Selflessness and Responsibility, Where Hast Thou Gone?

There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found
While journeying east and west –
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.  ~Oprah Winfrey

This is less my usual essay and more a post of a personal nature. Call it whimsical, ranty, me falling into the pit of the bitter, cynical unloved masses, whatever you will.

See, I can’t help but notice that lately, we are, indeed, living in the me-generation. You’ve heard it said before (most probably by grumpy grandparents recounting their lives in a shoe box, when they went to bed at eight and got up at six to clean their swamps with a toothbrush; or the even more unbiased journalists of the Courier Mail reporting on OUT OF CONTROL TEENS TERRORISING SUBURBAN BUS WAYS WITH LETHAL CONCOCTIONS OF BAD HAIRCUTS AND URBAN GROOVE), and you’ve all probably laughed, gotten a little indignant, flipped the page, and moved merrily on. And I’ll admit, I’ve done the same. But then came the events of these past couple of months.

I’ll share something a bit personal with you here. I just got dumped. Last night, in fact. By mobile. And that’s all fine and dandy, it was only a two week relationship anyway – I didn’t have too much time to get all attached and hopeful. Just that I did. Because you see, a month before that, I’d also just been dumped. Also after a two week relationship. This time by word of mouth. And I’m thinking you’re starting to see the pattern now – my track record’s not too great. (Ladies out there, I’m taking one for the team, be grateful.) So, back in October, when my best guy friend (call this Failed Relationship 1, or FR1 for short) decided he’d take the epic leap of overstepping the friend line and engaging in some cavorting of the most non-platonic kind, I was most taken by the promises of rainbows and fairytales and romantic walks on the beaches that he had promised. Until he stopped talking to me and I found out from a friend of a friend that he’d told the boyfriend of said friend that we’d broken up. And so, as you may have guessed, I was even more ecstatic when my other great guy friend (FR2) coincidentally confessed his undying affection for me not long after. Booyah, I thought. This one’s got to work. Here he is, a nice, normal, experienced, non-neurotic guy who would fulfill my need for love and affection. That was…until I got a phonecall from him saying there were family issues he had to deal with, no he appreciated the fact that I was willing to stick by him through thick and thin but “let’s not lie. I like you, but I’m not going to pretend I’m in love with you.”

Brilliant.

Which brings me to our topic for today. You see, I’m not so much upset by the being dumped as the false hope I’d been given by these two chaps. Because let’s face it. You go out, you get excited, you get dumped. That’s just a pain in the arse right there, all to end up back where I started: single.

 And the question that’s been playing on my mind at the end of all this is:

 “Did neither of them think to consider the consequences of their actions before dragging me into this pit of biel?”

[Note on Terminology: Biel, n. BIg Effort Load, reading the five page descriptions of scenery in Lord of the Rings is a biel.]

Indeed, what happened to the days when you thought carefully before you said anything, knowing that you would have to take responsibility for the effect those words had on anyone who heard them? When you painstakingly took into consideration other peoples’ concerns before making any action of your own? Or when, in fact, you just stopped for moment and pondered whether or not you wanted to even date the bloody girl you were about to court.

I mean, imagine it. What would’ve happened if Romeo had turned around after being banished and decided that that Juliet girl really just wasn’t that great anyway. “Sorry babe, kinda got you all excited there for a bit. Killed your cousin, married you, promised you an eternity of love and happiness if you just estranged yourself from your family and all you knew…Whoops.”

But alas, by and large, we seem to be in the me-generation, where what Romeo wants at any point and time is what Romeo gets. And what Romeo no longer wants in the days after he throws away, because, after all, what higher duty does one have than to oneself?

But is that really the case? And even if it was, can this one, ultimate, higher duty really excuse you from just well, being a decent, considerate person? When does doing what you want to fulfill your own needs and wishes turn into preventing others from doing the same? What makes what you want at that point in time so much more important than the possible future consequences it could have on the people around you? You have a right to change your mind, yes. But do you have a right to make a decision involving someone, knowing very well that there’s a high chance you’d change your mind later?

More and more I can’t help but get the feeling that we’re living in a world full of persons singular, where relationships are just the bi-product of two individuals finding it mutually advantageous to share a set of experiences for a coincidental period of time.

