Why Do Women Rape Shame? #RapeCulture No No!

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Women who blame survivors of rape have always confounded me. As rape is most often a crime perpetrated against women, you would think that it would be something that we would be more supportive of. And as the statistics of rape against women are so high, again, you would think it would be something that we women as a whole would empathize with. So when I encounter women who blame the victim in cases of rape I have always scratched my head and wondered why. How is it that there are a few amongst us that continue to point the finger at the victim rather than the criminal?

How could a woman, a human being who knows what a violation this would be, how deeply scarring to the victims psyche, and how overpowered they were, possibly even think to say it must have been what the victim wore? How could they say it was what the victim said/ate/drove/went/did? They know damn well that with rape it is one person totally overpowering another human being and it doesn’t matter where you are, when you are there, what you are wearing, or any number of trivial details, if that person wants to over-power their victim they will. Rape is not about clothing, or timing, it is about someone violating another human being. I’m not saying men aren’t out there blaming the victim too. It disgusts me. Men who blame the victim disgust me, but seeing how this is a crime that is so often perpetrated against women it horrifies me to the absolute core that a fellow woman could blame another woman.

And here’s the thing, it isn’t just repulsive, disgusting women, who are amoral who have blamed the victim. A good friend of mine said to me when I was in high school, “There is no such thing as rape. You either end up agreeing or you die. There is no rape. If it happened, she ended up letting him do it.” This was not an awful, bitchy, nasty, vapid, friend, this was actually a good friend, one of the sweetest people I know. So if she could come out with that statement then there must be a reason why there is this notion that women are ultimately to blame for rape. Why does Rape Culture run so deep in not just our society but all over the world?

Well, today, 17 years later, I finally have a reason. Rape terrifies women. It is something that is so prevalent in our existence that it is not something that can simply be ignored. In certain areas the statistics are as high as 50%. Not all areas, but some are that high. And nowhere, and I mean nowhere, are the statistics so low that they can be ignored. This terrifies us, because we know we could be a victim. The numbers are not on our side that everybody we know will escape unscathed. Either us, or one of our daughters, cousins, sisters, or friends will be raped. Someone close to home will be violated in a most horrific manner. We know this. We try to put it aside, but we know this and it sickens and terrifies us. Different people have different ways of dealing with fear. Some get sad, some, get hysterical, some get angry, some get cold and clinical. There are a myriad of ways of dealing with fear. Unfortunately, some women deal with fear in a Oh hell no that isn’t happening to me, it could never happen to me, it must be that person’s fault, they can’t be blameless, because if they are blameless then that really could happen to me, I refuse to believe it could happen to me, I am sticking my fingers in my ears and blaming the victims and refusing to face my fear, kind of way. It’s not nice, it’s not helpful, and it only serves to make a woman who has been violated feel guilty and ashamed. Victims are going through enough, you should feel ashamed to try to put more heart ache at their feet. Scared or not, you should feel ashamed.

I hope as a society we can come together and stop blaming victims of crime. If you forgot to lock your car door, that does not give someone the right to take what is yours; if you accidentally left your phone at a checkout, that does not give the checkout assistant the right to steal your phone; if you walk down the street, that does not give someone the right to slit your throat; if you wear red lipstick, that does not give someone the right to rape you; if you trust someone, that does not give them the right to violate you. If you haven’t heard it from someone else, it is not your fault. You are only responsible for the negative actions that you commit, you are not responsible for the ugly things other people do to you. Stay strong, be kind, be the better person, because unfortunately, society as a whole isn’t ready to be better yet. I am truly sorry. And I am truly sorry for the ugly accusations that my fellow women have laid at your feet. They were scared. I hope they get better.

NOTE: I would like to state that rape happens to men and boys too but by and large it is a crime against women. I am not neglecting other victims in my thoughts, I am not even remotely stating they should be blamed and just women shouldn’t. This blog would be far too long for me to write if I were to detail the whole existence and history of rape. I also do not have the time or skill to do thorough enough research on this matter, the topic is too large, and far too sensitive to be left in my clumsy hands. All I can do is shine a light on this one epiphany that I had today and hope it brings greater understanding to someone. Sexual violence is a hideous thing that has been used as a means of torture, destruction and demoralisation throughout human history. I am utterly disgusted by it in every format. It is not the fault of the victim, it is the fault of the criminal.

And as the poster shared widely from http://www.thisisnotaninvitationtorapeme.co.uk/ says:

Top Tips to End Rape:

  1. Don’t put drugs in a person’s drink.
  2. When someone is walking by themselves, leave them alone.
  3. If you pull over to help someone whose car has broken down, don’t rape them.
  4. Never creep into a person’s home through an unlocked door or window or spring out from between cars and rape them.
  5. If you are in a lift and someone gets in, don’t rape them.
  6. Use the BUDDY SYSTEM, if you are not able to control yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you’re in public to stop you.
  7. Don’t have sex with someone who is asleep or unconscious. That’s rape.
  8. Carry a whistle, if you are worried that you might assault someone, blow on it until someone comes to stop you.
  9. Remember honesty is the best policy. If you are going to have sex with someone who you are dating regardless of how they feel about it, let them know up front. That way they can run in the opposite direction and never see you again.
  10. Don’t rape anyone.

#bookclubABC Drinking Game, 7 June 2015 – Kids, Don’t Try This At Home!

