Friends with Non-Sexual Benefits

July 20, 2011

So many, many posts ago I discussed my phase of “email bombing” old friends and people I went to high school with. Well as part of my whole attempting to push myself into living life and behaving more like a member of the human race I have had three pseudo-dates with old friend flames… some more successful than others, so lets take a moment to dissect the carcass of my friendships.

The first date occurred with my best friend from high school who I haven’t seen for roughly 8 years. We were part of a group of 4 and 2 of the members including Sarah M the friend in question had a relatively successful high school rock band. Yes I was part of one of those groups of people, my job in the group was to be the girl in a tight top with large knockers in the front row since I had no musical talent to speak ok. Sadly as is common with temperamental egotistical musicians the band had a falling out over each other’s boyfriends and paths to follow leaving one member to forge a small independent music career in London and the other left here attending University and spending time with me. We were inseparable and she was one of the handful of friends who actually spent time with my mum over the course of our friendship and grew to appreciate her quirkiness and childlike charm. I can’t even remember why we stopped talking, it was probably one of my hermit periods where I didn’t talk to anyone and it just carried on forever because neither of us made an attempt to get in touch.

So 8 odd years later thanks to the wonder of Facebook I found myself sitting at one of the small awkward tables at the Dome Cafe in Mount Lawley, looking anxiously out the window for my old friend. Eventually I spotted her strolling across the lights, her once bright red boy cut was now a conservative brunette bob and her grungy leather pants had been replaced by post pregnancy pants and buttoned up blouse. I dare say she looked like an adult ( and new mother to an 8 month old girl). In a moment of sheer panic I visually asses my outfit in the window’s reflection. For some reason I have managed to put together the most nauseatingly juvenile outfit known to man. Separate pieces that may work on their own but together look like I am auditioning to be the new bass player for Hole. Seriously, black dress with short sleeves that are too short to cover my new arm tattoos… a belt o chunky it looks like I got it off, red sunglasses that with this outfit look like I’m crying “overage Lolita” and worst of all….what really gave me that extra shot of self loathing adrenaline, I had on Blue fucking nail polish. No Joke, I had tried it on a few nights ago and forgot to take it off. So as my mature friend walked towards me I imagined her image of me as someone how was hanging on by a thread like it was 1998 all over again.

She greeted me warmly, perhaps I can salvage this I think to myself with some of my irreverent Enid charm and humour… so of course I say “wow those are some lovely breasts you have there…being a mum agrees with you” OH MY FRICKEN GOD just remembering that I said that is making me sweat buckets at my laptop. WHAT WAS I THINKING. Sure this is my type of odd comment I make all the time that people who actually know me and spend time with me found oddly endearing “oh that wacky Bernie is saying strange things again” It is however not an appropriate thing to say immediately to someone who hasn’t been around your personality for 8 fucking years. She immediately turned red and kept readjusting her blouse for the remainder of our coffee time. Ok so you are probably thinking humble reader that after the initial disaster I dazzled her with my warm heart and interesting conversation. Well not really, for some reason I decided to tell her this whole story about how I was experiencing a depressive episode and had resigned from my job and was seeing a shrink again. When I realised that this wasn’t fun conversation I attempted to steer the conversation towards old memories from our high school days only to fail again because every memory I brought up reminded her of something horrific eg her parent’s divorce and her failed relationship with her first love. So if you are keeping score I am currently 0 for 4.

As a method of last resort I turned to her daughter, asking questions and grabbing a lovely gift I had bought for her from under the table…Ahh classic move, Bernie: Attempting to buy acceptance and affection since 1989. That could be the title of my memories or at least a monologue. The present went down a treat and I was mildly interested in hearing about her child. Actually this would have to be the first instance in history where I was actually disappointed a friend didn’t bring their baby on an outing given that my fear of children under the age of 1 may have led me to behave more appropriately. At one gushing stage she pulled out her iPhone and started showing me pictures of her daughter to which I ooowwed and ahhhed appropriately. It became awkward when she let go of the phone entirely leaving me with a photo gallery of over 600 photos of her spawn. After 10 minutes of looking as she kept talking I felt like a bomb detonator, how long did I have to hold this fucking thing to prevent our coffee date from self-destruction. Soon she said “you don’t have to look at them all” and laughed, but of course the sadist in me felt silly taking the out immediately and I lied that I was enjoying looking at them…torturing myself for another 5 minutes.

