EleanorTwigby

On things and stuff.

I Don’t Even Like Swimming

That saying about fish and various ill-sized ponds rings very true to me, though it’s only more recently that I’ve realised its relevance to my life. I grew up in a place where small talents seemed rare, and as I meet more people in new cities I realise how many of us fled from it. That’s not to say that there aren’t talented people in that place, of course there are, but unless it involves footballs, swimming trunks or scientific skills you are less likely to get help when it comes to nurturing it.

It is in this void of understanding that the recognition lies. With the risk of sounding like a massive wanker, I didn’t know anyone else that did what I did when I was at high school. In my group of friends that were hastily thrown together by class lists I was the only person who wrote in my style.  I hate myself for saying this (confidence is one of my issues as I’m soon to explain) but I felt special.

I felt, as everyone did, like a big fish in a small creative-vacuum of a pond. So I moved. I met more people that had similar interests. We had to find our own friends, and chose them through what it was that pigeon-holed us mentally, rather than which science we hated the least. The pond grew a little bit, and I started attending a uni course that surrounded me with people that had all grown up in their own insufficient bodies of water. The confidence that beamed out of those first classrooms could have powered the lights above us for a good few months. While some of us had different styles, we all thought of ourselves as wordsmiths of some unique talent.

It was at this point that I started to lose sight of the edges. I met more people who also liked to write funny little quips about society, people who had the same idols as me, people who toted the same copies of the same dog-eared bibles (Parker and Plath, among others) on trains and buses in the hope of portraying the image of an inspired commentator with words like hilarious little bullets.

My friends were into the arts (all kinds) and were full of tales of people who I should meet and read and look up because they did the same thing as me. Instead of being grateful and inspired, I found myself drowning in self-doubt. If all these people can do what I’ve been doing, why would anyone need another one to recommend to others who are also doing the same thing? It’s a flooded field, and more people are only going to raise the water-level to new, smothering heights. Even my friends who never promoted themselves as writers were writing successful and popular pieces, that were probably about much more serious and relevant issues than those I had been penning myself. The hobby of those around me was supposed to be my future career, and in their spare time people were doing more work on it than I would in full days left open purely for that reason.

I wonder if doctors would feel as affronted if people came in on their afternoons to have a quick dabble at diagnosis, or if the operating theatre would become a place of much less valour if two in three of the people in it were there for fun? It’s a selfish thought, to want to cut off your field simply because you think you’ve been using the label for longer. That’s the clincher of the writing industry – it’s a common talent, and it’s everywhere (thanks, internet).

I’ve recently moved into an even bigger pond, and it’s safe to say I am drowning in it. Last night I visited a place that is literally bursting at the seams with writers that are, I assume, of my own calibre. It was daunting to see that the same dark little quips that I’d started trying to make a name for myself with years ago were shamelessly common. I’m not a confident person, so I am unbelievably ashamed of how shocking I found the thought that I was not a unique fucking snowflake. That hasn’t stopped those people doing it, however.

The other side of the coin is that there are people who are unbelievably successful, and still write those same anecdotes of the same standard. There is a possibility that there’s nothing they do that I can’t do, however difficult I find it to believe. If things keep going the way they are currently, I’ll never find out if I’m in the correct pond, as I’ve gotten out, towelled off and have started staring at the pond as though I’ve never seen water before. When it comes down to it, I think the thing that may jump-start my pen (or keyboard, welcome to the future) will be the even more mortifying thought that if I don’t at least try to be good at one thing, I will end up a talentless waste of oxygen that couldn’t decide which kind of creative she wanted to be. I’m not sure what bridges the gap between the pond and the pedestal, but it’s probably time I started trying to figure it out.

The Customer is Always Right Except When They’re a Knob

Yesterday a customer asked me if a pair of clear-lens glasses would block the sun out. I could just leave this here and this would sum up how I feel about working in customer service. But purely for the service of faecal matter and laughs, I’ll keep on with my rant until it’s time for me to get ready for work. The statement “The customer is always right” is a horrible misconception created back in the time when people didn’t go to stores trying to buy hats with the word SWAG written on them. A nicer time pre-Jersey Shore and post the comical ooger-booger language of the cavemen which seems to be making a resurgence largely thanks to the thriving rugby industry. 

I don’t work in a magical land in which completely clear things can provide UV protection. The frame (the half that isn’t also clear) may help a little, but if you try and sue me when you end up with some negative eyebrow tan gap I will punch you in the dick.

