Juste en attendant (nouvelle)

I have always had a slight obsession with France; for as long as I can remember it has always been “My Favourite Country” and when I was about 11 years old I constantly wore a beret because I desperately wanted to be French and I had an impressive collection of Eiffel Towers and did countless school projects on the place and would sometimes speak in this pretty terrible French accent and , well, you get the idea … So, when modalalien offered to translate my short story Temporary into French I was, clearly, very excited. Here it is, the French version of Temporary (with much better sounding title of Juste en attendant) as translated by Damien Allo (thank you so very much for this Damien):

Juste en attendant

Nouvelle

Par Katy Warner

Traduit de l’anglais (Australie) par Damien E. Allo

« Je te paierai pas. Tu sers à rien. Rentre chez toi », dit Charlie en aboyant, sa chemise blanche arborant déjà fièrement de vilaines tâches de sueur.

« Je préfère rester là.

— Je te paye pas pour rester là. Comme je l’ai dit, t’es un foutu bon à rien. »

Sam voulu lui répondre mais ses paroles restèrent bloquées quelque part entre ses poumons et son larynx. Elles restèrent là, coincées dans sa poitrine tant et si bien que des larmes lui vinrent aux yeux. Avant qu’il n’ait pu s’en empêcher, l’une d’elles s’èchappa et roula triomphalement sur sa joue.

« Bon sang, mais-Rentre chez toi.» Comme il lui tendait un mouchoir, les vociférations de Charlie se firent un peu moins virulantes.

Sam dètestait son boulot. Il avait eu dans l’idèe de dèmissionner au moment même où il avait commencè. Mais elle lui avait dit que c’ètait juste en attendant, et elle le pensait vraiment. A l’époque. Bien súr qu’elle le pensait vraiment.

Les néons vacillèrent en grésillant. Il observa un papillon occupè à s’abrutir contre la protection en plastique du luminaire.

« Regardez-moi ce petit bonhomme », dit-il comme pour lui-même. Il fallait toujours qu’il fasse ça, se parler comme à lui-même. Ça la rendait folle, elle le lui avait dit en lui lançant un de ces regards qui voulait dire tu me mets mal à l’aise, on en reparlera une fois à la maison, et qu’il ne connaissait que trop bien.

Charlie, quant-à lui, se contenta de le regarder d’un air absent.

« Bon sang, mais rentre-» mais avant que Charlie ait terminé sa phrase -assez prévisible-, le ding-dong du carillon retentit au niveau des portes coulissantes.

Charlie se redressa sur sa chaise comme un petit animal sauvage.

Le carillon pouvait parfois être trompeur. Il avait tendance à être capricieux et cruel : il ravivait l’espoir du vendeur aux abois qui se voyait persuadè que c’ètait là la vente qu’il attendait, pour finalement se rendre compte que ce n’ètait que l’effet du vent. Sam se plaisait à imaginer que ce n’ètait pas le vent mais des fantômes qui ne s’ètaient pas encore rendu compte de leur mort et qui continuaient leur train-train habituel et se rendaient dans les magasins de meubles en se demandant pourquoi les vendeurs les ignoraient… Il s’en ètait confiè à Charlie qui l’avait regardè bizarrement puis lui avait dit qu’il fallait passer l’aspirateur. Sam passait son temps avec l’aspirateur : il avait davantage l’impression d’être employè au nettoyage qu’à la vente.

Le carillon continuait à faire ding-dong alors qu’un jeune couple un peu mal à l’aise se tenait à l’entrèe du magasin. Charlie rèajusta sa cravate, fourra un bonbon à la menthe dans sa bouche et saisit son bloc-notes. « Il n’y a rien d’inscrit dessus, mais ça vous donne l’air

important. Les clients sont sensibles à ce genre de choses. Tout ça fait partie de ma technique », lui avait confié Charlie le premier jour.

Charlie se leva et rentra sa chemise dans son pantalon : son ventre d’amateur de biére s’affirmait de plus en plus et s’accommodait mal des exigences d’une tenue de commercial. Son ventre imposant repoussait constamment sa chemise en dehors de son pantalon, forçait la boucle de sa ceinture et faisait sauter ses boutons. Il tenait pour responsables les fabricants de vêtements, le pressing ou sa femme, mais jamais la bière, la friture ou les généreuses quantités de beignets à la crème ou à la confiture qui accompagnaient sa pause café matinale. Sam gonflait parfois son ventre à la maison en la prévenant que, lui aussi, pourrait ressembler à ça un jour. Elle riait alors de cette façon bien à elle et lui disait qu’elle l’aimerait même s’il devenait trés gros et ajoutait que c’ètait un boulot juste en attendant, de toute façon, et qu’il ne ferait pas ça toute sa vie. Il ne lui avait rien dit, mais il avait remarqué que ses pantalons devenaient de plus en plus justes et que son visage avait pris des rondeurs. Chaque nuit, une fois qu’il pensait qu’elle s’ètait endormie, il faisait cinquante abdos sans faire de bruit.

Charlie s’empara de sa veste de costume sur le dossier de sa chaise et l’enfila en prenant son temps. Sam avait plaisir à observer les préparatifs de Charlie avant une vente. « Il faut pas donner l’impression d’être aux abois », voilà une autre perle de sagesse dont Charlie avait gentiment fait profiter Sam lors de son premier jour. Malheureusement, les clients devenaient une espèce de plus en plus rare au Merveilleux Magasin de Meubles de Charlie et la devise

“faut pas avoir l’air aux abois” revenait souvent à perdre des clients avant même d’avoir pu accrocher leur regard. Sam tenait les néons pour responsables, Charlie, lui, en voulait à la situation économique, à la concurrence, à lui-même.

On entendait toujours le ding-dong du carillon, tout heureux d’avoir l’occasion d’annoncer de vrais clients plutôt que ces fichus fantômes qui s’entêtaient à frèquenter les magasins de meubles au mépris de leur mort. Le jeune couple passa le magasin en revue tout en restant tranquillement sur le tapis d’accueil (Charlie disait que les clients sont réceptifs à ce genre de choses, cela rendait le magasin accueillant tout simplement parce que c’ètait ce qui ètait ècrit sur le tapis) et ils se parlèrent ensuite à voix basse. On aurait dit qu’ils prèparaient leur évasion.

« Il faut que je leur mette le grappin dessus. Ne… T’as qu’à… »

Il agitait les bras en vain tout en se prècipitant vers le couple, l’haleine rafraichie, le bloc-notes à la main et la chemise bien rentrée.

Sam savait ce que voulait dire l’agitation des bras : Ne t’approche pas des clients. Il avait pu voir ces bras s’agiter en de nombreuses occasions, particulièrement lors de son premier mois de présence durant lequel il avait été forcé de porter le badge humiliant “en formation” et de rire à gorge dèployèe à chaque fois qu’un client s’essayait à un mot d’esprit au sujet de son “badge d’identification”.

« Ca vient d’où ? », demandaient-ils avec un petit sourire narquois.

Je vous demande pardon ? répondait-il en faisant semblant de ne pas comprendre.

