Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Choose Life

I could have lead so many lives. In one version I’m still living in South Africa. I've put my law degree to good use and am working in a major firm. I’m rich. Obscenely. But I’m nervous. And I smoke Marlboro Lights and drink a little too much and can’t sleep at night. I’m dating the director of an IT company and we work mad hours and party on the weekends with our similarly wealth endowed friends. We have a holiday house in the Wilderness. We go on game safaris. We have servants. It’s all a little unsettling so I give lots of charity to make up for it.

In another version, I’m still living in South Africa. I've put my law degree to good use and am working in a small legal aid centre. My clients are desperate people struggling with HIV, lack of access to education and, of course, poverty. I’m not wealthy but compared to these guys I’m loaded. I smoke Camel Plain and drink a little too much and can’t sleep at night. I’m dating a black drummer. I work mad hours and get to hear the most fantastic music on the weekends. We have a coffee-coloured child who makes me laugh until I spit. One day I’m hijacked with my child in the car. It’s a little unsettling so I suggest immigrating to the US. We land up in LA where I write a screenplay about a South African lawyer. It doesn’t sell but my boyfriend gets gigs playing Drums for a host of eighties bands on reunion tours. I get Botox.

In the version I’m currently living it’s two oh two am and I’m still recovering from the horrors of the day. I tried to take all three babies out. Apart from the logistics of getting them all in and out of their car-seats, the sheer intensity of being stuck in a car with three screaming babies is something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone except Hitler and Celine Dion. Those bony Survivor contestants have nothing on me. I have an idea for Mark “Big-Wig Producer” Burnett. Try locking your cast in the car with three shrieking infants and see how good their endurance is then. Survive that, publicity hos! Survive endless days that merge into each other so that the only thing that helps you distinguish Mondays from Thursdays is that Desperate Housewives is on one of them and Lost is on the other. Survive completely losing your identity while your former colleagues keep asking you if you’re ever going to write anything again. Survive not earning a cent and having to rely completely on a man you once convinced would never have to support you because you’re not into traditional gender-based roles. Survive being vomited on and pooed on as your brain shrinks while your bum grows in direct proportion to each other.

And my babies are six weeks today and I keep wondering when I’m going to have time to notice them. They’re funny looking. I like how they smell, greasy and just hatched. I wonder when I’ll stop being horrified at the banal exhaustion of my daily life enough to get to know them.

And poor little O, who was an only child for such a brief moment. She’s still not walking. Or crawling. Today a passer-by watching the freakshow that is me and the 3 bubs on an outing asked me how old O is. When I said she’s 14 months the woman asked me what was wrong with her, why wasn’t she walking? “My boys walked at ten months”. I moved quickly away without answering.

I could have lead so many lives. But in this one I got to give birth to 3 amazing children in a year. Shouldn’t that be enough to make me happy? Why can’t I shake that thunderingly loud sucking noise I constantly hear as I watch myself being pulled into a whirling torrent of endless excursions to shopping malls and blurred days of baby-tending and laundry and conversations about feeding schedules. Why isn’t The Miracle of Birth enough to stop me craving Benson and Hedges Special Mild, an entire bottle of Scotch... and an entirely different life to the one I lead?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I know how Brad and Angelina feel

I always thought celebrities had to be thin, but here I am, flubber and all, a real life neighbourhood star. My newfound status is only conferred on me when I take the triple stroller out for a walk (usually with all three babies in it. Walking it babyless would illustrate the fine line between celebrity and certifiable insanity). I am stopped every thirty seconds. The people who aren’t stopping me are pointing at me, staring, laughing, taking photos on their mobile phones. I am not feeling my most glam, you understand, but I’m being forced to interact with every good old Aussie digger and excitable tourist my sea-side neighbourhood thrusts in my face. The things they usually say to me:

Oooow, triple trouble! (My polite answer: Triple the fun!)
You’ve got your hands full! (Better full than empty)
Do twins run in your family? (They’re running now)
Are they identical?