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@thebookclubABC just got real, yo. With guests like @Alancumming and @HelenJMacdonald exploring Mario Vargas Llosa’s jauntily burlesque, The Discreet Hero, and Enid ‘I like lashings of (ginger) beer’ Blyton’s Five on Treasure Island, you know that you’re in for a rollicking good time, so let’s liven things up with a retro fabulous idea… the time honoured drinking game. Enjoy… responsibly and only if you’re 18+ (21+ in some countries).

 

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Sip when:

  • the words froth, frothy, frothing, or frothiness are said.
  • the words sex, sexy, sexing, or sexiness are said.
  • the word translation, translate, translating or translator are said.

 

Drink when:

  • Kim Kardashian’s book is mentioned.
  • you discover a new skill that Alan Cumming’s has.
  • someone talks over the top of Helen MacDonald.

 

Chug when:

 

Finish the bottle when:

  • the episode turns into a children’s adventure show.
  • you start thinking of Star Trek.
  • nobody else is watching.

Be what you wanna be. Do what you wanna do. Read what you wanna read. Yeah!

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You know what I am tired of? The need for articles coming out in defense of Women’s Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Genre Fiction in general. Every day my newsfeed has multiple articles on this phenomenon, and sadly, they are still needed. For some reason people just cannot seem to get the point that we do not live in an English classroom where book titles are dictated by necessity so that knowledge and understanding can be tested in a standardized way that the government requires. In real life people can read and enjoy whatever they want… AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO TELL THEM THAT THEY CANNOT!

Sorry guys, I know I went all caps there. It got scary, I was even a bit scared of my own emotions but this book shaming is really starting to get my goat. And if there is one thing regular followers of this blog know, it’s that I don’t like anyone looking at or touching my goat, let alone taking it. Don’t make me go all Liam Neeson on your arse over my goat. I have a terrible Irish accent and nobody will benefit from this scenario. Now let’s get back to the heavy stuff. You’ve had your levity break!

This morning a picture captioned “A call for respectful discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey – It is okay to and welcome to criticize a book. It is not okay to be a terrible person” was on my newsfeed. Yesterday an insightful article by Marian Keyes entitled, “Please can we stop saying ‘chick-lit'” caught my attention. For the former here’s what I have to say, love it or hate it, you have no right to dictate to someone what they enjoy reading. I love reading James Joyce. People often tell me I am a shameless wanker and that Joyce is likewise a wanker and hence we should just die in wankerhood together. It isn’t going to stop me loving James Joyce. His writing just really sits well with me. As does Julian Barnes. It doesn’t matter what you say, I will continue to love them, and read them and reread them. And although I quite happily debate the merits of Barnes and Joyce with people and am fine with people not loving them, when people resort to name calling and put downs it’s a bit much. Those people are poo poo heads, yes I get the irony. Same thing with Fifty Shades, lovers, if it vibes with them, if they enjoy it, if it gives them a moment’s escape from their lives, go for it. Love it, read it. Get inspired, go read more books, yeah! Go ahead, don’t like Fifty Shades, criticize it, but when you start being nasty to people who like it, well you’ve lost the argument, you’ve lost respect, you’ve lost yourself.

As for Marian Keyes plea – please stop saying Chick Lit, I both agree wholeheartedly yet disagree at the same time. Does Marian Keyes, hate chick lit? No, of course not. Is she saying it sucks? No, of course not. Is she pointing out that the term is used as a put down? Yes. Is it a put down? Yes and no. The term Chick Lit is often used by men and women alike, to put down works that focus on women. Novels in this genre tend to have successful female leads, with professional ambitions and a quirky group of friends, add to this a man often comes along and catches the lead characters eye. Then things of course get complicated, job goes to shit, fall out with friends, love interest goes all skewwhiff, then the strong female leads, pulls herself together, gets her groove back, gets her job back, gets her friends back and then the cherry on the cake, last of all, gets her man. Sounds a lot like real life, professional woman + career goals + crazy friends + a bit of romance. Hardly something that should be put down. I mean people rave about the Bronte sisters. They write about the same stuff. “Oh it is just silly fluff, about love,” you hear people say. Yeah, because love is just so stupid. Having meaningful connections is just ridiculous and would never happen in great literature. Dickens, Shakespeare, Virgil, none of these dudes would ever write about silly love stories. To be honest, typically in Chick Lit the love interest is actually the icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong, frosting is important, I like me a big chunk of butter cream. If I have the choice between frosted or unfrosted… well let’s just call me Elsa. But the female lead tends to have to sort out her career and friends first. That is the priority, it’s not that the love interest doesn’t get a lot of the word count dedicated to them, but the priority, the first things first, goes to career and bat shit crazy friends. Where would we be without out friends? How could we pay rent without our job? It’s a bit realistic isn’t it? Sure it gets mashed up with wit and humour but there’s a lot of deep stuff in Chick Lit, but there is a lot of truth and tragedy included. So why put it down? The answer is quite simply, because we live in a society that trivializes women and their experiences, and for women to get ahead they almost have to turn on their own kind. The bagging of the term Chick Lit is simply a manifestation of that. So as far as I can see you can call it whatever you like, Commercial Women’s Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Clit Lit, Vagraphy (okay I made that one up, I just wanted to use vag somewhere for my own amusement), the same issue will arise. People will put it down. People, what a bunch of bastards. Hopefully society progresses, that’s what needs to happen, and we are getting there, but until then, no matter how many terms we throw at stories for and about women, they will get trivialized. They’ll sell, because us bitches be smart and good with the books and the learning and stuff, but it’ll be marginalized.

Whoa. Robin, what just happened? Did you just go all overt feminist on our arses. Yeah, I kind of did. Commercial Women Writers tend to do that. Sorry. We give you plenty of shits and giggles, but we give you a message too. Let’s just take a deep breath and hug it out.

