Saturday, 30 June 2007

Oh, The Inanity!

Have you ever noticed how the people who talk the most are often the ones with the least to say? I’m talking specifically about those who faithfully relate the minutiae of their daily existence as if each inconsequential detail is a pebble on the path to Nirvana, and who subscribe to the notion that ‘everyone is entitled to my own opinion.’ Such are my husband’s family.

Ever since, at only our second meeting, my mother-in-law blithely spoke right over the top of me and my father-in-law blustered scandalously on about A-rabs, Nips, Chinks, and Abos, I gave up trying to converse with them in anything but the sparest fashion. Like squealing in fright at a trench-coated flasher, it only encourages the undesirable behaviour. Now every enforced visit sees me hunkered down in the ‘I must supervise my two small children!’ foxhole, trying to avoid the barrage of outrageously offensive remarks and slow-mo replays of the week’s non-events.

“How heavy d’you reckon this chair is?” my father-in-law might ask as he brings an ordinary wooden dining chair out of the spare room. “Much heavier than it looks!” he will answer himself triumphantly before Mr. Lonie and I can formulate some reply other than a quizzical “Umm…?”

“It’s had about seven coats of paint since we bought it!” f-i-l will then enthuse, undeterred by our glazed expressions, before listing each colour it’s been, from white, to cream, to bone, to beige, to every shade Richie Benaud has ever worn.

Or: “She is my oldest and dearest friend!” my mother-in-law might gush with what she probably believes is sincerity about the woman who just made her lucky escape from the House of Blather. “But hasn’t she gotten fat! She’s absolutely huge! She must have gained at least 140 pounds since I knew her as a girl. I wonder she travels so much, how does she possibly fit in the aeroplane seat? She must need to pay for two tickets and have the armrest up. If she lost a bit of weight she might finally find herself a husband…”

I’m not averse to a bit of histrionic hyperbole in the name of humour and fun, but sadly I’m not exaggerating here, although a lapse into shameless excess would be entirely understandable after a few captive hours in their company. Over the next retellings (of which there will be many), seven coats of paint will become fifteen, and 140 pounds will become 250. The chilly wind on the holiday they took five years ago is now a raging tempest which threatened to induce fatal hypothermia, and the hour at which a boy-Mr. Lonie woke them on Christmas morning is no longer six o’clock but three.

In my weaker moments, usually when I’ve managed to secure more than a few days without having to resort to sub-conscious defensive hunching and attempted selective deafness, I almost feel sorry for my in-laws. With a rare flash of perspicacity I know their small-minded gossip and prating comes from ignorance and – to put it as bluntly as the metaphorical tools-in-the-shed they are: stupidity. Their unabashed exaggerations are a placebo for their sense of inferiority instilled in them by parents which, from all I’ve heard, I can’t help but be glad I never had to meet. Deep down they think, I believe, that surely no-one will deign to bestow their notice, let alone listen to what they have to say, without the promise of thrilling tales and spontaneous-gasp-inducing statistics, and that’s why they practise this twisted form of self-aggrandisement.

The regrettable thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. I’d much prefer to hear about f-i-l’s varied employment as stockman, RAAF officer, and murderer-catching policeman, but instead I must grit my teeth through parroted recitations of every right-leaning article he’s read in the paper during the week, styled as his own thoughts and conclusions. M-i-l would find me a ready listener were she to recount her youthful days as a news-making daredevil skydiver, but she’d rather engage in pointless quibbling with f-i-l about whether an uninteresting drive to somewhere I’d never care to visit ended at 11:05 or ‘much later!’ at 11:15.

One day they’ll be gone, but it seems they’re content to leave as their monument to posterity not treasured memoirs, but a woeful collection of drivel. It’s not the Hindenburg, but a tragedy all the same.

Friday, 1 June 2007

For Your Reluctant Enlightenment

Gasp! Two posts in two days – what has precipitated such a rare occurrence in these dark days of sausage-centric drudgery? I’d tell you, but…I don’t wanna. Some things sound too insufferably whiney even to me, so instead I present for your amusement/horror/disgust five things you probably never wanted to know about me.

1) When I was about two years old, I stuck a tic-tac so far up my nostril it never came out again. I’m assuming it managed to slide its way down my throat, because as far as I’m aware I don’t have any tic-tac sized growths obstructing my nasal passage. I remember being surprised because the other tic-tacs I’d already eaten had made the return journey into my nose without any problem.

2) I caught glandular fever off the first boy I kissed. I think I got off lightly; he tried to give me a whole lot more. Fortunately for me, I found that short-arse, bandanna-wearing boy's clumsy attempts to give me an early introduction to meat products all-too-easy to refuse.

3) When I was a little girl, I woke in the middle of the night to an unwontedly urgent call of nature. Leaping out of bed, I whipped off my pyjama bottoms and underpants to facilitate a quicker connection of rear end and toilet. As I raced to the loo, I stepped on something that didn’t belong on my floor, something that must have slipped out of my undies after its premature arrival during my sleep. It was a pellet of pooh. That was a long time ago, and two babies have presented me with a lot worse since, but oh! I can’t help cringing at the memory.

4) I once got so drunk I spent the entire next day in bed, puking up the meagre contents of my stomach. The revolting sight of green, phlegmy stomach-lining globbing into my enamelled wash basin was nevertheless accompanied by weak relief that at last, there was nothing left to bring up. Accepting shot after shot after shot from creepy older men in China didn’t seem like such a bad idea the night before - I sometimes marvel I survived my salad days relatively unscathed.

5) I once flashed my boobs in a busy street. I’d rushed out of the house that morning stupidly forgetting my bra in my haste, and had been wearing a jumper to preserve some modicum of decency. In the afternoon warmth I absentmindedly removed my jumper, my top rose up with it and [cue Benny Hill music] instant nudie show! Of course, my boobs have made public appearances many times since then in their capacity as milk-dispensers, so I'm no longer mortified by the experience. And every goggling teenage boy needs a break now and then.