Thursday, March 31, 2011

Don't Wish It Away...

This week has been a trial. Pre-menstrual stress has never been a joke to me but by god; homicidal impulses I can handle - I always have a hit-list - but the odd PMS when you hate yourself and obsess over things you know will make you feel bad is, frankly, as bad as not being pregnant gets. I kept thinking how much I wished it was the weekend and I could sleep and not be nice to people and eat sugary food in bed. Then we were watching Sopranos last night and something clicked, and it struck me that every day, even a bad day, is a day I won't ever get back... Okay, more specifically, every day with Vincent is a day I won't get back. I started thinking about something happening to him, and how I would give anything for a day with him, even a day like yesterday when I was miserable and didn't even get to see that much of him.

I don't want to preach to anyone except myself. I'm very good at living in the present (don't believe me, check my savings account) but sometimes it's not enough to just be in it, especially when it's happy anyway. I don't think it's ideal to embrace a bad day because there may be worse ones to come; I hope I can start to appreciate a bad day because it's a day and I'm living it. Maybe in that way, the heightened emotions of PMS are even more life-affirming; there's no escaping or controlling how I feel...

Anyway, between you and me, I can honestly say that things can only get better.

Monday, March 28, 2011

News That Isn't Big But Still Interesting

I was being/listening to Bowie this morning, practising for my Mum's 60th later this year when I'm really hoping we'll have karaoke and I can kill it with this song. Fuck I love Bowie. Anyway, it's been a long, uneventful day and I'm tired so I'm just going to tell you, in brief, some things I found out recently.

1. Diamond really is Neil Diamond's surname. It explains so much.
2. My Dad's maternal grandfather (my great-grandfather) was a PIRATE; first-mate to Bully Hayes. I always knew Elton was singing about me! (I am actually a seamstress, currently non-practising.) Vincent is sure he has some pirate ancestry too but we really can't afford for that to be the case; we're lawless enough as we are.
3. Norfolk Island is a volcano. (Thanks Ruth Park.)
4. If you don't present your membership card at the Bluestone before paying, you won't get points. Also, if you've forgotten your card you can give your name and still get points (as long as you haven't paid, of course).
5. Sweetened condensed milk is delicious. Make this slice from the kitchenmaid, which I made last week for my lovely Christchurch parents and is fucking delicious (especially the un-set base; thank goodness Vincent came home or I'd be a dress size bigger than I am and they would have received a pile of icing), and then you can put the rest of the can in the fridge just in case it comes in useful when you know it won't and you can have a spoonful every time you open the fridge and justify it on the grounds you're preventing waste. Although actually the normal milk went off so it did come in useful (Earl Grey isn't an ideal match however).

And now I've imparted my news, I'm off to make a chocolate pudding to eat while we watch more Sopranos in bed. Monday is over. We did it, team! Yusssss.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Some Weekend Highlights

1. Being rescued from an incredibly uncomfortable "conversation" at the pub with a pseudo-comedienne by my most lovely friend, at her own peril.
2. Eating too much McDonalds after drinking too much beer on Friday night, and not regretting either at all.
3. Finishing my book (finally).
4. An amusing phone conversation with my mother.
5. My excellent niece in an outfit she picked out especially to look "sporty", pitching bowling balls down the alley then spinning around smiling and running over to hi-five my sister, Vincent and me.
6. Finishing season one of The Sopranos, and starting on season two.
7. Dancing like it was 1969 to a band playing Stevie Wonder et al on Saturday night with two much loved cousins, dripping with sweat then and having sore feet today because of it.
8. Eating a yum breakfast I made myself in bed while watching the rest of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (terrible, terrible film).
9. Vincent and me separately making lists of five movies we would like to see at the World Cinema Showcase, and discovering we had picked the exact same five (I can't believe this; the booklet is full of movies we would both want to see. We are not-so-slowly turning into each other).
10. Walking down to check my sister's lotto tickets and one of ours to find she had won $22 and we had won $36.

