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May 21, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Mulled Whine With H.G. Beattie

Something actually Crap DiD Happen To Me Once

I went to a comedy show recently where the material centred on the dude’s mother having a degenerative disease. It was funny. I laughed a lot. On my walk home, I started thinking that the only objectively bad thing that’s ever happened to me was when I was fourteen and my mother was treated for breast cancer. Here we go.

The first I learned of this unwelcome encumbrance on my otherwise mundane adolescence (I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make this about me, but there you have it) was when I was at school camp, getting “life experience”–which, to ruin the surprise, means “being badly navigated by an ADHD instructor while eating miscellaneous oaten snacks and having that one girl demonstrate superior hand job technique on a cabin bedpost.” I cried a lot, although that may have just been in sympathy with her RSI. I felt vaguely better the next day when another girl in my group thought that there was a man with a chainsaw coming after her. It turned out to be her electric toothbrush on in her bag. She is at Oxford now. It takes all sorts.

So a couple of weeks after I got home from gaining “life experience”, my mama had some surgery. Women around town (in the housewife rather than the prostitute sense) made a roster to cook for us. Someone made filo. Obviously, I construed this effort as a pass at my father. Mum started treatment a while later. She lost her hair. We called her Baldy. She got gifted breast- shaped equivalents of fuzzy dice to hang in the car. I reminded her of the practical dangers and possible illegality of fuzzy dice. It was great.

Humour proved a fairly effective way for dealing with what was unmistakably a Shit Time. ‘Humour’ is used in the loosest sense of the word, given that in writing this I recall a large number of photos taken of our family dog in my mother’s wig. I am ashamed to admit that I did at one stage consider who would play me in the movie of my life if my mother died and I had to get up at five to do the washing, iron my father a shirt and make my brothers lunch while trying to write an English essay. (Then: Halle Berry. Now: Sid from Skins. This power of imagination is the difference between fourteen and twenty year old me.)

Sadness and lols are only slightly compatible. I didn’t consider that when my mum went into remission she would (a) show all my friends her breasts to their latent discomfort, (b) join a breast cancer survivors’ dragonboating team or (c) make a nude calendar with said team. They’re $10–go on, it’s only May. But she has done all of these things, and I’m surprisingly grateful. Admittedly, I occasionally get the proverbial hairy eyeball when she offers anything less than a stellar anecdote and

I tell her to “pipe down, it was ages ago and it was stage one.” (What?! Don’t be so sensitive. It got a laugh from Dad.)

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