My dad, Rob, was my primary caregiver when I was growing up. My mother, Pen, worked full time as an English literature lecturer at university and Dad was a freelancer in music history who put his work on hold to be at home with me. We bonded because of that special time together.
Dad is like a professional raconteur. He is the most interesting person at a dinner party and has everyone hanging on his every word. He uses those skills to talk about Mozart or Beethoven. I’m like Dad a lot – we’re the social entertainers and love to tell stories. But we also need our quiet time as well.
I remember being embarrassed as a kid, then charmed, when Dad would sing as he walked down the street, often quite loudly. It was usually a snatch of opera. Now I do it.
My parents still live in the same house in Surry Hills [in inner Sydney] that they bought when Mum was pregnant with me. They have informed each other’s work and lives perfectly. It’s a template I’ve taken into my life.
It’s still the ’70s in their heads. They spend a lot of time each year travelling the world separately and pursuing their own interests and I reckon that’s the key to a 47-year marriage. Sometimes they spend months apart and then meet up.
If Mum didn’t have a regular job to pay the bills and cover the mortgage, Dad wouldn’t have been able to develop his career in music history or pursue his creative path. He is aware of that and totally respectful and appreciative of her.
The most important figure in my father’s life was his Aunt Mavo [Maeve]. He moved out of his family home when he was 17, as he didn’t feel entirely comfortable there, and went to live with Mavo, who was an actress. She loved to draw and was the most important figure in allowing him to escape suburban oppression. He was studying to be an opera singer and Aunt Mavo offered him a world full of theatre and art.
My sister Meg is nine years older than me and lives in England. She has two young sons, Eddie and Ralph, and they’ve been all back in Australia, visiting. I’ve enjoyed observing Ralph’s compassion for his little brother on this most recent trip.
My first kiss happened when I was 14 at Sydney’s Mardi Gras. It was with a guy from high school, Newtown High, and he kissed me while the parade was on. Astonishingly, he turned out to be gay. Now, why doesn’t that surprise me?
My English teacher in high school, William Simon, was a true inspiration. He was a proper “O Captain! My Captain!” kind of teacher. He was excited about literature and reading and instilled that in me. He lives in Tasmania now and still comes to see me in every theatre show. He travels all over Australia and is so supportive.
I currently have a talent crush on actor Brent Hill. He’s such an extraordinary character actor, completely transformative but always totally real, detailed, funny and moving. We’re about to be in Eddie Perfect’s Vivid White together at the MTC.
I spent most of my 20s falling in love with the wrong people. I was always super attracted to masculine men with a streak of vulnerability and a bit of weird. The people who always did my heart in were magnetic narcissists.
I have a taste for men who look like lumberjacks and flirt like an improviser, but I try and stay away from the narcissist because I know he’s not good for my soul. I loved man buns, beards and tattoos before they were hipster!
My first long-term relationship taught me that I was worthy of love. We dated for three years around my late 20s and early 30s, ended on good terms and were kind to each other coming out of it. We are still friendly.
I am single and still on the dating scene. It’s fun and I am getting better at it as I get older. I used to bring a lot of baggage to a date but I have taken that pressure off now. I give myself three dates to make a brain connection.
I like smart and street smart. A guy needs to think critically about the world and not accept the norm. I like someone who interrogates the world he lives in. If I was to make a family with someone, that would be super important.
I have no interest in getting married until we have marriage equality. It doesn’t mean that I won’t fight as hard as I can for everybody to have the opportunity to choose whether they want to get married or not. Like comedian Hannah Gadbsy says, “There’s a difference between choosing not to use airconditioning and being locked out in the snow.”
Virginia Gay appears on Network Ten’s new game show, Cram, on Tuesdays at 7.30pm.