In the same shift a man came up to me, placed a shirt on the counter and asked if it would fit him. For those unaware of where I work I was standing about two meters from a changing room. As much as I look like I have the secret talent of being able to size up complete strangers who are wearing numerous layers, my looks are deceiving. It might sound cray cray, but as someone who has watched yourself grow and change shape and has (presumably) put clothes on every single day since you were capable you probably have a better idea of whether you are an L or an XL than I. I just met you. I know nothing of your inexplicable man chesticles or your gut’s tendency to push all fabric and dignity above your frontal hair region. We haven’t even had dinner.

On top of everything one of the most awkward things is trying to explain to someone that they won’t fit into anything. 

‘This probably won’t fit me will it?’

‘Aw, I don’t know about that I mean…’

‘I’m too fat for the stuff here, ohohoho.’

‘No! Not at all!’

‘Do you go any bigger than this?’

‘Well. No.’

This is usually followed by me doing some odd apology shrug combo and I don’t even know what sort of message that sends. Something like, I’m sorry that you’re large I dunnoooooo too bad hey sorry sorry WHICH IS ALL WRONG. I have nothing against weight, by the way, but I can’t magically produce a larger size than we are provided with and then I wind up feeling guilty.

I do not, however, feel guilty when I try and answer a question that has a particularly logical answer with a little smirk on my face. I will smirk with pride, and hope that you haven’t taken notice of my name tag, and that today isn’t the day they decide to ask if you would like to fill in a customer feedback form. Because, to be fair, if you can’t even spell ‘complaint’ correctly on the form, I feel like you need to back away from the ballpoint because it is awfully hard to write while balanced pertly on SUCH A HIGH HORSE. Curvy backs and all that.

Occupational Hazards and Hand Gropers.

I work in a newsagent. We could be seen as some sort of service to the public. We take the news and current affairs, and give them to the people of Brisbane, along with reasonably priced beverages and chewing gum. But if I’m really honest it’s more of a soul-sucking corporation than you might think. it’s not a stretch to say that almost every single time I refill the Extra gum display stand I lose the will to live. Then I refill the Mentos counter and by the time that’s over my mental state is face-down on the counter, drooling and repeatedly mumbling about ‘chewy dragees’ and death.

SIDE NOTE: CHEWY DRAGEE? Yep.

Anyway. The customers are the best part. Not only do I work in a newsagent – the well-known ‘easy target’ of five-finger discount fiends – but I work in a newsagent LOCATED WITHIN A TRAIN STATION (stalkers, please form an orderly queue) so we get ALL SORTS of human-kinds there.

There are the business men, most of whom are fine and unmemorable, but you get the occasional one that makes a comment like “You must be hot, why don’t you take off your cardigan?” while they stand there in an overcoat with too many pockets. Or the people that refuse to remove their headphones from their ears. Those conversations go like this:

“Hi, how are you going?”

“——” Puts magazine on counter.

“That’s $6.95, thanks.”

“How much is that?”

“$6.95”

“I can’t hear you.”

$6.95.”

“What??”

“SIX DOLLARS NINETY-FIVE.”

Then they throw the money at me, I say ‘thanks very much’ for reasons I am unaware of, I give them their change, they don’t say thank-you and I say “Thanks have a nice day!’ in a slightly less chirpy way than usual OH YES I DO. If that doesn’t keep them up at night with guilt I DON’T KNOW WHAT WILL.

The homeless are actually some of the nicer ones. Except that one man who gives us scratchies that he knows have nothing on them, so that when we check them he can steal some Fruit Tingles. I saw the same man on the 199 one morning. He spent the entire New Farm to City journey with a packet of Original Smiths, routinely chewing each chip up then spitting it at the back of the driver’s little capsule thing. Another regular is a man who looks not disimilar to Santa, if Santa was tall and lanky and wore a suit and trainers wreaking of his own urine. But his brown-toothed-when-there-are-teeth grin is pretty friendly. So the hobos are okay.

It’s the ‘normal’ people you have to worry about.

There’s one man in particular. I served him twice today. Twice. He has this awesome little quirk where he comes up to my counter no matter which one I am working on. Then he gets a reasonably-priced soft drink out of the fridge (Fanta or Sprite, FYI). Then he puts it on the counter. THEN HE MAKES ALMOST UNFALTERING EYE CONTACT WITH HIS BEADY EYES AS HE COUNTS HIS MONEY OH SO SLOWLY. Then (and here’s the money shot) he puts it in my hand in a fashion that makes it almost impossible for me to not touch him for a good 5 seconds. Which is an eternity in customer-worker-physical-contact years. But today, as he was obviously feeling extra wild with that extra visit and all, he pushed the limits to all new heights. There was the usual slow-count-money-stare, but I could sense something was different. As I reached the event horizon of putting my hand out for the change my brain was screaming at me like people do at dumb characters in horror movies. Don’t go in there. Not in the windowless room that has just lost power and that you can hear scary sounds coming from. YOU FOOL. THERE ARE LARGE KNIVES ABOUT AND THE TOKEN COUPLE HAVE JUST BEEN KILLED AND SO IT IS YOUR TURN IN THIS SCENE YOU GONNA DIIIIIIIE YOU IDIOT.