The last one is the most puzzling to me. T, the boy, is fair-skinned and has a lot of blonde hair. D, the girl is bald and dark. They look so different the doctors were amazed they were born out of the same womb. There are moments when I wonder if I’m actually the victim of one of those hospital baby mix-ups that were so common in eighties soap operas. But let’s assume my neighbourhood is filled with blind people. When I answer that the one is female, the other male, you’d be amazed how many people press the question again “yes, but are they identical?”. It’s only when I say “no, one has a penis” that they shut up.

A confession: I’m becoming a not very nice person. There are only so many times I can smile and say “better full than empty” to well-meaning passers-by who sodding tell me I’ve got my hands full. So I’ve come up with a cunning counter attack.

Tomorrow, when I head out with the triple stroller, I’m going to walk up to random strangers. I’m going to shove myself in their faces and shout in a quick stream:

Ooow, triple trouble I’ve got my hands full yes twins run in my family no they’re not identical yes we understand how to use contraception no I don’t want any more children can I go for my walk now thank you?

See who’s pointing and laughing then.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Reasons I wish I was a Man

1. I could go to work instead of staying home with three babies. I know if I really wanted, R would stay home and look after the bubs so I could work but R is not cut out to be a stay at home mom and I’m a TV writer for God’s sake. In the country that brought you “Neighbours” and “Prisoner”. It’s not like I’m doing anything important.
2. Niggling Insecurity. I know it’s facile to say men are less insecure than women but I know if I was one I would be a cocky, big hairy balls kind of guy. I’ve become such an apologist since I moved to Australia (being told to ‘tone it down’ enough times will do that to a girl) that I feel like a bit of the reverse-TransAmerica surgery might be what I need to get my guts back.
3. Men tend to overanalyse and overthink less than women. Again, huge generalisation. Verging on sexist. See what an apologist I am?
4. I suck at being a girly girl. I don’t do make up or dresses or bikinis. I hate shopping. I prefer sex to talking. I abhor going to the hairdresser. I like big chunky Doc Martens. Chick flicks bore me. I don’t think Alicia Keyes is the messiah.
5. Men can get away with not explaining themselves. (I'm deliberately not going to elaborate on this one in an attempt to not explain myself).

What brought on this wallowing in a puddle of self-doubt episode? I caught up with a work colleague today; P. He’s dating a woman who’s a well-known writer. Co-incidentally she was hired by the Film and Television Office to read and comment on the script I wrote but whose name I dare not speak because I haven’t looked at it for eons. The notes she gave me were mostly valid but presumably because I have a dirty foreign first name which she'd never seen before, she assumed I was male. Today P reminded me of that episode and was at pains to point out how experienced and brilliant and high achieving Ms Writer is. He mentioned all the film and TV parties he’s been going to with her. I thought of how much I hate those events and how I haven’t stepped foot in one for ages. Apparently Ms Writer is also Ms Congeniality. She knows everyone who’s anyone. She loves The Scene.

After we said good-bye I had a yucky feeling in my tummy (you can’t tell I’ve been hanging out with kids, can you?). The feeling’s stuck with me and no amount of chocolate or TV has quelled it. (To be fair, the chocolate I had was Nutella and the TV I watched was Parkinson interviewing Madonna. She looks oddly ridiculous in her disco gear singing a song she stole from Abba, talking about how Kabala has made her a better person. It alienated me even more when the audience gave her a standing ovation. Am I the only person who finds her phoney? Can I honestly tell myself if I was in that audience I wouldn’t have stood and cheered too? Are all people shells or is it just me?).

I wonder if those drugs they keep emailing me about (Viagra! Cialis! Cunnilingus! Cheap meds online) can take away this feeling? It’s a feeling of fear and unworthiness. I am suddenly horrified to think I may never finish that blasted script.