Votre nom, là. Ils montraient alors le badge en voulant souligner la drôlerie de leur blague. En formation. »

Ils prenaient alors toujours un accent terriblement moqueur – français, allemand ou autre – Monsieur Information, Herr Enformazion. Alors, il riait et ils se félicitaient de leur ingéniosité en continuant à “juste jeter un œil” avant de partir en lançant “à bientôt M. Formation”, mais sans canapé, ni table basse ou autre coussins à cinq dollars -ce qui était purement du vol¬mais, non merci, pas aujourd’hui… Il dètestait les clients. Il lui avait bien dit qu’il n’ètait pas fait pour le contact avec la clientéle et elle ètait partie de son rire en lui disant que c’ètait juste en attendant.

Il regardait Charlie essayer de convaincre le couple de quitter le tapis d’accueil et de faire un petit tour du magasin. Charlie leur servirait de guide. Il serait leur ami. Leur assistant. « Ne te présente jamais comme assistant des ventes » lui avait-il dit. « Ca repousse les gens ».

Le jeune couple avait l’air aussi paumé que le papillon qui continuait de se cogner contre le plafonnier. Sam se demanda si ils avaient eux aussi ètè attirès à l’intèrieur par les nèons.

Il se rappela avoir été dans des magasins pareils à celui-ci. Il se souvint combien il avait été déconcerté en se demandant pourquoi diable ils avaient besoin d’un nouveau canapè alors que celui qu’il avait rècupèrè auprés de la dèchetterie convenait parfaitement et donnait un bon exemple de réduction de notre empreinte carbone, de recyclage et d’action positive pour l’environnement car, aprés tout, c’ètait elle la soi-disant écolo, et comment pouvait-elle se plier au gâchis de l’occident, à cette aviditè capitaliste… Il soupira. Pourquoi ne pouvait-il se rappeler que des disputes ?

Sam regarda le couple alors qu’ils s’intèressaient au matelas 140. Ils avaient l’air de poupées dèmesurèes, allongès l’un à côtè de l’autre, chaussures aux pieds, les bras le long du corps, immobiles et sans porter d’attention à Charlie qui soulignait les vertus de la mousse, des ressorts, des coutures. Sam regarda la femme prendre la main de son compagnon. Sam regarda l’homme porter la main à ses lévres et l’embrasser. Sam la regarda prendre sa tête dans ses mains. Sam regarda Charlie, dans son embarras et par politesse, se tourner vers son bloc-notes et se racler la gorge. Sam observa cette scène de tendresse se poursuivre tandis que le papillon se cognait contre les nèons que l’on entendait grésiller au plafond. Sam regarda la femme dire à l’homme qu’on les regardait. Sam regarda la femme le montrer du doigt.

« Tu regardes quoi, là ? », lui hurla le jeune homme sur le matelas.

Sam se rappela comme elle était allongé de la sorte ; elle avait eu l’air d’une petite poupèe en porcelaine sur le matelas, les bras le long du corps, immobile et sans porter attention à quoi que ce soit. Il ne s’ètait pas attendu à ce que ça ait l’air, à ce qu’elle est l’air si irréelle. Allongès sur le dos, l’un à côtè de l’autre, les bras le long de son corps, il avait pris une de ses mains dèlicates dans la sienne et l’avait embrassèe, il avait pris sa tête dans ses mains, il avait prononcé son nom, il lui avait caressè les cheveux, il avait appelè l’infirmiére, il avait dit au-revoir. Il l’avait senti venir, même si elle avait insistè, à chaque ètape, que c’ètait juste en attendant : la chute des cheveux, les injections, les vomissements, les salles d’attente…

« Ho ! Abruti ! C’est quoi ton probléme ?»

Sam ne savait pas où aller, alors il était venu au boulot ; son boulot juste en attendant.

Le jeune homme se précipita sur Sam. La jeune femme ricana. Charlie agita les bras en vain. Sam continua à regarder en clignant des yeux et en respirant, et en écoutant le bruit sourd de ce pauvre papillon.

« Il ne lâche pas le morceau. Quel entêtement, petit bonhomme ! », dit-il, comme pour lui¬même.

Malheureusement, il y avait quelqu’un qui n’ètait pas lui-même et qui crut que Sam s’adressait à lui.

L’homme s’approcha de Sam, l’haleine chargée de relents de fast food et de boissons ènergisantes sucrèes. Sam regarda les lévres de l’homme qui, un instant auparavant, avaient embrassé la main de la jeune femme se retrousser soudainement et se déformer en un torrent d’insultes. La jeune femme apparu derrière l’èpaule de son compagnon et le tira en arriére. Sam regarda la main de la femme qui, un instant auparavant, tenait encore la tête du jeune homme se changer soudainement en doigt d’honneur.

Le ding-dong du carillon se fit entendre : ils étaient partis.

Charlie se trouvait sur le tapis d’accueil, agitant les bras en vain, en rythme avec le ding-dong.

« Bon sang, Sam, Bon… » Charlie remit le bloc-notes dans le tiroir, raccrocha sa veste de costume sur le dossier de sa chaise, sortit sa chemise de son pantalon et expira pour ce qui parut une éternité.

« Je sais, Je sais. Je vais… » Il pensa à retourner à la maison. Habituellement, lorsqu’il arrivait au parking du Merveilleux Magasin de Meubles de Charlie, tout ce à quoi il pensait, c’ètait de faire demi-tour et de rentrer à la maison.

Au-dessus de lui, le papillon s’èpuisait à virevolter autour de la lumiére.

Le boulot de Sam consistait aussi souvent à rèpandre de l’insecticide sur les papillons ou à leur porter un coup fatal à l’aide d’un journal roulè sur lui-même. Mais pas aujourd’hui. Charlie regarda Sam se mettre debout sur le bureau, tendre la main vers la lumière et recueillir le paillon dans ses mains avec soin. Il regarda Sam traverser le magasin en tenant le papillon captif entre ses mains. Il entendit le ding-dong du carillon au moment où Sam relâcha le papillon sur le parking.

Sam, silhouette esseulèe sur un tapis d’accueil, regarda le papillon s’envoler jusqu’à ce qu’il le perde de vue.

« Viens manger un beignet », lui lança Charlie.

Sam s’essuya les pieds sur le tapis et retourna à son boulot, juste en attendant.

Dear Abby

Dear Abby,

You turned 12 earlier this month and you still haven’t received a card or a gift from me. I have sent it. I sent it late. But I did send it, and a gift, so it should be in your letterbox any day now. Honestly. I am so terrible at this Long-Distance-Aunty stuff. It’s not like I forget birthdays and important events – I usually buy the card and gift weeks in advance and pop it on my desk and then the big day comes and goes and the gift and the card are still on my desk. It can’t post itself. I know that. So why don’t I just post it on time? Why don’t I? What is that about?

I have a One Direction collector card and lollipop pack thing sitting in the top kitchen drawer. I don’t know why it is in the kitchen drawer but it is. Every time I need a tea-spoon I see it; Zayn, Louis, Harry, Liam and Niall mocking me and my inability to post things on time. I bought you the collector card and lollipop pack thing on a whim from the local 7-11 months and months ago. I thought, I should send Abby a little something, let her know I’m thinking of her … But it just ended up in the drawer. You probably don’t even like One Direction any more, do you? Have they suffered the same fate as Justin Bieber who you didn’t like, then you did like and now you don’t like again? Bieber spat on one of his fans so I think you made a good decision to move on from him (1D haven’t spat on anyone have they? Oh, and did you notice I wrote 1D – that’s cool right?). What is with that behaviour? I suppose there is a lesson in it for all of us. If you ever get so famous that you think it okay to spit on someone who adores you without even knowing you, the same person who has, in some way, however small, elevated you to this level of fame where, for some reason, you can get away with the aforementioned behaviour then maybe it is time to just take a step back and rethink your life choices.

