Thursday, December 16, 2010

Six White Schooners

I’m a bit Grinchy at the mo.

I used to like Christmas once upon a time. Before it turned into ‘Chrissy’ and took all of December to celebrate.  Before cards turned up in the mail that look like they cost five hundred for a dollar at the Reject Shop and say “Have a wunnerful Chrissy from all of us” inside. Christmas has gone Bogan on us.

Think I’m cynical?

Go on. Round half a dozen suburban Aussie youngsters and ask them what Christmas means and see if you get answers like “to remember Santa’s birthday”, “to get a new Wii/Xbox/Nintendo” or “to eat heaps and watch Aunty Cheryl get wasted and jump in the pool in her knickers”. Apparently Chrissy doesn’t need to be on the 25th anymore. People now say, “We’re doing Chrissy this Sunday coz we’re off down the coast”. It’s like Yuletide Month.

Being a bit agnostic and apathetic myself, I asked our adolescent (the BHG) if she believes in Christmas:
BHG: Duh! Like… who doesn’t?
Me: Lots of people around the world actually.
BHG: Well they’re dopey. If you don’t believe you don’t get presents.
Me: That’s Santa, not Christmas itself.
BHG: Same same (eye roll).
Me: So if you believe, tell me…would you like to dress and Mary or Joseph for a mock front yard nativity scene?
BHG: Like… LOL. As IF!
Me: Like…Seriously. And which church service would you like to attend? Being a Christian and all suddenly?
BHG: ROFL. Like you have to go to church at Christmas.
Me: Well once upon a time people did. Christmas being a religious holiday and all.
BHG: Nah… I’m good just with the present side of things. Can I have mine early seeing as though Christmas goes for all of December? And do we have to go all greeny again this year and ‘reject’ (said with a tone) wrapping paper? And I don’t want one of those stupid charity goats to help some poor family in Africa. How many of the grandparents do you think are good for an Itunes voucher this year if I tell them how to buy one?

Hmm. I’ve obviously done some excellent child-rearing there. Deck the halls with boughs of gold parenting stars.

Remembering back to my childhood Chrissies, I can see her point. It WAS all about Santa, wrapping paper, presents, food… lights… Hmmmm. Maybe we have a cultural problem here.

In an attempt to redeem my parenting points, I decided to research some ultimate Bogan Chrissy stuff to see whether Aussies in general just do Chrissy differently to what we see on Telly (a la the Brady Bunch special that runs every year) or whether we've just buggered it up in our house.

I think Christmas for Bogans is actually about minimalism.

As in effort. It’s hot. We’ve all had a big year, blah blah. So we don’t want to go to a lot of trouble, us Bogans. We go look at other people’s Christmas lights because it’s easier than putting up our own. With any luck we don’t have to ‘host the family Christmas’, because quite frankly it’s easier just to take a Sara Lee cheesecake  along to someone else’s house. Whoever owns a pool, a barbie and a dishwasher usually qualifies.

My mum used to have some traditional Aussie Christmas things that she’d cook. Being a Dutch immigrant they were all found in the CWA cookbook, but never-the-less, impressive each year. Like the boiled pudding that took five million hours to make. I have the instructions. I did it once. Didn’t taste the same and was a pain in the arse to make. I found a new recipe this year that I’m calling Bogan Cake. What you do is soak a kilo of mixed fruit in a litre of chocolate milk overnight, add two cups of self-raising flour the next day and bake it. Voila! Chrissy cake Bogan style!! In fact, if you wrap them in Reject Shop cellophane and put that sparkly silver ribbon on, they double as a gift. Noice!

Brad the Tradie is always Grinchy.
Being self-employed he is quite happy to call off all holidays except Australia Day and ANZAC Day (his religion is Capitalism). So we’ve made a pact. We’re going to spend next Chrissy in the Northern Hemisphere, where they apparently still call it Christmas in some parts, have snow, roasted chestnuts on an open fire (in Oz an open fire will get you a fine from the Ranger at this time of year), silent nights (ohhhh for a silent night!) and families gathered round drinking egg nog and being pleasant to each other tugging gently at ribboned gift-boxed mittens. Then we'll be able to truly evaluate our data set.