There were no large knives in this instance. Just a sweaty hand. A sweaty hand that had five sweaty fingers (I have no interest in your ‘the thumb is not a finger’ arguments). Each one of these sweaty fingers got dragged from the center of my palm out to each end of my hand at a glacial pace, each coin plopping into my hand like little sweaty nuggets of sadness. Just try to understand what this felt like. It sounds creepy, and that’s because it was. I’m normally the champion of poker faces, but on this particular instance there was no controlling myself. My emotions ran riot and my face did a squirm and as soon as he walked away I made a sound that was never meant to be written down but if it were, would look somewhat like this:

WRRRRRAAAWWWWAAAAMMMMBBBBBBBBBBBHHHHHFFFFFFFGGOOOOOOFFFFFFFFFFUUUUKJKKKJJKKJKJKJKJKJKJKJKJ.

I’m on minimum wage.

The People’s Transport

Not a lot of people shit themselves. Really. We all meet a large number of people every single day, and it’s safe to say that unless you work in one of the less popular professions, most of those people do not shit themselves. And yet I have no doubt in my mind that someone on the bus the other day had indeed soiled their nether-garments. As soon as the bus doors opened there was a strange waft, and judging by the apologetic and sympathetic look on the driver’s face, his little grey capsule-o-power was not immune. I moved towards the back of the bus, where it seemed to lift a little, but then the bus took off and physics took hold and the cloud of horror went pulsing backwards to my end. I pulled that face you pull so that the people that are watching you (no one) know it isn’t you. The disturbing part was, there was only one toddler on board. The rest were adults. Toilet-trained, fairly-experienced-with-the-porcelain-pee-hole adults. Anyone privy to public transport is also, unfortunately, privy to bad smells. This is the transport of the people. And that ‘people’ bracket includes the homeless, the shirtless, and the downright clueless.

I am not taking the piss out of the disabled. I understand that in some cases unfortunate things happen that can’t be helped, and I am in no place to be all ‘why can’t you just not be like that’ because I am not an arsehole. I am, however, taking the piss out of the people that take the piss out of themselves in a much more literal sense, for no apparent reason. Those who refuse to shower. Or who perhaps actually enjoy the smell of their own musk and disregard those of us who do not. The hazy smell of the pheromones and Longbeach Originals of a man in flannelette is more likely to give me a headache than an urge to throw myself at him spreadeagled and blushing.

There was a boy in front of me on the bus the other day. He was today’s version of a half-hearted punk, a black singlet dropping from his acne’d shoulders and his hair sticking it to the man in all sorts of directions and a couple of badly dyed colours. I have this odd thing where I sort of appreciate punks; it probably just comes from my short-but-still-slightly-present love for 1970s punk music phase at 17. I could never stick a safety pin in my own nose though, it’s unflattering and I have an allergy to non-surgical steel. This boy had one though. I was behind him, smiling supportingly, like the mother of the only kid not picking their nose on stage at the Christmas pageant. It might have looked a bit odd, really. Here he was, sticking it to society, but then he stuck his arm up to press the dingy-button to stop the bus and I lost all faith in punk humanity because I almost died. He smelt like a bikram yoga class that had been left in the sun in a garbage bag for three to ten days. I understand that it’s probably part of the point. But really, does not liking authority or keeping your ear-drums in good condition really have to be accompanied by some sort of human gas-cloud that attracts vultures because they think something has died there BUT NO IT’S ONLY AN ANGSTY TEEN.

On Exercise.

Last night two of my housemates and I went to our first Bikram Yoga class. For those not in the know it’s the type of Yoga that you do inside a room that is super-heated and humid. It’s like going to a sauna to do strenuous exercise, which makes about as much sense as the Hindi lyrics in the song they play on entry. On the car on the way there I was almost sick with excitement (read: utter terror) and was entirely sure that once in there I was going to get the migraine to end all migraines, have a stroke, and die. We were there because we’d gotten a cheap deal, but for the most part we were surrounded by people who actually pay a high amount for this sort of horrific torture. The sorts of people that wear Lorna Jane, don’t eat carbs, and like to pay someone to speak to them in hushed tones in mood-lit rooms so that they’ll look thin for their husband’s next cricket function. And the husbands were there too.

Stepping tentatively into this tank topped nightmare, the smell of salty lycra and thighs chafing filled the air, as did some pseudo-Indian soundtrack. This got turned off, so the sound was soon replaced by apparent soul-cleansing breaths and the instructor’s dulcet tones. Dulcet tones in this case refers to a borderline evangelist, who ended all of his sentences with a breathy ‘pah’ and then an even more breathy breath.

