Times are tough, no let me rephrase that, everything pretty much sucks at the moment! We know! Bad Apple Press and our authors are sending you these short extracts to give you a break from all things viral...
First extract for you to enjoy is taken from Women Like Us by Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs. Two of Australia’s funniest and most hard working comedians. Grab a coffee, or a wine find a comfy spot and take 8 mins out of your day to relax. Stay tuned because next up we have an extract from Rising from the Flood by Jamie Simmonds.
Chapter 17 (extract from Women Like Us)
Sweating the small stuff - by Ellen
If there was an Olympic competition for holding a grudge, I would be the Betty Cuthbert of that competition. I would win in all categories and be remembered and loved for my ability to never let go, no matter what. There would be a state funeral for me, and all the speakers would be people who may have known me once, might even have been friends, who, for various reasons (some even unknown to them and possibly me) were wiped from my life for something they did.
I invented blocking people long before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram came along. I have blocked people in real life who have no idea they are blocked, because sometimes I don’t even tell them. I just quietly fade out of their lives, never looking back. I am John Snow in Castle Black and beyond the wall are people who have wronged me in some way. I don’t have an army, I don’t round people up to join in my grudge-holding ceremonies; I do it quietly and privately, full of anger and resentment for years and years on end.
My husband Alex works away a lot of the time. When he returns from his work trips, before heading into our local town he will often ask, ‘Are there any new bans I need to know about?’ If I get bad service in a shop I will not return and he doesn’t ask because he is joining me in the banning, but because he needs to know if he walks into a particular business that he might hear about how his wife ‘went off in here last week’. This is one area where I do have to relax the rules slightly. I live in a small country town and while my steely resolve says not to go back, my bank balance and my fuel tank say it’s too far to drive to the next town just to get milk, dickhead – go back in there with your tail between your legs.
Of course, it’s not something I’m proud of. Most people I know have beautiful, generous hearts that are able to forgive, but for some reason that is missing in my beautiful, generous heart. In its place is the fight of an elite SAS sniper, no emotion and no pity. I wish I was different. It’s exhausting holding so many grudges, feeding them and trying to remember why they were born. Sometimes I even get them mixed up and when relaying why the person is no longer someone we socialise with, my husband will correct me and say something like, ‘It wasn’t Rhonda who brought the exact same dessert to the dinner party that you said you were going to make, it was Charlotte. Rhonda was ten minutes late to meet you one time.’ Charlotte knew her tiramisu was better than mine. She did that on purpose.
As you can see, sometimes it’s not even important things. Although sometimes it is. The ex-partner who was violent. The person who treated my elderly parents appallingly. The guy I saw in town abusing a young shop assistant. Surely, we would all hold grudges against those people and judge them. You would have to be one truly fucking enlightened yogi to forgive those people.
A local farmer who had basically dumped his horse on a paddock adjacent to our property and left it there for three years, during which I fed the horse every day and cared for it, decided one day that he was going to take the horse. To get her in the horse float, he and his mate were pulling her by a rope around her neck and whipping her back legs with a piece of PVC pipe. Horrendous stuff. I flew into action. First thing I did was put on my bra. I don’t know what it is, but I find it hard to be aggressive when my breasts are swinging free. I just feel more in control when they are in control. There’s nothing like a couple of out-of-control breasts to deflect attention from the point at hand. I then drove down the road like a maniac towards them and screeched to a halt right in the middle of the commotion. I let them have it. I said things to this farmer that shouldn’t have been said. I got really personal, even saying things like, ‘Even your own daughter thinks you’re a fuckhead.’ (I don’t even know if she does, I was just taking a guess about that.) Classy. Smooth. When I was done, I got back into my car, slammed the door shut and then realised that how I’d parked the car was going make it be very difficult to get out. The horse float was in front of me, and I had somehow angled the car, Starsky and Hutch style, in front of a giant ditch. I was going to need help. I had to ask the farmer whose daughter probably thinks is a fuckhead to direct me out. Not the big, terrifying wheel spinning finale I’d imagined. To this day, I still flip that farmer the bird every time I drive past him. I even got my elderly mother to do it by telling her it’s a little joke we have and that he will do it back. He doesn’t do it back, so I then tell Mum he mustn’t have seen us that day. Oh, but he saw us all right. The joy of seeing a man shocked that an 81-year-old woman he doesn’t even know is flipping him the bird is something truly special to me.
A very good friend of mine had a traumatic, dreadful break-up with his wife. They are now in a very good relationship where they can travel on family holidays together with their children and extended families and all is forgiven. For them. Not for me. I can’t forgive or forget. I was actually telling Mandy this story not long ago and said, ‘I probably should forgive her now, seeing as he has,’ and Mandy spat her drink out laughing and said, ‘You’re not forgiving her, Ellen Briggs, who are you kidding?’ She’s right. She will forever be one of the unforgiven.
Often, it’s the small stuff. Really, 95 per cent of the time it’s the small stuff. I was away for work recently and my husband left the toaster on the cooktop, melting it and nearly burning the house down. No grudge held about that. It was accident, it could have happened to anyone. What he did after that, though, will annoy me every day for some years to come. He went and bought a new toaster. Without my opinion on which toaster I would like. That should be a joint decision. It’s major. Well, not as major as the husband on The Real Housewives of Dallas who bought an 8-million-dollar house without her. Wouldn’t that piss you right off? I have to look at that toaster every day and use it every morning. It has dials for the toast colour. Dials. Old-fashioned dials. Our other one was digital and I felt like Jack Bauer from 24 every time I turned up the heat. Now I feel like I’m changing the radio station on an old wireless in a shitbox old car. I should have been consulted and that lack of community consultation will fester until the day we buy a new toaster.