And a couple of season one highlights:
1. Tony: Cunnilingus and psychiatry brought us here.
2. Sil: That self-righteous prick put his dick in my little girl's soccer team-mate.
3. Season finale closing credits: State Trooper, Springsteen

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Time To Play Our Game

I've just been reading Rachel's picks on the always interesting 'Musings of an Inappropriate Woman', and come across something I'd never heard of before called White Female Privilege. Like being told by a doctor that all your symptoms actually have a name, it came as a sort of relief; not just that its existence is acknowledged, but that the experience of not being one of the privileged is being discussed. It's easy to talk about the world being the oyster of middle-aged white men with my friends because none of us are part of that group. But, growing up in an affluent suburb and attending some of the best public schools in the country, my peer group has always been girls who fit into this group, and I've always felt it's something I can only really talk about with my sisters for fear my friends will deny it or just not be able to understand.

When I was in form two, a friend of mine told me the only reason a boy in our class hadn't asked me out was my "colour". I was stunned. I knew I looked different, but I had never thought I seemed different - I watched the same TV programmes, wore the same clothes - but clearly, I was. I felt incredibly embarrassed; not only because of what she said but because I had been oblivious, or maybe just really really hopeful. I'm painfully aware of the consequences of that remark made in a bedroom in Freeman's Bay in 1996; first my pathetic gratitude to people who didn't see me as different and later my anger and condescension towards people who did. I still look at white New Zealanders with friends and partners who aren't white and automatically think well of them(!!). I feel colonised, and it makes me angry and sad but I can't help it.

When I watch TV, I never see anyone on it who looks like me; there are young Pacific males, but they're always cast as non-threatening, hard case morons. When I was young and wanted to be an actress, I knew I'd never get to play Jo March; as I got older I realised I'd never get to play Elizabeth Bennett or any of her sisters either. When I was in the production at intermediate I was told to use the 'werewolf' foundation (yes, I can see the funny side of that). I'm constantly asked where I'm from, and when I give my ethnicity, am told in a "complimentary" fashion that I don't look it (often accompanied by hand gestures demonstrating the "usual" size of my kinswomen). A friend's grandmother once said I must have other blood, 'else where did I get my cheekbones?

This hasn't ended up being about white female privilege at all (although I guess it has, in that none of my friends have ever encountered any of these things or have to work through their effects now), but it saves time when I do get to it. I just want to put this stuff, much of which I've kept quiet for fear of highlighting difference and because I'm ashamed of how beaten-down I once was, out in the open. Yep, we all have shit times and our own crosses to bear and demons to wrestle with and everything else. But the starting line for this fucked up race is staggered, and I'd really like to stop pretending otherwise.

(Image from Spherical Notions)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Room Of One's Own

Since visiting my Aunty's and Uncle's on Saturday, I've been thinking a lot about what makes home home. When my family left our beautiful old house when I was eight, I think my sisters felt they didn't have a real home anymore, just a house where Mum and Dad live. The old house was where all of their childhood memories were, good and bad; one was thirteen and the other eighteen when we moved, ages when you spend less time at your own house but are so adrift you need an anchor most. Just over eight years ago, the latter moved to the far north, and while it took some adjusting to, it straight away became home. I could go on forever telling you why, but I think you'll understand when I just say that when she's there, she breathes easy. Her husband, my brother(-in-law) told me years ago that Auckland had tired him; here he always had to be something, whereas up there he could just be him. It was one of the most crucial albeit indirect pieces of advice I've been given (I loathe "wisdom" in this context); I've always been really concerned with knowing who I am, and for a while I really wanted to move up there too, living in one of the shacks around from Shipwreck Bay, growing veges, fishing, trading, smoking a lot of weed and just being me, whoever that turned out to be. Changes to dole eligibility and a couple of other things put a (hopefully) temporary end to that dream, but at least I now had conditions for the places I would choose to live.

A favourite cousin of mine moved to Hamamatsu several years ago, after the hardest time in his life. After his first visit to Japan, it was clear he had found something, and when he didn't rush back when the earthquake and tsunami hit, it became clear that Japan is home. Not to say NZ isn't special, but in the same way Auckland is a demanding place for my sister, I imagine Japan to be his haven where he can live the way he wants to and be who he wants to be. I hate thinking that his heart might be breaking seeing what's happening to the country where he found his place.