Now, I have never spat on anyone and I don’t think I ever would. Someone spat on me once. I was on the tram and this woman thought I was spy and said some disgustingly racist things to me (even though I’m not the race she seemed to think I was) and then she spat on me. Yep. That’s when I moved. In hindsight I probably should have moved when she thought I was spy but I didn’t want to be rude or judgemental or anything. So, instead, I got spat on. It was really gross. At least you could bottle up Justin Bieber spit and sell it on eBay to some Bielber for a lot of money.

Even though we can roll our eyes at Justin’s spitting there will come a time when we all, metaphorically, spit on a fan. We will do something that we know isn’t right or makes us feel horrible inside because we want to fit in or feel better about ourselves. Especially when you are 12.

I did it.

I said some really mean things about people when I was hanging out with this so-called popular group (our relationship didn’t last long but it has had a lasting effect). I remember them all laughing at one girl and her bra; a whole group of us laughing over something to do with her bra-strap. It was something so minor and idiotic, absolutely nothing worth laughing or picking on someone about, but I was going along with them because they were the ‘popular girls’.

I felt horrible inside. But I didn’t stop them. I was part of the group.

This group would relentlessly pick on someone because they were fat or thin or short or wore coke-bottle glasses or stumbled over an answer in class or wore the wrong sneakers or couldn’t run fast enough or didn’t play netball well enough or fell over or cried or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time …

It was at this time I also decided to stop eating. The ‘popular girls’ liked me, I was in their group, and I knew the only reason for this sudden acceptance was because I had lost all that baby-fat people love to talk about. Why do people do that? Talk about baby-fat like it is something they can have a comment on like the weather. Is it anyone’s business? Really? Well, I noticed as I turned 12 that is became everyone’s business. People loved to talk about how I was losing it, the baby-fat, with a mixture of sadness and relief in their voices. They all noticed, even my well-meaning year 7 teacher.

What they didn’t notice was that I was losing more than the baby-fat. I hadn’t realised that losing baby-fat is just something that is meant to happen, that is just a part of growing up; nope, I thought it had all started because one day at school I skipped lunch. Now, I’m not dumb Abby (I was reading George Orwell right alongside Sweet Valley High) but that is how anorexia made its way into my brain and took up residence for awhile. So, I kept skipping lunch and eating as little as I could when I was being watched. It was stupid and it made me feel horrible inside. I wasn’t spitting on a metaphoric fan; I was spitting on myself. That is just as bad and even weirder, right?

But, I was 12 and I thought that being really, really skinny would mean the popular girls would accept me and I would be happy. But it felt funny inside. It wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy or healthy. But I didn’t stop it. I was part of the group.

So much of what I was doing when I was 12 was about impressing other people and not about impressing myself. If I could go back and be 12 again I hope that I would be able to be more myself and stand up for the people getting metaphorically spat upon on by the metaphoric Justin Biebers of the school.

When the leader of the popular girls decided we should write a very awful letter to our delightful music teacher I said ‘no’ and I finally left the little in-crowd. They were pretty spiteful but I managed. I discovered that the term ‘popular’ is very misleading in this context Abby. The ‘popular’ crowd tend to be the least popular, they are cliquey and cruel and not many people really like them all that much. Why should they like them? They were bullies. And I was a bully if I stayed with them.

I would like to say that that was that – from that moment I was on my own path and didn’t care what people thought … Of course I cared. I cared when they all started laughing at me and my shoe-laces (which were once considered very cool) and my skinny arms and my inability to play netball. But it gets better. It really, honestly, truly gets better.

I feel like it all begins when you are 12; that idea of going along with the majority, not wanting to cause a fuss, not listening to that little voice inside you that knows that you shouldn’t be laughing at / picking on / gossiping about someone, wanting desperately to ‘fit in’ (whatever the hell that means) …

Abby, please don’t fit in.

Don’t be one of the crowd. The crowd, particularly the ‘popular crowd’ are boring. They really are. Be yourself. Don’t change who you are, what you stand for or what you look like for anyone. You are not boring. Listen to that wonderful Abigail who is inside you and trust her no matter what. If something isn’t right call it, speak up, make it right. Don’t be scared to be different; be proud to be different.

Start your own popular group and actually be popular – inclusive and interesting and different.

And don’t, ever, spit on your fans.

You are a wonderful human being Abby. You are. Enjoy being 12 and enjoy being you.

Happy (belated) birthday. Now, let me know when that card finally arrives.

Missing you and sending lots of love,

Katy

xxx

***

An open letter to my 12-year old niece, and all 12-year old nieces, for the Daily Prompt Weekly Writing Challenge – Dear Abby

Ruby (a short story)

Ruby didn’t want to be there. She had been promised a visit to the park. This place was the complete opposite of the park (she knew all about opposites and this was most definitely an opposite). It was dark and smelt weird and her new sneakers stuck to the dirty carpet. She was not happy and showed her dad this by staring at her sneakers. He didn’t seem to notice.

She loved her new sneakers. They were purple and lit up with sparkles of colour every time she took a step. She liked to imagine she was walking on stars. But her sneakers didn’t light up here – they just stuck stubbornly to the thin carpet. It made her sad. Her new sneakers were for running and sliding and jumping and most definitely not for sticking to dirty carpet.

He had been promising to take her to the park for ages now but there was always an excuse; he was busy or tired or it was raining or he had one of those headaches he always seemed to have. But today he didn’t have a headache and it wasn’t raining and he had said put on your new sneakers we’re going to the park. So she did. She was wearing her new sneakers but this was not the park.

He hadn’t kept his side of the bargain. Ruby knew all about bargains and so far she had done her bit but her dad was letting her down. Again. Like those times Jake would want to make a bargain with their lunches and she would end up swapping a chocolate chip cookie for an apple. Yes, Ruby knew all about unfair bargains.

She sighed.

She wasn’t going to lose out this time.

She pulled on his jacket but he didn’t look at her. She squeezed his hand so tightly it made her screw up her nose but he didn’t look at her. She jumped on his foot, her left sneaker lighting up like a Christmas tree, but he still didn’t look.

She took a deep breath and used a voice louder than any voice she had ever used before; “Let’s go!” She knew it must have been really loud because Mrs Peachy always scolded her for being too loud even when she whispering secrets to Jake in her quiet voice. She was terrible at keeping secrets and she was terrible at being quiet. “I don’t wanna be here,” she said in the loudest voice she had ever used. Ever.

Ruby’s father still didn’t look but the old man sitting behind a table full of empty glasses did. He stared. She pulled her hair over her face and peered at him through the fine curtain. He smiled at her, a toothless smile that made her stomach feel like it was full of angry, mean butterflies. She stuck her tongue out at him, even though she knew it was rude, and got a mouthful of hair. The old man laughed and belched at her as she hid her face in her dad’s jacket. But still he didn’t look.

