Cyclone Senza exploded into my life 13 years ago, after I’d been at the hospital in drug-free childbirth hell for 25 minutes. She couldn’t wait to get the party started.
Or trash our house. She has painted on the walls of every place we’ve ever rented. And they’re good paintings, so I can’t get mad. Senza leaves a creative mess in every room she enters. It would be easier to parent her if we lived in a castle with four maids, a butler and a housekeeper.
My girl, you are the funniest person I’ve ever met; entertaining, smart, animated and kooky, you have only two gears, full throttle or passed out on the floor You struggle to use your inside voice but your astute observations about supposedly mature adults are always worth hearing.
Looking at a box of unpaid bills you said,
“Mum, that is a box full of nightmares.”
You are physically courageous; you surf, swim, climb trees, duck and dive. You’ve had breathtaking bodily self-confidence from the moment you were conceived. And you have a kind heart. This year you cared for babies in a Thai orphanage like they were your own family.
You are fast, furious, full of attitude and love for your friends, and easily bored. I hope your adventurous spirit takes you all over the world. You run head first at life, without fear. Your courage is everything I wish I could find in me (but with less back chat).
You kid, are everything. In your adolescent angst phase, don’t let teen bitches, dopey dudes and unenlightened teachers snuff out your fire.
Happy 13th Birthday to my beautiful hurricane #teenager
Last night as I stood on the land of the Gadigal clan of the Eora nation cheering AB Original on stage as the opening act for Midnight Oil’s homecoming, I realised that we’ve come quite a way from the 1980s. I first saw Midnight Oil live when I was 16 years old and they changed the way I viewed the world.
They may be white boys from the white bread northern beaches of Sydney but in the early 80s for many of us white bread teens from the suburbs they were our introduction to what was actually happening to indigenous Australians. I learnt nothing of Aboriginal culture at school, I was only taught about the white invaders. So many of us had no idea of the atrocities and abuse committed by white governments and their White Australia policy; Midnight Oil opened our eyes to what was actually happening. The Oils were writing Australian songs and telling our stories and I’d never heard anything like it.
And those biceps. I will never forget standing near the stage at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and watching Rob Hirst drumming. Uh oh! My first musician crush, setting myself up for a lifetime of being attracted to players. Sigh.
Last night, as we waited for Midnight Oil in the shadow of the glowing Deutsche Bank sign, I thought of how the Oils have sung about many big companies that have raped our planet, and how we need protest music more than ever. When they played Blue Sky Mine I thought of the hideous she-devil Bishop defending James Hardie and making a dying Bernie Banton wait for compensation. This year she was briefly our Acting Prime Minister.
As the crowd roared from the opening bars of Armistice Day, I thought there is nowhere else I’d rather be right now. When Peter Garrett spoke of stopping the giant Carmichael mine and the carnage that Adani could bring to the Great Barrier Reef, one idiot in the crowd behind said,
“Shut up and play the music.” Only a moron comes to a Midnight Oil gig and demands that politics aren’t mentioned. Before I had a chance to tell him to go home and listen to Kylie Minogue, the band came back with more raw, punching rawk:
I see buildings, clothing the sky, in paradise
Sydney, nights are warm
Daytime telly, blue rinse dawn
Dad’s so bad he lives in the pub, it’s underarms and football clubs
Flat chat, Pine Gap, in every home a Big Mac
And no one goes outback, that’s that
You take what you get and get what you please
It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees
I love that Midnight Oil are a band with strong political opinions, and musically, they were simply brilliant. They’ve done so many shows this year the band is tighter than ever. And they were backed by the incredible Hunters and Collectors horn section. I don’t know what painkillers the injured Jim Moginie was taking but his guitar playing was inspired. I’d forgotten how good they are live. The waves of screaming energy and excitement kept coming as my hips reminded me how their music made me feel in my teens.
Today my body aches, but my heart is filled with the thought that perhaps I’m not the only one who cares about changing our world.
Not much time, but time to try
On Tuesday Australia celebrates the festival of the spray tan, also known as Melbourne Cup Day. The entire country will be on a high over-bronzed alert as women walk around looking like they have been spattered with wooden deck stain from Bunnings. Our foreign minister has travelled far to be there, but cannot intervene when it comes to refugees suffering on Manus Island.
I won’t be baring my pale body on Tuesday, I’m not up for the scrutiny. As I watch my face age every morning in the mirror, I’ve been thinking about how my fellow middle-aged women are coping with wrinkles. And how they are so distracted by their ‘beauty’ regime that they don’t have time to call out human rights abusers.
Recently, I stumbled upon the Instagram page of a mother I used to know. Her face was stuck in a wind tunnel and her lips resembled a boxer who had been punched in the mouth, but she still looked like a female in her late 40s. They weren’t Halloween pictures. She reminded me of Nicole Kidman, the selfies showed me a featureless face, every emotion and expression the same. And I thought about a generation of little girls growing up with mothers whose faces cannot express empathy nor frown, and who all have trout pouts. They are being taught that this is the acceptable female beauty standard. Like foot binding and removing ribs in generations past. Mothers who spend more time and money in salons than on teaching their daughters to change the world. What do these girls think of the disconnect between their mothers’ words and the emotion their faces can’t convey? Do they worry when they see kids locked up in refugee camps and their mothers are too busy inhaling nail polish in salons that employ uneducated women from poor countries to care? Why do females show their sons and daughters that a wrinkle free face that doesn’t move is how women must age? Why are our looks are more important than the plight of our fellow humans?
And more and more women in their 20s have immovable faces and puffer fish lips. On my vast single mother budget I have lots of money for day spas, so occasionally I get my nails done or a facial at a student beauty clinic. Last week a woman doing my nails must have been in her early 20s but I couldn’t really tell. She could have been shocked by my visible wrinkles, as her face only showed that she was startled.
Am I jealous because I can’t afford to do this?
When I told my 15 year old that I was writing this she said,
“Mum, don’t be mean about this woman, even if she does have a frozen fish face. She already feels bad about herself, that’s why she’s done that to her body.”