My unrequited love story was an expensive, humiliating lesson

95 Alannah Hill

Once, I bought a delicate French lace brassiere to make a man fall in love with me. I even bought undergarments to match so he’d never get over me. The brassiere was silk-spun by a cult of designer spiders and blind merry widows. The brassiere promised a balcony that even Juliet could never fall from. The panties were high-waisted, with black gossamer threads lacing up on each thigh.

I had been a single mother for three years and, despite loving the delirium, independence and clarity that singledoom brings, before I could say, “Get me a bloody dummy,” I was curious about dating all over again. I was like any other older single mother, in that my undergarments-smalls department required a massive overhaul. As a single, professional woman, I was all outside show.

Alannah wears The Vampire’s Wife dress, Philip Treacy veil, Fallon necklace and Atelier Swarovski ring, all from Christine. .Credit:Kristoffer Paulsen

My exterior was flawless, although there was one small problem: it was time-consuming. It was taking me four times as long to look half as good as I used to, so by the time it came to my undergarments I thought, Who cares, nobody is going to see my smalls. Nobody would have a clue that underneath my dainty embellished frocks lay a horror show of beige bloomers, contour-shaping girdles, sexless Spanx, lace pettipants with cotton gussets, and three milk-stained maternity bras.

I’d taken to slipping into bed wearing flannelette nighties rather than silk nightgowns; I wore slippers, not high heels, and fluffy socks, not thigh-high lace stockings.

In one year of single-motherdoom, I experimented further, wearing hair dye and a face mask to bed, gorging on packets of Smith’s Crisps, a Picnic bar, mini Magnums and marshmallows while watching Sex and the City on repeat with no guilt! I’d stopped washing my sheets every week, and wore threadbare brassieres and panties to bed. I was a newly winged creature learning to fly. But little niggly petticoat doubts were creeping in.

Being single had high points, but it also led to expansive behaviour. Once, I accidentally bought a million-dollar mistake on a highway. A family home! To make up for my mistake I hired a remarkable-looking tradie to basically Alannahfy it. I convinced myself that everlasting love could be mine if a hot tradie fell in love with me.

Tony Tones was 15 years younger than me and was the proud owner of a spectacular well-structured jaw line. He had jet-black hair and piercing sea-green eyes and his teeth had no fillings. His model body glistened with man oil after hours in the sun and gym. His part-time modelling work required a fully sculpted body with what he called a “rockin’ Aussie tan”.

It was a full-time job hoodwinking him into loving me. On Valentine’s Day, I delivered 15 red roses with a love note to myself. The note said, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I can’t live another day without you!”

Tony Tones and I had stepped out on four dates and I’d hoped the jealousy roses would turn his hand toward marriage! If Tony Tones showed any sign of jealousy, I’d won half the battle. But nothing! Instead, he carried the roses inside for me and lamented how he’d clean forgotten what day it was.

One evening, after he’d knocked down three walls, the garage and a bathroom/laundry, we had three pieces of lemon sponge cake topped with cream, and a cup of tea. He wanted a beer but I wanted tea and sympathy.

Suddenly every light in the house went out for a moment, and in a total eclipse of the heart, in those few seconds of blackout, Tony Tones told me how he couldn’t believe it, but he had feelings for me. “You know something, girl, underneath all that clown make-up, you’re a rockin’ hot babe! Ever thought about a tan? You’d rock an Aussie tan!”

The “five-month stage” was coming up, and I’d failed to entice an “I love you” or even an ironic “You’re gorgeous – let’s get married” from his luscious tradie lips. If there’s no “I love you” by the five-month stage, your stress levels are sky high. You’re erratic and start acting in really bizarre ways.

Tony Tones was not only a tradie – he was a plumber, landscape gardener, fountain designer, electrician, screenwriter, author, comedian, star footballer, star swimmer, star surfer, marriage counsellor (no certificates, but he said he had clients), a male model in high demand and a Logie Award-winning actor. (He’d appeared in Home and Away, which to Tony meant he’d virtually won a Gold Logie.) He had also appeared as himself in a film he wrote, directed, produced and edited.
We flew to Sydney and stayed at the Sheraton on the Park for the premiere at the Tropicana Short Film Festival, but at the last minute his premiere got bumped for a film about Indigenous land rights. Tony had been more than convinced he’d be given the Young Director’s award but we walked back to the Sheraton empty-handed with no premiere and no award.