I remember I had a conversation with my father once, about how the hell my grandmother and grandfather lasted together for so long. They’d been together since the age of 14, grandad died at 64, grandma refuses to have any man after that. That’s roughly the equivalent of serving 2 life sentences and a few petty convictions on the side. The answer was apparently that they worked together as a unit.

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Now, at my tender age, I don’t profess to be a pot of relationship wisdom, but even to my inexperienced mind it seems like the way to go. They worked as a unit. How simple. And it was really. All they did was work on the concept of co-dependence. They weren’t two people using each other to make themselves happy. He wasn’t there to fulfill her need for romance, protection, and a man tall enough to reach the top shelf. And she wasn’t just there to cook, clean, provide companionship and look pretty. There weren’t commitment issues, or fights over who bought the nicest presents. If something was upsetting him then it upset her, and if she needed something done and couldn’t do it, then well, it wasn’t a question, he did it for her. I don’t know how to explain it in words, but you could see it just by looking at them.

And I think my friend encapsulated it best when he was talking me through FR2, so I think that’s where I’ll end this post. Because it’s what I hope one day I’ll be able to find, and I think it’s something people so easily forget.

“A relationship isn’t you worrying or him wanting something. It’s when you don’t think for a moment about yourself and just do all you can to watch his back and make him happy. And it’s when you know that you don’t have to think for a moment about yourself, because he’s there doing all the thinking for you.”

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November 26, 2007 at 1:31 pm 1 comment

Post-Modernism and You!

Post-Modernism and You!

Or: Just Because No One Understands You Doesn’t Make You an Artist 

A mixture of song, ritual and spoken word which pays tribute to the lives of a gynaecologist, a couple of artists, three wives and nine feminists. 

A surrealist play inspired by violence in prisons, Shakespeare, and teenage girls involving dream death sequences and stylised movement pieces. 

An adaptation of the Caucasian Chalk Circle which no one understood, apart from the fact that it had a cool soundtrack featuring Christina Aguilera’s “Dirty”.  

A multi-modal performance telling the story of some Japanese girl through song and dance in front of projections that have nothing to do with said Japanese girl, consisting of deeply meaningful stylised movement to the sound of classical music and operatic vocals as performed by an over-zealous soprano. 

A suggestion to replace an incredibly exciting sword fight with a symbolic chess battle. 

A play about birds, who are metaphorically women who are metaphorically birds who are metaphorically trapped in a cage which is metaphorically representing their obsessions who then metaphorically kill off one of their people just that they metaphorically didn’t. 

No ladies and gentlemen, your brain did not just melt down. What you just experienced, was five years in the dramatic life of my old highschool.

 A drama department indeed, which appears to be so focussed on appearing serious and at the forefront of modern art that they’ve forgotten that performances actually need to be enjoyable and understandable. Or maybe they’ve just all been smoking far too much pot. 

 And I’ve put up with it. I’ve played the raging feminist, the awkward boyfriend (because we are naturally far too advanced to submit to gender restrictions), I’ve dutifully sat through hours of productions wondering if that lemonade I’d drunk earlier had actually been absinthe, and auditioned for the part of the schizophrenic metaphorical she-bird. 

I’ve seen the dramatic potential, hoped to dear god that one day we’d do a comedy, and had those hopes dashed. And it’s all been okay. Because they are the all-mighty drama department and they said so. But when you reach your final year of education, otherwise known as your last chance to be in a school production, you start to get a bit desperate and emotional. You start to actually want audiences to enjoy your last performance. Remember you as Maid Marian or Juliet or even the funny secretary, as opposed to that chick that played the lesbian in the weird play, right?  

And when you get told that your final performance is not going to be a musical, as you had so hoped and prayed, but rather The Good Woman of Setzuan, all you can do it cry. 

Well fuck you too God. 

Because what we’re experiencing here, once again, is a case of pretension being put above enjoyment value.  For those who quite don’t understand my angst, The Good Woman of Setzuan is play written by Bertolt Brecht.  For those who don’t quite understand Brecht, or more importantly, my old school’s interpretation of it, here is a brief explanation of his two principle techniques, according to our dear drama department: 

Alienation:            

Taking something that’s really really good and making it really really crap so that no one can stand it, and thus are “alienated” by the performance and feel no connection at all to the characters – because they suck. 

Didactism:           

Drilling a message into the audience in a manner much like patronising white bureaucrats who speak to Asian immigrants like they are three years old.  

Brilliant, I know. 

