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Archive for February, 2010

A terrible thing happened to me in 1987. I had my heart broken – but that wasn’t so terrible in itself. In fact, that was almost a daily occurrence for me as a teenager, along with brushing my teeth and realising I was quite possibly The Ugliest Most Wretched Creature on the Planet.

The terrible thing that happened was this: because my heart had been broken, I felt compelled to sit down with my diary and write eight poems, each more terrible and turgid than the last.

Yes, I temporarily became a poet: it’s one of the worst things that can happen to any teenage girl, believe me. 

After I’d discovered these poems again, I wondered out loud on twitter if anyone else shared this terrible affliction in their youth. The response was overwhelming: at least three separate people put their hands up and it got me thinking… Maybe I should create an online repository for the angst-ridden teen poetry. For one thing, that blog’d have at least four readers. 

That evening, I told my husband about my plan and before I knew it, we’d done some we’ve-drunk-a-bit-of-wine-and-aren’t-we-the-funny-ones-ha-ha-ha brainstorming and had created a new blog called “Poëgatory” – also known as the place “where bad poems go”. And then after a few more minutes of hysteria, lo! we’d transformed ourselves into “Sylvia Perth” and “Toëd Hughes” who (as our bio went on to state) “are technically married but rent asunder by our creative passions”.

Amidst all this silliness, I decided to read aloud the very first poem I was going to banish to Poëgatory. Man, that was hard. Not so much because I was exposing my 16 year-old-soul to my husband, but that it was difficult to get the words out, I was laughing so much. Particularly when it came to the last line, which surely need to spoken in a half-whisper:

I felt the pain. 

Brilliant. But my husband thought he could match it. He recited what he could remember of a poem he’d written when he was 19 that included the line “a soft a’feathered bed”. 

How I laughed. In fact, a few hours later, I was just about to fall asleep when I remembered the line and began silently laughing all over again, shaking the bed and waking my husband up.  

“Are you okay?” my husband asked. He thought I was crying. 

“Bwaahhhhhh!!!” I burst out laughing. “Soft a’feathered bed!!!!!!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he replied and rolled over.

“I mean, what kind of 19 year old uses the term A-hyphen-Feathered!” I kept laughing.

“It wasn’t hyphenated,” my husband said, sitting up a little. “It’s ‘as soft a feathered bed’ – like ‘as grumpy a husband you’ll ever wake up’. It’s called ‘plain English’, Ms. I-Felt-The-Pain.”

“Oh,” I said somewhat deflated. “I thought it was a’feathered with a hyphen.”

And then after a few minutes, I started shaking with laughter again.

“‘As soft a feathered bed!!!!!!'” I blurted out. 

And then, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about how there were many reasons I loved and admired my husband but, perhaps, one of the most admirable reasons was this: he has always loved me and treated me so well that not a single poem has ever had to tumble – like so much Type 5 vomit – from my tortured pen. 

For this, I – and the world, no doubt – sincerely thank him. 

_______________________________________

Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary, my dearest husband. Thank you for laughing with me every single day and helping me to laugh at myself. 

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You know that page-turning series about the trials and tribulations of teenage love? The one that’s not particularly well written, where the main character is whiny, self-centred and not very likeable, and yet you still can’t put the damn thing down?

No, not Twilight, people! I’m talking highschool diaries. My highschool diaries. 

Last weekend, I discovered a whole box of them in the shed, marked clearly in my handwriting (“[NDM]‘s highschool & uni diaries”) with my husband’s scrawl adding: “+ Rollerblades!”. I should hasten to add the rollerblades were his – as was the exclamation mark – for I do not share his enthusiasm for rollerblading. Oh no, not I. 

I randomly picked one up from the box and read the first page:

January 1st 1987

My resolutions for 1987 are: 

1. I will do well in my HSC

2. I will have at least two lovers (of over three weeks duration) by December 31st

3. I will no longer be a fool

4. I will keep my room CLEAN

Riveting stuff, right? Before I knew it, I had finished off the whole book and was scrambling around to find the next in the series so I could find out what the hell happened at the Year 12 River Rock and whether or not I got that “fab” skirt off lay-by.