He was looking at someone else.

Ruby removed herself from the jacket and tried to see what he was seeing. She followed his gaze to the other side of the room, to a table tucked in the corner behind which sat a woman with messy hair and dark eyes. She had her elbows on the table and one foot resting on the chair in front of her. Ruby frowned at the woman’s very bad manners (she knew all about manners and these were most definitely bad ones).

“Who’s that?” Ruby tried to use her quiet voice. It felt like the right time to be quiet.

Ruby looked at the woman at the table again and wondered whether she had put her dad under some spell. Maybe she was a witch. Maybe she had frozen him to the spot with her dark, magical eyes. Maybe she had stolen his voice box.

“Dad …” she was starting to worry that they may never make it to the park. It felt like they had been here for a long time.

“Go say hello.”

Finally, her dad was looking at her. She tried to smile at him but there was something about him, about his voice and his eyes, that didn’t seem quite right. She pulled her hair over her face.

“Don’t do that.” He gently pulled her hair back. “Go say hello.”

“To who?” She hit his hands away, he was always trying to make her hair neat and she hated it.

He pointed to the woman at the table with the bad manners. “We can go to the park after. OK?”

Ruby had never seen her dad look so small but right there, right in front of her, it looked as if he had lost all his air – like the last balloon at a birthday party, sad and unwanted. She was sure that woman was a witch. An air-stealing witch. She didn’t want to say hello to a witch but she didn’t want her dad to look so empty. It made those mean butterflies start doing laps in her stomach again.

She took a deep breath and let her sneakers take her on a sticky star walk across the galaxy to the witch at the table in the corner.

Melinda needed another drink. She got up from the table, steadied herself and took a step towards the bar. Suddenly, right under her feet was a little girl wearing sneakers that flashed like police lights. Melinda winced as the girl said something in a loud, high-pitched voice. She pushed past the little thing to get to the bar.

Ruby turned at looked at her dad and shrugged her shoulders. She told herself she was most definitely OK but somehow all those angry, mean butterflies escaped and burst from her eyes and her nose and her mouth and suddenly she was crying. Ruby never cried. Jake cried more than she did and he was boy and everyone knew boys weren’t supposed to cry so much. Ruby knew all about crying. She hated it but she couldn’t help it.

Melinda tried to ignore the scene in front of her and ordered a double. She gulped it down. It didn’t help. She ordered another.

Ruby watched her father refill with air and rush toward her. As he hugged her she felt butterflies disappear.

“I said hello,” she said. “Can we go to the park now?”

Ruby’s dad took her hand and walked on her stars out into the sunlight and towards the park and didn’t look back – even though Ruby was sure she heard someone call their names in a voice which was trying to be quiet.

 

Thoughts from the waiting room, again …

Acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

George Burns

My audition was scheduled for 1.40pm. At 2pm I still had not gone in and there were three other blondes waiting with me, looking nervous and eager and far better suited for the role than I did. At 2.10pm the casting director asked if any of us were in a hurry. I had seen them checking their watches and tapping their feet and drumming their fingers. Of course they were in a hurry. Of course they had somewhere else they had to be. It’s not like sitting in a waiting room to audition for a non-speaking role in a local television commercial pays the rent.

“No. I’m fine,” they all giggled through plastered smiles.

“Actually, I do have to get back to work soon.” As I said it I could feel the other blondes settle into the uncomfortable plastic chairs triumphantly thinking one less person to compete with; one step closer to nailing the gig. I suddenly felt like I was a strategically-challenged character from The Hunger Games. I felt sure that if that casting director had asked them to tear me from limb to limb they would have done it without hesitation.

“Always say yes. A casting director likes a can-do attitude,” an over-paid, washed up film and TV “acting tutor” once preached to a class of young, wannabe actors. I was one of the wannabes – sitting there, soaking it all in because, well, this tutor had been a star on some now defunct Australian television series so they would know, right?

“They ask if you can ride a horse, you say yes. You just say yes,” he declared between name-dropping and performing excerpts from the show. The class scribbled down his wise-words.

“Isn’t that dangerous?” I asked and all the wannabes stared at me, wide-eyed, not understanding how I could question the oracle who had once been nominated for a Most Popular New Talent TV Week Logie Award. “I mean, if you don’t know how to ride a horse and pretend you can, you could break your neck -”

“It’s not pretending – it’s acting,” one of the wannabes informed me. (I am sure she is probably huge in L.A. now.)

The washed-up tutor looked at me sadly and shook his head of wonderful hair. “You just say yes. OK? To everything. Just say yes. They can work out the logistics later.”

I am always reminded of this brilliant class as I wait for castings and watch the actors respond to any request with this amazing level of enthusiasm that I, personally, would think better suited to winning the lottery or being given a puppy or meeting your long-lost sister for the first time: Can you fill out this form? Can I take your photo now? Are you available for the shoot dates? Have you done a commercial for a similar brand? Can you smack your head against this wall?

There are so many people out there who think they want to be actors (I propose that many of them don’t actually want to be actors; they want to be famous, which is a completely different career choice) that the competition for even a non-speaking role in a pretty ordinary television commercial is fierce and brutal. Because, as all actors are told, “you never know” … that pretty ordinary television commercial could be the Turning Point, the Moment of Discovery, your one chance like Meg Ryan in a Burger King commercial. You just don’t know where this seemingly crappy commercial could lead you. So, we are told, you can’t give the casting director any reason not to consider you for the role.

“So, what’s the latest you could stay around for?” The casting director asked me. “Like five minutes? Ten? Honestly, tell me honestly.”

Honestly? Honestly? Honestly my audition was scheduled for 1.40pm it is now 2.10pm. 2.10pm. Honestly I should have finished the audition and been about to sit back at my desk, back at my boring, soul-destroying, monotonous job any minute now …

I could feel the competition waiting for the casting director to lecture me about the importance of an actor being flexible and available and willing. Waiting for me to leave. Waiting for their moment. Waiting for their big break.

“I can wait. I’ll let my boss know. It’ll be fine,” I smiled through a plastered smile.

It wasn’t like I was lying about my ability to ride a horse or something could actually be dangerous.

“You sure?” Could this casting director see through me? Was my acting this bad?

“Yeah, yeah. I’m happy to be away from my desk to be honest,” and I meant it. That bit was true.

She smiled. I smiled. The competition pretended to smile.

And I waited.

I didn’t get the gig.

The Neurotic Writer Cliché Thing

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.

J. K. Rowling

So …

I had been going really well with this blog until I was ‘freshly pressed’.

It was easy to keep on blogging to three followers and my Mum.

A well-meaning person asked how I could write anything after the freshly pressed post; “How can you follow that up?” she asked in a well-meaning way because she is a well-meaning person. She explained, well-meaning-ly, how she would be too scared to put anything else out there after that sort of ‘recognition.’

I laughed at her well-meaningfulness – yeah, right …

Then I thought.

And thought.

And did just as she predicted.

I wrote nothing.

I was busy. I was working. I was putting on a play. I was going out for a run. I was cleaning the house. I was calling my sister. I was popping to the post office. I was meeting a friend for coffee. I wasn’t sleeping. I was cooking an elaborate meal. I was working through my lunch break. I was reading. I was – I was – I was … avoiding.