There’s Something About @KateForsyth

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Happy birthday Kate. Geminies are lovely. My three year old is one. I’m not biased at all… Those are my baby boys in the pic.

Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Well it would seem that birthday girl, Dr of Fairy Tales Kate Forsyth, has made it her mission to make the world a more intelligent place one book at a time. She came to Fairy Tale notoriety when she published Bitter Greens in 2012 and has gone on to release The Wild Girl, about Dortchen Wild one of the sources that the Grimm brothers used, and most recently The Beast’s Garden. Now of course before she released these three tombs Kate Forsyth was a well established author with 20+ titles under her belt. Not only is she a writing juggernaut, but is also one of Australia’s most recognized and most well liked authors who regularly teaches fledgling writers. Even little old me. So I thought for today, seeing how it is fabulous Dr Forsyth’s birthday, we should show her some love back, lord knows she needs it, she must be exhausted from all the writing and teaching she does. So I’m going to share some of my favourite Kate Forsyth quotes that I have memefied (is that a word?). I would love to see yours too.

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That’s me reading on my honeymoon.

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@dougcoupland speaks to @mmccwill at the #SydneyWritersFestival

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imageDouglas Coupland,  unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard of him. He’s the dude that coined the term Generation X. Turns out he went on to do a whole bunch of other profound stuff too… like write 14 novels and is an artist etc. Who knew. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to one of his talks at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Writing that Defines Modern Culture. He was interviewed by Michael Williams, who is the same age as me and is director of the Wheeler Centre, what have I been doing with my life?

I found Douglas Coupland to be an amazing speaker, not only is his voice the opiate of the masses (his voice is so calm and lilting it nearly drugs you into blind acceptance), but also he is just so deeply profound. Either that or he’s an expert in delivering sound bites. I’ll give you a few of his amazing quotes at the end of this entry but first I’d like to really focus on one comment that he made that really got me thinking. Douglas Coupland said, “When one medium is eclipsed by another it allows the old medium to become an art-form.” Now he was talking about the Internet superseding television. We used to get our news, our water cooler talk, our quick entertainment from the television, these days we get it from the Internet. Sure the television is still there, just as are books, radio, and movies, but the Internet has really invaded our lives. And through this ability for the Internet to cater for our immediate gratification it has allowed television to really step up. We have so many gorgeous shows these days, written by novelists, starred in by film and theatre actors, composed by award winning musicians. Give Tom Perrotta a Google for a sterling example of a greater writer in any format. We’re having a bit of a golden age of television. And it’s fabulous. Sure we have plenty of crap on television but there is also some beautiful stuff that really makes you think.

Now part of the reason why this got me so interested, aside from my love of golden age cinema and television, was that this same argument could be had around paper books and epublishing. Many traditionally published authors have spoken critically (a few darn right cruelly) about epublishing. They have claimed it is the ruin of reading, and that through the end of traditional publishing. That people self publishing ebooks for 99c will bring about the apocalypse of books, totally devaluing reading and leading to a wasteland of illiterate morons who don’t know what good literature is. Good literature being what big publishing houses allow, and there is no room in this argument for it to be otherwise… Or is there? Does this rise of new epublishing quickies for 99cents give immediate gratification for those who want it? Does it allow the consumer to have what they want and the ewriter to produce what they want. Is it like a quick and wonderful friendship between consumer and producer where they are both giving and getting what they want? And is this bad for traditional publishing or good? Perhaps this rapid fire exchange has actually allowed the paper book to step up and become an art-form? It is time to put some of that old fashioned love and dedication back into traditional publishing. That same love that resulted in embossed covers, gilded pages, artworks of breath taking beauty. Now I’m not suggesting that this needs to be done again, just putting that same level of thought and dedication into the system will provide far greater accomplishment than any amount of finger pointing at new systems. As Douglas Coupland has said himself, “Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos.” Stop blaming, stop shaming, start loving and giving.

When the radio came out people cried that there would be an end to reading, when VHS came out people cried that there would be an end to the movies, when epublishing came out people have cried it will be an end to books and world order… How about we all just calm down. How about seeing new technology as an opportunity for you to use. Don’t quit, step up your game. And if you can’t, maybe your game wasn’t that good to begin with.

Now as promised, the awesome sound bites:

  • “Words are art supplies.”
  • “There is nothing that we make that isn’t an expression of our humanity.”
  • “We are in the middle of an attribution crisis.”
  • “Publicity has turned into extortion.”
  • “Looking people up used to be considered stalky, now it’s rude not too.”
  • “Younger people are different than they have ever been before, but so are older people.”
  • “Oh English Language, you are a minx.”
  • “People are predictably surprising.”
  • Researching Google is like, “crowd surfing this bath of humanity.”
  • Researching what people search on Google makes, “you want to give humanity a great big hug.”
  • “Things get better after you’re 40.”

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And finally, when I asked Douglas Coupland to sign my book he complimented my bag, which has an image of my family as Lego minifigures emblazoned on it. So Doug, this little pic is for you, because who doesn’t love disco?

