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  • Writer's pictureBenita Garvin

Mid-Century Girl and her house of MAGs

by Kate Munro

Kate Munro, founding member of Storytelling Lab member, authored the following piece. The photo is also of Kate with two of her MAGs in a gorgeous European seaside town. Kate and her MAGs can teach all something about living!

What is it about single women and gay men? And, more specifically, middle-aged single women and middle-aged gay men, or as I like to call them - MAGs? I have quite a few girlfriends of my vintage and we all have MAGs in our lives. Is there a collective noun for MAGs? A collection - lacks life; a group - dull; a den - too straight; a band - too boy-band-ish; a gaggle of MAGs - perhaps a little too silly; a house… that might work. A house of MAGs. Given their passion for fabulous fabrics and interior design, this feels appropriate. Yes, I will claim my house of MAGs.

Friendships evolve in a similar beat to how the rhythm of our individual lives grow and change. When I was in my 30s I had lots of single girlfriends, and during my 40s this number dwindled as the girls met their boys and became husbands and wives.

My house of MAGs, however, has continued to grow and become even more relevant, as I hope I am to them. In many ways, I have more in common with them than most women of my own age, despite all of my MAG friends being in couples. We are all childless, and this brings significant freedom to our time and our finances. We can plan dinners and holidays spontaneously and with no regard for the school calendar. And knowing we will not have grown children to support us later in life, we do look out for each other in quite a family way.

I remember when I moved to Basel, Switzerland five years ago and just a week after arriving I broke my ankle and was suddenly in a cast, on crutches with horrible pain, limited mobility and no working knowledge of this new city I was to call home. I knew two MAGs in Basel from previous trips: Michael & Michael; known as M&M collectively and MK and MB individually. MK is Australian too but born to Finnish immigrants and he grew up in a very different part to me, on a sugar cane farm in far North Queensland, a small town environment. He was definitely the only gay in the village - until his brother came out too. He is now married to MB, who is German-Jewish and grew up in a small town outside of Cologne. They now live in Switzerland which is where we met. I sobbed about my situation to M&M through tears of pain. MK jumped in and, with no hesitation, said ‘Love, you simply have to move in with us’’. And I did, for the next five weeks.

I was treated more like a member of the family than a houseguest. They brought me coffee in bed every morning, washed my laundry (they showed no fear of handling bras and knickers) and cooked for me every day. In hindsight, it was actually the perfect landing for me in Basel, as our friendship since then has been tight, dependable, open and extremely vulnerable.

All the members of my house of MAGs have good jobs or careers, but work is never the focus of our lives. We have the ‘work to live’ motto firmly tattooed in plain sight of all decision making. Adrien, a radiologist whom I met when he lived in London, is one such MAG. On fun ski holidays together, we embraced the speed and silliness the snow and altitude brings out. I recall an apres ski the two of us had eyes for the same guy. Following some serious combined flirting, the end of the night found us simultaneously drinking shots off his chest! Adrien moved back home to Canada and I miss him dearly. During the pandemic, he sent me an adult ‘paint by numbers’ kit to help ease the boredom of lockdown. And because he wanted to share his new painting hobby with me.

My friend Andrew’s mother recently died from aggressive pancreatic cancer. His experience brought back so many memories of my own mother’s death over twenty years ago. My apartment in London is in his neighbourhood and during the multiple lockdowns over the pandemic, with everything closed, our choice of outdoor activity on Friday evenings was long urban walks with oversized plastic cups filled discreetly with G&T. He spoke to me in depth about her diagnosis and her failed treatment plan. I urged him to ignore the COVID rules and spend Christmas with her, but he did not, adhering to his mother’s wishes to be a good citizen. Finally, when her health deteriorated suddenly, he did break the law and drove up to see her.

We spoke and messaged frequently until she died a few days after Mother’s Day in March. I was so sad I could not be there for him at his mother’s funeral. I would do anything to spare my friends the deep pain of watching someone die from cancer. Seeing the change from healthy flesh to tumour-riddled and pain-filled is a dark memory that stains deeply.

I do not know what I would do without my precious MAGs. There are many others in my world and many more tales of hilarity, sadness and simply being there for each other. The book of these tales has many more chapters still to be written.

Every girl really does need a House of MAGs like mine.

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