And then finally, three diaries and three hours later, I emerged from 1987, shaken and shocked. And not just because every second sentence seemed to be “I’m shocked!”, for example:

Dad just gave me $80.
I’m shocked and appalled.
I’m also rich.

Also:

[Name omitted] told me in Maths he owned ABBA’s “Arrival” but he couldn’t find it. I was shocked. I mean, sure we all have one album we want to avoid – but the fact was HE WAS LOOKING FOR IT.

There were many reasons I was shaken and shocked. For one thing, it’s a hard thing to read the innermost thoughts of your 16 year old self and all the drinking, snogging, pining and whining that went on. Especially when you then realise that your children are way closer to that age than you are. Three words: Shit. A. Brick. 

For another thing, how come I won the English prize and couldn’t spell the word “weird” properly? It’s just not right. 

But the thing that shocked me most was this: in Diary #3, I read all about this guy who said he’d “liked” me for over a year (in the way that only high school kids “like” each other), who pursued me rather rigorously, who I snogged at a few parties and agonised (over the course of many, many, many pages) whether or not I wanted to be his girlfriend and who was finally deemed to be  “way too nice” and dumped unceremoniously. 

It was an age-old story (especially when it came to me and “nice boys”) but here’s the rub: I could not remember him. Not his name, not his face. NOTHING. Even when I looked him up in the Year Book, there was nothing about his photo that triggered a single memory. As they say in the classics: Not a sausage. 

Of course, I remember the sleazes and the cads of that year. I remember the boy who I oscillated violently between “I love him soooooo much” and “HE’S A SHIT-FACED FUCK-BRAIN”, sometimes within the same entry (Yes, I was as inconsistent as a Type One Vomit, even then). I remembered stealing a bin from one boy’s house, spray painting it gold and leaving it on the lawn of another boy’s house along with the note “I AM GOLD, I AM WILD. I’M YOUR BIN’S LONG LOST CHILD”. I even remember sending one of the school prefects a postcard that “wisely advised” him to “FUCK LIKE A BEAST!” – although, admittedly, I can’t quite remember my reasons for doing so. 

But I didn’t remember this boy. Not at all. And it really bothered me. 

You see, when I got married, my husband was adamant we shouldn’t have the wedding video-taped. He said that we would remember the things worth remembering. And at the time, I thought he was right. 

But now, reading this diary which documented (in excruciating detail) events that happened 23 years ago, I wondered. This boy seemed worth remembering, even just a little bit. Simply because he seemed like a nice person, totally undeserving of being buffeted about by “Cyclone NDM”.

Of course the bitterest pill of all to swallow was reading it all with the knowledge that Cyclone NDM was to rage on for at least another decade before finally becoming the sweet, wafting breeze it is today. (I just read that bit out to my husband who shouted “Ha!” and then muttered darkly under his breath about women with ‘strong personalities’. I’m shocked.)

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In the Old Days (before children), I used to enjoy buying birthday presents. Why, I had the time and money to spend hours wandering through the shops really thinking about the person I was buying for, before finally finding and buying Just The Right Thing. How satisfying. 

These days, gift vouchers are my saviour. Yes, I am one step away from slipping a $5 note in with the birthday card. 

But really, as impersonal as vouchers can sometimes feel, they save me from the following type of situation…

In a recent high-pressured Toddler’s-bladder-is-about-to-blow situation, I made an impulse purchase for my friend JS’s birthday. I thought I was being cute. I thought I was being quirky. I thought I had bought her a 1950s battery-operated back-scratcher in its original packaging and with its original fittings. Noice. 

It was only when I went to wrap it a few days later that I realised that I may have made a slight purchasing error… 

For one thing, the product was very prominently called a “RELAX-O-MATIC VIBRATOR”, with the words “With Backscratcher” added as an afterthought, perhaps to lend the product some credibility in more polite circles.  