He made me a lemonade on ice after we arrived at our marriage suite, Room 674. He told me about his Oscars speech, the one he’d been practising in clients’ mirrors for years. Tony disappeared and then reappeared from behind the door of the hotel bathroom. He’d changed outfits and was wearing a sparkling tuxedo jacket with tradie shorts. He dimmed the lights, asked if I was ready and then off he went … for hours.

But even after the Oscars speech, there was no “I love you”.

One dazzling evening, Tony Tones gave me a high five, pulled out a bong and asked me, “Where’s your gee-whizzer, girl? Gotta love a girl in a gee-whizzer.”

I resorted to Bunnings. Tony Tones loved Bunnings and now I did, too. I dressed down for Bunnings.

Sequinned frocks were not appreciated, and neither was my chandelier hairdo. I wrapped a velvet scrunchie around my hair, wore a pair of Blundstones on my feet, and insipid lipstick on my lips. Tony Tones liked natural-looking girls, so I ditched my usual Ruby Woo red glossy lips after he assured me I could rock an un-glossed nude lip.

I wasn’t expecting a Shakespearean play, or an award-winning sonnet. A Post-it note or two hand-picked daisies would have been enough. But after five months, if you haven’t had an “I love you” (said with feeling) and only a “Love ya, babe, you’re soooo good for me, it’s bloody great taking a break from dating models!” … it’s time to run.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t let love beat me and so I limped on! One dazzling evening, Tony Tones gave me a high five, pulled out a bong and asked me, “Where’s your gee-whizzer, girl? Gotta love a girl in a gee-whizzer.”

I asked what a gee-whizzer was. I planned to get one immediately. Turns out a gee whizzer is a G-string. To put it mildly, I’ve never cared for a G-string. But I knew I needed to upscale my threadbare undergarments and my sexual magnetism, not just for Tony Tones, but for my loveable future.

Obviously the real problem was my out-of-date undergarments – those shaping corsets were holding back my tradie love. I knew I had to get to an Agent Provocateur lingerie store fast.

I browsed the most beautiful lingerie I had ever felt my flesh goosebump for. In a hallowed enclave where cherubs re-string their bows, a vision hovered, the answer to my prayers, an alluring silk-and-lace bullet brassiere promising lift, support and a smooth satin finish, with a gee-whizzer to match.

I hurried home to prepare. Tony Tones was due to appear at 8pm. This would be the night when I finally captured his tradie heart.

I spent five hours preparing my single-motherdoom boudoir, plumping pillows and spraying lavender over the new 1000-thread-count sheet set. Surrounded by rose-infused candles and an antique lamp. I gently pulled on my black fishnet stockings, attaching them to the garter belt of love. The bullet brassiere was pure perfection – it had a satin bow at the front and was a spiderweb of black lace, lifting and separating like a miracle. The gee-whizzer, meanwhile, was causing all sorts of problems – it turned out I had it on back to front.

I was nervous but well prepared; I even had natural lip gloss hidden under the pillow. The clock ticked past 8pm, past 9pm … and then I got a text.

Babe – you wood NOT believe this but I ran into Mandy today. Told you bout her???? Amanda? Anyways, she’s back from LA. Her acting gig is not going grate, something big happened.
Catching up with her for drinks. Catch ya later lol XX

I glared at the phone. I glared at the door. I glared at the floor. I glared at my bulletproof brassiere and then I glared at nothing. I’d been kidding myself. For five months, I’d turned my heart inside out and upside down, all for nothing. I’d even been to Bunnings in a nude lip and listened to an Oscars speech! And as fast as a screw can drill into a wall, I ripped off that gee-whizzer, deleted Tony Tones’ number and screamed.

Six months later, I launched the Tease Me, Please Me, Love Me to Death lingerie collection. The blush-pink lingerie featured bulletproof brassieres, cami-bloomers and bias-cut 1940s silk slips. Models strutted down the catwalk holding giant balloons filled with helium love, jewelled tool belts on their swaying, rockin’, love-me-to-death hips. Not a gee-whizzer or a nude lip in sight!

I hadn’t realised my own self-love was the real love I’d been craving. It was an expensive, humiliating lesson. Unrequited love can make a woman lose her instincts, power and judgment – it threatens to beat us down to a secret place where we hide, curled up and wounded. But like a phoenix we rise from the ashes with more insight and wisdom than ever before.

Edited extract from The Handbag of Happiness (Hardie Grant Books) by Alannah Hill, available now.

Hair and make-up Blanka Dudas.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale November 1. To read more from Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.



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