“We are here not only to find fitness, but inner balance and a sense of peeeeeace-pah” *breath*.

He looked like a small muscly Stefan (of the hairdresser, rainbow sky needle fame), and wore tight things to show off his tautness. And what tautness it was.

Twenty minutes in, I was doing okay. I had the completely naive idea of questioning just what it was that people had been trying to warn me about, because frankly, this was not so different from doing an intense dance class or walking down the street in a Brisbane summer. A few minutes later I was tasting colours and was struggling to keep my head in the general ‘up’ direction. People throughout the room began to sit out, or simply collapse. When you have your leg wrapped around your shoulder while holding yourself up with little more than three fingers and a bit of raw hope, collapsing can be a challenging thing to do without impaling yourself on your own elbow. I soldiered on, if soldiers were into fitness without the annoying addition of bulk. Which I’m sure some are.

I think it was at the point where I started to hallucinate my own name in Japanese written on the wall in the paint scratches that I began to understand the sideways glances people gave me when I told them I was going to give this a go. I also remember not being able to see at one point, and I’m now thinking that maybe I did pass out, but because I was so entangled in my own limbs it was simply impossible for me to topple over. It got hot in there. Vesuvius hot. Brains boiling in their skulls hot. I’m going to go mental and not cool down for two days without six cold showers hot. And the sweat, my god the sweat.

I am one of those people who doesn’t like to sweat in public. I get embarrassed when I have a little layer on my forehead, even if it is 40+ outside and I’ve just walked 3kms in the sun. This is because no matter how hot the entire region in which I am is, there always seems to be some pretty girl with a fringe that is not sticking to her head and makeup that is not running down her face and a synthetic fabric dress that is not getting all clingy and starting to get that weird deodorant/moisturiser merging smell. This was different.

In this tiny room with down-lights, every single one of the 30 or so people were drowning in their own sweat. This is not a term I use lightly, but there was certainly a point when my head was hanging down near my ankles and my own sweat started dripping into my mouth and nose, and all I could think was  how horrific and shameful a way to die this would be. ‘Yes, I died with my head between my own knees, when my airways became blocked with my own body sweat, in a class that I paid for with one of those internet vouchers. What of it?’ But then some sweat dripped into my eye instead, and the horrific stinging that frantic blinking would not fix distracted me.

D is for Depression, and Doing It Wrong

Anyone who has ever had any form of depression will be able to tell you it makes you question yourself in all sorts of picky and painful ways. To add insult to injury, sometimes there is the added question of whether you’re doing depression the right way or not. You get all the right feelings, but short of shoving a copy of The Sylvia Plath Omnibus in people’s faces, it is hard to get people to take it seriously. I personally find this an issue (because issues are something I didn’t have enough of). Because I can’t afford to see a therapist or sustain a heavy drinking problem, everyone assumes my problems aren’t real.  I get nauseous if I smoke, so I can’t go outside and weep and dramatically wave around a cigarette. I can’t afford drugs, I have never felt a real need to cut myself because I’m still too sensible, and I have an urge to throw things at the screen when I see people doing depressing, attention seeking updates on social networking sites, so that’s out. Sometimes the idea that I can’t even do depression right is the most depressing thought of all.

For a practically uncountable number of years, the image of the depressed artist has been glamourised and plastered all over our pages and screens and canvases. A writer barely has any credibility with the average self-proclaimed bohemian university student unless they ended their own lives in some gruesome way, leaving behind a tome of tragically chic torture. As twee and popular as her work may be, Jane Austen will always be considered in a completely different stratosphere to the Woolfs and the Plaths. While Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet is certainly considered to be somewhat relatable for independent women that are ahead of their time, other than her witty quips against social boundaries, we have to admit her life was irrefutably boring.

There’s only so much wandering from room to room and from field to field one can do, only so much getting one’s hem dirty in the mud one can do, without wanting to casually stab one’s own eyes out. And where is all the mental illness that is so chic nowadays?! All that is not to say that a mundane life is the reason for the lack of support from the edgily upset Plath fan-girls. Esther Greenwood, of the much dog-eared, bedside-tabled The Bell Jar, is very much a victim of her own mind-numbing life. The key difference between the boring lives of Bennet and Greenwood is that the latter is considerably more dissatisfied with it. It doesn’t really matter what happens in the protagonist’s life, as long as they are totally melancholy with it, so that the reader can feel justified about being completely unhappy with their own lives. And if it comes from a place so real within the author that they topped themselves a short time later, all the better!