I don't know if Vincent and I have found that place yet. I love Auckland; it's part of me and it's where most of the people I love best are. It could be where home is; I'm pretty sure I know who I am, what's important to me, and what I want, and I could do a lot worse than being near the people who mean the most to me. But I don't know. Something inside me thinks there might be somewhere where people think like Vincent and me; where the way we choose to live isn't exceptional - where we don't feel like a novelty. It might be Cuba. It might be Tolaga Bay. It might be down the street from my parents... I'll let you know.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Long and Short of it

It has been a usual two-day weekend but it's felt, on one hand, incredibly long, and on the other, like I haven't had one at all. There were lots of things to be done and people to be seen, and although I'm very tired and very much looking forward to when Vincent has finished making dinner and we can settle into bed to eat it and watch The Sopranos, most of it was well worth being exhausted for.

Yesterday my Mother, sisters, nieces and I went to visit two of the dearest people I have ever known. I call them Uncle and Aunty as they are my Dad's cousin and his wife, but growing up they were really like grandparents to me. Most Saturdays my family would get up and pile into our old Ford to go and visit them. We would leap out of the car and begin to call out before even knocking at the door sometimes, and out they would come, my little Aunty in her glasses with her beautiful smile and my Uncle who would call us all "bubba" and hold our faces while giving us big kisses. Dad and my Uncle would go out fishing in my Uncle's boat, and my Aunty would make her big thick pancakes for the rest of us while we took over her house. Sunday afternoons my sisters and I would invariably set up a pitiful chorus and my Aunty and Uncle would be descended upon again; we were always happy there, and we always felt welcome.

When we arrived yesterday, we didn't yell as we approached the door. When it opened, my Aunty still had her beautiful smile, but she had very little hair because of the course of chemo she's just undergone. My Uncle didn't call me bubba, but he put his arm around me and said I was beautiful. They both looked exactly the same and yet so different; I noticed they were tired, and older, and yet they didn't seem smaller - I think I finally saw how strong they both are, something I never really noticed as a kid. Being with them at their house was so beautiful but it hurt, even though all the memories were so happy and the love was just as tangible; I wasn't thinking about all the years we've missed or the all things I didn't notice... Maybe it was just rediscovering or, more accurately, reclaiming something that was so happy and pure and mine. It's brought back memories of some of the unhappy times in my childhood but maybe that's not a bad thing; having what they give is worth it, and makes those memories less sad. I can't wait to go back there, and for Vincent to know them, and to try to give them back some of what they gave me.

I don't want this to be sad so I'll tell you something nice. I was a fart factory of a child (although we weren't allowed to say fart; it was strictly 'pop' in our Victorian home), and being comfortable at my Aunty and Uncle's house, I used to drop them all over the place to my more polite and proper sister's humiliation. Once, she told me off for doing it (in a nice way; desperately embarrassed, not annoyed) and my Aunty said "Oh, she's alright. Better out than in!". I didn't need telling twice; I triumphantly marked my territory for years after.

Then last night my sisters and I went out for a late 'sister dinner', something we don't get to do very often being busy and with one of us living out of Auckland and being in high demand when she's here. My sisters are two of the best women I know; they are both devilishly funny, fiercely intelligent, exceptionally beautiful, have survived things that would have killed most people, and do what they can to make things better for other people, often sacrificing themselves to do so. And in spite of everything, they love me; they really, really do.

Finally, when I woke up this morning tired and a bit upset, the first words spoken to me were "Good morning! I love you". They are the first words I hear every day, accompanied by a big hug and then maybe what D'Arcy Niland calls 'a bit of a cuddle'.

Last night, my sister asked me why Vincent and I want to have a baby now. I couldn't answer, but I think those three things that happened in less than twenty-four hours of my life, and those people, might go some way to answering.

My dinner's just arrived. I still feel tired but I feel happy and lucky. I wish everyone I love could have it like I do. This weekend's taken it out of me, but I could have it taken a lot worse.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Luck Be A Lady

This is one of my favourite songs by an Irish band, which I don't expect to hear today, but that's okay. The standard of Auckland covers bands aside, I really only notice the music for the first half of my St Paddy's celebrations; one particularly messy St Patrick's one of my best and Irish-est friends and I got halfway through a loud and boisterous accompaniment before realising that, although in perfect time, we had been singing an entirely different song...