I was scared.

I felt like Alanis Morrisette trying to follow-up Jagged Little Pill … minus the worldwide acclaim, success, fame, money, talent, musical ability, friendship with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grammy Awards etc etc etc … OK, so, maybe not quite like Alanis but I am sure you understand what I am saying. (And, for the record, I really loved her follow-up album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie)

I found that I couldn’t write. Anything I started wasn’t good enough, witty enough, political enough, relevant enough … blah, blah, blah, really, I was just scared.

I was scared of writing on my blog.

Isn’t that one of the most ludicrous lines ever? I was scared of writing on my blog … When I put it like that I could finally see the ridiculousness of the situation.

Chemical warfare is scary. Failing at a blog … I don’t even think that is a ‘thing’, right?

It is time to put things in perspective.

It is time to break the neurotic writer cliché thing and just get writing.

OK. Who am I kidding? It isn’t that easy. Being a neurotic writer cliché thing means I rarely put things in perspective.  But I can make a start …

So, thank you “Freshly Pressed” and the extra 197 followers and my original 3 followers and my Mum … I will keep on writing … And I hope you will keep on following …

Temporary (a short story)

cropped-these-are-the-isolate-009.jpg“I’m not paying you. You’re useless. Go home,” Charlie barked, his white shirt already proudly displaying vicious sweat patches.

“I’d rather be here.”

“I’m not paying you to be here. Like I said, you’re bloody useless.”

Sam wanted to reply but the words got caught somewhere between his lungs and voice box and there they stayed, lodged in his chest, bringing tears to his eyes. Before he could stop it one escaped and rolled triumphantly down his cheek.

“Jesus Christ – go home,” Charlie’s bark was a little less biting as he handed him a tissue.

Sam hated his job. He had been planning to resign the very moment he started. But she had told him it was only temporary and she had meant it. Then. Of course she had meant it.

The fluorescent lights flickered and hummed. He watched a determined moth knock itself senseless against the plastic light fitting.

“Look at that little guy,” he said to no one in particular. He was always doing that; talking to no one in particular. It used to drive her insane, she had told him as much with that you’re-embarrassing-me-we’ll-discuss-this-when-we-get-home look he knew only too well.

Charlie, on the other hand, simply stared at him blankly.

“Jesus Christ, go –” but before Charlie could complete his somewhat predictable sentence the ding-dong customer alert chimed from the sliding doors.

Charlie sat up like a meerkat.

The ding-dong customer alert could be misleading at times. It had a tendency to be temperamental and cruel – raising the hopes of desperate salesman who felt sure this would be the sale they’d been waiting for only to learn it was just the wind. Sam liked to imagine it wasn’t the wind but ghosts who hadn’t yet realised they were actually dead going about their daily business, shopping for furniture, wondering why the sales assistants were ignoring them … He had mentioned this to Charlie who looked at him strangely and told him there was vacuuming to be done. Sam was always vacuuming – he felt more like a cleaner than a sales assistant.

The ding-dong customer alert continued to ding-dong and alert as the young couple stood, confused and unsure, in the entrance to the store. Charlie fixed his tie, popped a mint in his mouth and grabbed a clipboard. “Nothing in it but it makes you look important. Customers respond to that sort of thing. It is all part of my technique,” Charlie had told him on his first day.

Charlie stood up and tucked his shirt in; his ever-increasing beer-belly clearly took offence to the constraints of business wear. His sizeable belly constantly pulled his shirt away from his pants, burst belt buckles, popped buttons. He blamed manufacturing, the drycleaner, his wife but never the beer, fried food and copious amounts of cream and jam donuts that filled his morning tea ritual. Sam would push out his belly at home and warn her that he too could look like that one day. She laughed that laugh and told him she would love him no matter how fat he got and added it was only a temporary job anyway, he wouldn’t be there forever. He didn’t tell her but he had noticed his pants were getting tighter and his face a little rounder – he quietly did fifty sit ups every night when he thought she had drifted off to sleep.

Charlie took up his suit jacket from the back of his chair and slowly put it on. Sam quite enjoyed watching Charlie’s pre-sale routine. “You don’t want to appear too eager,” had been another pearl of wisdom Charlie had kindly shared on Sam’s first day. Unfortunately customers were becoming an endangered species at Crazy Charlie’s Furniture Emporium and the mantra you-don’t-want-to-appear-too-eager often meant losing customers before eye contact could be made. Sam blamed the fluorescent lights; Charlie blamed the economy, the competition, himself.

The ding-dong customer alert continued to ding-dong – happy that it had the opportunity to announce real customers rather than those pesky ghosts who persisted in shopping for furniture despite the fact they were dead. The young couple scanned the store from the comfort of the welcome mat (Charlie said customers respond to that sort of thing, it made the store welcoming because it said as much on the mat) and then whispered quietly to each other. It looked as if they were plotting their getaway.

“I’ve got to grab them. Just – just …” he flapped his arms uselessly as he trotted over to the couple, all minty-fresh, clipboarded and tucked-in.

Sam knew what the flapping arms meant: Stay away from the customers. He’d seen those flapping arms on numerous occasions, predominately in his first month of employment when he was forced to wear the condescending ‘in-training’ badge and laugh uproariously whenever a customer attempted witty repartee about his ‘name badge’.

“Where’s that from?” they’d ask with a smirk.

“Excuse me?” he would feign confusion.

“Your name,” they’d point to the badge to emphasis the hilarity of the joke, “In Training.”

They’d always put on some dreadfully insulting accent – French or German or something – Monsieur Entrainin, Herr Intraining. Then he would laugh and they would beam at their cleverness and continue to “just browse” and leave with a “see ya Mr Training” but no sofa or coffee table or five dollar throw cushion which was an absolute steal but no thanks not today … He hated customers. He had told her he was not cut out for customer service and she just laughed that laughed and told him it was only temporary.

He watched Charlie convince the couple to extract themselves from the welcome mat and take a wander around the store. Charlie would be their guide. Their friend. Their assistant. “Never call yourself a sales assistant,” he had told him, “it puts people off.”

The couple looked as dazed and confused as the moth who continued to knock himself against the light fitting. Sam wondered whether they too had simply been drawn in by the fluorescent lights.

He remembered visits to stores like this. He remembered feeling overwhelmed, wondering why they needed to buy a new sofa at all when the one he had picked up from roadside collection was quite adequate and a perfect example of lowering one’s carbon footprint and recycling and affirmative action for the environment because, after all, she was the so-called environmentalist and how could she buy into that Western wastefulness, that Capitalist greed … He sighed. Why could he only remember the fights?

Sam watched as the couple contemplated the queen-sized mattress. They looked like oversized dolls, lying shoulder to shoulder, shoes on, arms by their sides, stiff and disinterested as Charlie pointed out the miracles of the foam, the springs, the stitching. Sam watched as the woman took her partner’s hand. Sam watched as the man gently brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. Sam watched as she cupped his face. Sam watched as Charlie, in discomfort and politeness, referred to the clipboard and cleared his throat. Sam watched the tender scene unfold whilst the moth thumped against the fluorescent lights that hummed overhead. Sam watched as the woman told the man they were being watched. Sam watched as the woman pointed him out.