So back to what I was saying. Pretension vs. Enjoyment. Or rather, the need for people to feel that they are part of “high culture” as opposed to “popular culture” because popular culture is just SO proletarian. 

Well, I have a message for all you alternative types out there:  Just because no one understands you doesn’t make you an artist. 

Time and time again, Aquinas Grammar has rejected proposals of comedies, musicals. Why? Because how can an institution possibly be taken seriously if they put on such…frivolous productions! Aah, of course, Mrs Doughsborough. Poor Gilbert and Sullivan, only two of the most famous writers of all time, no one ever did take them too seriously…We wouldn’t want to be like them now! 

The question that we must ask ourselves here then, however, is what ever happened to good old Andrew Lloyd Webber? Or a nice comedy along the lines of The Importance of Being Earnest? 

You want to know what happened? I will tell you what happened. What happened is Modern Art, folks. Black and red wearing, pot bashing “post-modernist”, “experimental” “artists” who get government grants for regurgitating milk in creative patterns. People who insist that they see past the superficial and completely escapist nature of theatre to something deeper and more powerful…and wait, what’s this talk of something called…what was it…ENTERTAINING people? Aaah, to be so shallow and naïve. 

All I can say is: You would like to be experimental with post-modernist drama? Go for it. I could indeed say that Aquinas Grammar is at the forefront of experiments concerning the audience-production relations in regards to post-modernist drama. The results were not so surprisingly conclusive. No one gives a fuck about post-modernism. 

In the words of the great Al Capp, a US cartoonist, and just for that quote alone, now my one true love: “Abstract art is a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered”.  

None of the shows were sold out, no one laughed at the deeply metaphorical jokes, no one understood the concept of an oppressed artist hiding from the harsh harsh world in her metaphorical bird form and let’s face it, the only reason we had an audience at all was because the world’s full of obligated parents and boyfriends who are scared of getting dumped by their arty girlfriends for a lack of commitment. 

The researchers would suggest that the plays are not too deep for the audiences, but rather simply crap. 

So in conclusion?  Let’s put up the pretence that I haven’t completely wasted your time by leaving everyone with this final thought: If you’re putting being alternative ahead of enjoyment, perhaps it’s time to realise that you’re not an artistic genius but a pretentious twat. 

But fear not, the concerned and conscientious students of Aquinas Grammar shall ensure that all audience members will be provided with complimentary cyanide capsules in case of emergency metaphorical overload. 

November 26, 2007 at 11:32 am Leave a comment

The Sisters Are Doing it To Themselves

Simon the 17 year old boy walks proudly to his bench one Monday lunchtime. He’s just had a pretty good weekend. 19 bundies, 3 tequila shots, 2 burn-outs, 1 party, 3 visits to the bottle-o, 27 conversations about rugby, 32 conversations about Halo, 243 jokes about the male genitalia, and 10 Ya Mum calls later, Simon has now become a man. He ‘scored’ with five, ahem, ‘chicks’, over the weekend, and is about to engage in a highly exaggerated blow by blow account of his conquests. To the boys on the bench, Simon is now a God. 

Jane wanders into the school ground, having also had a rather good weekend. She went to a couple of parties, met a few interesting chaps, and may or may not have kissed one or three of them. The reception Jane gets from the girls at the table is a little different.

It runs something like this: 

“OMG. Did you hear? Jane got with like, three guys…in the same night. She is such a skank.” 

“I know! That’s like…so cheap. What a raging hussy.” 

Then of course, comes Victoria, with additional information she heard from Claire who heard from Amy who heard from Francesca who talked to Ben who asked Nick who vaguely remembers Saturday night.  

“I heard it was like, SEVEN guys wasn’t it? Oh, and just quietly, have you SEEN Jane lately? I bet you she’s anorexic.” 

Next door, Simon and his friends are now reliving the final scenes of Die Hard 4.0. 

So what’s everyone thinking now? The inequality! The injustice! What happened to feminism? Those evil, evil, oppressive men repressing us with their patriarchal values, imposing double standards, subjugating the fairer sex , and halting our progress! 

But wait, what’s this? Who are the people calling Jane names and judging her body? It’s not the men; it’s us girls. 

And why do we do this to ourselves? Well, it all comes down to one very simple thing. History. Since the Stone Age, when lady Neanderthals were covertly sabotaging each other’s berry gathering reputations in order to appear more attractive to the men Neanderthals, and men Neanderthals were seeing who could bash each other over the head the hardest with their clubs and claim the title of Alpha Male, genders have been competing amongst themselves for the attention of the opposite sex.  

