Women of Letters recap

Okay, so I lied in my last recap when I said it would probably be my last recap for a while. As soon as I found out the lineup for this event, I jumped online to find it had already sold out, and my couple of days of hesitation had cost me a ticket to the lineup I was perhaps looking forward to more than any other WoL event I had attended, ever. So, I moped for a month, then in the days leading up to the event I stalked the Facebook and Twitter pages obsessively hoping someone would have a spare ticket to unexpectedly get rid of. Thanks to Elyse, best person in the world, she found some this morning and promptly snapped me one up. So I headed to the Regal Ballroom, in my new and improved traffic-free route (ie. NOT Punt Road) and met up with Elyse and co!

Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire were at Splendour in the Grass (half their luck!) and our wonderful host today was musician and actress (and WoL alumni), Clare Bowditch. The host plays such an important part in these salons, and she did not disappoint, introducing each guest and giving us some kind of insightful comment that tied back to the letters that had been read. And she looked beautiful, as usual. The theme today? A letter to my temptation.

First up was Estelle Tang, writer, bibliotherapist (ahem, awesome!) and personal hero of mine. Estelle wrote to Gwyneth Paltrow, and the weekly newsletter sent out by Paltrow’s company- Goop. This was a cheeky letter, relishing in the more outlandish statements made by Paltrow – including the phrase ‘I would rather die than let my kids eat Cup-A-Soup’ – and poking fun at the ludicrously expensive items on the weekly newsletter available for purchase. Estelle has subscribed to Goop, and continues to read the newsletter every week, and I must confess, I am quite curious myself. Estelle’s timing and delivery was flawless, and it was an riotously good letter to kick of the salon with.

Next up was musician Joanna Nilson. She listed a number of temptations throughout her letter, trying to decide what was her biggest one. Her letter was 8 parts hilarious, 2 parts utterly devastating, and included musings on smoking (“a more thrillingly dangerous version of chewing my nails”), booze, marijuana and other, harder drugs (though her paragraph on heroin and its utter shitness was sobering after all the laughing we’d been doing), food (chocolate, cheese…basically everything I enjoy as well) and a glowing reference to the town she was from as “a herpes sore on the twat of the nation”. Eventually she mentioned her final temptation – bad men – and listed a Greatest Hits of her “man-baby boyfriends” which, again, had us in stitches. Her accurate and painful description of the depression she experienced after a particular break-up really hit home, and it was this which made her decide she needed to avoid terrible boys above all else.

Judith Lucy, comedian and author, began her letter with the sentence “Annoyingly, I don’t have many temptations left”. She then went on to wax lyrical about her oldest and dearest temptation – television. Her letter was, predictably, gut-bustingly hilarious and included phrases such as “Mum would have to physically lock me out of the house so I could get some sunshine”. Her reading included singing, and a demonstration of how she used to watch a wall-mounted, fridge-sized television (hint: it involved lying flat across the WoL table with her legs crooked as though she were “watching Gilligan’s Island with [her] genitals”. Impressions of Days of Our Lives (her favourite soap) and the mention of something called ‘Dr Feather Weather’s Wonderful Workshop’ rounded out one of the funniest letters I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing.

An audible ripple ran through the ballroom as Kat Stewart took the mic. Was it because her character on Offspring is making crazy storyline waves in the show, or was it just because she’s amazing? It didn’t matter. Kat’s letter was an ode to motherhood, and trying to achieve a work/life balance. It was honest, and it was touching. Her love for her son cannot be contained in words, but she did her darndest to communicate it, with phrases like “his laugh makes me euphoric”. She spoke about the longing she felt for another baby, a sibling for her son who she adores unconditionally, and the simultaneous longing to continue working, and creating and being artistic, and having a life that was hers, and not held in place by a baby. She mentioned a book, The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood, which sounds amazing (and includes a contribution from Clare Bowditch) that elaborates on the topic. I don’t think she knew which longing (temptation) would win out, but it was obvious that this is a subject close to many women’s hearts.

Finally, we had Libbi Gorr, broadcaster and author. Libbi wrote to Kate Middleton. More specifically, she wrote to the temptation she continually gives into – wishing she was Kate Middleton. In fact, one of the only times she didn’t want to be Kate Middleton, was when she wanted to be her sister, Pippa, instead. And one of the strongest reasons for wanting to be Kate Middleton, is because her mother is Carole Middleton. The tongue-in-cheekness of this letter was countered by the rather sweet and poignant realisation, that she didn’t really want to be Kate Middleton, because wishing to be Kate Middleton means wishing away her own life, and all the richness of it. (Also it would mean wishing away her other temptation of wanting to be Jane Kennedy). She finished by acknowledging how difficult it would be to be Kate Middleton, and how Kate Middleton probably wishes at times that she could be Libbi Gorr – being allowed to tell people to ‘fuck off’ for example. She listed some affirmations for Kate which we had to repeat back to her, and took her seat amidst of shower of laughter and applause.

In the break I wrote a question for the panel (as we are invited to) without really expecting it to be read. But it was read! Yay! But it wasn’t answered, because my question was “Will Billie die on Offspring?” and that would violate the terms of Clare Bowditch and Kat Stewart’s contracts to tell us. Boo. It’s probably for the best. Because if the answer was “yes”, I’d be inconsolable and avoid the show, but if the answer was “no”, I’d work myself into a knot of anxiety wondering if it will be Jimmy or Patrick instead, and I really don’t want any of them to go. Sigh.

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