I can’t pretend to be immune to this sort of disposition. When I was 16 I picked up a copy of The Complete Dorothy Parker and felt as though I had found a printed and bound soul-mate. Her musings about the fact that girls with glasses get ignored by males, girls with brains get ignored by males, and girls in general will get taken advantage of and then ignored by males spoke volumes to me. Her views on the world were so bitter and tainted by her own unhappiness that I couldn’t help but feel a little bit justified. Not only was I allowed to feel the way I felt, but I could make a glamorous career out of it and be remembered and admired for years after my death. It was the happiest mentality I had come across in a long time! It was the same when I finally bought a copy of The Bell Jar. I devoured it in a day or two, lapping up each staggeringly sad line like some sort of gloom-addict, and afterwards feeling more and more okay about the fact that I was not at all okay.

It led almost entirely back to the fact that I was very much a creatively minded person, filled much more with fancy words and drawings than logic or numbers. This was a common thread in one side of my family; for generations there has been a steady flow of musicians, artists and writers who have a bit of trouble living in the real world. Ask them to learn an instrument or paint a picture or design something incredible and there would be no real hesitation, but unfortunately asking some of them to put down the bottle or have faith in their own ability proved too much. I am my grandfather’s grand-daughter, and the idea of turning my mental instability into a wine-fuelled art form will never really lose its appeal.

Sufferers of depression are glamorous drunks! They are the high-as-a-kite artist down the road, or the heroin addict on the posters on the backs of toilet doors. The creative depressed hang out together, and spend a day cutting down everyone they know with witty quips while merrily filling their pockets with stones and striding into lakes. They are some girl in the sixties with Winona Ryder’s face and a sneer to match the middle finger they raise to society. They are not some middle class shy girl with good manners and a penchant for floral dresses. They are not someone with a perfectly lovely family and friends and a life that really isn’t very difficult at all, technically speaking.

This is where one of the problems with proving myself to myself lies. Sitting on the bus, I’ll remember that I have some writing I need to do when I get home. I picture what I’ll do: I’ll sit on my armchair, writing in a notebook the fascinating yet well structured scribblings of a genius. Sipping red wine, my troubled thoughts will tumble out of me in snappy lines. For some inexplicable reason I always picture this in some sort of candle-lit half-light, even though it takes approximately 98 brain cells to tell you that that is terrible for your eyes. I may as well wear a felt cloche and wave around a cigarette holder, because in my mind the only way I can be one of the great writers is to be depressed and old-fashioned. In reality, the whole scenario seems very stark in comparison. I’ll get home, and immediately realise that I have absolutely no wine, and can not really afford to go and buy more. I find it more convenient to type on a computer, and any mood lighting will be completely sapped of mood by the migraine-inducing light of the screen.

I could sit outside on the back stairs, a cigarette dangling daintily from my shaking hand as I write my poems in a tear-stained Moleskine. However, smoking, I discovered a few years ago, makes me vomit every single time without fail, and I am of the personal belief that Moleskines are far too overpriced for my starving student’s budget. Anyway, the image would certainly be somewhat ruined if I stopped my tragic limericks every few minutes to vomit daintily over the side of the balcony.

These things may sound inconsequential or seem unnecessary to be depressed properly, but it is more so about getting justification from the outside world that my feelings are real. As a general statement, people I know, even people I live with, would not call me a depressed person. They wouldn’t even call me a sad person, and they would highly doubt that I am capable of feeling strong anger or debilitating unhappiness. I’ve heard people talk about mutual friends in hushed tones, about how they are worried about those people or how this person is clearly sad and that person needs help. This is where I wonder if I’m not doing it right. Do people need to get the concerned nod from other people to confirm that they are legitimately depressed?

I am not one to throw around the key words in my sentences, or pepper my conversation with hints at how I feel. However, it is different when I walk down the street, however. I seem to be unable to predict what sort of vibe I am giving off, and am often surprised by what I see in the reflection of shop windows or the expressions on passing peoples’ faces. Growing up, the number of times I’ve had people ask if I was okay reached an almost preposterously high amount. The thing was, these questions almost always came when I was perfectly happy and was in fact having quite an alright day, thank you very much. On the other hand, sometimes I will walk down the street feeling as though if there is not already a black cloud following me overhead, it is only a matter of time before my mood magically produces one of its own. These particular days I will catch my face in a panel of glass or a sunglasses stand and be surprised to find I probably look, at worst, a bit bored. I will enter shops and cafes and be served by people who will remain completely oblivious as to how awful I am feeling, and often it is the sympathetic glance of a stranger that is exactly what I am craving at those points.