“What are you looking at?” the young man shouted from the mattress.

Sam remembered how she lay like that; she had looked like a tiny, porcelain doll upon the mattress, arms by her side, stiff and disinterested. He hadn’t expected it, her, to look so unnatural. On their backs, shoulder to shoulder, arms by her side he had picked up one of her delicate hands and kissed it, he had cupped her face in his hands, he had called her name, he had stroked her hair, he had called the nurse, he had said goodbye. He had known it was coming even though she had insisted, every step of the way, that it was only temporary – the hair-loss and the injections and the vomit and waiting rooms …

“Hey! Retard! What’s your problem?”

Sam didn’t know where else to go so he had come to work; his temporary job.

The young man stormed towards Sam. The young woman sneered. Charlie flapped his arms uselessly. Sam continued to watch and blink and breathe and listen to the dull thump of the hapless moth.

“He’s still going for it. What a determined little guy,” he said to no one in particular.

Unfortunately there was someone in particular who assumed Sam was speaking to him.

The man moved in close to Sam, his warm breath smelling like fast food and sugary energy drinks. Sam watched the man’s lips that had, moments earlier, kissed the young woman’s hand suddenly curl and contort into a barrage of insult. The young woman appeared at her partner’s shoulder and pulled him back.  Sam watched the woman’s hand that, moments earlier, cupped the young man’s face suddenly twist into a finger sign.

The ding-dong customer alert sounded and they were gone.

Charlie stood on the welcome mat, flapping his arms uselessly in time with sound of the ding-dong. “Jesus Christ. Sam. Jesus –” Charlie put the clipboard back in the drawer, returned his suit jacket to the back of his chair, untucked his shirt and exhaled for what seemed an eternity.

“I know, I know. I’ll …” He considered going back to the house. Usually as he pulled into the Crazy Charlie’s Furniture Emporium parking lot all he could think about was turning the car around and heading back home.

The moth fluttered and faltered around the light above him.

Sam’s job usually included spraying the moths with fly spray or inducing a fatal blow with the rolled up newspaper. Not today. Charlie watched as Sam stood on the desk, reached up to the light and gently cupped the moth in his hands. He watched as Sam slowly made his way across the store with the moth cradled in the cage of his hands. He heard the ding-dong customer alert as Sam tenderly released the moth into the parking lot.

Sam stood, a lone figure on a welcome mat, and watched the moth flutter and fly until he could see it no more.

“Come and have a donut,” Charlie called.

Sam wiped his feet on the mat and returned to his temporary job.

 

*****

Making myself keep up with this blog with the help of The Daily Prompt Weekly Writing Challenge – Dialogue 

Choosing the Greens and losing a Facebook “friend”

If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband. Not withstanding all his or her faults, you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss.

Tony Abbott

This election was just awful. In the strange barren wasteland of meaningless slogans and bigotry, with tumble-weeds of sexism to break the monotony, the only glimmer of hope was the Australian Greens. The Greens were the only party with a positive message, a vision and sense of compassion and humanity. If I value these attributes in a human being surely it is not too much to ask for them in a political party? Instead, we watched the two major parties battle it out to see who could treat some of the most vulnerable people in the world with the most cruelty … and win votes for it. So it was with pride and relief that I celebrated Adam Bandt’s retention of his seat in the House of Representatives. The fact that Adam Bandt is my member of parliament, the person who represents the place I live, made me so grateful I took to Facebook with my joy (as you do).

“Very thankful for Adam Bandt right now” I wrote. (24 likes – thank you friends)

Short, to the point and positive. I didn’t want to get bogged down with name-calling. But I could have. I didn’t want to be negative. But I could have. What I didn’t expect was someone whom I hardly know to respond to my harmless status update with name-calling and negativity.

I was surprised. The last time I had seen this “Facebook friend” was in an embarrassing moment in a supermarket when he thought I was someone else. Really. He knew my name and felt he could shout it out to get my attention, which he did, and then proceed to tell me all the amazing things I had been doing. Problem was they were not my amazing things; they were a mutual friend’s amazing things. “I’m not her” I had to tell him, almost apologetically. I had felt bad for him but I barely knew him and that incident simply cemented the fact. He was a friend of a friend whom I’d met once. Based on this fleeting moment he had decided to request me as a friend on Facebook and, based on my naivety, I accepted.

I won’t be doing that again.

I think there has to be some sort of criteria for Facebook friendship. Maybe it could look like this … You can be my Facebook friend if;

1. We have met more than once, or

2. We have spent more than 2 minutes chatting and conversation included more than just ‘hello’ and ‘how do you know **insert mutual friend’s name here**?’ or

3. You know who I am if I happen to bump into you in the real world (e.g. the supermarket) or

4. We would actually be friends in real life (I like to think that even though Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t meet criteria 1 through to 3 he would definitely meet number 4)

This Facebook friend did not meet any of the above criteria, so you can imagine my surprise when he felt he had the right to write the following –

Fuck the Greens. Should be renamed Weeds!

Hmmmm …OK …  I wondered why on earth he would say such I thing. Again, my naivety got the better of me. Here was his reason:

Because they sided with Labor last time to have influence and fucked the country. They are anything but the organic organisation they claim to be.

There were many, many holes in this argument … The truth is this man was simply spouting the slogans of the campaign and right-wing shock-jocks. There was neither evidence nor truth to what he was saying. There was also no need for him to say it. The election had been called and Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party had won … Why did I need to hear this rubbish (all of which had been all over the Murdoch press) again? Why did it need to be written on my wall? Why couldn’t I just have my moment of happiness for Adam Bandt?

So, I explained why I voted for the Greens …

I really don’t appreciate the hijacking of my positive status for this Andrew-Bolt-esque rhetoric … I am proud to support a party which has vision, compassion and a strong sense of social justice. I am proud to support a party which holds big polluters and mining companies accountable. I am proud to support a party which believes in climate change and the importance of renewable energy. I am proud to support a party which believes in marriage equality and quality education for all and the rights asylum seekers. I am very proud to be represented by Adam Bandt … Thankfully we live in a country which really isn’t all that ‘fucked’ (despite what you think the Greens have done to it) so you are more than entitled to voice your opinion – I simply ask that you are respectful of mine and refrain from posting this rubbish on my wall.

(4 likes – thank you very much)

In return I got this:

What you call hijacking I call the right to post an opinion in an open forum Katy. If you want an open meadow where everyone eats grass contentedly with your opinion then do one of two things … a/ don’t post or b/ expect opposition. You have undoubtedly been drawn along on a quasi organic wave that posits so-called “equality” regarding climate change and education and human rights but in the real wash-up is a just a soapy Labor puppet. Don’t rubbish my ‘opinion’ unless you have more than rhetoric from a campaign brochure.

(for the record, the above got ZERO likes)

That was then I decided this Facebook relationship was OVER.

Done.

