Wednesday 19 April 2017

The Helen 100

I was young once and I used to listen to JJJ back in the day and remember Helen Razer and her wit and humour from that time. But I'd kind of lost track of her for some years. It turns out she's written quite a few books now. Recently I saw this new release sitting on the shelves at my bookshop and I just had to buy it. I do suspect that if I hadn't been through my own rather recent breakup I may not have snatched it off the shelf quite so quickly, or read it so very soon. I can see a pattern emerging of reading books about misery and despair. 

The Helen 100 recounts the year or so after the end of Helen's fifteen year relationship. Helen's ex left her reasonably suddenly one afternoon with an 'I need to grow' speech. Helen falls to the floor with her cat, Eleven, and a home delivered chicken. I'm pretty sure I've lived in a small town for too long as I was most astonished by the concept of the home delivered roast chicken in this particular scenario. 

Helen felt burdened by the expectation that her same sex relationship should not fail. 
That my particular desertion happened to be of a homosexual flavour intensified my shame and my impatience with view on sexuality generally. 'Lesbians' are really not supposed to break up, these days. They are supposed to stay together forever and provide an inspiring liberal example to others. And, this, notwithstanding my actual intention to stay together forever, was an attitude that really ticked me off.
At least I didn't have to feel representative for my own particular subculture. Just one of the 40% or so of heterosexual marriages (the only sort allowed in Australia) that ends in divorce. 
At some point, gay became the new beige and we are today the class doomed to revive the discarded dream of marriage. We are the people charged with conspicuous carriage of rainbow babies in expensive baby slings. 
Helen launches herself into the world of XXX dating apps to achieve her waxer's advice to go on 100 dates in a year. It is a world of which I was blissfully unaware, and which sounds particularly awful. She then baulks at the punctuation, spelling and grammar of her online contacts which isn't too successful a strategy for obtaining dates electronically.

I don't particularly like to think of myself as too much of a prude but I was often quite uncomfortable reading The Helen 100. Too much of the book was way over beyond the wrong side of Too Much Information. I kept reading because a) well I'd started and b) I really did still like Helen's voice. She has a vast vocabulary and powerful wit. There just aren't enough books using words like jejune, badinage or tonsure these days. 

And well, she did warn us, right there on the cover - Helen took her waxer's advice. And Bam, there she is on page one at the waxer's, having her lady parts waxed by the same waxer who also waxed her recently departed partner's intimate places. Oh what a complex world we live in.

I think I can take some of Helen's advice though (well actually her grandmother's advice):

Public Service Announcement: Have a bath
It has taken me decades of more everyday conflict to see that a nice bath can make life easier. It doesn't fix everything but it can fix a fuck of a lot. 
I haven't had a bath in some years, I think it's time. 

Listen to Richard Fidler's recent Conversation with Helen Razer which finally does explain why the cat is called Eleven. It's rather obvious actually.

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