Friday, April 24, 2015

Teenage Wasteland

The other half is overseas for a week. I thought I would have at least one lazy evening spent in front of the television with the dog, renting animated kiddie movies with his credit card (the husband's, not the dog). But my parents essentially kidnapped me (and dog) after work on the same day, so here I am ensconced in the bosom of the family home. The dog is very pleased.

I'm not ungrateful. It's nice to have my mom make me breakfast in the morning, and my dad buying home dinner, and my brother around to walk the dog and chat about technology and travel and show me funny videos. We have tea-time at four p.m. (pot of tea, sugar cubes, little teaspoons) aided by my mother's snack pantry - a little side table topped with a blue Japanese tea-cloth, laden with cookies and pineapple cakes and nuts and seaweed. The flat is wonderfully clean and tidy and comfortable: it smells like clean sheets and eucalyptus-scented candles.

It makes me realise that I am somehow still not fully grown up, and most likely will never be, according to my parents' standards. My own home is best described as "semi-controlled chaos", and my own snack pantry consists of one half-eaten, expired pack of Tim Tams. It doesn't help that in the rush to pack (my dad was waiting in the car) I forgot to bring most of the accoutrements of adulthood: contact lenses, perfume, moisturiser, lipstick, grown up clothes, designer sunglasses. Squinting myopically through glasses, I look like I did at 17, minus the soft bloom of youth.

At 17 I slumped around the house on weekends, assiduously avoiding chores, bewailing the fact that I was bored and had no plans for Saturday night. Today I slump around the house offering to help with the chores, but my mother - very out of character for her - keeps telling me to have a little holiday and relax. The downside, of course, is that my social calendar has also been replaced by theirs: "You should come to your baby cousin's birthday party tomorrow night."

"I can't," I told my mother. "I have... uh.... hang on, I'm thinking."

My usual go-to excuses - "laundry" or "cleaning" or just "I already have plans" - are obviously no longer valid now that I'm here, plainly within view. I am not used to this level of scrutiny anymore. One of the greatest joys of adulthood is that you can just say "no, thanks, I'm busy" and nobody ever says "What are you so busy with?"

I must find some way of avoiding these events while I am here - they have a cell group meeting scheduled tonight, very awkward - but now that my friends are adults like myself, it's not like I can call them up (on their home phones!) and ask if they want to hang out in four hours' time. They have their grown-up lives, whereas I've temporarily time-travelled back to the year 2000. My own need to plan meet-ups three weeks in advance has really backfired on me now.

I wish I could bring my dog to the mall. We would go to Nando's and just order chicken livers and iced water. Then we'd watch a movie (he'd want to see Cinderella, but I'm paying, so we'd pick Kingsman) and I'd pick out a nice cravat on-screen to buy for him off Mr Porter. Then we'd walk home and hunt for rats in the long grass. (No wonder my husband says I'm a crazy dog lady.)

Anyway this whole experience has given me a new sympathy for my students, who frequently express frustration and boredom with eeeeeeeeverythiiiiiiiiing (rolls eyes, sighs heavily, slumps down on table in defeat). It's tough to be a teenager, even when you're 31.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Depeche Mode - Home

When life gets a little bit rough, hunker down and keep going with the help of Martin Gore's sweet tenor. Growing up at the tail-end of the 90s', Depeche Mode had already become that weird old band on MTV, one of their last singles (It's No Good) on repeat five times an hour as I slumped half-asleep in front of the TV. I liked their shiny, dark aesthetic but found them a little monotonous, being a shallow 14-year-old.

The next time I noticed them, I was working as a relief teacher in my former secondary school and caught my old Literature teacher - who must have been in her late 20s then - twirling down the carpeted corridor in the deserted teachers' room, lustily belting "I want somebody to share, share the rest of my life..." She was unfazed by her unexpected audience, but I fled in embarrassment (mine, not second-hand). It was a bit like catching your parents making out.

While I've always gravitated to the harder-sounding Depeche Mode singles (sorry, not cool enough for the B-sides), I find Home very soothing late at night, almost hypnotic. It's both depressing and uplifting at the same time, as Martin Gore delicately mourns: "Finally I've found/That I belong here". You have to be a little bit older, a little beaten by life to appreciate that.