I See Strange People
Both my parents were immigrants. It was pretty much all they had in common—they lived together, but were poles apart. She was a staid walking cliché who struggled to live the Australian way; he thought he was living it because he could fart the national anthem. Dad, the patriot. She didn’t swear; he didn’t stop. She sweated over what the ‘neighbours’ would think; he didn’t give a crap. And the list went on …
On the side of nurture in the nurture vs nature debate, an environment of extremes was the norm for me. On the side of nature was the weird lens through which I unconsciously saw life. My imagination micromanaged me—it parodied perceptions. Life was like an animated cartoon (read: South Park on an endless loop).
Seeing situations and people through a distorted lens helped me find the comedy in the tragedy. It was a survival mechanism. Not so much where school lunches were concerned, though. My immigrant lunchbox was spring-loaded with the stuff of nightmares: leftover lamb koftas, dolmades, cevapcici sausage, falafel and pita.
‘Why can’t I just have a bloody Vegemite sandwich? Why do I have to have this assortment of turds on flatbread?’
‘Bloody’ and ‘Vegemite’ were very Australian and should have satisfied Mommy’s need for me to also fit in to the Australian way, but she wasn’t impressed with my twisty point of view. I got slapped and told I was just like my father. I also got bitch-slapped at school by my peers because ethnic fare was uncool in the days before the Aussie way had become multicultural, and because adolescents need someone to make fun of. Being it was no fun.
So, when I left school, I ate bloody Vegemite sandwiches, tried to squash my impulses, became demure, and bored myself stupid.
A Taste for the Twisted
But then there was a kind of siren call. My twisty filters drew me to people and situations I didn’t even have to imagine. Amongst them, a woman who, mid-business negotiations, announced she had two ‘vageenas’; and a sixty-something PR guy whose letterhead logo was a pic of himself in the naked, reclining pose of Michelangelo’s Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (modified to have his hand cupping his wiener and nuts—universal ‘fare’).
Freeeeeeaks! you think? But says who? Our judgy and too-ready-to-moralise mindsets that want to cut off any deviances—which, hello, we all have—and turn us into clichés?
A clichéd existence is not good for the soul, nor is a sanctimonious one.
The Right, Rite, Write of Weird Characters
The refracted lens that put a strange spin on how I viewed things is now my lifeblood. My internal landscape is Monty Pythonesque and my book characters are testament to that.
Having a satirical POV, though, is not about standing on the sidelines like an adolescent and taking the piss out of others because their differences seem threatening.
For me, it’s about highlighting the insanity of aspiring to be quirk-free and to be ‘normal’—the ridiculousness of thinking inside the box (and marginalising those who have more than one).
Well, I say, here’s to that woman who celebrated her bonus twat! It might have been too much information to share with a stranger, but she was proud of her ‘abnormality’. It was normal for her. And cheers to the brazen PR guy! Although, if you’d Photoshopped the droopy little moobs and cherry-red nipples, mate, it could have been better for business. Or maybe not …
What quirks do you have that you might be ashamed of, but that could make you interesting?
Wow, isn’t it amazing that when we’re young we try and try to be the same as everyone else and it’s only as we grow mindfully that we see the beauty in difference. As you say the world is made up of weird and wonderful characters and instead of being afraid of the differences lets try and appreciate our weirdness!!! Keep writing Paula because you bring a lot of light and laughter to the table.
‘Grow mindfully’—love that! And indeed, the world would be a better place if we respected differences, not least, our quirks!
Writer & archetypal psychologist Thomas Moore says that if we appreciated our many deviances ‘we may eventually come to realize that individuality is born in the eccentrities and unexpected shadow tendencies of the soul, moreso than in normality and conformity.’
Thanks for your encouraging words, Suzi!