In our bathroom we have a sink with a shelf underneath it to put things like your toothbrush, your hairbrush, and whatever else shouldn’t be left on the sink. Every single fucking day one of my kids leaves his toothbrush on the sink. It’s literally 40 centimetres from where he should put it, but it is there every day after he leaves for school, taunting me and making me think of ways to punish him.
I can’t stand the sound of someone eating loudly near me. Years ago, when Alex and I were first living together, we were watching the news and a report came on about the latest Morgan Gallup poll. I went into a rant about how I had never, ever met anyone who had been surveyed by Morgan Gallup and how I think it’s all fake. Wow. I just realised I invented the term ‘fake news’. Be careful what you wish for, though. No kidding, two weeks later, a lovely lady knocked on my door and she was from Morgan Gallup and was conducting a poll! I dragged her into the house so fast her blouse popped open and one of her shoes flew off her foot. My initial excitement soon turned to regret when she presented me with a booklet the size of a city phone book and told me I had to complete every question in there in ten days to go in the running for the $5000 they tempt you with. There was no going back. For the next nine nights, I was entrenched in questions like ‘Have you ever used OMO? If not, why not? If yes, tell us what you thought of it.’ They should use the Morgan Gallup poll booklet to torture criminals if they want confessions. They would give up their intel within hours.
One night I was right in the middle of the section on hair shampoo and Alex was eating yoghurt next to me. The sound of him eating yoghurt and breathing at the same time was more than I could stand. I turned to him and yelled, ‘Why are you breathing like that?’ His reply? ‘Umm … to survive.’ I knew there and then I would marry him. Smart arse.
When our kids started Year 10 they became eligible to sit at the chairs bordering the footpath outside the school. It’s a territorial thing at the school. I drive the kids to school, and some mornings go for a walk through town for exercise, which means walking past the school. Once they had moved into these seats, I was walking past them and all their mates. I asked a couple of times if it embarrassed them, because at the age of fifteen you are generally pretty embarrassed by your parents just existing. One of the kids kept saying no, until the time he blurted out that I was being annoying because I kept asking. Annoying! Because I kept asking if I was embarrassing him or not. How annoying to be a caring mother, hey? One afternoon a few days later, I got a text message from said kid asking me to pick him up. I couldn’t help myself. I responded that it might be too annoying to be in the car with me. Every conversation for the next week was me being butt-hurt about being told that I was being annoying. I couldn’t let that go. No way, no how.
Seems my kids are unable to use the same cup twice. Even if it’s for water. Nope. That cup must be left somewhere in the house, not completely empty (because who drinks all the water in the cup?), dripping condensation onto whatever surface it’s been left on. Then a new one must be obtained and this is repeated over and over throughout the day. I could get to bed an hour earlier every night if I didn’t have to go on a Tomb Raider-style quest to find all the cups throughout the house to put in the dishwasher.
I have favourite cups. I have one for tea, one for instant coffee and one for coffee from the machine, a favourite wine glass and a favourite water glass. These cups are off limits. Using these cups in my house is akin to coming into my house and having sex with my husband. Actually, it’s worse than that. I probably wouldn’t mind so much if someone came and had sex with him – one less thing for me to do that day! Occasionally, someone will have the audacity to use one of these cups, and in some ways I can’t blame them. I don’t actually yell at people as they walk through the door, ‘Hands off these particular cups, fuckers!’ so they’re actually not to know, but maybe I should because the fury I feel on the inside can’t be healthy. I try to act all cool, as if drinking out of my favourite cup doesn’t bother me – but it really, really bothers me. My dearly beloved dad was a repeat offender and even he didn’t escape the silent wrath. As soon as he was finished whatever he was drinking, I would rip the cup from his hands and try to make a joke about what he’d done, but it was no joke. He was going to have to steer clear of me for the rest of the day.
If you want to be crossed off the Christmas card list, be late for an appointment with me. I will never get over that. I will never forgive. I take it to heart. My internal dialogue says I must not be important to you if you can’t get to an appointment with me on time. That our relationship and what it means is way down your list of priorities. Some people don’t even acknowledge that they’re late. They just swan on in, kissing me and acting like everything is fine and dandy and the whole time I am fuming on the inside like a dormant volcano about to erupt. Those five minutes are important to me, lady!
No one else in my house is capable of putting things in the Tupperware cupboard neatly. Oh no. Their method is to stand back, throw, then quickly shut the door before it all comes tumbling out, then giggle into their phones as it all comes tumbling out next time I open the door. They don’t do it with any other kitchen cupboard. I’m sure it’s because it’s not breakable. Make Tupperware out of glass and that problem would be solved!
Don’t ever call me after 7 pm. I won’t answer the phone if I’m not at work. I hate talking to people on the phone. The beauty of mobile phones is that you can reject people, not just calls but actual people, and then you can make up any old excuse about why you couldn’t take the call or how you didn’t even get the call. ‘Bloody mobiles, such bad range at my place … only had two bars.’ Two bars of chocolate.
I actually love being outraged about little things. It takes my mind off the big things that really matter and that break my heart, like homelessness, the treatment of asylum seekers, inequality and nuclear wars. I like to be petty, annoying and sooky. It works for me, and I reckon it could work for you. Give it a try. Concentrate on the things that really don’t matter, really nurture them into bigger issues than they should be. They will keep you company on those nights when everyone else in the household is out having a life.