Structural Workshop with the Divine Dr @KathrynHeyman – #SydneyWritersFestival

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If loving Kathryn Heyman is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. There, I said it. Everyone else in the Structural Intensive workshop hosted by the Sydney Writers’ Festival was thinking it, I just said it. You would be hard pressed to find a more dynamic presenter, and the best bit was, that Dr Heyman had substance to back it up. I’ll be perfectly honest, I am not going to detail everything that she covered, partly because I wouldn’t do it justice, and partly because if you want to truly learn from Kathryn Heyman then you need to go and do a workshop/course/mentorship with her yourself. What you get out of a course is a deeply personal thing because we are all on different paths in this writing journey. BUT this would be the world’s shortest blog if I gave nothing away for free so here goes…

One of the first sound bites that really moved me was when Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives why you write.” Now I’ve heard, “if it scares you do it,” “go where the fear is,” and all those other common things before but on that cold, wet, Friday, where I had arrived drenched, late, with a slightly broken umbrella and the memory of my kids crying ringing through my brain, this phrasing, and this women really hit home. For me, I’d got my money’s worth all in that one hit. Because, I’ll let you in on a little secret, come closer, even closer, shhhh, closer, I’m going to whisper this so listen carefully, every single novel I have written deals with exactly the same issue, no matter what the genre or target audience. My chick lit novel coming out in July has a main character who has an intelligent, and quirky main character who happens to have incredibly low self-esteem so can make some pretty dumb choices. My children’s novel coming out next year has a very confident main character but the backstory that never gets explicitly covered is that the mother is deeply scarred and traumatized individual trying to be that super mum who gets everything right. Memoir From the Madhouse (I’ve never shared an excerpt from that so will pop it at the end of this) looks at why we are who we are, how our past demons drive us. I could go on but in a nutshell, I write women’s fiction, no matter the genre, no matter the age range, and the story is always – What happened to the little girl that nobody loved. Fuck, I hope she turned out okay. Until Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives what you write,” I did not realise that I had written the exact same story over and over again as I grappled with my fear. It’s kind of liberating to know that I am on a cathartic journey. It’s even more liberating to know that I love that story and I will tell it over and over again, in as many ways as I like until I am ready to put that issue to bed. Because that story needs to be told. That story needs to be told not just for me but for all those little girls. I’ll keep speaking out. I’ll keep publishing for you. I hope you will join me.

Now I think you can understand what I meant by saying that this writing gig is a deeply personal journey and you have to go sit at Dr Heyman’s feet yourself to get what you need. However, I won’t be a total spoil sport, there were plenty of general things that were good for everyone. Mainly, it really helps to have a concrete, physical manifestation of conceptual matter. So if there is an obstacle, how about getting another character to embody that. If you have some sort of transformation make sure there is some sort of event or location that can act as a metaphor rather than having it all inside the character’s head. If the character has an internal desire, give it a physical manifestation, as in what action or situation would demonstrate that the desire had been met or totally failed. I’m leaving it there because as I keep saying, you have to go learn from Kathryn Heyman yourself in order to get the real benefit.

 

As promised, and true to my blog’s about section, unedited, unkempt, and untamed, here is an excerpt from Memoir from the Madhouse.

 

I am running, running faster than I’ve ever run before. The cold from the dew damp ground runs up my bare legs and covers my naked body with goose pimples. But still I run on. The warmth is fleeting, the wind is chasing me, and they are hunting me. I run naked in the cold dark night and all the while I think – I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy.

Out of my periphery I see a nurse approaching me. I let out a delirious laugh and keep on running.

‘Run, run, run as fast as you can…’

The wind whips away my words and I still run on. The ground starts to gently slope downwards and in the darkness I lose my bearings. I trip. I roll. Arms and legs flail at impossible angles. The world slows down as sky and earth blur into one. I smile and think about what has brought me here, starkers, in the dead of night, chasing demons, in the psychiatric hospital’s grounds.

 

6 Hours Earlier

I sit in Consultation Room 2 staring at my psychiatrist. I have no idea what he is saying. His voice is so soft that I can only make out every second sentence if I’m lucky. Regardless I nod like I understand. I don’t want him to think I’m rude or worse, stupid. My constantly interrupting to say, ‘Eh?’ or, ‘What?’ only results in him repeating his mumbles anyway. So instead I just nod along like I agree.

‘Are you anxious about going home tomorrow?’ Finally a sentence I can hear.

‘No,’ I lie.

Of course I’m anxious. I’ve got newborn twins and a two year old. They’re hard work. I have to somehow keep on functioning, no, mumctioning, despite the fact that the twins won’t sleep, which means I can’t sleep either. All work and no sleep makes Robin a dull girl. Perhaps they could be trained to settle one another. One cries and the other rubs their back, then they roll over and swap jobs. That’d be pretty sweet but although I’m in the nuthouse even I know that won’t happen.

‘Really?’ my psychiatrist raises an eyebrow. ‘Last time you were supposed to go home you had such an anxiety attack that we had to transfer you to a medical hospital.’

I shrug. More words are spoken that I nod thoughtfully along too. God only knows what I’ve agreed to in these sessions.

‘Do you like cap guns and pillows?’ Nods in agreement.

‘Do you still wet the bed?’ Nods thoughtfully.

‘Do you have a Christ complex?’ Nods politely.

‘Do you like the smell of your own farts?’ Nods vigorously.

He probably thinks I’m the biggest psycho to ever have graced this Crackpot’s with Babies Unit. No doubt I’ve inadvertently agreed to having a fetish for gingerbread men, partaking in cock fighting as a chicken, and having to burp three times every time I hear the word purple lest the world ends. Not surprising that Doctor Huang is so shocked by my casual attitude.

Truth be told I’m just quietly packing shit. My husband and I have arranged for a babysitter to come for a few hours a day during baby rush hour. 4 – 7 sucks with the under threes. They’re cranky, they need baths, they need dinner and they need to go to bed. Times that by three and I seriously struggle. The babysitter coming at these times doesn’t help me rest. Just helps me make sure none of my kids are neglected. I want to rest. We can’t afford rest. Fucking money.

