I believe my fear and loathing of birthdays coincided with the commencement of my radio career. An enjoyably misspent youth and subsequent late arrival into a ‘proper career’ meant I was a worldly 28 years old when I started my very first brekky radio job. I was a lot older than most of my media mates and I felt it. The feeling was far from warm and fuzzy.
Radio people are tight, even more so in regional radio and I met friends I’ll have for life. Some were straight out of high school. Others had come to the radio station from broadcasting school. I’d come from the school of binge drinking and hard partying and general life wastage. I’d drunkenly departed Europe due to low funds and returned home to complete a radio course at Curtin University.
I’ll never forget the moment I turned on the microphone and saw the, “On-Air” light flashing. I wasn’t nervous. I simply began to talk. And talk. And talk. It felt right. I belonged in that chair. I was 28 years old. Almost middle-aged! But I’d found my calling. My first radio job was at StarFM in Port Macquarie NSW.
I don’t remember exactly when I first started lying about my age. But I did so with the enthusiastic duplicity of an addict lying about taking drugs. The first time I think I knocked off 4 years. Maybe 5. Sometimes I’d lose track of what age I’d told whom. From Port Macquarie I moved to 96.1fm The Heat in Noosa and dated a delicious café owning surfer who thought I was 24. I met Shane Warne at a function and told him I was 25. By the time I got to TripleM Brisbane in 2003 I had no fucking idea how to contain the snowballing lies. My resume said I was 28. The hot barman at The Normanby thought I was 25. My dentist had documentation stating I was 26. I’d even fessed up one drunken New Year’s Eve and tearily told my best mate Drew that I was actually 30. The following February he got an invite to my 29th birthday and was like, “What the? What’s wrong with you??” I honestly didn’t know.
Then came Nova in Adelaide. I dated a 25 year old ex-AFL footballer and felt embarrassed to say I was 31. So the lies continued. How mental is that? I should’ve and could’ve stopped then. I was on a number one rating breakfast show. I should’ve felt awesome about myself. But I had no confidence. No confidence in my abilities to keep my job solely on the merits of being a good radio broadcaster. Which I was. My only thought was that I needed to be younger.
Because in the shadows there was always some young, gorgeous, lithe, perky, promotions girl or roadpatroller or rockdriver or beauty queen come model come hanger-on-er hanging outside the studio doors waiting desperately for me to choke on my gluten free toast so she could have my job. “I’d LOVE to have your job” the young sexy lass would breathily murmur. “It must be SO EASY to just like um, talk about STUFF every morning!” “And the boys, they’re HILARIOUS! You must laugh ALL the time!”
Totally sweetie. I’m pissing myself right now.
Unless you’ve been in my shoes you really wouldn’t understand. And that’s cool. I fully admit that my self-inflicted ageism is completely my fault. I should have had the confidence and the balls to get my head right and deal with getting older. To deal with ageing like a normal human being. But the environment in which I worked was complicit in many ways.
I’ve had conversations with radio bosses no sane person would believe. I celebrated a milestone birthday and was told absolutely do not mention my age on-air. “We’ll screen the calls so no-one asks your age”.
Really? Is it that big an issue?
My co-hosts at the time were called into a private meeting and issued the exact same directive. For fuck’s sake don’t let her REAL AGE BE KNOWN TO THE LISTENERS!!!
I’ve been given an age by a radio boss (early 30’s) and told to, “Stick with that for a couple of years…it’s better for the demographic”. Errrr sure. Let’s not worry for one second about my fragile, damaged, on-the-way-to-the-psych-ward ego.
“Maybe I should just inject my entire face AND body with botox?”
“When can I book you in???”
I’ve been told a million times that as a woman I need to CONNECT with women under 35 because they are my CORE AUDIENCE and the future of my radio career pretty much depends on it. I’ve been told my extra-curricular activities were too daggy. My dress style wasn’t hip enough. And that I was starting to sound OLD on-air.
OLD.ON.AIR. Why? Because I mentioned that I saw Barnsey at the Ent. Cenre in the early 90’s??? Well I did see Barnsey. And Johhny Diesel. When he still had those Injector people. And they were bloody awesome.
These helpful insights from management coupled with the fact that I was actually older than most of my female colleagues made me feel like a sack of shit. An old sack of shit.
I have been embarrassed about my age. I bloody hated telling people a number when they’ve asked. Especially when everyone in radio just seemed to be getting younger. A work colleague introduced me to her mum at a function. She was 5 years younger than me. We ended up getting pissed together and talking about being single in our 30’s.
I’ve worked for a very long time in an industry that has discarded ageing women. And by ageing I mean over 35. Youth and beauty are celebrated. It’s a fact. Sexy, skinny, social media addicted self-serving twenty-something female’s multiplied in places I worked like the plague. They salivated over my “good fortune” at having secured such an “easy” job that pretty much “anyone” could do if given the opportunity. Nothing to do with working my guts out for 14 hours a day eh girls?
LOL. LOL. FUCKING LOL. #noidea
When I started working in radio I had absolutely no female role models or mentors. There was no female radio broadcaster I could seek advice from. Talk to. Confide in. Question. Be reassured by. Guided by. I’ve long admired Kate Langbroek and Jo Stanley and Fifi Box…wonderful, strong women who I’ve had passing conversations with and who may very well think I’m a superficial moron for banging on about getting a few years older.
But I’m not in radio anymore and I honestly don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. This is the way I feel and it’s a relief to finally admit I’ve lived a lie for a long time.
I have so much to be thankful for so I’m stopping the age shit. My child is healthy, I don’t have cancer. I’m not a refugee trying to escape persecution nor am I living in poverty. I’m not half as neurotic as I was when I worked in radio and I’m getting my mojo back. So…can someone please pass me the gallon of pear cider?
Kidding. I’m 40. It’s all about the Pinot Noir now. And just a glass thanks.