Somehow three hours had passed since I initially humiliated myself and my pseudo date announced she had to head home and cook dinner for her husband and friends. I don’t think I have ever cooked dinner for another couple…another adult failing of mine. We parted on friendly terms and she seemed to have partially enjoyed her time with me… but on my way home I was overcome with an image of my dear friend running into the arms of her successful accountant husband in her 4X2 suburban house, with her little baby girl by her side and thanking the lord she didn’t end up like that blue nail polish wearing freak from her high school years. We have maintained sms contact since then but I am yet to receive that elusive invite to her house she mentioned…something tells me I had better not hold my breath

The second pseudo date was a lunch at an old friend from my check- out chick days who I hadn’t seen since my wedding nearly three years ago and before that probably another three years. Her name is Tash and she is one of those women who even thought she quite a bit younger than me I completely admire and hope that one day if I ever get over my issues I can be like. She just has it together.. not in a creepy Stepford way but in a confident, caring, I can take what life throws at me and move on kind of way. I can’t even handle when they change the chocolate in a kit kat bar over winter. The lunch date went off without a hitch, I listened eagerly as she told me about her two young children and her new partner, their renovation plans and her hobbies.. which include very adult sounding things such as Pilates on Monday, pole dancing class (for exercise purposes apparently) on Tuesdays and playing volleyball with her husband on Wednesdays. You know how I fill my nights? watching television shows on dvd, writing on this blog and stalking people on facebook..and as for sporting activities with my husband, the only activity my husband and I share on a semi regular basis is a shower and that is not for erotic/romantic bonding purposes, it’s the only place we can talk about movies without being interrupted by our needy, neurotic pack of dogs. I think that is the saddest sentence I’ve ever written. Of course I tell Tash nothing of this..I learnt from my previous mistake with Sarah. I will consider this date a success because I kept my crazy at bay..we had good conversation and due to her busy schedule she will be the perfect friend I see every now and then. I’ve done it! I can add someone else to the friends roster.

Finally we have my drinks date with one of my oldest friends, another girl named Sarah who I met in 6th grade and have had an on again off again friendship with ever since. You might think of us as the Ross and Rachel of female friends. The last contact I had with Sarah was an apology text sent after she abused me by text for a solid hour over my relationship with Andrew and how I wasn’t a good friend. Now call me what you will..Enid, Bernie, Crazy, but I really don’t think in all my life I’ve been a bad friend to anyone and for someone who is as down on herself and self-deprecating as I am to admit that makes it true in my book. I accepted her apology because basically I’m too friendly (read: gutless) to hold a grudge but we haven’t spoken since that incident in 2006. So one Saturday night I found myself knocking at her door, the very same door I had visited as an 11-year-old girl, bottle of wine in hand ready to see if we still had the illusive “it” that kept us friends for so long. I am happy to report we do still have “it”. We really are an odd couple because Sarah is in a lot of ways everything I can’t stand in other people, she is gorgeous, thin, no financial hang ups thanks to the money trickling in from her parents and she says things like “I never buy things on sale..there is a reason they are on sale” and yet I can’t hate her…believe me I’ve tried. My husband asked has she brought up the way she treated you the last time you were friends? and I told him No… we have known each other long enough to know that the key to a long-term friendship is denial of the past and the ability to resist eye rolling at each other. Since our initial get together I’ve seen her once a week and I have to say it’s been nice, so I guess that is a victory to the small, small part of me that isn’t a hermit freak. Look forward to future entries filled with social humiliation if I am to believe my new/old friend’s dream to take me to some of Perth’s “hip” 25 and over bars… I recall her elaborate description of one such place where an acquaintance of her’s is a “cage dancer.”