Being newly retired, I’ve had the opportunity to absorb some Northern American culture via daytime TV.

And besides the Oprah hoo-ha I’ve noticed that Ellen’s been giving away heaps of stuff to audience members each day leading up to Christmas. Why do these people go mental over a kitchen tool or a plasma telly? Do they sell the freebies on Ebay and then go on a Caribbean cruise? I guess it’s the spirit of giving (or advertising), but it’s getting kind of annoying watching all these people get stuff they don’t really need. One year when the BHG was young and particularly ungrateful at Christmas (she COUNTED the presents and sighed 'there's only nineteen!'… grrr) we made her pick an unopened present to give to charity. Maybe Ellen should make the audience members give up one of their gifts to put under the Kmart wishing tree. I know that task certainly made the BHG more appreciative of gifts, however few and cruddy ("Oooo!!! Look! A bag of Twisties! Great! Please don't make me give them to a homeless person!!!").

I’ve been avoiding ‘the shops’ lately. It’s like there’s a secret tribe of Bogans and old people living somewhere that only come out to the mall in December in search of tinsel and nasty Christmas T-shirts (and baby Santa outfits strangely). On an outing the other day (for necessities only) I was zoomed into by a fat person in a motorised scooter! Isn’t the point of being obese to do more walking? And who invented those stupid kid-sized shopping trolleys that bang into your legs? Or decided that shopping centres are a good place for Santa to hang out? On Saturday in our quite poorly airconditioned Big W the Sad Santa looked like all he wanted for Christmas was Prozac. And why do people insist on using the self-serve registers when they DON’T KNOW HOW? And is the middle of the haircare products aisle really the right place for people to catch up and gossip? Would a backyard not be a better place to discuss their child’s year at school and recent acquisition of a second-hand campervan? And seriously, I hate it when pimply sixteen year olds wearing flashing reindeer antlers tell me to “have a luvly Chrissy won’t cha!” as they hand me the docket. Makes me want to go sit on Sad Santa’s knee and ask for an axe.

There is a saving grace in my Bogan Chrissy.

I’m through to the final round in being selected as a Summer Ambassador for a brand of beer called Hahn White. This non-paying gig essentially results in being gifted with free beer, glasses and T-shirts to share with others during the party season. Figure I could earn some popularity points in the suburb. Nothing spells ‘we’re new, gotta love us’ like an invite to a party with free beer! Six White schooners anyone? BYO prawns and pav. Isn't Christmas about indulgence? Bugger it. Let's get a pasta salad from Woolies as well.

So, from Blossy, anytime in December, whichever day you deem fit… I wish you a Bogan Chrissy and a wasted New Year. May the holiday force be with you. If not, just turn on the cricket (pretend you don’t care that we’re being crapped on by the Poms), hide under the doona in an air-conditioned room with a box of Lindt Balls and wait for mid-January. See you in rehab!

Six White Boomers - traditional Australian Christmas song

Thursday, December 2, 2010

If I Could Turn Back Time

If you could turn back time, if you could find a way, what would you change?

Even though I quite like my life the way it is, I sometimes fantasise about my ‘parallel lives’. You know, the lives you’d be living if you’d changed just ONE little thing. Like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. If you took one path instead of another, or been born sometime else, somewhere else, what would’ve happened? Like… if I’d been born into royalty last century, would today’s Queen wear leopard print?

What if you could just change something from high school?

