The personal, the public – a difficult mix

In Uncategorized on February 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Posted by Andy Bell

A constant carping is heard these days about how our society lacks characters.

Well, it’s all very well in theory, but when you come across a real character it can get a bit tricky.

In a world of grey, these are people who are strongly black and white in their views and their statements.

That’s their appeal, that’s their danger.

The risk is that at one moment you are smiling and in approval of them and their view of the world, the next you are shaking your head.

And so it was with a  Weekend Australian’s profile of actress (and out lesbian) Miriam Margolyes.

If you don’t know the name, you will recognise the features and the voice.

Margolyes is here in Australia doing her one woman show “Dickens’ Women”.

I have always followed her career with interest ever since seeing her thirty nine years ago at a recording of a ill-starred BBC radio series – the Betty Witherspoon Show

When I subsequently discovered Miriam was out and, I presumed, proued, my interest was further stoked.

Between then and now Miriam has been someone to look out for.  A one off.

As I read the Australian’s article I found myself gripped by her views on what the voice reveals and how being an outsider can lead you to engage with those characters in literature who are on the margin.

Then there was the revelation that she suffered discrimination among Cambridge University’s clever clogs at the Footlights Club, among them John Cleese..

The profile cum promotional piece was going swimingly until she talked about her decision to come out to her mother.

And I discovered that a momentous moment in her life took on tragic proportions when, according to the article, just three days after Miriam Margolyes revealed her sexuality her mother had a stroke.

It was 1967, the year homosexual conduct for men was de-criminalised in the United Kingdom.  Lesbian sex had never been outlawed.

A big moment in one life was closely followed by something cruel and debilitating for another.

And that’s why Margolyes said this:  ” … I don’t think I should ever achieve my own happiness at the expense of someone else’s. A lot of gay people want to come out because it’s more comfortable for them, but they are not aware of the misery they can cause the parents or whoever. I loved my parents deeply and I didn’t mean to cause them the pain that I caused them, but I did cause them pain.”

And the knock out punch: “So I say, shut up. If it’s going to hurt someone, it’s better that it hurts you than someone else.”

I beg to differ, but can’t possibly chide Miriam for her sentiments.  Her experience must have been beyond terrible.

Family “misery” & “pain” versus an individual feeling “comfortable” and “honest”.

No easy answers there.

But no single soul deserves misery.

Absolutes of misery or no misery, black or white, surely can’t be the be all and end all.

Can they ?


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