This Is The Day

As mentioned (overly, pharmacy agonizingly) I am 40. And as far as I can see, treatment this age has little to recommend it. Of course, Craig’s List tells a different story. If its Casual Encounters pages are to be believed, there is a limitless supply of hard-bodied 18-year-olds who long for little else than the opportunity to jizz on my person.

But, save for a pride of hasty cubs eager to point their golden sex in my rough direction, there are only two things I can think of that might advocate 40.

These are (a) an increased supply of memories and (b) a decreased tendency toward passionate interest.

Now, of course, everybody goes on and on about the passions of youth. And I can certainly understand the case for youthful passion. But, as I age, I am quite taken with my lack of willingness to attach to things immediately. My new disinterest actually gives me a little more time for thought.

Except when it came to GaGa.

My enthusiasm for GaGa evolved, or rather didn’t, a little differently. That is, passion came first and rationale second. I am quite capable of developing new interests. Slowly. More recent interests include: the technological singularity, digital freedom and marinated anchovies. I would say that my interest here borders on passion. But, the passion was prompted only after discussion and thought.

GaGa happened without any thinking at all.

One day, I was at the gym on the elliptical trainer coaxing my body into a shape more suitable for receiving the jizz of hard-bodied 18-year-olds. Before me on the television screen was the promotional video for Poker Face. As I am very short-sighted with non-correctible vision, I might not have bothered moving up to the rowing machine for a second look at GaGa had it not been for her brickbat rip-off of Peaches, the rudest woman I’ve ever met, and references to Texas Holdem, the only game of skill in which I’ve ever enjoyed moderate success.

Anyhow. The GaGa Faithful, or the Little Monsters as LaGaGa prefers to know us, need no exegesis of this art. Needless to say, me and my short-sighted eyes were all immediately won.

In short, here was the most beautifully constructed bit of vision I’d seen since I Don’t Know When. I was particularly tickled to hear the phrase, “I’m Bluffin’ With My Muffin” and I was returned immediately to an extreme youth where I passionately wrote horrible essays at Sydney University about Madonna, performance and feminism. Or, “performativity” as we Judith Butler fans of the early 1990s liked to say.

For the first time in forever, I wished I was young again. I knew that if I was 18, I’d devote myself utterly to reading the “text” of Lady GaGa. How could a young feminist academic even begin to resist analysis of “bluffin’ with my muffin”? Here was a burlesque refugee using the (broadly disputed) “fact” of her genitals to bluff. GaGa’s clear lack of knowledge about the rules of No Limit Holdem aside, if I was 18 again, my head would have been reeling with the promise of cultural studies funding.

What the fuck, I asked myself, was not to love about Lady GaGa? She was transgressive, post-ironic and irrefutably, wonderfully Queer.

Anyhow. I went home and told S All About this New Artist. Of course, S, long a devotee of Leigh Bowery style performance and a former Club Kid, knew all about GaGa. This gave me the shits for a moment. Particularly given that S, my girlfriend, is also a bit younger than me.

I got over it and together we enjoyed regular GaGa worship for the next several months. This pleasure was, in fact, much more visceral than intellectual. We are both so identifiably Gen X; she a techno stalwart, me a 3rd wave feminist. So I think we were each too entranced by the way that GaGa seemed to embody the different promises of our youth, viz. the autonomy of dance and the unleashing of the feminine, that we never really discussed her more than to say, “wow”. We couldn’t.

And then. Telephone. Shit. I mean. Fuck.

By 2010, my girlfriend and I had each come to our individual, historical appreciation of Queer. So, we were beside ourselves last Friday when within the first thirty seconds of the video the rumor that Gaga has a penis was evoked. We delighted in a trans-gendered world penned, in equal parts by Tarantino, LaChapelle and Michael Jackson. And FUCK when she kissed that person, who turned out to be the rather remarkable performance artist, body builder and half-trans man-boi Heather Cassils!! Well, I very nearly wet myself.

You know, this shit makes Madonna’s Justify My Love look like a Jonas Brothers clip by contrast. Here, “other” sexuality is normalized to the degree that even the all-American Beyoncé agrees to set off into the sunset with Gaga.