‘A lot can change in a week.’

3 Days Ago

I look across at a sea of nervous faces. The first art therapy class is always nerve wracking and everyone but me is new. I can see the fear in their eyes as they undoubtedly struggle with how to ‘art’ correctly. No guidelines are given in art therapy. No set topics, goals, images or even materials. It’s the only time us crazies get left to our own devices. Everything else is regimented down to the same potatoes, broccoli and crinkle cut carrots that accompany every single meal. Lasagne with potatoes, broccoli and carrots. Tacos with potatoes, broccoli and carrots. Sang Choi Bow with potatoes, broccoli and carrots. No doubt one of the nutters with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has been put in the kitchen and all he can do is plate up those same three vegetables no matter how poorly they go with the rest of the meal. One day at a time buddy, one day you’ll be able to put up different vegetables. But art therapy is different. You simply just art whatever you want. Being that all of us are mums are so busy catering to everyone else most of us have forgotten how to think of what we want. Sometimes the simplest things are the most daunting.

I sit and make very simple jewellery. Those around me try to paint or draw. Rookie mistake. I tried that in my first class too, everybody does. But soon they’ll all come to realise that being genuinely creative is hard when you’ve gone completely mental with anxiety. Looping beads on a thread is much easier. Gives me a chance to be ‘mindful.’ ‘Mindfulness’ is super important. I’ve been told to practice it three times today already.

‘I’m feeling anxious.’

‘Try practicing mindfulness.’

‘The hot water isn’t working.’

‘Have you tried mindfulness?’

‘I need to go to the toilet.’

‘Don’t forget to practice your mindfulness.’

Unfortunately I’m a bit of a thinker, not a great one but I do think a fair bit, so don’t really do mindfulness that well. This once a week beading exercise is as close as I get. I stare at the beads. I count the beads. I sort the beads. I thread the beads. I am a clear blue bead. I am a bracelet.

Shhhhhhck, shhhhhck, shhhhhhhhhhhck. The woman to my right is slowly tearing up what she has just arted.

‘You going to do some decoupage or collage, Ruby?’

She looks at me with her squished up, chubby face full of lament, ‘It isn’t perfect.’

Looking at her disastrous haircut I find it hard to believe she really is a perfectionist. Admittedly I’m sitting here next to Ruby as a slipper footed bedraggled mess. But I’ve never claimed to be anything short of walking chaos. My husband calls me a nightmare of self-discipline. I pour too much juice into cups, I drink around eight cups of tea a day and I love shoes just a little too much. We don’t even have a shared bank account as he fears I’ll blow all our money on sparkly things. Me, perfection? No way.

I pick up one of the slivers of paper and look at splotches of green and grey. It isn’t recognisably anything.

‘What is it?’

She looks at me like the uncultured buffoon I am.

‘It’s an abstract about Mary mourning the loss of her son.’

I look at the remaining slivers and frown. How can an abstract not be ‘perfect?’ It’s not like she was drawing something real. It’s not like you can look at the real thing and say, ‘Nope, not even close.’ I don’t get it. Scribbles are by their very nature imprecise so how can she want hers to be ‘perfect.’ I think all this but instead I simply say, ‘Oh.’

She sighs.

‘I don’t expect you to understand.’ Her face begins to redden and her neck fat trembles. Is she angry or embarrassed? I don’t know. ‘I love art and I’m really good at it so unless it’s perfect I can’t stand to look at it. I’ve got high standards for myself.’

Then what the fuck is going on with your mismatching outfit and foul body odour. I of course don’t say that. As usual I just nod.

‘So how much stuff do you finish?’

‘Well nothing yet,’ she snaps.

Yet again I nod as if I understand but I don’t. Surely it would be better to finish something rather than continually scrap everything for minor imperfections. Heck Michelangelo’s women looked like dudes with melons strapped to their chest but he’s considered so brilliant that there was even a Ninja Turtle named after him. All sounds like an excuse to me. She’s a lot like my students. Kids who pretend not to try so that they can claim they didn’t really fail. They have failed though. They’ve doubly failed, failed at the task and failed at bettering themselves. This may not be high school and this may not be a test but it sure seems like the same thing to me.

‘I’m gonna do a stencil instead,’ she says as she gets up to leave.

‘Can I have these?’ I point at the scraps, she shrugs and walks off.

I take that as a yes. I grab some gold cardboard and some glue and set about some mindless busy work. Time ticks by but I barely notice as I am being so ‘mindful.’

 

‘Okay ladies, ten minutes to go. Let’s do our debrief.’ The art therapist’s voice brings me back to unmindfullness. ‘How about we start with you Robin. How was today for you?’

‘Yeah, it was nice.’ I nod non committally and shrug. ‘I made another bracelet for my daughter.’ I hold up my study in blue and jingle it out in front of me for all to see. Perhaps if I make enough bracelets the guilt of not being with her will go away. I’m not sure there are enough beads in the world. I love her, I miss her. I wish I was holding her not the bracelet.

‘And how did that feel?’

‘It felt alright.’ I shrug. I hope they think that I’m casual and don’t care. I hope they all can’t see how awful I feel about not being able to have my daughter with me as well as my boys. I miss you my little Star Child. I should have put a star charm instead of an angel on the bracelet. I am stupid. I wanted her to know I was always looking out for her and she was loved. The bracelet should have had a charm that represented her not me. I am selfish, I am a cow. ‘It’s nice to be able to do something for my daughter even though we can’t be together. I hope she likes it.’