And an unearthly silence has suddenly fallen on my house. All three babies are sleeping. And if I was a man I’d do the clever thing and sleep too, like R is. I might even snore like a man, one hand clutching my big hairy balls, like R is. But I’m a woman so I’ll sit here and feel gutted and write this and try to think of:

Reasons I’m Glad I’m a Woman
1. Tits are rather nice.
2. Umm, tits?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Barenaked Jews in Suburbia

Such is a night in our house these days:

As soon as R comes home I hand him one screaming child. I feed the other and try to spend quality time (actually, guilt time) with O, posting items into other items and pretending to delight in repeating this action. Oh joy! This plastic bit fits in this plastic thing! Then we put O to sleep while juggling twins. The twins then usually have what the baby books refer to as a “fussy period”. If my period was that long I’d be suing my gynaecologist. The fussy period goes on and on as R and I slowly start to go batty. Eating dinner now requires tremendous dexterity and usually involves heating up a ‘mystery brown’ – something that’s been sitting in our fridge so long it is a generic colour and texture. Like space food, which is apt because my brain is definitely on another planet, having tea.

At a certain point we give in to all the screaming and feed the twins again. This is usually before the recommended 3-4 hour gap. We’re weak. Our parents were baby boomers. Blame them. Then I usually take all my clothes off in the hope that this will mean I get to shower soon. In an attempt to mark his place in the shower queue R then disrobes while burping a twin on each arm.

We usually remain naked for some time before we actually progress to the bathroom. I am always half way there when O wakes up / the twins vomit on the floor / a domestic banality strikes me as suddenly important and urgent. It was at this moment last night that I spotted a basket of washing that needed folding. I put the basket on my head, South African style, and proceeded to carry it towards the bedroom. At the front door, which we’d left open due to the heat, I bumped into R trying to settle a twin. Our naked bodies squished past each other. The piercing scream that followed was my own. A face was staring at us through the fly screen. Silence and then an embarrassed cough followed by a high pitched voice “Chag Sameach”. R and I stared out. “Chag Sameach” said R, his naked googlies dangling for all to see. I couldn’t imagine why some pervert was giving us the traditional greeting for a Jewish holiday. A scampering followed. I grabbed a towel, R covered his essentials with a baby or two and we opened the door. The owner of the voice ran away, leaving behind a parcel of cookies and a note wishing us Happy Purim from Bnei Akiva !, a youth movement that I never belonged to because they didn’t condone dope smoking and sex before marriage. Also, they used too many exclamation marks in their pamphlets. Join us on Sunday nights for Shmoozing! Eating! Same Sex Dancing in Denim Skirts!
What are random Jews doing late at night delivering Purim parcels? Why do Bnei Akiva want us to eat their candied treats? And more importantly, after seeing R and I naked with baskets of washing on our heads and babies in our arms, will this poor Bnei Akiva girl ever want to have sex, before or after marriage?

Must run. I’m topless but R already has his boxers off and is heading towards the shower with a look of ruthless determination.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

It's okay with fish cos they don't have any feelings.

I once had a semi-boyfriend who was so out of my league he was in another stratosphere. Let’s call him Sh. I tend to not do things lightly so I threw myself into him like a car crash. He had the most sensual lips I’d ever dreamt of licking. We’d met briefly when he lived in South Africa (a drunken night after the school dance, he, myself and the slightly inappropriate but terminally hip music teacher shared a half-jack of Scotch at a nightclub called Idols, a fitting tribute to eighties hedonism). I found him compellingly sexy but he was heavily involved with the only non-Jewish girl at his Jewish school. Can’t get cooler than that.

I re-met him two years later when visiting Melbourne with a girlfriend, C. He’d moved there with his family. C had been given his number by her ex. We were house-sitting for C’s wealthy cousins. He came to the door. My first thought: ‘I wonder if I’ll sleep with this guy tonight’. The words that came out of my mouth were less sexy: 'The people who own this house are so rich they use triple ply toilet paper'. It was an inauspicious beginning, but I had just turned 21, Kurt Cobain was still alive and each moment was sizzling with possibility.

