AAnd there I was… sobbing at a wedding dress in a museum in Hobart, Tasmania. i hate weddings By all means, plan your big day, create your mood board, and do the princess thing. I was married in a Stetson in a five minute ceremony before going to the pub. Unusual weddings leave me cold. However, this wasn’t just any wedding outfit. That was the meringue that I believe sealed my fate.
It was Charlene’s wedding dress from Neighbors. Backlit and padded in one corner while the classic episode of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan played in the background. The object of my pilgrimage, resplendent in all its splendor, was on view for only one month. high neck Gigantic Sleeve. Top. roses. ruffles A frou-frou masterpiece that can take middle-aged Brits back to November 1988. School. Lincolnshire. Where the wonderful Mrs. Russell let us watch the lunchtime ceremony on TV at the sixth form center. She understood the gravity of the situation; this wasn’t just a family getting married. That was our kingdom. The wedding of the century.
For much of Britain, whatever was Australia in front of neighbors? A galaxy far, far away where people disappeared to, like the two redheaded boys from Doughty Street in my hometown in the 70’s. The ‘We’re moving to Perth’ revelation was greeted with sharp gasps and a hesitantly charged, ‘Happy birthday the!” It was a place that featured with frightening frequency in the reunion segment of Surprise Surprise – the grand finale in which Cilla Black told a confused pensioner that her Brisbane sister, whom she hadn’t seen in 37 years, was coming onto the stage would . Australia was further away than the moon.
Of course, we’d seen her soap operas before—the Sons and Daughters theme song was practically our truancy soundtrack—but we’d never seen them This Australia before. Neighbors reset everything. It was so bright. It had cafes, hangouts and HSCs (high school certificates). They seemed so much sexier than GCSEs. And if you didn’t pass them, you could just start your own chauffeur business. Whenever I’m in Melbourne and see a green car, I wonder if Helen Daniels’ Home James service is still operational.
Also, Neighbors had teenagers who would fight with their parents and then go out and have fun. No romping around Albert Square to meet up with your baby’s secret dad Michelle Fowler style. Young Australians went to the Beach. It was an odd place, with no pier, donkey or slot machines, but it looked amazing. Zero sharks and lots of splashing with hot guys.
And here was the real attraction: Australian men. Schott/Jason. They were interchangeable for me. Not the awkward Foster-swiging Paul Hogan stereotype of Australian men. Scott/Jason effortlessly supported Charlene/Kylie’s feminist mechanic ambitions. Then there was sensitive Grafter Mike/Guy Pearce, who ended up dating Plain Jane “Super Brain” Harris. What is this wonderful world? It’s a country where geeks can find a hottie and working-class people can have single-family homes with big gardens. It’s a land where even Labradors can dare to dream.
But like Bouncer’s nocturnal hallucinations, it was all fantasy. At that time I had no desire to live abroad. Peterborough was as far as I could go with my teenage panic attacks. But somewhere inside me a seed must have been sown. The media in the 90’s was littered with Australians. They were everywhere. I was friends with many of them; I married one. After living in the UK for a decade he said: ‘Why don’t we live there A little?” It was terrifying. But Skype was there: you could actually see people far away now. And the echoes of Erinsborough were in my head.
In my eyes, Neighbors became the pseudo-documentary on which I based one of the most important decisions of my life. Everything would be fine. madge Jim. Clive. Helen. I just had to avoid cliffs. “Hrrrrrrolllllddddd!”
As we prepared to move, I sorted through some of my partner’s old Polaroids from the 80’s. I realized he looked like an extra from Lassiter’s cafe. When I recently shared the photo on Facebook, I embellished the post with what I felt was an obvious lie: “He was in the soap for seven episodes as waiter Jason Byrne at Mr. Udagawa’s hotel complex.” Despite the ridiculousness of the claim, some believed my friends on it. He had the Donovan look about him. Neighbors, it seems, gave me a deep Aussie kink. And I didn’t even know.
Life rages on. Living “a little” here has become more than a decade. Rarely does one see his life as a complete series – more like chapters and episodes. Yet, in that one wedding dress, I saw my journey from teens to 50. From being this crazy fat teenager with nowhere to go to being a functioning adult…on a friggin’ island near Antarctica.
As I write this, Charlene’s dress is being securely crated at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. I have no idea what it will mean for future generations, but I suspect Minogue’s endless and joyous reincarnations will ensure its relevance. For me it will always be more than a dress. So much more than a symbol of romance. When you reach half a century, you know the limits of that. And yes, I’m still married to my brilliant Aussie.
Neighbors opened the world to me. Scott and Charlene have been in my soul for years. Her wedding — along with all the ’80s ruffles Minogue wore — is a reminder of when I had to believe there was something else. A bigger, better future that I couldn’t quite imagine at the time and in this mental state. I still have days like this wherever I am in the world. Do not we all do this? Then a good dose of foam soap can make all the difference. Onya neighbors.