What can I say? Nothing, mostly.

Even erstwhile “dissident” Camille Paglia was stuck for something to say when confronted by GaGa. The woman who was ALL OVER Justify My Love 20 years ago could only mumble some nonsense on the topic in salon.

Clearly, I am still prey for adolescent passion when the conditions are right. Clearly, I have barely begun to organize my thoughts about the spectacle of GaGa. (For, let it be said, who really cares about the music?)

Now, you can read my half-assed attempt to contextualize the power of GaGa in a newspaper of quality. A piece commissioned, as it happens, by a woman who inhabits my 40 year increased supply of memories as the former partner of a former room mate who once let me sleep on her sofa.

Despite the fact I came home at 8 in the morning reeking of the rough sex I’d had all night with someone called Wally on a pool table at a dirty house in Moonee Ponds.

The fictional suburban address, it should be noted, of Dame Edna Everage.

You see? Queer informs our every action. Lady GaGa knows that.
And that is why I love her with all my hard 18-year-old remaining parts.
Who says barnyard language and unmanageable rage get a girl nowhere? Since posting a merlot-fuelled defence of my long forgotten ally, diagnosis
Radical Feminism, side effects
I’ve received some lovely notes.

These past two days offered an extraordinary concentration. From former school friends to private intellectuals to well-known names I’d divulge were it not for an enduring shred of decency; my inbox has enjoyed them all. And my webspace, too, has luxuriated in an interest unlikely to recur.

To those who wrote: my truest thanks. I have taken extreme pleasure in, to paraphrase my girlfriend, this unreserved bum-licking. (Actually, she grew up just below the Mason Dixon line and what she actually said was: butt kissing. But, I prefer Australian vulgarism.)

For those few to whom my by-line evokes anything at all, the angry, angry post was unsurprising. I am not known very well. But, when I am known it is as an angry, angry forty-year-old whose conceit exceeds her talent.

Actually. That’s a fair assessment. My writing is irregular. I am 40. And a little bit conceited. But, I feel it only right to tell you, my rage is no longer unmanageable.

I can tell you the date the rage was doused because I wrote it down.

So many people have freely offered me so many private thoughts in recent hours. And so, I respond with mine. This was written a few days after rage became manageable. It’s not very angry. It’s not very angry at all.

“You know you’re in trouble when a pop song smashes into your head. Something I’d loved as a kid suddenly resurfaced as wreckage. This is the Day, said the eighties. And I couldn’t do a thing to stop them. This is the Day Your Life Will Surely Change.

I resented the intrusion. Mostly because I’m a terrible snob and would have preferred shards of Yeats over an 80s synth chorus. But, as anyone who can pinpoint a time in which their Life Has Surely Changed will tell, choice soon becomes a luxury.

To add insult to bad taste, I couldn’t even recall the entire lyric. Just the really miserable bits. Something about a calendar ticking the days off. Something else about the whites of my eyes turning red. But mostly the apocalyptic promise that my life was about to change.

The most miserable parts of a fairly miserable song were lodged in my head for a week. “You’re temporally inappropriate,” I told the song when it did not quit after twenty-four hours. I tried to jam the signal by swapping the word “day” with “week”. The antennae of adolescent memory were having none of it. Broadcast continued.

This is the day.

To be fair to the non-stop transmission, any day that week could have passed as The Day. Every hour, in fact, offered some sort of hideous portent.

The first Day I heard the song was Friday.

“I don’t like the way the radiologist looked at me,” said S.

“I don’t like the look of this lesion on your right frontal lobe,” said S’s doctor two hours later.

“I don’t like the idea of you going home tonight,” said the neurologist. And he said “possible seizure” and someone turned up the gain. It was so loud, I couldn’t pack a useful case of things for hospital.

“Why did you bring me incense?” she asked.

I could have told her that a song by minor eighties popstars had commandeered my head. Even in my condition, I knew this might seem selfish. The person I know and love best in the world had developed big holes in her central nervous system. Complaints about my own neural mess were not appropriate.

Saturday was impossible. My mum, our mate Ollie and I sprang her from the neurosurgery ward and took her to the pub. After two beers, she failed her reflex exam. This is the day.