We went to The Espi, a Melbourne establishment. I was thin and my jeans fit really well. I met his girlfriend. I am blessed and cursed with incredible hearing. It’s almost bionic. Amidst the garage band noise I heard her say to him 'shine your love on me'. It was pretentious and needy enough to annoy me and I was openly pleased that it seemed to bug him too.

That night he and I stayed up talking and listening endlessly to The Lemonheads. Don’t want to get stoned, but I don’t want to not get stoned. We did get stoned. And laughed. And decided we both wanted to market a product called Fake Face. It comes in a can and you can spray it on just before you go out. It’s very Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. Prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. I wanted to kiss him more than drunken hillbillies want moonshine but I was involved in a creamy debacle with a man I had just discovered was married with two kids. And Sh had a girlfriend. And she was having her wisdom teeth out the following day. And the thought of her swollen faced and chipmunkesque delighted me. It also meant I had 2 whole days with him while she was incapacitated. It’s amazing how sadistic you can be when you’re in a sexual and metaphysical frenzy. In the other room my girlfriend C discussed Nietzsche with a man she met that night. He is now her husband and they’re expecting their third child. But Sh and I had a different path ahead of us.

I went back to Sydney and he sent me a tape of music he’d mixed. He drew an album cover for it, an advert for Fake Face. It was one of those tapes that ripped my guts out and made me want to cry and fuck him at the same time. I didn’t know how much to read into it but I did know that boy-men don’t make tapes unless some part of them – maybe an unconscious part, let’s call it their penis – wants to make love to you with their music.

I was rapt. I was captivated. I was really excited when we went up to Byron Bay and he was waiting there for me with a colour-in book. And his girlfriend, who was exactly the kind of girl-woman I would have fallen in love with had I been going through my bi-curious phase (that came later).

Conveniently, she had a cadetship journalist job that she had to be back in Melbourne for. I found myself unwittingly counting the days until she left. While she was there I had a dalliance with an odd, slippery-tongued boy who was in a band named after a vegetable. And I toyed with a nerdish lawyer who is probably very wealthy right now. But those were distractions. Anything to keep me from thinking about those lips and the way his skin would feel if I was allowed to touch it.

Which I did. The night his girlfriend left we lay under the stars on the damp lawn and I touched his face and lips and we both pretended it was nothing sexual and merely an exploration of friendship. I’ve never had a friend whose face I’ve examined so closely with my hands and heart and mind but pretending was safe and it bought us time.

So he invited me and C to come camping with him and his Nietzsche-loving friend. C was excited – a chance to explore her relationship with her new love. I was freaked out. I invited a buffer friend along, L. Just before we were leaving for the trip Sh cleverly picked a fight with L. L refused to come. It was going to be the four of us.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a more idyllic or lust-driven holiday. I had no idea where we were. We had no agenda other than to find forests to hike through, rivers to swim in and good weed to roll into fat joints to smoke at fireplaces. C and Nietzsche boy were clearly in love and Sh and I were… we were talking through the nights and playing intellectual games and trying desperately hard not to jump each other.

I wanted nothing more than to completely possess him. I wanted to feel him inside out. I wanted his body, his spirit, his mind. I found it increasingly hard to be near him and not touch him. He was driving me into an insane flurry of desire and then he’d phone his girlfriend and I’d feel sick.

And even then I knew the relationship was not long for this world. We couldn’t be. We were too similar. We would have destroyed each other. It was too intense and euphoric and nonsensical and beautiful to be real.

And the night it all came together we were at a quite camping spot somewhere peaceful. We met a woman whose boyfriend had gone out for a pack of cigarettes and never come back. Despite the fact that he’d left her with two kids and no cash, she was most bitter that he’d taken the good camping gear with him. Sh and I sat around the campfire with her and her kids. And I think he played guitar and I looked at him with the fire dancing on his exquisite face and I had to go back to the tent because I was going to explode with wanting him.

