heroes, from age 8 to age 21

1. Agatha Trunchbull (1996-1998)  

The demonic headmistress from Roald Dahl’s novel Matilda was quite simply the bee’s knees (or, the bee’s headmistress). Sure, Matilda was intelligent and sassy and interesting and basically everything I wanted to be at age 8 bar a girl, but the Trunchbull was something else entirely. She wasn’t just smart, she was conniving. She had a nose for danger – and for chocolates. And she hated children. (This is a personality factor I appreciate much more as an adult, but still... she had it going on, is what I’m trying to say.)

I worshipped in particular the Pam Ferris iteration from the 1996 film adaptation. She was broad. She was mean. She couldn’t be bullied – as I was so often, being a butterball eight year old who loved books and hated confrontation. Best of all? She was fat, and she made no excuses for it. She had her cake, and by god did she eat it. (Except for that one time with Bruce Bogtrotter.) I wanted so badly to hold the sort of confidence that she possessed, and felt that if I was the principal of a school and knew how to throw a shot put or force a snotty fat kid like myself to eat his body weight in cake, I might have it.

It was hard to imagine any of my school companions slapping her in the stomach like they did to me. She’d have thrown them straight in the Chokey.

2. Vegeta (1999) 

The sometime antihero of that favourite anime for sad nerdy boys everywhere, Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta was a hero of mine for much the same reasons as the Trunchbull, but replacing the world “fat” with the word “short”. (Not that I am or was short; I just felt that we could relate as we both knew what hardship was.) This wasn’t a hero-worship situation, however, as much as a terribly awkward and confusing crush as I slowly began to figure out that girls weren’t what I was particularly interested in, and that maybe my family’s jokes about my “little girlfriends” were incredibly off the mark. (And kind of gross and heteronormative, but again, that’s more something I appreciate more as a grown man.) Also he was super muscly, which again linked into the body image dilemma.

Before I’d met any boys that I liked or harboured secret crushes for, I’d coax myself to sleep by imagining that in the dead of night I’d be wizarded away to the cartoon world of Funimation and fighting Saiyans, and Vegeta would be my prom date, regardless of whether their primary-coloured cartoon world even had a prom. I didn’t really have any concept of sex, let alone gay sex, so these feverish late-night dreams only involved lying clothed together in my single bed, Vegeta’s muscled arm held protectively around me, helping to scoop up my broken parts.

It was all very strange and, had it actually have occurred, been all types of illegal.

3. Sienna Primrose (2005-2007)

Sienna was a girl in my year-level at high school. While I was still intensely in my chrysalis stage (that of simultaneously realising that exercise existed and that my choices in fashion were directly up to me, not my parents) I was in awe of anyone who seemed like they knew themselves; what they wanted to do in life, and how to dress. Sienna had a fierce black bob framing her face (one that she only acquired in later life, but one that my brain has stitched onto every memory of her like a Lego hat made of fashionable hair) and perfect red lipstick (see the previous bracket; replace “Lego hat made of fashionable hair” with “candy lips in a devastating shade of red”.) She held an aura of cool, somehow; making everything she liked or did or read cool in and of itself, like a coolness generator. Partly, I was jealous, but mostly, I was quietly astounded that she wanted to be my friend.

Sienna introduced me to Patrick Wolf, the Grates, art as an achievable concept and legitimate pastime and the idea that a LiveJournal didn’t always have to be lame if you wrote it correctly. Sienna was, it seemed, effortlessly cool. We didn’t fall out or anything, simply went off in different directions, but I’ll have a definite fondness for Sienna for quite a while yet.

She taught me something I still haven’t quite come to terms with, totally: though your seams are showing and you’re mentally ill or a little bit mental, if you don’t let it show to the world at large, they’ll be none the wiser. And that way, you can pick who deserves to see your seams.

Honourable Mentions:

Trent Reznor (2006):

For showing me that emotions are okay, or at least marketable if you have a platinum award-winning album to package said emotions in.

Gary Numan (2009):

For the graffiti on the back of the toilet door at my undergraduate uni: “GARY NUMAN MAKES MUSIC AND HAS HIS PILOT’S LICENSE, TOO. FANCY THAT!”

My 2nd year university creative writing teacher (2010):

For smelling like cigarettes, having epically back-combed hair, a leopard print blouse and a familiar shade of red lipstick, and for giving me my first (undeserved, I felt) HD.

Rose McGowan (2004-2006):

If only because I wanted (and kind of still want) to be Courtney in Jawbreaker.

Charles Busch (2007):

For opening my 19 year old mind to the fact that theatre could be anything and setting me on the playwriting path. (Or maybe it’s a Dishonourable Mention: Charles, if not for discovering you I could’ve been a barrister or something and rolling in cash.)

Ambivalent Mention:

Myself (1988-2015)

I’ve never understood the phrase “be your own hero”. I’m not sure why. I’m not my own villain, but I’m certainly not my own hero. (Even a cursory Google of the phrase shows endless “KEEP CALM AND BE YOUR OWN HERO” posters; people with the phrase sharpied across their knuckles and it written in coloured-in blocks of rainbow texta. Deep, you guys. So deep.)

I’ve been working for at least ten years, maybe more, to try and make myself acceptable to myself. Slowly, it’s been working, and for that I’m thankful, but I think it’ll take a while longer yet. People have told me how proud they are of me, how hard it must’ve been to get through everything I did since the 28th of August, 2014, and… yes, sure. It wasn’t easy. I won’t pretend that it was. But I’m not a hero, and certainly not my own for it. I did what I had to do. I saw the potential of having to stay in an environment I hated, with legs that didn’t work, and decided that I needed to get the hell on with it and out of it.

I love myself.

I’m taking care of myself.

That’s the first time I can honestly say both of those statements, genuinely, and maybe that’s enough.