Square peg

Today marks another reboot. I did Pilates and bought books, exercising my sagging arse in the morning and my shrinking mind in the afternoon. I nearly bought a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. The first page amused me. But then I read chapter one in its entirety and found the ideas stale and the litany of fucks unnerving. Still, the mantra came in handy later in the day.

Tonight I should have partied with my family at a nephew’s 21st birthday event. I’d planned on going; had a sparkly outfit all ready. The theme was ‘Trackside Glamour – Frocks and Fascinators’ (today is Derby Day). My wardrobe doesn’t include much in the way of evening wear. I certainly don’t own feather and floral headwear. But I had my own, quiet version of glamour planned. I’d bought a gift, a National Geographic hardcover folio of travel destinations with luscious images splashed across its pages. I wrapped it in shiny paper and added a glossy black bow and $7 birthday card. In the afternoon I napped.

In the early evening I went upstairs, where The Champion and The Ballerina were pencilling their eyebrows and strapping on high-heeled sandals, to shower and change. But I couldn’t face it. My hip ached, throbbed, radiating pain down my outside leg to my knee, distracting me. I knew I’d be looking for a chair within moments of reaching the venue. And even in perfect health I struggle at big, noisy parties. They make me shrink into myself. I never feel that I’m doing it correctly. I don’t drink enough, I don’t dance. I’m sure I look sullen and superior because people don’t hang around much to talk to me. I feel out of place and a social failure.

So, taking courage from chapter one of the morning’s rejected book, I swept out of the bathroom without even cleaning my teeth or brushing my hair and said to the girls “Let’s go”. I was wearing a cheesecloth tunic over stretchy pants with Jesus sandals on my swollen feet and I suspect the morning’s mascara lay in ruins on my cheekbones, but I’d decided to deliver my gift with a kiss to the birthday boy then beat a hasty retreat. I figured he didn’t need me there to enjoy himself. It was time to stop giving a fuck about everyone else’s expectations and give in to my agony of body and spirit.

We arrived at the football club to find it transformed. Battery-operated tea lights lined the path to the club house. A faux greenery archway announced the entrance to ‘Trackside’, a cleverly conceived space cordoned off by more foliage-covered trellises. Fairy lights hung from the patio roof and flowers decorated the tables. The crowd had dressed as requested, in suits, tight frocks and teetering heels. It looked amazing. I placed my present on a table holding handbags and a drinks coaster. I hope he found it.

If I’d left then I might have been ok. But I lingered to talk to my family, give and receive kisses, half-answer questions before the inquisitor moved on or someone interrupted. Then The Sister-in-Law approached. Beautiful. Tired after many hours preparing for the party. Unimpressed at my limp excuse for not staying. “We have chairs you know,” she said, before launching into a story about her knees which sometimes swell so much she can’t walk. I tried valiantly to cling to my newly-acquired arts of NGAF, but failed. My head was awash with fucks. I wish I’d worn something sparkly and at least a wedge shoe.

Then she told me the birthday boy had seen a comment I’d left on the party Facebook event. Earlier today, when I was sitting in the bookstore, resting my aching hip and deciding what to buy, I checked the event for a start time and noticed the photos there. Photos of people at the races, properly pissed and falling over, a pile of boys on the ground, a girl on her arse with a champagne bottle hanging from her mouth. The photos, we were told, set the tone for the party. Smiling, I tapped out a one-sentence comment, fearing I would be the staid aunt in the corner wearing sensible shoes and nursing a shandy. I thought that was pretty funny, but according to the sister-in-law when the nephew saw it he quipped “Geez Ange, it’s not your blog”.

And boom. I was slayed, made to feel stupid, self-indulgent and inappropriate in one artfully lobbed grenade. I didn’t realise the extended family knew about my writing. Are they laughing at me and these silly online adventures? Of course I wonder about the world laughing at me every time I lift the laptop lid, but it hurts more when it comes from inside the tribe. And while social media is a mine field, until today I fancied myself pretty capable in the genre. Apparently not. There must be some unwritten protocols about commenting on event posts; not too long, not too witty. Not at all?

So I left the girls at the celebration and came home to an empty house. I poured myself a glass of chilled Riesling, smeared spiced plum paste onto rye crackers laced with pumpkin seeds and cranberries, then added dollops of double brie and piles of shredded sopressa. I had a party for one in my mouth with my feet propped up on cushions. And it was bliss.

copywriting me

Angela Bensted is Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines, sometimes successfully, and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.

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