One of the most frequently asked questions from people on the street after my time on Big Brother is “What’s the best thing that we didn’t get to see?”
My response has, and always will be: “Ben’s sick sense of humour.”
Sure, you all saw Ben making his now-famous self depreciating jokes, watched him playing the ‘bumbling old fool’.
He often used to say he was an old man trapped in a 30 year old’s body.
“Daft Punk? Never heard of them.”
“But what does ‘totes’ mean?”
“What did I miss? I was in the bathroom.”
What you DIDN’T get to see- was his hilariously crass, sick and politically incorrect sense of humor.
Ben would have the entire house bent over in stiches with his quick-witted jokes, sleazy pick up lines (usually directed at Drew) and insanely intelligent observations he’d quietly been storing away for a rainy day (or lull in the conversation).
He is hands down one of the brightest and funniest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
He’s also extremely sweet. He’s kind natured and sensitive, with a ginormous heart.
He’d often turn to me for solace in the house, knowing full well if anyone was going to cry over spilt milk with him, it was me.
He found the whole process of having to nominate stressful. Ben, like me, wished that everyone could stay.
If an argument were to break out at the dinner table, he’d retreat to his bed. All the yelling made him sad.
He is a soft, fragile creature.
To us however, at times he felt like a 30 year old trapped in a child’s body. Needing to be shown how to cook his own tofu, how to apply fake tan, taught the slang words of our generation, taken step-by-step through how to turn on a treadmill.
Sometimes I was convinced he knew more than he was letting on, but enjoyed making the rest of us feel special and important, teaching him everything we knew about the world as we knew it, when really he is the wisest of us all.
One of my favourite memories of my time in Big Brother is when Ben, Drew and I would sit on the deck in the sun lounges and talk about our love of movies. We’d discuss the Bond series and who our favourite 007 was. We’d throw trivia questions to each other, testing our knowledge on everything from the Blues Brothers to Mean Girls.
He seemed relaxed and happy on that deck, cup of tea in hand. He was in his element.
Ben is a lot of things. Brilliant, intelligent, loving, loyal, kind, hilarious, cheeky…he is a serious movie buff, a collector, a creature of habit and lover of pyjamas.
He is also quite often inexplicably sad and anxious- feelings that have plagued him for most of his life.
But these are only part of who he is. My favourite bits are the other bits.
His snorting laugh. His stupid little manicure kit. His hatred for Mr Clooney but adoration for his dog Roy. His weekly shopping list and dates with his local take away shops (which never change, ever). His knowledge of old movies and 80’s Australian television icons. His short-sleeved shirts. His dorky dance moves. His dedication to dating apps (despite his lack of success). His love of Brisbane and his mum. His avoidance of Tim and any of the other housemate’s phone calls. His gratitude when you help him out with a task he KNOWS he should be able to do himself.
His warmth and his smile and his search for love and happiness. These are my favourite bits.
I’m not going to pretend like I understand the first thing about depression- I don’t. I have no idea about the demon Ben has been struggling with for years, the dark cloud hanging over him when he wakes up every morning or what was going through his head that weekend.
I do however have some experience with anxiety and I know first hand how utterly debilitating it can be. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone, especially our fragile Ben.
I hope recent events will result in Ben receiving the professional help and care that he needs.
I hope he knows how much he is loved, not just by me and the other housemates but by Australia.
I hope he realises just how much he DOES have to go back to. How he is stronger, braver, more beautiful than he thinks.
And if he doesn’t, we’ll all be here to enlighten him- just as he has enlightened us.