Would I really have paid attention in Maths classes? Would a success maybe be something else besides bartering deals with Science nerds in exchange for help with Shakespeare? If I could turn back time I wouldn’t have wasted valuable playground flirting time with a certain young man who I now know is GAY. I certainly wouldn’t have bothered feeling bad about getting a C (I don’t get C’s…) in P.E. in Year 8 (Do I LOOK LIKE I’m good at hurdles? Long jump? Anything athletic except Javelin?) I wouldn’t have bothered working in a supermarket on Saturdays for $4.30 an hour when I could’ve been swimming in the river. I may not have even spent quite so much time keeping an accurate economics journal with weekly snippets from the Financial Review. (But quite frankly, in those if you weren’t having nooky on the riverbank or playing football there wasn’t much else to do except study and sunbake covered in vegetable shortening). And I definitely wouldn’t have spent years believing I had fat thighs, bad hair and unacceptable feet.

This past Saturday, as we drove to ‘the Hills’ to Brad the Tradie’s high school reunion, I asked him the question. What would he change if he could go back? Not much apparently. In fact, after hearing about his high school years, I kinda want to go back and be him as well. How can two people have such different versions of high school? BtT had… FUN. Loads of it. He didn’t study, didn’t care, was hugely popular, left school early and still turned out OK. WHAT??!!!

Suspicious, I asked BtT to recall some fond moments of high school. Apparently breaking someone’s nose was memorable along with wandering around sand dunes and getting a car to speed up the Lesmurdie Hill in. So, this is what I had to work with last Saturday night accompanying BtT to his school reunion as the ‘plus one’ partner. And desperately praying that the recipient of the broken nose wasn’t attending.

As a ‘plus one’ at a school reunion there’s really not much you can hope for.

Except finger food, chairs and… unlimited wine. Tick, tick and tick. Great organization, weedy ‘not very sexy’ barman excepted (seriously, doesn’t everyone ask for ice in their red wine?) A ‘plus one’ doesn’t have an identity. I gave up trying to tell people I was a neurosurgeon and was satisfied with being known as ‘Brad’s wife’. I entertained myself by playing with people’s heads when approached with “Hi! Did I go to school with you?” I morphed through different roles with strangers, from being a chick called Tania’s vegetarian lesbian lover (thanks for the lovely hand gestures across the room by the way darl!), to ‘that Danish exchange student’, to taking photos using other people’s posh cameras, to just being the hot Bogan chick at the bar (OK, so ‘hot’ might’ve been a temperature thing rather than an indication of my ability to ‘pull’). And I perfected the universal reunion greeting: “Ohhhh. My. GAWD! HIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Have you had a school reunion? I did.

The bogans of Bushbogan public high school were called together a few years ago (via a big bushpig whistle that carries in the wind…) to a gathering at the local basketball hall. We feasted on Bbq chooks and Woolies salads and compared stories. My school wasn’t nearly as classy as Brad the Tradie’s. We couldn’t rustle up newspaper success articles about SAS officers saving the children of Rwanda. But, damn, in our best stonewashed denim and stretch boobtubes, we rocked the makeshift dancefloor to Abba and Jimmy Barnes and ran out of Tooheys.

High school is only a short time in the scheme of things, yet shapes us in many ways.

And as such, we’re usually keen to go back and find out ‘what happened’ to our schoolmates. In the era of Facebook and email there’s not really many reunion surprises anymore. Fortunately, mine was held a while ago now, so there were still shocks to be had. Like the girl no one recognised who turned out to be the dumpy chick who’d lost 60kg and dyed her hair. Like the meathead footy captain getting a law degree. And a certain boy (not the gay one… a different one) marrying an Actuary called Saffron. And the depressing news that one of my Science nerds had committed suicide before he even made it to twenty.

You can’t see it coming. Life, that is.

Try as you might to sit with the Yearbook and predict the paths of your schoolmates, it just can’t be done. Some of it we make ourselves and some of it just… happens. It might be fun to pretend to go back and turn back time. But you can’t. And we shouldn't want to, because everything we experience makes us who we are, bogan warts and all.

I know this, because if I could, public high schools everywhere would let girls wear leopard print heels and serve wine at the canteen. Duh!

If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher, 1989 (the year I finished high school)