When I received an email informing me that my application to write a column for The Tab had been accepted, I knew there had been a technical malfunction. You see, being a shy and retiring person by nature, preferring to remain an anonymous entity amid the faceless mass of Cambridge students, I would never ever choose to put my name out there to write a weekly column for the most widely read publication (loose term) in the university.
But just as I was about to reply, explaining their cataclysmic blunder, something stopped me. As a fundamentally dull human being, I have often wondered what it would be like to be interesting. Could this be the opportunity that would enlighten me, once and for all, before I reverted to the mundane and humdrum life that was my true calling? Perhaps this clerical error was not an error after all…but fate.
For the first time in my life since cross-country at school, I felt my heart begin to beat a little faster. My fingers scurried over the keys of my laptop, as if possessed: “Dear John, thank you so much for your email,” I typed, shakily, “I would of course still love to write a column for you this term. I will naturally be writing under my pseudonym, Octavia Sheepshanks, if that’s alright.” Thankfully, he agreed, and so began my exercise in quirkiness, my weekly foray into the world of a truly eccentric human being.
Readers, I confess: there were times when I wondered whether I’d gone too far. Take the name, for instance: Sheepshanks. As several people were quick to point out, it contains the word ‘sheep’. I was suddenly beset by misgivings as to whether anybody would be able to take Octavia seriously. Perhaps they would see through the kookiness for what it truly was: an elaborate web of lies. But as the first wave of comments appeared, my concerns were alleviated. People were really embracing the character of Octavia. One person suggested that sheep might be scared of being shanked by her, another ingeniously dubbed her ‘Octavia Shitwanks’, and countless other commenters remarked that they were reading the columns purely for the name! An indubitable success.
And then there’s Susie, of course, who graciously agreed to model as ‘Octavia’ for the column’s photograph. I didn’t even pay her; she’s the kind of exhibitionist that lets people take photos of her for free! I think I even remember her saying she enjoyed it – a concept utterly alien to me, introvert that I am. She certainly embraced the role, specially purchasing a ‘loud’ patterned top that is exactly what I imagine Octavia would wear.
Naturally, as the face of my creation, Susie gets recognised a fair bit. Only the other day she admitted that, when asked if she is ‘Octavia Sheepshanks’, she’s taken to responding in the affirmative just to save time, and has perfected a slightly apologetic smile by way of accompaniment.
The Facebook account was the easy bit. Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone with that name already on the site, so all I had to do was upload a couple of arty-looking cover photos, and one of a random girl I found on the internet posing on a clifftop, that looked vaguely like Susie from the back. In my haste I didn’t notice the hint of side boob, which did attract some criticism in the comments section. But of course Octavia, being the exact opposite of me in every way, loves all kinds of attention, negative or otherwise. In fact, I hear Octavia’s side boob is the next Pippa Middleton’s bottom.
But alas, now that Lent Term is drawing to a close, so must Octavia’s glorious ‘manic pixie dream girl’ existence. I am tremendously grateful to everyone who helped bring my little fantasy to life, but I would especially like to thank anyone who contributed with comments over the course of the term. I imagine that if I’d been writing as myself, I might have found the harsher remarks quite upsetting. However, because said comments were merely referring to a social construct, over which I had total control, I actually found them very helpful.
So am I looking forward to putting this mad experiment behind me and returning to my staple diet of mediocrity? Well, while it has been a fascinating experience, it has made me appreciate my own bland life in ways I could never have imagined (although this may be due to the fact that I was born without an imagination). Having lived vicariously through Octavia’s many wardrobe malfunctions, endearing family quarrels and most importantly, boy-related dramas, I am now extremely content with my own disregard for exploratory fashion choices, lack of opinion on any subject, and utter deficiency of anything resembling emotion.
Having said that, I urge you to remember Octavia, dear readers. She will always hold a special place in my heart. Or she would do, if I had one.