I don’t know why it is that I crave the attention of strangers and peripheral contacts, but hide from the sympathy of the people I see regularly. The best I can come up with is that it is some sort of defence mechanism, or perhaps the need to keep some weird sense of mystery about me. There is also a fear of being seen not as someone with legitimate problems, but as a cliché, or a stereotype. You only have to go on to a website like Tumblr to find a sea of people flinging around terms taken straight from The Introduction to Psychology. There has always been a link between the creative, the young and the unhappy. As far back as the time when Aristotle was doing what he did best, creativity and melancholia have been seen as coming hand-in-hand. In the past thirty years however, and even more predominantly with the introduction and accessibility of the internet, there definitely seems to be a bit of a depression-chic trend.

Literature, movies and popular music have all had a part in this. Movies like Heathers made jokes about the popularity and contagion of suicide, Girl, Interrupted gave the angsty young female a pretty face, and sad music has become the domain of the most hip. People don’t just listen to Joy Division alone in their rooms or cry to the lyrics of The Smiths, these days they ensure the melancholia is a thing to be shared and bragged about. Books like The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides or Plath’s The Bell Jar put those who have lost their fight with the big black dog up on a pedestal. Woody Allen’s line from the film Annie Hall sums it up quite well; “Sylvia Plath; interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.” It is this mockery of a mentality that I am afraid of, and probably because I may be as much of a guilty part of it as anyone.

While I know how I am feeling, it does fit an increasingly common mould quite well. I am young, quiet, a writer. I enjoy the works of Dorothy Parker, Susanna Kaysen, Sylvia Plath and John Kennedy Toole. I like sad music, sad films, sad books, sad art. There is a strangely addictive and delicious side to the darkness that comes with the downs, but if you admit that you probably cheapen your own condition in the eyes of others. In some ridiculous twist one of the most appealing things, one of the only good sides to this whole condition is the sense of uniqueness that comes with it – the sense of uniqueness that every single one of the many, many people who have the same issues feels. I don’t know if I’m doing it the right way or not, but without a doubt, the mould fits me like a glove.

On top of everything, there is a fear felt by some, including myself, that by fixing the problem you risk removing the thing that makes you do your best work. It is the cynicism and the stabbing words of anger and sadness that produce the biggest response from an audience. F. Scott Fitzgerald is a prime example of this. He wrote Tender is the Night in 1934, in the deepest abyss of his depression, and in turn produced one of the most complex novels of his whole career. David Foster Wallace wrote the widely acclaimed Infinite Jest while in the grips of clinical depression. While these geniuses were undoubtedly not happy with their condition, the honest truth is that it has inspired some of the best works of literature, art and creativity that the world has ever experienced. It’s the bittersweet up to the horrific down.

Even Wallace and Fitzgerald had their own unique ways of dealing with their depression. Wallace told very few of the people who knew him about the condition that he was crippled with. Apart from close friends and family, it was only through his work that people may have gathered that something was less than cheerful in his mind. Similarly, F. Scott Fitzgerald spent his years partying wildly with his wife (and fellow closet-depressive) Zelda, and convincing their friends that not only was nothing wrong, but that things couldn’t be much more right. If two of the most admired troubled authors of recent history don’t even do depression by the book, you’ve got to wonder who wrote the book in the first place, and why you felt as though you had to read it.

This all may sound a little circular, and that’s simply because depression is. It starts with a splinter of discontent, and that should be it. Instead, however, it is followed with questions. No one else notices, so does that mean I don’t actually have a problem? To make them notice I would have to tick some stereotypical boxes, and if I have to force myself to do that, shouldn’t that make me question the seriousness of the whole condition? Is it impossible to have depression if Sylvia Plath’s poetry bores me to tears?

The reality is that sitting in front of a glary laptop writing articles that really only have undertones of the moody, rather than some overwhelming woe-is-me, hand-to-forehead poetry seems significantly less atmospheric than some tobacco and gin infused night at the Algonquin’s round table. But that’s how it is these days. People do much less drawing of moody sketches, instead posting photos of themselves looking tragically away from the camera on Facebook. They aren’t any less legitimate in their conditions, and I think it is safe to say that if the depressed creatives of the 50s and 60s had a webcam they too would look into the middle-distance and add a caption with a few question-rising, attention-seeking ellipses at the end. I’m not doing depression wrong, I’m doing it my way, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

 

 

A Response to a Theory Involving Cages.

21/09/2011

If you love someone, set fire to your parachute. Throw your oxygen mask out the window closely followed by yourself. On the fall, talk yourself into sweet denial about the fact that you’ll hit the ground; that this will destroy you and without doubt be the end of you. Trick yourself. Convince yourself that you are flying. That the impossible is possible. Don’t try to convince anyone else, it’ll never work. Enjoy the fall, the air surrounding you; pretend it isn’t crushing you. Enjoy the flight and, if you wish, flap your arms around, grab hold of the one who has caused this and bring them crashing down with you. Pretend it will slow your fall; postpone your own destruction.