Nine Lives

July 6, 2011

Sadly as I briefly mentioned in my return post after struggling with her health for the last few months my nonna passed away on May 21st. It was hard news to hear standing on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles, knowing how my mum must have been suffering and there I was so far away unable to comfort her until I returned home. It broke my heart. The last time I saw my nonna before she passed was a few days before I left for my trip, she was oblivious to all the fighting going on around her, or perhaps she just didn’t care to get in the middle of her daughters crazy back catalogue of issues with each other anymore. Her last words spoken to me were to tell me that she loved me, and that’s the funny thing, while she was not an overly warm woman I never doubted that she loved me, everyone else, I’m not so sure. I don’t mean that in a nasty way I just think she knew that I got it. I understood her suffering, her disappointment and the fact that she just wasnt meant for this world..this new crazy world she found herself in all alone, unwilling to acclimate and unapologetic about the fact. I have to admit there is a bit of me in her and I respect her position even if it did bring her pain at times.

I think most of her grandchildren and to some extent her children just saw her as a cold woman, a stubborn one who didn’t seem to want to budge on a lot of things. However in my eyes she will always be a tough, mysterious woman with a wicked sense of humour. When I use the word mysterious I’m not joking, when I was the only one willing and it seems able to write her eulogy I realised just how little I knew about her and for that matter how little ANYONE knew her. I spoke with her daughters and not a single one could tell me when, where, how she was born, how many children she had or what exactly she did with her life before moving to australia with her daughter and husband. I had bits and pieces from my own memories of her storytelling in broken english but nothing that I trusted as fact, so in the end I just wrote the memories that counted to me. Her devotion however misunderstood to her daughters and her grandchildren and her devotion to her faith in God, one I shared for a long time. In fact a memory just springs to mind now, my mum and I were arguing about her treatment of nonna, I was arguing that she didn’t need to be treated like a baby and for some reason out of frustration my mother decided to blurt out that I don’t believe in God anymore. I tell you the look I got from my nonna at the moment was epic, I know she heard what was said but thankfully she pretended like she didn’t…I think she knew that I had my reasons.

The funeral itself was hellish, I just can’t stand them. I always feel like people are acting. Maybe I have seen too many in my short life. As if a sign from Nonna herself that the whole thing was slightly bogus the priest kept pronouncing my Nonna’s name wrong, referring to her as Ursula which she fucking hated with a passion. Anytime someone called her Ursula she would mutter Italian swear words and talk of curses, usually the culprits were my cousin’s dimwitted homey boyfriends…As I sat in the church hearing him repeat Ursula this and Ursula that I thought to myself is it really that hard to pronounce Ersilia dimwitts of the nation, its ‘ER’ as in “D-ER BRAIN” ‘Sil’ as in “Silly Cunt” ‘EeeA’as in “EEEahh get me the hell out of this place”

I think the most revealing part of the whole process has been the fall out, the vultures who are money hungry come out of the woodwork, the ones who didn’t care to see her when she was alive are all of a sudden sniffing around to see if they have been left anything. It is so infuriating. Oh and of course declarations delivered by the disingenuous masses, this time in the form of a particular off-putting relative of mine, around my age who has been missing in action family wise since around the time of her first menstruation, so sincerely declaring that she was saddened by the state of our family… how we had to be closer, spend more time together, how she wanted it to go back to how it was when we were younger (read: before all the deaths, divorce and menopause fuelled bickering got in the way). She actually made a lot of people feel guilty in the room, so I decided to take a leaf out of my less cynical side and take her comments as a genuine appeal for support and well what do you know…three contact attempts made, zero reciprocation..apparentlty she is planning a trip with her 50 + year-old wealthy husband, go figure too busy for family…It amazes me what some people will do for an audience.