I didn’t feel the need to explain to this man that:

  • I read about every political party which was running for a seat in the upper and lower houses (this includes the minor, minor parties like ‘Bullet Train for Australia’ and ‘Stable Population’ to name but two)
  • I made a very informed decision about supporting the Greens based on my reading of their policies and comparison with the policies of the Liberal and Labor Parties
  • I actually have a real interest in politics which goes far beyond ‘campaign brochures’
  • I enrolled to vote before I turned 18 because I was actually that excited
  • there is no “so-called equality” in the Greens’ policies … It simply is Equality
  • the Greens do not pretend to be an organic party – they are a political party so of course there is hierarchy and procedure … That is part of being a political organisation
  • nothing in my post was actually taken from the Greens’ ‘campaign brochure’ (but your rantings were clearly lifted from the Murdoch press)
  • I don’t think everyone should eat grass but if people want to eat grass and stand in meadows then power to them
  • I don’t know what an organic wave is, quasi or otherwise, but I am very confident I have never been ‘drawn along’ one
  • Facebook is not an open forum … I choose who I am friends with and who can see my posts and who can post to my wall and so on
  • I don’t need to prove myself nor my understanding of Australian politics to you … but I do need to write about it on my blog …

As I thought about my reply I suddenly realised; I don’t have to enter into this. I don’t have to waste time and energy on this man I hardly know … Why would I? So I didn’t. I de-friended and, moments later, got this private message:

You’re better than that. Counter my argument or reliant but don’t be pathetic and stop the dialogue.

Charming … Why, yes, of course I will reignite the ‘dialogue’ when you ask me so nicely you charmer you. No thank you – I would prefer to be pathetic and stop the dialogue. (Besides, when he wrote ‘you are better than that’ I couldn’t help but wonder if he actually meant me or our mutual friend … She may be better than that – I have just proven I am not. Whatever that means.)

I am friends with enough Liberal Party voters (at last count I know about 4 of them … I am sure there are more, they just don’t want to admit it and I don’t blame them) to know that you cannot change someone’s political views. It is something you need to discover for yourself. You can be coaxed, sure, and encouraged, definitely, but in the end there is nothing I could write on my Facebook page to make this man turn around and apologise and understand why I voted the way I voted.

But you know what? None of my real friends who also happen to be Facebook friends who also happen to be conservatives felt the need to abuse me for my status. Maybe it was because they won. Maybe it was because they believe that there should be a range of voices in government representing a range of concerns and interests. Maybe it was because they are respectful. Maybe it was because I didn’t say anything to ‘rubbish’ their political views. Maybe it because they can see why I voted Greens because, well, they actually know me … Maybe they know they cannot change my mind just like I cannot change theirs.

I could explain how Australia is in very good economic shape, that a price on carbon is needed, that a mining tax is brilliant, that seeking asylum is a human right, that Denticare is an excellent incentive … I could go on explaining so many policies and positive changes but I know it would be for nothing. I know it would be countered with an empty slogan, a catch-phrase, a sound-bite heard on the radio …  or what they believe is best for them, or the country, or both … So I will continue to post what I believe and hope they click on the link and start to read more widely and more wisely and make up their own minds. But I will not shout and argue and name-call because that is one way not to get votes.

I will have to live with a Liberal Government for the next three years (at least) but I do not have to live with rude Facebook friends. I value positivity, vision and sense of compassion and humanity. If I value these attributes in a friend surely it is not too much to ask for them in a Facebook friend? And, for the record, even Tony Abbott on the day of the election suggested that someone, who had just laid out her concerns for the country, would be better off voting for the Greens … Just sayin’

 

My beautiful actor friend or; rethinking this whole acting business (a short reflection on a bad audition)

It’s a business you go into because your an egocentric. It’s a very embarrassing profession.

Katharine Hepburn

My friend is an actor. She is beautiful in that unorthodox way. She wears a big hat and no bra and smokes cigarettes with the grace of Bette Davis. She gets calls from her agent whom she calls “darling”. She never apologises. She never orders lunch but eats most of mine. She is always on her way to something, usually an audition. She knows she is good. She doesn’t care what you think. She doesn’t let you think she cares what you think. And you believe she doesn’t. She can wear red lipstick. She can get outrageously drunk. She can be the centre of the attention. She is The Actor.

I’m not like that.

I wish I was.

I think it would help me, you know, as an actor or at the very least it would help me feel like one.

I hate meeting new people because I know that question is coming; “What do you do?” My actor friend answers that question beautifully. By the end of the conversation they’ll have her autograph and will have posed for a selfie with her to pop up on their Instagram account (she, of course, has her own, fabulous Instagram account you’d be very fortunate to appear upon – all grainy and 1970’s chic) so they can show their friends who they knew before she was famous. Because she is going to be famous. I answer the dreaded question with a mumble (oh, yeah, I’m trying to be an actor … and a writer) and this apologetic upward inflection which makes me sound desperate and unsure. These are not the attributes one associates with an actor … or a writer. OK. Maybe a writer but definitely not an actor. Basically, I am the wrong cliché. I wouldn’t mind being like the incredible cliché which is my actor friend, that I could handle … No, instead I fall into the kinda-artistic-loser cliché played by Woody Allen – I want to be Annie Hall not Alvy Singer goddammit!

My beautiful actor friend smiles apologetically when I try to tell her about my sporadic auditions. She says she understands but it seems more like sympathy than empathy. She eats most of the salad I ordered (she couldn’t possibly eat lunch) between taking long drags on her cigarette as we talk about the auditions we’ve lucked out on. At this point, I am still happy just to get an audition. I know she thinks that is naïve. Her auditions are for the major producers of major production houses for major prime-time dramas. My auditions are for television commercials. Sometimes I even get lines to prepare.

I know Mum would say, “you’re an actor – just play that part, the part of your actor friend”. Oh Mum, you just don’t get it. My time at drama school was all about finding my “authentic self” and losing the ego and learning important skills like how to somersault. (I am not ashamed to admit I couldn’t do this before drama school and since drama school I have used it once – not for an audition or a part. Nope. I just kinda did it because I could. And I was drunk. Yay for drama school!) I left my training before the end of the degree and missed out on all the narcissistic, vanity building, self-confidence stuff which seems to make up a lot of the final year (and they need that, they really do for the go-sees and the showcases and the meet and greets and all that).

Instead of finishing my actor training I started writing.

I think I can see where all this went wrong.

But it hit me, you know, how stupid this acting thing is as I was packing an imaginary bag for an imaginary camping trip with my imaginary children for a very real audition for a very real television commercial. The camping bag was floating in mid-air because that’s what the casting director wanted 1. for eye-lines and 2. to make the audition as awkward as possible. It was lucky we were using an imaginary bag. As I packed this bag full of all the things you need for the perfect camping trip (I chucked in all sorts of goodies – fishing rods and mountain bikes and croquet set and boxes and boxes of wine … I was summoning my inner Mary Poppins) the casting director took a phone-call. Right there. Not an imaginary call – a real, live phone-call on his real, live iPhone. Strangely this is not considered a good sign. In that moment I thought – what would my actor friend do right now? How would she handle this situation which has, unbelievably, grown even more awkward. I considered doing a somersault. Nope. She would not do that. I know what she would do – she would keep on going. So I did. I packed that bag beautifully. I didn’t wait for him to get off the phone. I packed and packed and smiled at my kids and ad-libbed something about sleeping-bags and finally he called “Cut” … Well, no he didn’t actually call “cut”. He was still on the phone. Calling “cut” in the middle of the phone-call would just be rude. No, instead of breaking phone etiquette he did this weird, silent little hand movement in front of the camera. It reminded me of Joey from Full House: “Cut, It. Out” – I nearly said that but remembered my actor friend and refrained.