Sunday was astonishing. She failed to recover in time to see a favourite humorist read. But you have to be well. It’s David Sedaris. Is this the day?

“Something is wrong, baby,” she said.

Apparently, seventeen doctors agreed. Something was wrong and the working week passed in slow chaos, pathology and MRI. And a lumbar puncture. Nothing, in my experience, entices laughter like a spinal tap. As the nurse and I pinned her down, the neurologist asked us to name a Seinfeld Moment.

“Jerry ends his thirteen year non vomiting streak with a black and white cookie,” she said. And despite this and the crushing volume of Radio Hell, I could hear the spinal fluid draining out of her. This must be the day.

And then, it was Friday again. I’d learned how to pronounce “metastases”, pack a useful case and get from noisy sleep to the neurosurgery ward in less than thirty minutes. But I hadn’t found a way to stop the stupid eighties pop song.

No matter. A senior neurologist did it for me.

He gave us a diagnosis. He told us about the drugs. She didn’t cry. I crouched behind a derelict gurney and howled. And when I’d finished, on August 29, 2008, I couldn’t hear a thing.

That was the day.”

13 comments for “This Is The Day

  1. March 10, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Wow. Great writing Helen. And, at the risk of sounding smushy, hugs to you and S.

  2. Jenny Chapman
    March 10, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Thank you Helen. You can write beautifully, even when you’re not swearing like a banshee. I cried.

  3. March 10, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Powerful writing, sad, thank you.

    I left Oz a long time ago now and only the other day thought of you (I was in public and disshevelled at the time, baby vomit and cat hairs etc etc) and the phrase “In pursuit of hygiene” popped into my head. I’m so glad to have re-found you.

  4. March 11, 2010 at 8:32 am

    This is really amazing. Thank you ever so much for posting.

  5. Tiger_Crane
    March 11, 2010 at 8:58 am

    pure beauty, thank you.

  6. RD
    March 11, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Beautiful post.
    Maintain the rage, Helen.
    Me, I aspire to be a combination of the “shrewish, opportunistic, raving, pseudo-intellectual, pompous, arrogant, confused, hypocritical ballbreaker” (as the description attributed to Greer by “don’t educate the women” Henry, sans “privileged”) and the twin-set & pearls granny I saw air-guitar rocking out in her Hyundai last week.
    Maintain the rage, Helen.

  7. Chris
    March 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Helen, you say your writing is irregular but, geez, it’s still streets ahead of most of the pack. I feel I’m privileged to be reading in an age when I can get stuff from you and Elizabeth Farrelly; it more than compensates for people like Miranda Devine (not that I can bear to read her but just the name appearing makes me want to give myself a good skilleting).

  8. Wolfie Rankin
    March 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    As someone who watched people I love, shrink rapidly into skeletal forms thanks to cancer, to getting it myself and knowing what a patient goes through, and coming out the other side… and then being told that my sister has it too, well this was intense. You seem to capture that it feels like a bad dream that you can’t wake from, and that’s it exactly.

  9. captainfez
    March 11, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Wonderful stuff, Miss H.

  10. Lindsay
    March 11, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    You’ve inspired me since your JJJ mornings with Mikey and continue to do so with each blog post. Thank you for being you.

  11. March 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I hate cancer. It’s everywhere I bloody look these days.

    Beautifully written post.

  12. Londoncalling
    March 12, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Bravo. Perfect pitch. You captured a feeling of sadness, unease and fear that us lesser mortals would never be able to find the words to pin down.

  13. Jacinta
    March 14, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    An eighties pop song set up camp in my head when my husband died. I had to see to things; the children, the family, talk to the doctors, organise a funeral. With that song filling my consciousness the whole time, making it hard to think past it. That song was the soundtrack to my dreaming, my waking. But I couldn’t give myself the time and energy required to grieve.

    I reported to a small country hospital in the middle of the night on the day before the funeral because although I could not pinpoint the pain, I felt something in me was going to break. The triage nurse asked me what was wrong, I told her. And then I doubled up and howled so hard that I ached all over for days afterwards. They gave me some sedative pills and when I woke up, the song had gone.

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