But it doesn’t just end there, because, many many centuries later, came the advent of feminism, and years after that, the Age of the Perfect Woman.  Now, not only do we judge each other, but also ourselves. Our generation lies at an interesting point in history. Our feminist mothers have spent so much time telling us we could do anything that we now try to do everything. No longer is it okay to be a house wife OR a career woman, a brain OR a looker; we have now put the expectation on ourselves that we must be the Every Woman – the drop dead gorgeous high achiever who sponsors children and sings in the community choir in between finding a cure for cancer and picking up her 2.1 children from soccer practice. 

We put endless pressure on ourselves to make the most of every opportunity, when, at the end of the day, what our mothers really fought for was not the obligation to choose everything, but the chance to choose SOMETHING. 

How much time each day do we spend worrying about what we SHOULD be doing, or how we SHOULD be looking? 3 minutes each morning grimacing at the bags under our eyes, 1 minute contemplating whether to take the salad or left-over pasta for lunch, 3 minutes feeling guilty about choosing the pasta… 4 minutes in front of the mirror trying to fit that fringe that just won’t sit right, 7 minutes in the library contemplating whether to borrow out that Nick Earls book you’ve been wanting to read or the Virginia Woolf novel you know you SHOULD read, 2 minutes feeling embarrassed about changing keys 8 times in 4 minutes during an in car sing-a-long even though you barely know the song… 

And because we feel the need to restrain and judge ourselves so strictly like this, it’s instinctive to turn around and judge others who don’t do the same – such as our friend Jane here. Because, after all, if we have to watch our weight, do our hair, read the right books, sing in that choir, play those sports, do well at school, act coy around boys…well, if we have to do all that, how dare they not? 

The answer is, we don’t have to do any of those things either. There’s no point judging each other or judging ourselves or judging others for imposing the judgements, because no one’s asking us to do any of that. The only criteria we must measure up to is the criteria we put on ourselves. And there’s no way we’re ever going to be able to get very far as a gender if we spend our time creating criteria and putting each other down, instead of looking after each other and working together. In the astute words of Mean Girl’s Ms Norbury: “You’ve all got to stop calling each other skanks and whores because it only makes it okay for guys to call you skanks and whores.” 

And yet, how many times do we find it easy to, as I did at the beginning , to blame it on the men? We must work so hard to prove that we’re equal to them, we must look good because they’re always judging us, it’s so unfair that they can get away with so much when we get judged so harshly for doing the same… But is that really the case? Looking around at the mass media around the world, I can honestly say I haven’t seen a single article in a guy’s magazine about the perfect weight, the ideal woman, or the terrible consequences of not meeting some amazing criteria.  In fact, according to the ever reliable source of Hamish Blake from Hamish and Andy, “Guys don’t care what you look like. They’re just grateful you’re there at all.” 

What I see however, in Women’s Weekly, is What to Eat, How to Dress, What’s In, What’s Out, What’s Even Out of the Out Pile, and OH MY GOD it’s Minnie Driver the Human Meringue at this year’s Academy Awards. Women judging each other, and pitting themselves against photo-shopped models and Ikea lifestyles. Ironic really, that we seem to be fighting the big war of feminism when we’re slowly sabotaging ourselves with the little things. We’re all so busy judging ourselves by elevated standards and holding others to the same that often we forget that, for the most part, it’s not the men holding women back and breaking up the ‘sisterhood’ – it’s the sisters doing it to themselves. 

In the end, ladies and gentlemen, my argument is something so crazy and zany it just might be true: The only way women are ever going to get anywhere is to stop putting each other down and start helping each other out. The guys aren’t judging us, no one’s judging us, and it’s about time we stopped judging ourselves. 

So I’d like to leave you now with a thought. There’s not much point us all going out there and burning bras under the banner of feminism, if we’re all just going to turn around and criticise each other’s taste in lingerie.

November 26, 2007 at 10:36 am Leave a comment


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I'm a first year law student, connoisseur of Starbucks by day, literature enthusiastic by night, lover of an eclectic assortment of music and arthouse films, hapless romantic, watcher of Election Agenda and devoted psuedo-intellectual. For fear of sounding like a personals ad, this blog was simply created to facilitate my endless ramblings. Enjoy.

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