So, fat chicks. What does it mean to be a fat chick? Why does it have to mean anything, given that actually it doesn’t mean anything? When a car full of dickheads drives past an overweight man, do the passengers hang out the windows yelling “OI you FUCKIN’ FAT BASTARD!”? I don’t think so. I have to admit, I don’t often get this kind of thing. I think it’s because I don’t care. I have friends much smaller than me who cop it all the time. It shows when you are sensitive about something. Maybe, in that way, I carry myself more like a man.
So I’ve had this idea for a novel. It’s about this really dark thought I had the other day while I was doing the dishes. And I excitedly texted two of my insanely busy friends about it, painfully cognisant that I was probably being annoying but they were both too supportive and nice to say anything. They both kindly texted back agreeing that: Yes. That idea is really creepy and well worth disrupting my day for while I try to do twenty things at once. And so I wrote it down on a piece of paper in my mind, because somehow I couldn’t get around to picking up a pen and writing it down on a real piece of paper. Because that would be writing. And writing is hard.
There probably are fat guys who get shouted at from passing cars. The ones who look like it might hit home, who left the house and scrambled up the street hunched into themselves trying to look as small as possible. You often see really tall people do this. They sort of duck below an imaginary beam that comes in at forehead level and squeeze into themselves, silently apologising for taking up space. The irony being, the rest of us would kill for that extra height; for an imposing and self-assured physical presence. A tall confident woman sails into a room with men trailing after her like an enamored flotilla. Each man has dreamed of a gigantic feminine power just like this – the magnificent woman on a billboard come to life and to scale, Anita Eckberg as Fellini saw her, now stepping down into the world to pick him up and hold him to her breast and tell him that everything is going to be all right. The last time he had it he couldn’t see more than a blur, and groped toothlessly at a soft expanse guided by a gentle hand and the smell of milk. This time, though, he can see just fine.
Texting isn’t writing. Texting is chatting at people, with the idle expectation that they might chat back. Blogging isn’t writing. Blogging is ranting into the void, labouring under the delusion that it might rant back. Writing is sticking your head in a pot of boiling water, having done it before and knowing how fucking much it hurts. Chatting and ranting are forms of release. Pleasure doesn’t count.
When you are a woman, a lot of your life is spent being yelled at by dickheads hanging out of cars. This has almost nothing to do with you, and almost everything to do with the dynamics between the people in the car. The type of Australian man who yells stuff at the women he speeds past never does it when he is alone. It only happens when he is out with other men. It’s not because he has any interest in the female he is bellowing at; he hardly sees her. It is because he is terrified, and this fear necessitates some sort of a performance ritual to chase it away.
Another dark thought popped up a while ago that I got excited about. It came in a dream. I was so excited, I really did write that one down. I banged out a two-page treatment sort of a thing, recording the dream in full. Then in a frothing frenzy of enthusiasm I sent it to a friend, who encouragingly replied saying Yes, that idea is interesting and quite creepy and disturbing. Spurred on by a positive dream review and with rare access to a whiteboard, I covered said board with a brainstorming map in different colours linking characters and charting plot points and outlining central themes and story arcs. That took about a day. Sated, exhausted, I snapped pictures of the fragmented rainbow for my records (I told myself) and collapsed on the couch in the daze of the afterglow to watch Better Call Saul. The next day, I stared at a blinking cursor on a PC screen for half an hour not knowing where to start. And then I went for a walk.
Now I’m wondering if those two disturbing ideas – the original dream, and the thought I had while doing the dishes the other day (which come to think of it also came from a tangential train of thought following a dream) – might fit together somehow, if one is the complementing B story of the other. I think about it all the time. It seems to me that the second idea is more sinister in nature. It could serve as a sort of a bass note in a story that would otherwise just pose odd questions about social norms. I don’t know how they fit together, though, or if someone who is basically a comedy writer has the chops to descend into the necessary murkiness without resurfacing, without disturbing the text.
I’m pretty sure those hypermasculine guys who sort of accidentally get off with their male friends cope by redefining what sex is. I guess you tell yourself it didn’t really count because it only counts if there was kissing, or if you were the one who took it, or if you were the one dressed up as Margarita Paracatan, or whatever other criteria might apply. Which could well be true for you. Feeling horny is going to happen in whatever company you keep. The odd brojob is certainly not going to kill either of you. Humans are remarkably good at having sex. We are outpaced in this arena only by our closest relative, the bonobo. The intelligent, pansexual bonobos spend their whole lives avoiding conflict by happily screwing instead. They even initiate sexual contact as a form of communication. To us it looks like a monkey orgy, literally a swingers party in the trees. To the bonobos, they’re just saying “Pass the insect larvae, dear.”
The difference between tragedy and comedy is timing. Well, and maybe soundtrack. I don’t know if it’s the same rule with whatever the fuck this is. The reason why romance novels are so hard to write, I’ve often heard, is that you as the author have to believe in the fantasy – which is nearly impossible for most people, who can’t suspend disbelief quite that far. And so you either end up with a wooden bonking-by-numbers oh-look-they-got-married recipe book, or a ribald quasi-parody that is only funny to you and a couple of your mates who get the in-jokes. I suspect the same rule applies here, in whatever genre this project might fit into. I don’t know if I have it in me to stay invested in the bleakness. It is not in my field, nor my personal experience. My psyche is clearly unflappable and curious enough to come up with nasty ideas, and to slosh around for a bit in humanity’s excrement. The rest of me is decidedly squeamish, and would prefer to have a nice sing-song around the pianoforte after a hard day’s embroidering.
I should turn the computer on, fire up Word, start writing something even if it’s shit. It will be shit, of course, and it will have to be discarded. There is an idea that you can somehow salvage bad writing and punch through the wall of pain like a long distance runner. Any number of how-to books will tell you to just sit down and write and if you write enough, something will be usable. Absolute bollocks. Increased output equaling better results is a pernicious notion that has seeped into the collective unconscious from the vestigial Puritanism of US writers. Sitting down and writing reams of polished, well-phrased crap is the easiest thing in the world to someone with an ear. This is craft. Writing something that’s actually worth writing – this is, to paraphrase Margaret Atwood, channeling the spirits. That’s why you really ought to do it every day. Not for the sake of producing pages, but to catch the spirits when they happen to be in.
Sadly you are not a bonobo and instead a neurotic human. A creature that is constantly drawn into conflict and yet ruled by a desire for the approval of others, which seems to be offered and withheld according to an arbitrary set of rules that is changing all the time. So now that you’ve stumbled across the threads of homoeroticism, and ill equipped for ambiguity, you’re worried you might be that thing you most fear: a gay man. The shadowy villain you both hate and obsess over, who you always thought (hoped?) might seduce you when no one was looking and carry you off to his poisonously perfumed lair and turn you into himself. If it’s true, if that’s who you really are, can the other men smell it on you? And the mere thought terrifies you. And then the car slows down at a traffic light, and there is a woman or a girl anywhere between the ages of twelve to seventy walking up to cross at the pedestrian lights alongside you.
Clearly, the only solution to the problems of writing is to do the vacuuming. Yes. I will do the vacuuming. Then I will go for a walk.
It all needs some more thought.