We move onto the woman to my left. She looks every inch the stereotypical mum. Slightly unkempt, wavy, blonde bob, dusty pink top, pale blue jeans with an elastic waist, all accessorised with a smile that is twitching with uncertainty. Why is she in here? How could someone so obviously the perfect mum be in a place like this?

‘I really enjoyed it.’ Shaky smile. ‘It reminds me of being in high school.’ Furtive glance at the art therapist. She seems to be checking in to make sure what she is saying is okay. ‘I went to an all-girls school so it was a lot like this. Just sitting about chatting with a bunch of girls.’

‘And was this a positive or negative memory for you?’

The woman’s smile becomes a little steadier. She’s beginning to look like a mischievous cat.

‘Yeah, I loved high school. Particularly art.’ I nod thoughtfully in response. I thought high school was a mouldy arsed death trap but I nod thoughtfully at everything. It’s what I do, it’s my thing.

‘I wasn’t good at it but our art teacher would start every class from Cosmo and we loved it.’

We all laugh.

‘You would have gotten a lot of important art lessons from that,’ the diva looking mumma sitting across from me laughs. Her fake fingernails are drumming out a beat on the table for her large hoop earrings to dance about too like some sort of crazy disco. I worry that her head will get cut off by those giant circles of death clashing about her neck. Fuck, I really should have kept my Senior First Aid up to date.

‘Who cares,’ Cat shoots back. ‘We were only interested in the sealed section.’ We all laugh again. Nothing like those sealed sections when you haven’t got the faintest idea what sex is.

‘I loved Dolly,’ the acrylic percussionist pitches in. She’s clearly interested in the conversation now. I should have known she would be. Saucy minx.

‘Dolly Doctor, always the best source of bizarre info,’ I chip in.

We stare at each other smiling. We are having a moment.

‘Doesn’t seem like a very appropriate thing for a teacher to do.’ A pastor’s crackpot wife is unimpressed.

The Cat and the Diva begin to falter and look down at their hands guiltily. Our moment is fading. I don’t want it to fade.

‘She’s probably just getting her own back,’ I pipe up. ‘Students come up with the filthiest thing these days.’ I’m a high school teacher so I should know what I’m talking about. ‘In my third year of teaching the kids came to my class after they’d been given boxes of condoms in PE.’ The room is quiet, all eyes on are on me. Sex sells. ‘In the box of condoms they had instructions and even some rather tasteful diagrams of different positions to try.’

‘See that’s my mistake,’ the Cat says. ‘I need to show my husband the diagrams.’

The Diva starts shaking with laughter. A snort escapes from her nose. We all laugh even harder.

‘I didn’t even know they had diagrams.’

‘Neither did I, until one of my kids wandered up to my desk to show me. He then asked me what my favourite position was.’ The room is in shocked silence. Have I gone too far?

‘It’s called the dead starfish kids.’ I am saved by Cat’s impeccable comedic timing.

My eyes are stinging, tears are streaming down my face because I am laughing so hard. ’How did you know?’ I manage to gasp out.

The Cat, the Diva and the Robin stare at each other laughing. We have bonded. We are Nuthouse BFFs. But the class is over so the laughter must pause.

I turn and lightly touch the frumpy perfectionist on the arm. She startles as if I just licked her up the nostril. ‘Here’s your artwork.’ I hand her the scraps of paper pieced together on gold card. Seams of gold run through her original image somehow enhancing the original image. Broken but more beautiful. She stares at me uncomprehending. Maybe she’s annoyed I put it back together or maybe she hasn’t had someone do something nice for her before. ‘It’s a bit like Kintsugi.’ Her eyebrow twitches. I guess I’m not the uncultured bogan she mistook me for. I’m possibly not the uncultured buffoon I mistook myself for.

She takes the artwork with shaking fingers and stares at it for a full minute. ‘Thank you. I will put this on my wall.’

I’ve had two moments in this art class now. I prefer the funny one. I am more comfortable with jokes.

 

5 Days Ago

The light fills the cold dark group therapy room with greyness. I don’t know how this room does it, but it somehow manages to twist warm golden rays of light into cold greyness. That’s a skill right there. Well I guess transformations are supposed to happen in this room. Maybe it’s a metaphor for dulling the spark of insanity into monotonous uniformity. Maybe I’ll become as grey as the light and the chairs in this room. Maybe my husband will finally like me once I’ve sucked up this room and become one with it via osmosis. Why did he marry me if he hates people having opinions and emotions? All he wants is someone to fade away and fit in. Hell he wouldn’t even let me put my own furniture or cutlery into our apartment because his was ‘better.’ Everything of his is always ‘better.’ Not sure how his tacky chipped plates and discoloured glasses are ‘better’ than my pristine white sets of china. I mean they’re certainly less dusty now that mine have been relegated to storage but ‘better’? What the fuck does ‘better’ mean?

‘Mwafafafaolp?’

Shit, I’ve been off day dreaming again. Thinking about myself. I’m always thinking about myself. Why am I so self-obsessed. I should be thinking about whatever the Therapists says we’re thinking about today but I’m too busy thinking about some fucking plates. Fuck it I’ll just nod. I’m a smart cookie, pretty sure I can catch on. I look at the whiteboard. It’s full of hieroglyphs. I squint, ah good, they’re words.

