Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gangs Of Neutral Bay

I remember a brief period in my life when I ran around like the Artful Dodger (minus the thievery… or the artfulness) firmly believing I had what it took to start a street gang. This was in the same era in which I also firmly believed I was capable of building a fort in a tree all by myself, that my new writing project The Tiger, The Wizard & The Trunk was a work of original genius, and that I was destined to appear on Broadway because my god I could sing. I was 8.

All these beliefs were fostered by a particularly supportive set of parents and an addiction to Enid Blyton. While reality, gravity, copyright and a notably traumatic moment when I was asked to mime (because I was putting the rest of the choir off) brought me back to earth, I still think of that time as the most limitless I ever knew – I could do anything (except watch the Keifer Sutherland version of The Three Musketeers, that terrified me).

And lately I’ve had the chance to re-live that heady mix of grass stains, gravel rash, childhood politics and make believe thanks largely to the Street Gang. The Street Gang is what we call the mob of children who have all suddenly hit The Age of Limited Supervision-based Frolicking that comes when one enters primary school and is thus allowed to hover, recklessly, within yelling distance of a family’s front door.

And so the Street Gang gathers each afternoon without fail. They barter over bamboo sticks, take turns riding skateboards down a tiny incline and give a superb day-by-day audio study of how long it takes for a boy’s voice to break. They also use impeccable logic during imaginary wars, like “I shot you, I used my gun with the biggest range”.

While I’m grateful this means they’ve finally moved on from the lengthy phase in which they used to heckle me from the fence, trying to sell me their crap paintings, I was mildly concerned when an older kid recently introduced them to several rather adult 4 letter words. Vocabulary expansion is vital, but I think their parents might be worried about where they’re picking that shit up from.

Given all the nostalgia this has evoked for me, I’ve had to work over time to appear aloof, rather than creepily invested. I may not be helping myself when I give them gang signs as I drive past, and declare loudly “So that’s where you’re hiding!” if I walk by one using a hedge for cover during a water pistol version of hide-and-seek. Yep, way to play if cool Painefull.

I guess I’m just envious. They’re at that stage when the street you live on seems gigantic, and they don’t have to justify reading Enid Blyton (or Harry Potter, or Hunger Games). Ah well, if nothing else, at least I can comfort myself with the fact that I have ten times more road sense, no enforced bed time, and my worst skin is behind me. And I’m not that rather jolly, well-rounded rednut. He seems lovely, but high school is not going to be kind to him.

Painefull Out

Monday, March 5, 2012

Someone Else’s Art Project

A long, long time ago I had really severe issues with cutting my hair. I had dead straight blonde locks and the very idea of losing them terrified me. That goes some way towards explaining why photos between the ages of 5 and 10 have me looking like I was trying to get cast as Creepy Ghost Girl #4 (the other half of that explanation is that I was, and in fact remain, as pale as a ghost).

My hair was one of the key reasons I dreaded Mother Painefull going away for any length of time. That left Father Painefull and I staring at each other fearfully each morning in the knowledge that he was going to have to plait my hair. Nobody looked forward to that (including the neighbour who would then re-plait my hair as I went past on the way to school). Pity the Housemistress who inherited that problem once I headed off to boarding school.

Mother Painefull once became so exasperated with my refusal to have any significant haircut that she tried to trick me into getting one by lying to me about how big 10 inches was. Luckily she was foiled.

It wasn’t until late high school, sometime after my fellow boarders threw out my beloved overalls and before Mrs Woog frogmarched me to get my ears pierced, that I truly accepted what was clearly an irrefutable truth – it’s just hair. This occurred to me just as I was coming to terms with the fact that Life wasn’t really going to let me sail through it as an Icy Blonde, no Life was intent on making me a Mousy Brown.

Determined to deny the genetic instructions being sent to my follicles I began an era (that still continues) of Open Season on my hair. After some trial and error it became apparent that, wait for it, hairdressers know more about hair than I do. Revelation City: Population 1.

But my ongoing system of pulling out a book, telling the professional with the scissors to do what they want and letting them have at it hasn’t always led to resounding applause. Sometimes I have to agree, yes, the hairdresser has made me look like some weird hybrid Zebra-Cheetah.

Some of my more distinctive outcomes have included…

The ‘Funky’ Asymmetrical Cut
Useful For: playing Two-Face in a community theatre production of The Dark Knight

SALON STRANGER: (1st to the woman next to me)Wow, I just want to tell you I love your hair. (turns to me) Yours is… well I’d never have that kind of but… aren’t you… but each to their own, right?

Back Of Head EXPLOSION Cut
Useful For: being the body double for Kate Gosselin during her own hair EXPLOSION era

DAME DEADPAN (former boss): Well now the back of your head is better to look at than the front of your head.

Top Deck Colour
Useful For: paying tribute to a superb block of chocolate

MRS WOOG: I didn’t like your hair last year.
ME: Which look?
MRS WOOG: All of it – 2009 was a bad hair year for you.

Useful For: looking like the unemployed, oddly red-tinged student I currently am
LIVINIA: Don’t take this badly but the word that comes to mind is... ‘Newtown’. Then paired with your glasses, you know thick rimmed and square, it’s kind of like… Newtown times Newtown*.

And so my quest to avoid the Mousy Destiny fate intends for my hair continues. And every time I look up to discover what some overly-chatty hairdresser has done in the process, I can reassure myself that at least hair (like my dignity) will always grow back.

Painefull Out

* = Newtown, for the unfamiliar, is where the Sydney student-art crowd typically can be found sipping lattes while wearing brightly coloured, mismatched footwear, berets, skinny black jeans and statement shirts, paired with the ironic gaze of someone who knows exactly how soy products are made. When Livinia likens a person’s hair to Newtown (as she did this Saturday), she's just searching for a polite, euphemistic way to say she’s not a fan.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Leap Year*

There’s something utterly brilliant about the concept of a Leap Year. It’s the answer humanity created to overcome the fact that the natural world is perfectly imperfect. We measure, and weigh and quantify every minute of every day, but just like when I used to try and do maths, there always seems to be a strange number left over we can’t quite account for. I love that no one questions the solution of simply compiling all those leftovers into an extra day every 4 years. It’s like AFL, and Lost, and Lady Gaga lyrics – it doesn’t really make sense, but we’re okay with it.

A fresh revelation about Leap Year that amuses me is that because it’s never considered when drawing up contracts, most people don’t actually get paid for that day of work. And you know why I can allow myself to be amused? Because I no longer work.

I’m currently unemployed… on purpose. I know, great time to be embracing the end of an income, right? Next thing you know I’ll be moving to Greece – apparently that’s where it’s at. I wasn’t born on the 29th of February, but 2012 is kind of my Leap Year. In what often feels like a rather irrational act, I’ve returned to the hallowed halls of education all in the name of furthering my attempt to be a Real Writer (much like being a Real Girl, I suspect all it takes is commitment and an acceptance of extreme discomfort).

I’ll be spending my days at film school. Dawson Leery, you fictional, shining forehead you, I hope you’re proud.

After 2012 I will return to pretending to be a Grown Up. Aspirations are good. Goals are necessary. Sometimes dreams are better. Eventually reality will become so loud it’ll drown them out, but until then… once more into the breach (it’s brimming with company).

Painefull Out

* = I was going to call this ‘How I Learnt To Stop Worrying & Start Making Immature Life Choices’ but that title was a little epic, even for me, a lover of lengthy turns of phrase.