailey really appeals to me. I think I would make an excellent mother of the nation.
“Okay,” Maria said, “put on a straight face and say ‘this morning fifty people were killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan’.”
At the time, I was weeping with laughter about how the word “pianissimo” sounds a bit like “penis,” so I had to pull myself together. “Fifty people were killed by a car bomb in Afghanistan…” and at that point I lost it because Afghan is obviously a chocolate biscuit, and I really felt like eating one right then.
“You’d be no good,” Maria determined, “Your eyes are too big and your eyelashes are too long. You look far too happy. Why don’t you be a weather girl?”
“Weather girl?” I spat. “They don’t have half the social standing of newsreaders. I want to be the mother of the nation.”
See, nobody believes that I can be serious. And self-contained. But that’s just because I don’t demonstrate these qualities every day. I’m not just all about raucous laughter, people!
I would love to be the sort of person who lounges in the booth in a smoky bar, with a martini glass in one hand, one eyebrow raised at all times and an enigmatic smile on my face – and when I speak it is only to say very witty and intelligent things. I would love to have dark eyes and luminous skin and for people to be drawn into my aura. I want to be Marlene Dietrich. Instead, I am loud, demanding of attention and my cheeks turn red after two glasses of wine. I am Mikey Havoc. And as much as I may try to be clever and mysterious, my true personality will not be suppressed.
I am fascinated by people who are popular with no good reason for being popular except that they are. Often popular people are the ones you know everything about – like “on Saturday night the captain of the first XV had the biggest party the Raps has ever seen and he did a yard glass and hooked up with that slutty girl from down the road who has a big stripe of blonde hair and looks like a skunk.” But then there’s the popular ones who you know are popular, but don’t know anything about, so you wonder how they got popular in the first place – surely they had to drink a yard glass? I did a course with one last year; she was so well dressed, had so lively a conversation, but never gave anything away. She was very much self-contained and fiercely private.
I am not private. At all. Everyone knows my business. I write down my business once a week and let everyone read about it. But I do respect other people’s privacy and I do keep secrets (although when telling me a secret you have to look me in the eye and say very firmly, “Emilie, you CANNOT tell ANYONE.” Unless these words are spoken I will quite happily tell anyone who’ll listen. Sometimes I’ll put it in print.)
But people will surprise you. Someday I, too, will surprise you by revealing nothing. I love it when people do or say things that you wouldn’t expect. Like, my flatmate Charlotte the virtuoso violinist, the musical genius, who got 410 in Bursary; the other day I was doing a cross word and asked, “A four-letter vegetable?” and she shouted, “Vege!” Or pool-playing, beer-swigging Jeremy who can fart on cue, while watching porn in the living room, said thoughtfully, “That girl’s actually got really beautiful eyes.” Or even better, a straight-laced professor who actually addressed Hugo as “poo-stain” at a Music School function.
But the best story of all is when I bumped into an old school acquaintance who was gate crashing the Salient end-of-year party. At school he’d been a self-confessed geek, who got the grades but not the girls. He captained the debating team, not the first XV. Then he left the claustrophobic clique that is private schooling in the Wairarapa and moved to Wellington. He looks totally different (like, cool), acts totally different (like, confident), speaks totally different (like, interesting) and most importantly, is totally happy with who he is as a person, and doesn’t care what others think. Our school was one based on popularity and image, and because he didn’t fit in with that, he created his own. It wasn’t his personality but his mindset that had changed, allowing the true person inside to emerge with confidence. I love being kept on my toes by people and their multi-faceted personalities.
You can’t put anyone in a box.