Oh, and the picture showed a smiling well-groomed woman holding this very pink and distinctly penis-shaped item to her face.

And then the more I looked at it, the more I began to realise that it didn’t look like it was actually her own hand holding the pink penis-shaped thing to her face. It was someone else’s hand. Moreover, it was someone else’s well-manicured female hand

Yes, I’d gotten my happily-married and childed friend a pre-loved Love-That-Dare-Not-Speak-Its-Name 1950s sex toy… with a backscratcher attachment. Which is kind of cool, if you think about it. 

Still, when I opened the box and actually looked closely at said backscratcher attachment – which the blurb on the box cheerfully claimed gave “soothing vibration to relieve that nervous itch!” – the more it began to Totally Freak Me Out. It was a long stick with a little plastic hand on the end. And it made me realise that if someone were to relieve That Itch with it, it would be a little like receiving a hand-job from a plastic doll. Which was about a thousand different kinds of wrong.

Anyway, it was all too late for me to change the gift and so I wrapped it in the hope it would be seen by JS (and her friends) as a ha-ha-ha-quirky gift rather than presenting yet another “Oh. My. God. Who invited her?”-type scenario. My husband didn’t help matters by suggesting I write “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!” on the birthday card – which was entirely predictable considering his fine tradition of wanting to Just Watch (see “Boob-a-licious“).

And with my package in hand, I set off for her birthday cocktail party, still wondering if I should separate the card from the present so that when it was opened I could claim it was from me (or not) depending on the general reaction of the crowd.

But in the end, I stood by my purchase. After all, I was putting the “cock” back into “cocktail”, right? (CUE: laughter). And JS was, in turns, confused, amused, good-humoured and (I think) utterly delighted with her gift. 

Still, people shouldn’t invite me places, really. That goes without saying. 

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I am a person who prides myself on paying my bills on time. There, I went and said it. 

Anyone who has read my post about my toy box classification system may not be surprised to hear this fact – nor that I have created an Excel Spreadsheet and filing system to ensure that nary a bill goes overlooked or unpaid. 

However, anyone who has actually seen the state of the rest of my house –  or, indeed, watched me run along the street with multiple children in tow, screaming “We’re late! We’re FUCKING LATE” –  may be surprised I’d ever be organised or punctual about anything. Ever. 

What can I say? I offer the world a complex package. 

Anyway, the other day I received a surprising letter from the State Revenue Office informing me there were “Legal Proceedings Pending” because of the matter of some unpaid land tax. Unpaid? How could this be? Especially since a quick check of my spreadsheet, files and bank records showed our last land tax bill had been paid in full last June.

It turns out – after a phone call to the SRO – that the unpaid bill in question was first issued in 2006, shortly after we’d moved in to our new house. And the reason that I’d never received such a bill was because it – and all its cheerful red-coloured successors – were sent to our previous (rental) address and not the address of the house we’d just bought to live in, even though that was the address whose land was being taxed. You know it makes sense. 

Anyway, the crux of the matter was that we owed the SRO two hundred and forty big ones and had less than two weeks to pay. I broke the news to my husband, who took it rather badly. 

“Who the hell is the State Revenue Office, anyway?” he snarled. “Why, I’ve never heard of them! How can we be sure they’re not some Nigerian widow outfit looking to extort money out of us?”

I showed him the bill and the website and told him I’d just spent 15 minutes trapped in their elaborate automated phone system. “Either they’re legit or this is the sting of the century,” I told him. “In which case, you’d think they’d aim a little higher than $240, wouldn’t you?”

My husband humphed for a while and then said “They can’t threaten us with legal action just like that! I’m going to sue them! I’m going to speak to our legal team!”

I gently reminded him that we didn’t have a legal team. 