I don't know exactly why I've always been such a fan of St Patrick's Day (harhar - I'm quite happy getting very drunk any time, thank you); I have absolutely no Irish blood, have never been to Ireland, and don't look particularly good in green. The first I remember, I was in the car with my family, about six- or seven-years-old, when two very pissed middle-aged men walked straight out onto the road, and one was hit by a car in front of us. He got up, slightly dazed, and carried on walking, and my Dad said something about him celebrating St Paddy's. I was scared and I was thrilled.

St Patrick's Day is also my parents' wedding anniversary; today is thirty-eight years since they walked down the aisle of a little church in Epsom, Dad with shoulder length hair and a maroon tux, Mum with peach coloured nail-polish and my big sister in her tummy. They didn't have enough money for proper rings, but Dad promised Mum she would have one. Two children and about eight difficult years later, he brought home that ring. Everything about that makes me want to cry. I know their relationship has been far from rosy; they married young, were poor and stressed and scared and had three daughters with whom they didn't know what to do, but my memories of them as a couple are happy ones. I remember Dad calling Mum what I thought was "sweedard", and that every night they showered together; for a long time I thought all parents did. I remember them agreeing not to buy each other Christmas presents because we couldn't afford it and then Dad pulling out Mum's favourite perfume. Mum crying her eyes out for what Dad went through when he was little.

They'd be horrified by my blog; the swears, my obsessional ramblings about Vincent, and my ranting about everything else. Nevertheless, Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad. And to everyone else, Happy St Patrick's Day.

May the luck of the Irish
Lead to happiest heights
And the highway you travel
Be lined with green lights.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We Fill It Up With Only Two

I've been listening to a lot of Neil Diamond lately, and marvelling over how a guy so uncool can be so cool. He's written some absolute shockers, and the black shirts: there's a Man In Black, and his name is John. But songs like Solitary Man and Cracklin' Rosie... it doesn't get much better than those.

The first time Vincent and I kissed (or more accurately, the first time I kissed Vincent), we were listening to Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon (the Urge Overkill version, which isn't as good as Neil's but it was the version he had on his iPod, and anyway we are obviously both fans of Tarantino). Before that, the first time we danced together was to a covers band at an Irish pub on St Patrick's Day playing Sweet Caroline. I remember very clearly yelling "Neil Diamond!" and grabbing Vincent's hand to drag him to the front of the stage. We have a lot of fun going over how we found each other. I accuse him of nearly ruining my life by not making his feelings clear enough (I've never been good at picking when boys like me; my sister is the same, with occasionally disastrous consequences), and he points out how he tried and how he was constrained, and we come to the agreed conclusion that although I took action, he put in preparatory work; in short, he flicked his hair, and I made my move.

I really like that Neil is part of our story. He's not someone who's ever mentioned as any kind of influence, and he'll never have the kind of revival among young people that other artists have. And that makes his music even more genuine to me; it belongs to us and his other (mostly old) fans, who don't love his music because it's cool or because he's an icon but because it's great, and he's a legend.

Monday, March 14, 2011

You, And Me, And Baby?

A few weeks ago, Vincent and I decided we would like to have a baby(!!!); hopefully next year. I've been thinking about it a lot, very happily. But I just had the most tiring weekend in recent memory, and all I drank was two pints of beer (and that was before 5pm on Friday, which doesn't really count as the weekend); it wasn't drunkenness, or a hangover. It was Children.

One child, in fact. Vincent and I spent Friday night with our excellent little six-year-old niece. We didn't know we could turn off her night-light, so we (half-)slept in a red glow reminiscent of a bordello, on our backs because our corrugated blow-up bed doesn't really lend to sleeping on one's side (especially not when inflated to capacity, as our capable little hostess had ensured). She awoke with a smile at 6am and began to wrestle with her uncle; I tried to sleep through it but after a foot to the face, decided it was time to get up. We spent the entire day together, and in spite of feeling like I'd just undergone a partial lobotomy (I need at least eight hours for my personality to be anything near pretty) it was lovely and a lot of fun. Then our excellent little country niece arrived and our family day was complete.