When he came into the tent he pounced on me and I pounced back and we began the slippery slide downwards.

After that I became utterly obsessed. I felt like he was made of pure magnet. The harder I pulled away, the closer I sprung towards him. We had a wild, joyous, intense time together. We asked strangers for condoms because we were burning up so quickly we couldn’t wait. We drank and smoked a lot and played at pretending that this wasn’t destined for disaster. I was totally consumed with him. I couldn’t eat. I’m Jewish. And I couldn’t eat. You understand how far off its axis my world must have been spinning.

It ends how you expect it to end. The night we say goodbye he finally tells me he loves me. I’d been waiting for it the whole time. It’s an admission that I’m not dreaming the whole thing up. I tell him I love him. We plan to meet in Israel six months later.

I go back to South Africa and proceed to date a series of unsuitable men. I talk to them endlessly about Sh and explain I can never love them because I’m waiting for him. They fuck me anyway. Sh and I speak regularly. He becomes increasingly distant. He tells me he’s taking a lot of drugs. He tells me he told his girlfriend about me and they broke up. She’s angrier than the colour red. She dumped all his things on his driveway in a garbage bag. On his 21st birthday I ring Sh and tell him I’ve been sleeping with someone else but it means nothing.

He rings me back two hours later and politely tells me to get fucked. And he has no intention of meeting me in Israel.

I go to Israel anyway and sleep with an amazing array of soldiers. They smell like sweat and uniforms and aniseed flavoured Arak and it’s bloody marvellous. But I pine for Sh in a sick to the stomach way. He won’t take my calls and I start feeling like he’s been brainwashed against me. Then I feel like a stalker. I later discover he’s seeing a psychologist who’s telling him to get back together with his girlfriend. And I think it took me about five years and many many sweaty men before I ever really let go of the idea that I had business I wanted to finish with him. Preferably bent over backwards. Repeatedly.

But because our connection was always more than physical, we’ve remained friends and I genuinely like and respect the person he is. I’m interested on his take on the world. This may sound a bit inbred but I sort of feel like he’s a cousin I grew up with. You know the one who always laughed at the same jokes as you?

I recently got the invitation to his wedding. And I’m genuinely happy for him. His fiancé and he seem to be a perfect fit. They have a gorgeous little girl. They understand each other. They have a calm that he and I never had. And my beloved R and I have been married for ten years and we have something more deep and real than I could ever have had with anyone (as I write this he has a twin feeding pillow strapped to his waist as he feeds both kids at once. That’s dead sexy). So I’ve been wondering why this wedding has brought up all these things for me and it’s 2.19AM and I wake up realising the obvious. It’s not the relationship with Sh that I’m mourning. It’s the me I was then. Thin and young and carefree and erotic and erratic and impulsive and completely devoid of responsibility. And powerful. I felt like I could make anything happen. I was f r e e.

And here I am caring for 3 babies and craving sugar all the time and desperate to have some sense of power or control. I’m going for a blood test on Sunday to be a potential bone marrow donor for people with leukaemia and I’ve started rehearsing a scene in which I’m having the marrow drawn out of my hip and I’m holding hands across the operating table with the car salesman father of four whose life I’ll be saving. All the doctors are telling me how noble I am and I’m being faux humble and telling them I just did it so I could get a good deal on a second hand car. And then I wonder why I suddenly want to be a marrow donor and it’s clear that I’m desperate to have some purpose, to be something other than a breeder.

Today is my official due date. My babies are three weeks old. If these fucking hormones don’t move along and leave me alone, you’ll be hearing more about my other ex-boyfriends soon. Like the one who had crooked teeth and dreads and the most amazing tongue I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring, or the guy with the broken nose and darkest blue eyes who is now in a Canadian jail on drug charges or the Argentinean misogynist who asked me to dress more like Gabriella Sabatini… Trust me, you don’t want to get me started…