I was forbidden from watching Heartbreak High, which really was deranged of my parents, since there were far worse things I could have been into at 12, like speed, blowjobs or Home Improvement. It was the nineties and Heartbreak High, or HBH as it was known by its die-hard fans, was the ABC’s top rating teen soap opera, a spin-off from the hit Aussie play-turned-movie, The Heartbreak Kid. Both starred Alex Dimitriades, who I later toyed with the idea of marrying, based on his performance in the series Wildside (in a promo for the show, he slid down a wall in the rain, crumpling like a tissue; I wanted to fold him up and put him in my pocket).
I generally like to make peace with my exes, since we once shared a life, or at least a large fries. But the last time I tried to reach out to one in particular, a guy who was so traumatised by our break-up, he fled overnight to Laos (no, I don’t get it either), my attempt to strike up a conversation on a train platform resulted in him panicking and running headlong into Federation Square. I had only wanted to express my well wishes and hope that he was still getting Centrelink payments.
“Because you’re a decent human being and you deserve that,” I said.
Clearly, he misread the situation, as he was apt to do in most cases, and there’s nothing much I can do for someone who refuses to communicate with government bodies. Still, where was my closure?
Do you know what I hate paying for? Everything. Because I’m a tight arse.
Obviously, paying for some things is unavoidable. Like shoes, underpants and Ant-Rid, since I can’t make these things myself. (Although, traditionally, I bypass the expense of underpants by not wearing any, as I’m generally wearing outer clothes anyway, and the whole concept is a scam if you really stop and think about it.) But everything else—food, most cleaning products, even one’s own home—can and should be fabricated from raw materials purchased at minimal or no expense. Because what am I really paying for? The majority of the time: literally nothing.
Of course, when I go out, I accept the fact that drinks and movie tickets are marked up by a thousand percent in order that the business in question can afford to operate, make a profit and not spit in my Coke. Yes, I even tip.
“But why am I paying a surcharge in order to pay on card?” I say. “I’m paying money, so that I can pay you money.”
Everyone thinks they’re a “nice” person. Well, nearly everyone. I’ve met a few folks who knew they were rampant arseholes and were really quite at peace with that aspect of themselves. I don’t know if that makes it any better, but it’s always nice when someone isn’t deluding themselves.
But what is “nice”? Nice is such an English word. It’s a quaint little put-down, it’s a sincere compliment, it can be sleazy, it can be vanilla and it can be code for just about anything. But at the heart of being a “nice” person is this notion that the buttermilk of human kindness runs through your core, your morals are square with the universe and you add an extra dollop of care whenever dealing with small children, non-killing animals and non-disgusting old people.
I’m a wog. And I can say “wog” because I am one.
My father, like many other wogs, came out on a boat from the old country (Italy) in the 60s. His father (my nonno) was an ex-soldier who fought under Mussolini and took a bullet in the butt for the Nazi cause. His mother (my nonna) is a homemaker who believes that God blew up the Challenger spacecraft because humans were trying to get “higher than Him” and blowing them up was his way of saying, and I quote, “Fuck you.”
So pretty much your typical wog family.
My father’s siblings all married wogs, producing lots of little wogs, including me. (Although, technically, I’m only half-wog. My mother is a subtle blend of strong-jawed Norwegian and miscellaneous British convict, which didn’t wash so well with the rest of the wogs. Whenever it was explained that she was “australiana”, they would either wince as if they’d just ingested gas or appear crestfallen and say, and I quote, “I’m sorry.”)