“Yes, we do! We have that guy who helped us with those contracts last year!” he replied. “In fact, I’m going to ring him! What’s more, I’m going to ring him RIGHT NOW! Threaten us with legal action? The nerve… the sheer bloody nerve!”

He disappeared into the back room with the phone, emerging some fifteen minutes later.

“Well, I rang our lawyer,” he said, somewhat satisfied with himself.

“And what did he say?” I asked. 

“He said ‘Pay it’,” my husband mumbled, adding with greater confidence: “Still, I’d like it stated for the record that I didn’t take all this lying down. They threaten us with legal action and we threaten them right back.”

“By ringing our lawyer totally unbeknownst to them?” I asked. “Yeah, that’s a pretty big threat. Like, a totally ‘under-the-radar’ threat. Perhaps even an ‘under-the-table-completely-shit-faced-drunk-and-passed-out-in-a-pool-of-our-own-vomit’ kind of threat. That’ll learn ‘em.”

“Indeed it will,” he replied, pouring himself a big glass of wine. “In fact, I am going to continue showing the State Revenue Office exactly what I think of them by drinking this glass of wine and living a good life.”

Apparently, as he told me later, he was paraphrasing the “Living well is the best revenge” quote by some metaphysical poet (by way of Seinfeld). Whatever. There’s one thing that’s for certain here: that living-well-by-drinking-wine shit sure would have fucked the SRO right up.  

As for the lawyer, apparently he was “really nice” about it all.

“He even said I should feel free to ring him whenever I had any legal queries,” my husband boasted. 

“Of course he’d say that,” I said. “That’s because he gets to charge us every single time.”

“Yeah, well, obviously… ” my husband replied, somewhat deflated. “Whatever you do, just make sure you pay *his* bill on time. I won’t be able to ring our lawyer if it’s our lawyer himself who’s taking us to court over unpaid bills.”

“Don’t worry, my darling. You’ll still be able to drink wine and show them all,” I said.

And we both drank to that.

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I first kissed a boy playing spin the bottle at a party when I was nine years old. The boy who I kissed (rather chastely, lips firmly closed) was in his first year of highschool and later told his sister that I was a “really good kisser”. 

I have always remembered that and, from time to time, have thought about putting it on my CV, along with “neatest handwriting ever”, “knows how to work a buffet” and “I can touch my nose with my tongue!”. (That last one was actually on my CV in 1995 and landed me my first admin job. Fact.)

The Pixie is obviously a little more advanced than her mother and has already been spotted kissing various boys at school – as reported by the mothers of the various boys and by The Pixie herself. For example:

ME: What did you do today at school?

PIXIE: (enthusiastically) I kissed [Master J]!

Mr Justice was outraged when he first heard. 

“YOU CAN’T DO THAT, [PIXIE]!!!!” he shouted. “IT’S AGAINST SCHOOL RULES!! A teacher told my class in prep that there was STRICTLY NO KISSING AT SCHOOL!!!!!”

The Pixie just laughed (“hee-hee-hee!”) and skipped off. 

The next day, after school, Mr Justice pulled me aside. 

“Today at recess, [Master X] came and gave me some information,” he said. “Some very interesting information, indeed. He said he’d seen The Pixie kissing Master J in the playground again!”

He waited for my shocked reaction. 

“Oh,” I said, eventually. 

“Exactly!” he replied. “So me and some of the lads formed a group. Our mission was to stop Pixie kissing boys! We went and told the teacher but her friends hid her from the teacher. We’re going to have to work really hard tomorrow to stop all this kissing stuff.”

Yes, way to go for a) escalating a conflict and b) showing an unhealthy interest in your sister’s love life, Mr Justice. 

I went and had a heart-to-heart with The Pixie. “Mr Justice tells me that you’ve been doing more kissing at school.”

“Yes!” the Pixie said proudly.