CBT

ABC

  • Activating Event
  • Belief
  • Consequence

 

 

Faboo, I know all about this stuff. Thank you Martin Seligman. You’ve come in handy for faking my way through assignments and now therapy. So what are we doing this ABC on? I squint at the board again. I swear I’m going blind. Does PND cause blindness? Is this another metaphor? Is this the mother fucking metaphor room? What the fuck is going on. Focus.

 

  • You’re baby is crying

 

B-

Seriously…. You’re… Don’t you mean Your? It’s just a ‘typo’ move on with you’re life and do what they want. Pretentious bitch. They’re wanting us to give the B. Just do it. Time to scribble in my notebook. If you can’t be productive you may as well look it.

My baby is sad

            I have to fix my baby

            I don’t know how to fix my baby

            I’m doing something wrong

            I’m a bad mother

            I’m not a good enough parent

Cool beans. All done. May as well move onto some C’s

I’m anxious and get very distressed and tired. I start to get angry at myself. I become unpleasant company. My daughter will get upset because I’m upset with the boys not sleeping and my husband will lecture me on not being able to ‘just keep cracking’ and tell me some offensive stories on what a magnificent parent he is and how he has routines and systems in place that make everything flow easily… flow easily into the kids crying more and not getting any sleep but whatever. My husband hates me. We get a divorce. The kids are permanently scarred and never have a happy home life and become destitute crack users.

May as well move into the disputing of this because they always want that.

The kids will stop crying, I have better luck with them than anyone else, my husband may have routines but they take so long that the kids miss out on their needs being met so my way is ok, he hasn’t left me yet so he probably wouldn’t.

I look around, the busty, hair lipped, accountant across from me is still writing away, the fat house wife is still staring into space. She won’t write anything. She’s too lazy. The angelic blonde across from me is biting her fingernails nervously. She probably won’t write until the rest of us talk. She’s clearly an actress doing research. Nobody is that perfect and that blonde all the time. She’s even nervously biting her fingernails in a dainty way. I look like a rabid mongoose who hasn’t had a snake in days when I bite mine. Who does she think she’s kidding? For God Sake it’s 10am and she’s wearing makeup. Who the fuck wears makeup at this hour. I look around again. Shit. I’m the only one not wearing makeup. I’m also the only one with bare feet. Fuck them, they don’t know how to do crazy. If they have enough time to put their war paint on then they don’t have problems. Fucking fakers the lot of them.

‘So what are our beliefs?’

A thick German accent makes me leap out of my seat a little. Whoops, day dreaming again. I wonder if the German therapist is another metaphor. Not sure what of, but it’ll come to me if I think long enough…

SILENCE.

… maybe it’s those hideous happy pants that are a metaphor. That happiness is really a disgusting mess and it’s better to be grey. Grey like my husband’s hair. Grey like my husband’s heart…

Holy fuck burgers people. SAY SOMETHING!!! This is death by silence. Ugh, so awkward.

‘That I’m not looking after my boys’ right.’ Fuck it. I’ll break the damn silence. Bitches! They probably think that I dominate every therapy session because I always talk. Well it’s their fault not mine. Can’t believe those bitches judge me. It’s not like their shit don’t stink. They’re in here too. Stop staring at me. Stop judging me. Ahhhhhhh. A giant, wet gulp escapes the hairy accountant’s snout.

‘Yes, yes.’ She looks at me with red eyes that are probably usually blue in the real world. ‘That’s exactly how I feel. I can’t do it right. I’m not a good enough mother. I’m not good enough for her. I don’t know why I’m so bad at this. I’m supposed to be her mother. I should be able to do this.’

I don’t know what is more repugnant. The combination of snot and tears beading in her moustache, the fact that she has a moustache or that she seems to be mirroring my own sick twisted mind. I look down at my hands. How can she see into my soul? Does she feel this way or is she mocking me. Looking at her pallid face and her slumped form I know that she isn’t faking it. She and I are the same. I’m petite and perky looking, and she looks like a sack of potatoes that has been worn away by the ravages of time and circumstance but we are the same. She knows how to do crazy. She’s awesome. She’s my mirror. I want to hug her. I want to tell her it’s okay. I want to tell her babies cry. Because they do. But how can I hug her and tell her that when I don’t do it to me. Shit. A tear is escaping from my eye. I better brush at it roughly, pretend I am picking lint out of my eye. Phew, that’s fooled everyone. They’ll think I’m not weak as piss now. Just a speck of dust, not tears. I’m okay. Move on people. Keep on going with your lives. Nothing to see here.

‘That they’re doing it to annoy me.’ Chubster speaks up. She’s always got a weird perspective. I think she hates her kids or something. Seriously thinks everyone is out to annoy her.

‘I don’t think she’s trying to annoy me. I think I’m annoying her. She’s not the problem, I am.’

Preach hairy snozzled sister. You are so inside my mind. Fuck I feel sorry for you. It’s a nightmare living in such a hateful head. I nod supportively at her. She probably can’t support herself so I’ll do it. Somebody has to support me. I mean her. Somebody has to support her.

‘Yeah, but your kids aren’t as clingy and needy as mine.’ Shut up Chubster. Your kids are fine. Stop being so mean. Why do mums have to blame their kids for everything? My kid ruined my figure, my career, my dreams. Fuck off. We, I mean, they, don’t need that kind of guilt. Can’t the kid be your new dream, can’t I, shit, THEY, have added to your life and enriched it not taken it away. Stop being so self-obsessed Robin. What is with all this I shit? She’s a whiney bitch because she’s mean to her kids, not because of anything to do with me. What is my problem? Why do I always make everything about me? I’m such a narcissist. My mother and sister are right. I’m an arrogant, self-deluded, egotistical, narcissistic bitch. I make everything about me. I sicken me. I have issues. Oh yeah, I’m in the nuthouse. I definitely have issues. Bigger issues than can be fixed in four weeks here. I could spend a year in here and still come out completely fucked. May as well just go home and get on with it. Me being fucked is no excuse to make my daughter all insecure and equally fucked. She needs her mum. She needs to know Mummy will be there for her always. That’s what mums do. They be there. I’m not there. I’m here indulging my pathetic self when I should just ‘crack on’ and be a parent. Grow up Robin.