The thing that has been eating away at me is I just know it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Naked Lunch

September 15, 2010

A very belated recount of my last family outing……

I would like to start this entry by saying Happy 86th birthday to my Nonna Ersilia. If I said this to her face she would mutter a thank you, wave her hands about as if to shoosh me and correct me by saying that since today she has hit 86 years she is actually “going on to 87” so that is her actual age. Now that another family lunch is over I can stand back and say we did ok! Well done to all involved. This fact however will not stop me from breaking it down for my own amusement and catharsis. Andrew and I are asked to pick up my nonna and my mum (even though it is entirely out of our way) because no one trusts the driving or mental state of the only other realitve who lives within pick up distance. When we arrive Nonna emerges from her bedroom dolled up in all her gold jewelerry from Italy and one of her beige “fancy matching tracksuits.” My mum is once again sporting her unqiue brand of schziod attractives, everthing works her hair is up and a little funky, she has a lovely coat and long skirt but none of it really goes together in fact all these elements while attractive and neat on their own, once they are put together appear to be at war with one another.
I give nonna her birthday card and a 50 dollar voucher, I have to go with the voucher because she hates actual gifts in fact she once reduced my aunty to tears when she dared present her with a pair of pink avon slippers for mother’s day. Nonna prompltely gave them back to her. Andrew and I are then forced to take a number of photos with nonna and my mum but none of us seem to actually enjoy taking the photos we complain and bitch at each other the whole timeā€¦ it’s certainly not an organic process, more like something we feel we should be doing.

On the way to Miss Maude’s my mum does her usual crazy car back seat act which involves grabbing at the side of the car or the seat in front of her whenever turning or reaching a speed over 60kms. Nonna spends the trip staring out at the sights of the city as if she has spent half her life in a bunker, she is of course unimpressed by all this urban development. The restaurant is decked out all Swedish-like which suits this family gathering like a hole in the head. We are motioned to one long table which is backed so far against a wall Gumby himself would struggle to take a seat. The whole place is crowded actually and there is already a strong stream of buffet traffic striding passed the table. Picking the right seat is a high priority to me since I’m coming in dry (eg. I’m not drunk) I decide to sit at the end of the table to minimize conversational impact and allow for an easy exist but since we are the first people there I have no choice but to sit right in the middle of the table next to Nonna and her many balloons. When my aunties finally arrive I casually get up and move to the end of the table uttering something about “daughters should next to their mother” when I’m caught and told to sit down promptly. Suddenly I find myself surrounded by family members and the birthday girl, I’m in the eye of the storm and since I am more Humpty Dumpty than Gumby there will be no easy escape either.

Oh and did I forget to mention it was also “Christmas in JULY” celebrations so there were decorations everywhere which is of course just what we need a reminder of the occasion when we go to war. I am drawn into a conversation with Nonna that doesn’t make sense because she starts talking in english and then suddenly switches to fluent Italian and I do not speak Italian. 90% of the general table conversation revolved around whether or not my aunty/step-mother would spend money on a beer and soft drink for her kids (aka my cousins/half brothers). Tension brewed when my slightly less crazy aunty (the one who calls me at 1am drunk and or stoned to talk about the random suckage of her life but on the plus side is not also my step-mother) decided to splash out and and buy some Coronas, well actually her partner bought them which served to add more salt to the wound. My cousin and cousins/half brothers spent most of the lunch talking to Andy the other semi-outsider. You see my younger cousin and cousin-hybrids are over a decade younger than myself and hence Nonna had already given up on the whole “grandmother” role by the time they came along, not because she is a horrible woman far from it at least she is honest about her feelings. I guess after 35 years of living alone in a a huge house and being disappointing by not only her own life but the number of misfortunes and general craziness surrounding her daughters she has no patience for the young generation. I had a positive experience with Nonna growing up, we played cards, watched movies together and went to church together. The younger grankids consider themselves lucky if they manage to wrangle a fresh bowl of pasta from her when they visit once a month and spend most of the time sitting in the lounge room playing on their Nintendo DS. I have a relationship with her because I put in the effort which is why it makes me sad when they shake their head at her, roll their eyes or make fun of her. She has earned her crankiness and I in turn have earned the right to take the piss every now and then…Do you think I enjoyed helping her do up her bra or sleeping in a room with a bucket next to the bed so she wouldn’t have to walk all the way to the toilet in the middle of the night? No I did not.

When the day came to an end I felt disassociated and nauseous. When I arrived home I had an angry nap for about 4 hours… and don’t forget this was a good day.