When we got home, I went straight to bed for a nap and didn't emerge until 7pm. I sleepily ate some dinner, clumsily got dressed, and then Vincent and I went to MOTAT, which was open until midnight for White Night, part of the Auckland Arts Festival. Everything looked magical and we agreed it would have been a perfect date... if we weren't already in love and married.

On the way home we passed Aotea Square, which has been transformed for the festival and looks magnificent. The drunk old posers in it weren't quite as attractive, but there are always mosquitoes at the beach. We saw no less than three hen's parties as we walked down Queen Street, and as I watched girls tottering in their heels and boys leering at them, I thought maybe I am ready for the next phase after all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

All In

Ella and Louis didn't entirely know what they were singing about, to sound this happy.

This week Vincent and I had the first, and hopefully last, misunderstanding (that's not a euphemism for fight. I've had lots of fights, and this wasn't one!) of our relationship. It was horrible. The night it began, I couldn't sleep until 3am for thinking about it (I did however manage to clean the toilet and sink, conquer the mountain of folding, and start a new book: Fishing In The Styx by Ruth Park - which, if you're wondering, is great), and spent the next day very unhappily. (This might not seem like a big deal but I, like my mother, used to be almost coldly adept at compartmentalising. I do it less and less now after finding that by doing it I was distancing myself so far from my feelings I almost had none about certain things, and while it got me past some hard times, I didn't really go through them, and I definitely confused/hurt people I cared about in doing so. Besides which, I wasn't living. Praise Nietzsche, he really gets it.) Everything has been explained to each other now and I'm able to sleep and happy again, but it has made me confront the intensity of how I feel about Vincent. It's one thing to know I would follow him to the ends of the earth, and to read Wuthering Heights and find it strikes a chord, but times like yesterday, I realise we have, as Vincent put it, put all our eggs in one basket, and it's not jazzy or rosy; it's fucking scary, scarier still to not have chosen to do it. I could try harder not to give absolutely everything to one person but I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't; that doesn't even look like it could make sense, but it does to me. But I can't try; with Vincent it isn't a choice, it's a compulsion. I don't want my own "things"; I don't want separate interests or gender-specific nights. I want Vincent to be my conjoined twin from birth, there for everything that's been, everything that will be, and whose corpse I'll drag around (or mine, he) when he's dead, so people know I'm not a whole person (and subsequently, that I'm not to be left alone with children).

To me, love is all-consuming and all-demanding. If there's a halfway point, it's not love; I accept it is for a lot of people and they live happy lives and keep their hair and complexions, but not me. I'd rather tear mine out, have black circles and a restraining order.

Like a dear friend in her fifties said to me today: "It's how I roll".

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ordinary Greatness

Vincent and I have been discussing what we think the words 'mundane' and 'ephemeral' mean, and what we mean when we use them. I've always used mundane to mean boring in a commonplace way, but now that I think commonplace is anything but boring, it's lost the connotations it had, and I use it as a positive, even if it confuses people. I love the mundane; it's beautiful. You already know about to-do and grocery lists but it's more than just those. My favourite events are the ones that happen every day which might be banal for some people but are anything but, for me: choosing breakfast, watching ads, having silly conversations; they're little things that I do every day but give me lots to enjoy or to think about, or just remind me that I have a good life.

Yesterday, hungover as old Harry's, Vincent and I spent the whole day in bed and watched three different but excellent movies (I mean different from each other, not different "'cos we're so underground"). One was a bit more excellent than the other two, and that was American Splendor. If you're not into comics (which we weren't, but are now) you might not know about American Splendor (sic - bloody Amcan's [mis]spelling), a wry comic written by Harvey Pekar about his lonely life as a file clerk, and the frustrations of everyday living. It's incredibly funny, and moving, and beautiful because it simply celebrates life as it is and as it happens.

The next, The War On Democracy, wasn't quite as beautiful. In fact it was extremely ugly, showing what stupid, ignorant people are prepared to do to others when they are greedy and afraid. It made me cry, and it made me very, very angry.

The last movie wasn't beautiful either, but it was extremely funny, mildly confusing, and the clincher for changing me from a Jack Nicholson detestee to a fan. The scene below was my favourite; the woman is a hitchhiker who has little relevance to the story and is completely mad.