FAITH column 14 October, 2018

As a child in 1950s Melburbia, life was cosy, comfortable and conventional in my middle-class environs.

Learning to swim in the Yarra River, chasing a basketball on court and mastering the 3Rs, I also played Scrabble with my mother and chess with my father; I loved football too with attendance at games mandatory because of my  addiction.

Being Jewish, I assimilated and was always welcomed in our neighbourhood Christian homes; likewise they in mine. I fitted in with my many friends, enjoying birthday parties, smashing shuttlecocks in our garden and buying Monopoly real estate. It was a happy childhood until age 15, when I then felt a misfit and out of place; particularly psychologically, never telling anyone but my diary.

Why? I was skinny, shapeless, wore spectacles and was smart in class and many of my girlfriends turned into bullying bitches. Unsurprisingly, I had no steady boyfriend and stopped party-going, as the wallflower rejections were painful.

Furthermore, my female friends rhapsodised about finding prince charming, marriage and children for happily ever after, while I focused on a career without domestic bliss.

Believing in individualism rather than following the flock aroused much personal angst.  Football, politics and sex were my passionate interests, and these were an anathema for girls entrenched in the ’60s social mores that determined female destiny as second-class, and women as attractive appendages to supposedly secure, successful and sensible men.

I felt like a lone wolf in the wilderness of social approval.

Nonetheless, my sense of self persisted: I read feminist literature, watched movies featuring non-stereotypical characters and discovered new people who espoused similar philosophies to my own. I fitted in again; albeit with a lifestyle at great variance from my youthful proscriptions.

Some migrants are now denounced for not assimilating and many young people feel anxious and depressed for not fitting, with difference derided as defying norms of behaviour, personality and culture.

But, Oscar Wilde admirably advised: “Be yourself, as everyone else is already taken”.

Sanctuary and solace comes when we meet people we feelcomfortable with, however unconventional. Faith in this reality can surpass the sanctimony of so-called sages who stupidly celebrate sameness.

As American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson shrewdly suggested: “A man must consider what rich realm he abdicates when he becomes a conformist.”