“Well, I’m told there’s a rule about no kissing at school. Kissing is fine to do at home. But maybe… maybe you should just stick to hugging at school…” I said, not wanting to quash her loving nature but also not wanting Mr Justice and his Special Ops Squad to turn the whole thing into a CHOOSE-YOUR-SIDE BATTLE-TO-THE-DEATH-WITH-ULTIMATE-LIGHT-SABERS AUTOBOT-VERSUS-BATTLE-BRAWLING-POKEMON POWERBALL-type battle Every. Single. Lunchtime. 

“Okay!” she said, brightly. “No more kissing at school! I’ll hug everyone instead!”

And she threw herself, naked, against me. “Like this!”

Uh, okay.

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We’ve all done it. We’ve all bought heavily-trademarked and unfeasibly expensive underpants for our toilet-training children, partly to entice them into wearing underpants in the first place, but mostly in the hope they will take all possible measures to avoid pissing on the face of Buzz Lightyear or Ben 10 or The Little Mermaid or Dora the Explorer or whoever it is they’ve chosen to champion on the front of their grundies. 

Of course, whenever the child is wearing these special undies, an accident of the Worst Kind is sure to happen and Buzz/Ben/Ariel/Dora end up eating shit. And then, rather than flushing the whole lot down the toilet like we want to, we end up scrubbing faecal matter off said underpants in a public toilet block, because our child doesn’t want us to throw Buzz/Ben/Ariel/Dora into the bin and is expressing this through the subtle art of screaming their head off.

I don’t know why we do this when it’s a strategy that fails us every single time. And, of course by “us”, I’m meaning “me”. 

Recently, I found Tiddles McGee crying in my friend Madame Zap’s courtyard, having had such an accident in his favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underpants. Unfortunately for Tiddles, there’d also been a small section of ‘output’ that had slid down his leg into his shoes – I call these rogue bits of shit “Travellers”. Also unfortunately for Tiddles, he’s got his father’s egg-shell constitution and was dry-retching at the sight of his Traveller. 

Oh fuck, NO! Not the trifecta! I thought and immediately prioritised cleaning up the damage in his direct line of sight. I worked quickly and efficiently – even, some might say, cheerfully. Well, as cheerfully as anyone can work when they’re in the direct line of fire of their three-year-old’s gag reflex.

When I returned inside the house, of course, I found my friend Madame Zap in the midst of clearing out her baby’s bouncer chair because he’d filled it with a voluminous milk-based vomit. And so it came to pass that the trifecta had been achieved after all…

Now, I was going to blog about the achievement of the trifecta a couple of weeks ago during my Bloggies campaign and I made the mistake of mentioning it to my husband. He was appalled. “You can’t blog about that! You’ll scare people off.” 

“Phooey!” I exclaimed. “We all shit! Even Bloggies tourists shit!”

“Yes, and we’ve all taken part in a line dance at some point in our lives but it doesn’t mean we want to talk about it,” was his response.

He raised a fair point: I put the post on ice. And by the time I got around to looking at it again a few days ago, I realised that so much had changed. For one thing, Tiddles McGee was one week into being in underpants twenty-four hours a day and was hitting his target (i.e. the toilet) Every. Single. Time.

“Could this be the last of my wee and poo stories?” I wondered to myself. “Is this the end of an era, of seven and a half long years of hard slog, wiping arses and stepping in surprise puddles?”

CUT TO: the afternoon of that very same day. I was at the museum where one of the (many) children I was in charge of suddenly got a funny expression on his face and said “Oh! I didn’t know I had to do a poo!” and I found myself back in the toilets scrubbing shit. Just like that. As I did it, I recalled my husband’s claim that “If you touch the shit of someone else’s child, you will die” and at that particular moment, I thought, he wasn’t far wrong.

Moreover, later that day, I found out that my fashionista friend had been sitting in the front row of David Jones’ fashion week chatting to my fellow Bloggies nominee Mia Freedman quite possibly at the very same moment I was hanging a sopping wet pair of Ben 10 undies on my pram handle, like some kind of white flag signaling my complete and utter defeat. Shee-ittt.

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