How Safe Are Your Secrets? by Mary McCall and Nancy Matchton Owens

Hello this is Mary McCall. I’m Nancy Matchton Owens. This is an excerpt from a play we wrote in Ballymun Writers’ Group, called How Safe are Your Secrets?

from How Safe are your Secrets? by Mary McCall & Nancy Matchton Owens

LIZ:  Anyhow, let me ask you another question, given a choice, what age would you go back to?

JULIE: Ah I'd go back to seventeen, right before university. ‘I learned the truth at seventeen,’ like Janis Ian!  I was anorexic but I had a good time.

LIZ:  Ah seventeen! Everyone wanted to have anorexia. In fifth year, one of my pals got really sick. She was very tall and really pretty, like a model, but she would hunch over, you know, to make herself look smaller. It happened so slowly that it was hard to see, till she looked like a stick insect. She disappeared for a while, probably in hospital. When she came back she still looked terrible, but we were just jealous that she got to wear her own clothes in school, at seventeen

JULIE:  There was this girl in my high school named Sissy Styer; good name for the alliteration. Sissy Styer. I wanted to be her. She was naturally thin and could do this with her hair (and she flips her head). She had like perfect Charlie's Angels hair, Farah Fawcett wings and then it was all curly underneath. I was told I was big-boned, and then I found out that it had to do with your wrists. My wrists were small so I thought I’m not big boned. I tried to shrink my big boobs and my big boned feeling and I did it. Couldn't face vomiting though; laxatives all the way. I went down very low, and the more they said how sick I looked, the more delighted I was. You could have hung a coat on my hip bones, I loved it... I created it, it was awesome. I became a clone of Sissy.... we went everywhere together. My God what will power I had... I just loved being in control.

LIZ:  l went all anorexic in college, bit of bulimia too, but I gave it up because it was disgusting. I was a little convent girl, and most of the other students were older than me, Sweet sixteen and never been kissed!

JULIE:  Never been kissed? Oh my God I think I was felt up and everything by age fifteen, what planet were you on?

LIZ:  l beg your pardon; I was the Head Girl in St Josephs Convent Stanhope Street, aka The College of knowledge.

JULIE:  So does that make you that salmon?

LIZ:  What salmon?

JULIE:  That Irish thing, the salmon of knowledge?

LIZ:  Euch- that's not funny, maybe I'm not drunk enough!

JULIE:  So did you finally succumb to temptation?

LIZ:  Well I did but it was a bit of a fiasco. I was slow dancing with this guy...

JULIE:  And?

LIZ:  He was trying to kiss me...

JULIE:  And?

LIZ:  - And l thought that kind of kissing was immoral and I wouldn't let him, but he gave me a giant hickey mark and I had no idea what he was doing. My friend's mother collected us and she just kept staring at me. I saw it when I got home and spent the night praying that the Virgin Mary would take it away. I had to wear a huge plaster to school.

JULIE:  And did you get into trouble?

LIZ:  Sr. Marie Therese from the [in Northern largish accent] “wee North", said l hope you have a good excuse for wearing that disgusting plaster on your neck"! I just squeaked, “Oh I do sister" and developed a list to starboard.

JULIE:  (She sucks her wrist). Pity I didn't know you then, I could have combed it out.

LIZ:  What???

JULIE:  (Grabbing her own neck and pretending to comb)....You do it like this, you prude.

LIZ:  Oh my God that is disgusting!

JULIE:  That is what you do!

LIZ:  You weren't always such a slut were you?

JULIE:  Bitch!! I think you were just a bit slow! Special maybe? Though the tongue in the mouth, spit-swapping is a taste you have to acquire. It's very intimate. I went to sleep away camp and it was all girls. Once every few weeks the boys from across the lake came over. If you got to take a walk off campus with the boy you were doing good. That's just what I did this one night and I thought I was the cat's meow. Five minutes later I returned to the hall, white as a sheet. They thought I had been raped. This boy stuck his tongue in my mouth! I was like yuck...... is this what boys do?

LIZ:  Oh those were the days!-squeezing into skin-tight jeans (sliding off bar stool). I fell in the door of a bus one time because I couldn't bend my leg to make the step. At home you had to lie on the bed and use a coat hanger to pull up the zip. We were lucky we didn't get gangrene of the lady parts. And what was the idea of getting into a bath with your jeans on, I know it was to shrink them to fit, but did you have to go round all day in wet trousers?

JULIE:  We did the same thing but we got in the bath with the bleach, so the dye would come out. We’d put them in the dryer, none of this clothes line shit with the four seasons in one fucking day!

LIZ:  Dryer, well, la-di-da!

JULIE:  I don't know about you but music got me through a lot of stuff. I thought I was Karen Carpenter, sang in front of the mirror with my brush. [Picks up Liz's phone as a brush and sings "Goodbye to love…' Liz takes back her phone again]

LIZ:  She was brilliant, but I, I was the “dancing queen, young and sweet only seventeen”. You did know ABBA?

JULIE:  Not until Mamma Mia.

LIZ:  What kind of cultural desert did you live in?

JULIE:  We had plenty of good stuff - what about Fleetwood Mac?

LIZ:  They were great, but they were an English band.

JULIE:  No friggin’ way - they are American, not English.

LIZ:  Oh no they're not

JULIE:  Oh yes they are!

LIZ:  As if!

JULIE:  I loved the Rumours album, every song was great. [They sing a line from Rumours, “Now here I go again…” Julie sings in a high falsetto]

LIZ:  Stop it!!  You're killing it.

JULIE: That’s my falsetto

LIZ:  I like a lot of new stuff, ye know like Adele, and Paloma Faith. I think that if I was stranded on a desert island and I had enough to eat, a few books, and some good music, I'd be happy.

JULIE:  So, if you were stranded on this desert island and you could take one person, who would it be?


LIZ:  [flatly] I'm not taking anybody - how 'bout you, who would you bring?

JULIE:  I'd have to take Matt, my husband, 'cause he's gorgeous. If I could only tear him away from his business! Oh we'd surf and we’d fish, and hang out on the beach - I love the beach!

LIZ:  You and Matt, two kids, crazy in love. ..I'm so sick of people

JULIE:  You wanna be alone?

LIZ:  I just don't know


Recorded at Ballymun Library Creative Writing Group, facilitated by Orla Ní hAonigh.

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