‘So we’ve got two very different answers here.’ No shit Sherlock. Are group therapists paid to state the obvious? Are they even qualified? Or are they just here to make sure we don’t start flinging poop at each other? ‘So what do you think the different core beliefs are?’ Eh? ‘Robin, you look confused.’ Of course I’m fucking confused, we’re supposed to do Consequences now. I’ve written up consequences. I’ve done the right thing. Why is she doing it wrong?

‘I thought C was for consequences, not core beliefs.’

‘It is, we’re just taking a different direction at the moment.’ A different direction? How can you just go off in a different direction without warning people? What the hell is your problem? We’re crazy people here. We need routine and structure and… and… tethering in order to keep us confined and out of harm’s way.

‘What’s a core belief?’ It’s what the message you tell yourself is. It’s why you react to situations the way you do. It’s why when faced with a crying baby you have one reaction where as someone else may have entirely another. Our core beliefs inform our beliefs about our individual situations.’

I nod dumbly along. Fuck, now I have to master a new thing to write down. How the heck am I ever going to pass this if they keep changing what I have to do?

‘That I’m not a good mum.’ Snot and tears come flying from the direction of my moustached mirror. She heaves forward over her heaving bosom and sobs. Great big gulping sobs. She’s about as pretty as I am when I cry. Fuck we’re hideous. I nod. Yeah. Sounds about right.

‘What about you?’ Our therapist is looking at the Chubbed Avoider.

‘I don’t know.’ She pauses and then sighs loudly. ‘With me it’s not the same. I know I’m a good mum, my kids are just a pain. Like I like everything to be orderly and they deliberately mess everything up. It’s so annoying. So I guess my core belief is that my kids are annoying, but that’s because they are.’

The therapist pauses for a moment. I can see that even her happy pants are starting to look a little less happy.

‘That’s not exactly a core belief. It’s about what you think of yourself rather than others.’

Chubby sighs and rolls her eyes. She begins staring off into space. She’s done for the session. Once she gets disagreed with or an alternate viewpoint she always has a hissy fit and tunes out. She’s such a brat.

‘Maybe it’s that you think everyone is out to get you.’ Whoa, Robin. Think it don’t say it. What is up with me today? Saucer of milk much.

‘No!’ Chubby breaks out of her space break. She is defiant, she is cross, she is obviously guilty. I raise my palms up in order to show I come in peace. She stares off again.

‘How about a new circumstance.’ The therapist is clearly trying to ease tension. Me and my big mouth. No wonder everybody hates me. ‘You’re stuck in traffic and running late, thoughts?’

‘I should have planned better.’ Get out of my head bearded lady. Our minds are so one. It’s like she’s saying stuff before I can even think it. We are the same. I nod vigorously. We look at Chubster, nothing. Space Invaders is still playing.

‘But you can’t control traffic.’ The Therapist offers.

‘No, but you can control yourself, and use logic to know what rout to take and that there are a possibility of accidents and so you should know how early to leave.’ I’m feeling quite adamant about this. I hate getting stuck in traffic. I hate making stupid mistakes over and over again. Wrong time to leave, wrong route, wrong lane. Augh. Driving is a nightmare. And don’t get to parking. I manage to screw that up too. I screw everything up.

‘You can’t anticipate everything.’

‘Probably some dickhead driving to slow just to annoy me.’ And she’s back, and as paranoid as ever. Nut.

‘No, obviously I know I’m not psychic, I just mean I should plan better.’ Bearded lady nods in agreement with me. I feel like we’re mentally high fiving, whilst Chubster is mentally head butting the walls.

‘Sounds like you seem to blame yourself no matter the circumstance. Baby cries, your fault, stuck in traffic, your fault. What do you think that says about your core beliefs?’

Oh my God. I can’t get my pen to write fast enough. Either the world has frozen or it’s sped up but I have to write. I have to write this out quicker. I can’t get this down quick enough.

I can’t do anything right, I poison everything I touch, I’m not good enough, I’m not enough enough, I am a bad person, I don’t deserve to be happy, I deserve to be punished, I AM AN EVIL PIECE OF SHIT.

 

Book Review: The Wish List by MELANIE LA’BROOY through @PenguinBooksAus #AWW2015

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thewishlist_ausnzThe Wish List by Melanie La’Broody is stereotypical Chick Lit, as is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so there is certainly no shame in that. Who doesn’t want a slice of Mr Darcy? It has fresh modern writing and a modern setting which gives it a lovely sense of newness without having to bend over backwards with shock tactics in order to entertain a reader. It is good, simple fun, with a bit of sexy sexing, which we’ve all come to expect from our modern Chick Lit. Lizzie and Dracy may have set readers’ pulses raising with prolonged glances and so much slow blinking but todays reader needs a little more. So for an entertaining read set it Melbourne with some fun and romance you can’t really go past The Wish List. Enjoy. I did. I adore the nods to fairytale romance and classic love stories.

Recommended for anyone after a light, funny read. Get your tissues ready because you will laugh that hard.

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