23/10/2011

Alternatively, avoid planes altogether.

Spray Tanned Vomitorium (Or, Valley, an Ode to)

There are a few different cultures here in the magical land of Brisvegas (and I’m sure they translate to other places as well). If you are a member of one of the groups that actually leaves the house on a Friday/Saturday night, you more than likely fall into one of two categories. There is the group that fill the streets of Fortitude Valley or that intersection between the Stock Exchange and whatever that other bar is that also smells like piss and regrettable decisions. The girls teeter around on their monster heels that no one has taught them to walk in, clomping awkwardly with bowed backs like some sort of slutty tyrannosaurus army. Their dresses are already high enough, but it is a treat to society when they decide to squat on the sidewalk and hike them up to new heights. O hark, a vagina hast breached.

With hair straightened and side-fringed and bleached, to set off the burnt tandoori of their large amount of exposed skin, they march arm in arm with guys who have also spent time straightening and side fringing their hair. These male counterparts spray themselves with so much deodorant that there is no actual question as to whether or not they are solely reponsible for global warming.

I left the comforts of my bedroom last night. It was a Friday. The air was thick with the scent of late-teen pregnancy. I do not, however, fall into this category. Instead, I belong to the group that still cling to a tiny bit of hope that there may still be a good place hidden here or there, within the nightlife of our town. We scurry from gig to gig, or bus stop to bar, scoffing at the spray-tanned vomitorium that is Brunswick Street Mall, and secretly hoping that they don’t pass comment on our high collars or self-conscious pulling of cardigan sleeves.

My Nice Set of Cans

I ventured to the dentist the day before yesterday. I hadn’t been since some time in grade 11, back when I was convinced that by my current age I would be a famous writer with a boyfriend and a film deal. Even when I had to go back to that van of unhappiness for a check-up in grade 12 I just forgot about it. Ever since then I could physically feel the holes digging deep into my molars. Every time I ate anything sugary, every night I went to bed without brushing my teeth due to debilitating tiredness or drunkenness, I would be able to hear the plaque getting chipped away by these ridiculously fast-working pieces of plaque. In my mind they looked like the various characters off those Inner Health Plus ads, where the little blue good guys are on a seesaw against a whole lot of evil looking germs and pills and alcoholic beverages. My toothiepegs were Smurfs 2.0, and for some inexplicable reason plaque was a frowning computer-generated french fry in an army helmet. This guys were attacking each other nightly, in some Lord of the Rings-esque clash. But one does not simply floss into Mordor.

I never needed any fillings as a child, and this was a fact I was secretly ridiculously proud of. I was up there with Ghandi and Mother Theresa, my teeth some little pilgrims that I had protected and kept pure. Or something. But after hearing various horror stories from friends that moved out of home and lost all sense of dental hygiene, I was convinced that I had changed roles to the oral equivalent of Stalin. So I toted my gulag-ish grin off to the cheapest dentist I could find.

I wear a set of headphones that make me look a little bit like a wanker. They are huge, and while I’ll often claim I bought them solely because of the radio show I did a while back, this is a little bit bullshit. When I was overseas everyone was walking around with gigantic Princess Leia electric buns on the sides of their heads, like an epidemic of the ‘make-you-look-like-the-Reddit-guy’ disease. My friends made comments about how unsightly these large things were, and how weird French people were to think that this was fashionable. I mean really, Paris, what do you think you are? Fashion forward?? Je ne crois pas. Me being the knob I am, every comment only added to my want to get my own set. Everything we do Paris does better, so while we naive antipodeans go around with little dirty-white buds sticking out of our ears, the French are getting quality sound and giving the impression that style means nothing compared to music. Which was in turn the most stylish fucking sentiment I had thus far heard.

In reality they are bulky, and if you have a scarf on and then try to put them around your neck when at a check-out or something you start to resemble the Michelin man. And while you may be able to find some sort of niche-fetish market for your bulging neck-tumours, I think sexual attraction and a man made of tyres are generally not two things that go hand in hand.

I walked into the dentist, my buxom headphones swinging from my handbag (I was wearing a scarf). Knowing it was my first visit to the dentist in a millenia, I think they assumed I was perhaps ridiculously nervous, and overcompensated wit niceties and small-talk. It was at this point that my male dentist told me I had a nice big pair of cans there, nodding at my music-machines.

He went red with embarrassment and for the next 20 minutes continued trying to chat about sound quality and radio-hosting, to ensure I didn’t think my breasts were at all attractive. I would have reassured him that I understood the mishap, but it is hard to laugh merrily when someone has his latex covered fingers nervously poking your lateral incisor.

At the end of the day, the important thing is that my teeth were fine, and my cans even finer.

