by MIA FREEDMAN
I don’t speak hat. This is possibly why I’ve never been to the races before this weekend when I went to Derby Day and popped my horse cherry. That phrase sounds really disturbing so we shall keep moving quickly past it.
I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to the races many times in the past decade and I’ve never even considered it. Why would I? I don’t speak hat. Or horse.
I just don’t GET the races. And I’m easily intimidated by things I don’t understand or have never done before.
I have no idea why this year was different, why I said yes. Probably because I’ve done nothing but go to work and come home for what feels like forever and almost is.
I have been craving an injection of….something. Anything.
My date and chaperone for Derby Day was Em Rusciano, host of our radio show, Mamamia Today and in possession of all the qualities I like in a date: assertive, energetic, organised, reassuring, a little bit naughty and looks hot in a tux.
Well in advance, I’d had it explained to me that the Derby Day dress code was black and white and that I had to wear some kind of hat or headpiece. “But I don’t speak hat!” I wailed to anyone who would listen. And they all laughed at me. Clearly they were fluent in hat and thought I was joking.
I was not.
From a discount store, I ended up buying a small black flyer saucer – “Straw! For Derby it has to be straw!” said everyone as if I understood what that meant – with some lethal looking black sticks poking out of it and a couple of feathers attached to a headband. I had no idea how to wear it.
I knew what I wanted to wear; a Willow skirt and jacket I’d bought earlier this year that seemed sufficiently unlike anything I’d ever worn before to be suitable. Covered up. A bit nanna, frankly. As little as I knew about the races, I was scarred by visions of girls falling out of dresses shorter than most of the tops I own and heels higher than some of my chairs.
I was already intimidated enough by the idea of wearing something on my head. I didn’t want to have to worry about the world being my gynaecologist.
A few days before I flew to Melbourne, I had a dress rehearsal in my bathroom and sent this picture to Paula Joye with the message: “I feel like I’m in fancy dress but I’m going with it.”
“Excellent” she replied. “Go with a red lip. And the tiles are very Derby. Nice.” I told her I would try to find a way to pack the tiles and incorporate them into my outfit, and headed for the airport.
Saturday morning – Derby Day – and I woke up in my hotel (The Olsen) with a headache. Bad start. I went to the gym to try and exercise it out but that just made it worse so I took proactive steps to remedy the situation quickly before I began to get ready.