While I waited for him to finish his phone-call so I could resume packing (the kids were getting really restless too – they just wanted to go camping, is it that difficult?) I thought about this acting thing. It dawned on me, I could never be like my actor friend because I know what she would have done. She would have stormed out of there and called her agent and told the darling that she would never be humiliated like that again and if they couldn’t send her to real auditions then she would seek representation elsewhere, and she would get it too.

The casting director resumed the audition (minus phone-call) and changed up the scene (goodbye imaginary floating suitcase; hello imaginary steering-wheel) and I continued. I didn’t storm out. I didn’t call my agent. I didn’t get the part.

I don’t really know if my actor friend would have stormed out. We are all so conditioned to take this thing so seriously, to see everything as some sort of ‘opportunity’ (you just don’t know what this will lead to / who will see this / what this director will do next) and to understand that there are many, many actors out there (all of whom are willing to stab your eyes out with a chop-stick if it means getting a line on a crappy television commercial) that we are too scared of making the wrong impression so put up with the awkward and the humiliating and the downright rude.

And you know what?

Being beautiful in that unorthodox way and wearing a big hat and no bra and smoking cigarettes and calling your agent  “darling” and never apologising and not eating lunch and always being on your way somewhere and knowing you’re good and making them believe you don’t care what they think and wearing red lipstick and getting outrageously drunk and being the centre of the attention … maybe all that actually does help deal with the crazy of being The Actor.

Or  if that fails, maybe just doing somersaults. For no reason.

Or giving it all up to write.

Maybe it all helps.

Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

Because, in the end, it is only acting – it is only make-believe.

 

Wasted day or; 10 things that matter more than Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Music Video Awards

I wanted to write something about this whole Miley Cyrus thing, you know? I feel the outrage and the criticism is so unwarranted and unfair … I mean, come on, how on earth is Robin Thicke getting out of this unscathed? Anyway, I was writing and writing and reading these horribly misogynist interviews (“We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women”, Thicke in an interview with GQ) and I was getting really angry and then, then I realised … I have been wasting all this time on something that, in the scheme of the things, does not really matter. Not at all.

I don’t know why I wasted a whole day reading articles and watching crappy music video-clips when I could have been looking into THINGS THAT MATTER MORE THAN MILEY CYRUS’ PERFORMANCE AT MTV’S VMA (I am shouting on the inside here).

So here it is – THINGS THAT MATTER MORE THAN MILEY CYRUS’ PERFORMANCE AT MTV’S ViDEO MUSIC AWARDS THAT I SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING AND/OR READING AND/OR LEARNING ABOUT TODAY (in no particular order):

  1. The crisis in Syria
  2. Iran’s new president – Hassan Rouhani
  3. Asylum seekers
  4. Palestine and Israel
  5. 3D Printing
  6. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  7. Writing something half decent
  8. Cleaning the house
  9. Cutting my toe-nails
  10. Ummmm … just about EVERYTHING! (even the upcoming election and that is saying something)

We are so bombarded by this 24-hour news cycle that we seem to forget what is important, what is actually newsworthy, what should be taking our attention. Instead, we (and by we I also mean I) are sidetracked by unimportant things. Instead of focusing on Miley’s performance, why was the focus not on the misogynistic nature of the music industry? Or the terrible human rights violations suffered by women in many middle eastern countries?

Articles about twerking and the performance itself are in the top-5 list of ‘Most Viewed” articles in The Guardian. The. Guardian. What the hell is wrong with us? (I contributed to that I know – what the hell is wrong with me?)

I am going to work very hard at not getting too sidetracked again … And try to not feel so bad about wasting a whole day on this rubbish.

 

Punch them in the face (not literally); or, why I wish Fiona Scott had said something …

I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons

Tony Abbott

I watched Fiona Scott laugh, the broad smile firmly plastered to her face, as Tony Abbott, the man who wants to be the next Prime Minister of Australia, spoke of her “sex appeal”. I watched as her office fended off questions about the sex appeal comment with “No Comment.” I watched as others loudly provided their own opinion on her level of sex appeal. I watched as Abbott didn’t apologise for his comment (it was a “dad moment”) but provided instead this supposed compliment wrapped in a cliché – “…she ain’t just a pretty face.”

I wondered why she didn’t speak up. I wondered why she didn’t punch Abbott in the face. I wondered why she didn’t come back with some witty remark to render Mark Latham speechless (now that would be something). I wondered why she didn’t stand up and make an eloquent speech about the misogyny that is so embedded in Australian politics. I wondered and wondered until I remembered …

I have been Fiona Scott; minus the conservative political beliefs and MBA and opposition to marriage equality. I am sure many of us have been her – laughing half-heartedly at the sexist, inappropriate comments of our male colleagues and bosses because … Why? So as not to make a scene? So as not to look like you can’t take a joke? So as to keep the job? So, so, so ….

I had done it.

I smiled and laughed politely at the grossly inappropriate comments from male customers when I worked on checkouts at Kmart (my first job whilst studying at university). After-all, they were the customer, right? And they were always right, right? And “you do smile a lot so you’re kinda asking for that sort of thing,” said the supervisor. “Plus, you wear make-up.” Right?

I didn’t tell anyone about the so-called compliments my manager at the local video store (another job through university) would give me even though they made me feel very uncomfortable and unsafe. He went on to create a fake entry for the in-store video search computer; he made up this pornographic film with my name in the title, starring me including an explicit blurb as to what I would do and with whom in this “film”. It was just a joke. It was just hilarious. He brought his friends in to read his literary genius when I was working. When I didn’t laugh I was a stuck up bitch. When I complained I was too sensitive – “he just likes you, that’s all” the owner said.

I smiled politely when my head of department told me he had given me the job because I was blonde. I smiled politely when I was told I only got a job because I was attractive. I laughed off the groping hands and sloppy kisses and lurid stares of older men who should have known better.

I wish I hadn’t.

I wish I had said something.

But back then I didn’t feel I had the words. I didn’t punch anyone in the face or snap back with biting repartee or make an eloquent speech. Then, as I saw Fiona Scott’s reaction to Tony Abbott’s completely unacceptable comment, I was taken back to those moments when I too I just smiled and laughed and made “no comment”; when I should have said something but, instead, felt utterly foolish and silly and uncomfortable and overly sensitive.

As in my situation, it is not her fault. Here she is trying to deal with a sexist boss – in many ways just like that awful manager at the local video store. Describing your candidate as having “sex appeal” or telling your employee she looks like she would “give good head” – these are not compliments, not in these scenarios (I don’t know where the would be … but maybe for some). No. A compliment would be, in Scott’s case, something to do with her ability in politics and, in my case circa 1999, something to do with my excellent shelving of the videos both alphabetically AND by genre. Instead these are belittling statements that reduce women to nothing. I should have said something. Scott should have said something.

And then she did. She finally spoke up. Scott called Abbott’s “sex appeal” comment “a charming complaint” and I realised, in that moment, no, I have actually never, ever been Fiona Scott.

But I cannot blame her.

We had a political leader who stood up and said something and look where that got her. Australian politics prefer the women who laugh and smile and make “no comment”. Sadly it looks like the voters do too.