Funnings Warehouse

There is a tap in my share-house kitchen that has been dripping at some sort of horrific dub-step rate for somewhere between 3 and 6 months. Before you start reprimanding me for my unfathomably large eco-footprint, let me tell you I am perfectly aware of it. Each drip has come out of the tap, fallen into the sink and DIRECTLY INTO MY SCARRED SCARRED CONSCIENCE. I am already mentally flagellating myself for how long it has taken for anything to be done about it, but considering I live with many other people,  all with more money and years to their name, I only flagellate on weekends and some public holidays.

Anyway, today was the day for action. I came home from work and on my way past the garden gave the water main box-lid-thing a nice sturdy kick. People do this to cars, and probably other objects involved in the manly pursuit for home-renovating, so I felt it necessary to prove myself to the water main box-lid-thing. A warning of what was to come – domination. Removing the lid, I had a mild panic attack on discovering what looked like a large amount of writhing, mushroom risotto. This turned out to be the angriest lot of motherfucking gigantic ants that live in northern Brisbane, and their angry lot of motherfucking gigantic eggs.

There was even a lizard, which I only, mid-panic, thought was a snake for about one minute which is fairly good, thank-you very much. The lizard kept trying to run up out of its horrific torture hole of angry-ants and death but the plastic walls were suddenly too steep and slippery. I imagine this is somewhat like me, using my stairs every day but in the case of a fire forgetting how they function and instead rubbing my face on them repeatedly, a bit like this. Anyway, I kept trying to shove bits of stick down there to create some sort of tiny, lizard bridge between escape and Dante’s inferno, but much like it forgot about the fact that it has sticky feet, the lizard forgot how to climb. It might have thought I was trying to stab it, considering I had just ripped the roof off its home like some sort of girl-demon, but at the time it really couldn’t have done less to help itself. Mother nature, you freeloader you.

After trying to get my graphic-designing housemate to ‘be a man’ and turn the water supply off, the ants became so enraged and highly numbered that they were starting to reach the road. We decided to leave them to calm down for a little while, and when we returned we were actually able to see the tap, rather than a squiggly black thing with 6000 legs. Water went off, the kitchen tap came out, and I rode to Bunnings with my little tap piece in my handbag.

Nothing says ‘I know hardware’ like a girl in a bright blue stack-hat, riding into the Bunnings carpark on her cherry-red bike with a cane basket and a bell, pulling an entire tap out of her purse from between receipts for books and the contraceptive pill. But instead of getting pounced on by staff, I was some sort of Bunnings blacklister. I must have looked so far the other way than the hardware way that I actually crossed some large invisible line and would forever be seen as difficult. I stopped to look at a bucket of 300 colourful fairylights, imagining how fantastic they would look around my room, but realising I wasn’t helping my situation I chased a woman in a red t-shirt down.

She was mid-official-complaint-to-the-manager that her fan wasn’t pointing directly to where she wanted to stand, and thus must be broken. Rather than telling her that if she’s anything like my mum, she’s going through some ‘changes’ and no fan, not even the ridiculously large Bunnings fan (actual brand-name: ‘Big Ass Fan’) would be enough to cool those hot flushes, I asked her for assistance. I held the tap out, put on my best ‘confused, but not hopeless’ face, and explained that the thingy didn’t come out like the internet step by step guide said it would and what was going on why was my tap so drippy sob sob *bites knuckle*. She admired my tap fitting. It is nice brass apparently, and would be a shame because something something hardware Bunnings something. She tried to give me a tap-repair kit, “This will go on here, and I’m not sure where this goes but this other bit will probably go near it, and OH there’s this diagram on the back but yeah it’s entirely different to yours, hmm. Not sure.”

Eventually she walked me over to a man who needed to urinate. He told us. But he stood there jiggling while I explained the situation again.

‘Just rip that bit out with some pliers.’

‘We tried, it won’t come out.’

‘It has to. Get your man to do it. Do you have anyone manly?’

An awkward silence followed as I pictured my two male housemates. The coeliac graphic designer with a penchant for minimalism, and the diabetic musician who likes to talk about his feelings and find things you haven’t heard of yet. I shook my head. The only time the lawn has been mown at this house since I moved in was when I borrowed my parents mower and did it myself. I have the biggest metaphorical penis of them all. This is why I’m at Bunnings, and they aren’t. The man went to pee, and the woman left me to complain about her Big Ass Fan again. I replaced what she had given me with cheaper versions, and went to leave, but got distracted by the fairy lights again. I saw pee-man returning, and turned to leave, lest he discover I had gotten rid of everything they had given me. BUT HE CALLED OUT, HE DID. How did it go, he asked. GREAT, I answered. Just destroyed the toilet, he said. Laugh awkwardly, I did.

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