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Friday, February 8, 2008

~ dormitory zone

Having inhabited the dormitory zone of Mt Waverley off and on for most of my life, I have come to consider it a refuge of aging wage slaves, Lathamesque aspirants and cashed up bogans.

In my childhood it was a nursery suburb. The streets overflowed with kids. But as the years passed, the young departed, the parents ripened and Mt Waverley became sleepy, secure, a bastion against change. Behind the shopping centre, near the railway station, fifties brick-veneers are routinely obliterated and replaced by multiple one storey units for those who time has rendered decrepit; who can no longer tolerate stairs, and whose daily exercise can be effected by shambling a few hundred metres to the shops.

I have always felt an outcast. Though I doubt there is any real community here, I’ve always thought I was precisely the kind of person it would shun. Not because I’m vicious or criminal, but because my habits and appearance, my house and its yard, for some may be strange and alarming.

Whatever the reality, for years I’ve been content to keep to myself. Contact or familiarity means exposure – perhaps to disapproval - and I treasure the asylum I have forged here. I’ve expunged the kind of trivial social contact that can devour precious time. I am far happier than most to spend my life in solitude, installed in my ancestral seat, babbling freakishly on my meagre plot – my pinprick of lunacy on the tumescent map of conformity and deadly tedium.

My friends and colleagues all live elsewhere. Aside for the odd neighbour, or shopkeeper, or fellow slave of Spasmo-Nemigron, I know precisely no one here.

But then Polly was born, and in time Polly went to school. And if there is one thing with an ability to magically generate a sense of community, it is children.

And, as the ageing population of Mt Waverley falls from the vine, there are more and more of them about. And they make friends. And these friends have parents, who you wind up having to talk to, and invite into your house.

It seems conceivable, though perhaps far-fetched, that friends may even be made in such a manner. It has not happened yet, but my wife is well down the track in a number of cases. It is always the women who build the social links, who bring people together, who breed connection – while the men … well I’m not a normal man, so I don’t know what they do exactly. Perhaps you could look it up on Wikipedia? As for me, I read and write and generate lugubrious piles of matter.

Last night, we made the wildly optimistic decision to attend a cocktail party at Polly’s school, a gathering designed to bring parents together socially. [As my wife was getting dressed I heard Polly say the following in a commanding tone: You have to wear a dress to a cock party! Polly is proving a useful source of sartorial advice. I've also learnt that ballerinas never wear undies.]

Our low expectations may have had something to do with it, but we wound up having a pretty stimulating evening. I spent the first half hour speaking with a web designer and an event organiser with a background in theatre. The subject was climate change and these guys - with kids in Polly’s class - were amazingly up to speed. Perhaps there is hope for us yet if this is any indication of how the middle suburbs are thinking. Promisingly, environmental concerns slithered in and out of most conversations last night. Alarmingly, I picked up some dire new statistics.

I found all this connection quite rewarding – though I have to say that for an ethnically diverse school, the Anglos were over represented. My wife made fast friends with Polly’s rather attractive teacher, and – in a sign of improving health - offered to help with the face-painting stall at an upcoming fete. Remarkably, I even heard her discussing a possible trip to Confest with one of the mothers. The local possum lady was in attendance too - always good value - and soon she’s going to bring a baby wombat to school.

But where were the greedy renovators and daft prattling airheads? Where were the frowning Presbyterians and beer-swilling boors? I think, in my isolation, I’ve failed to notice that the suburb has changed in more than just land value. I came away from that party feeling just a little optimistic. Perhaps I won’t be isolating myself quite so much anymore.

Both my wife and I have always been paranoid about other parents thinking we were freakish, and so disadvantaging Polly. At least some of those fears were put to rest last night. Even the parent who recognised me as the guy who doesn’t wear shoes when he goes shopping thought it more funny than frightful. Am I rationalising, or has Mt Waverley, in the fullness of time, become a bearable, even interesting place to live?

Hmmn. Hard to get my head around.

Time will tell.

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5 comments:

Bwca said...

Women weave the social fabric, no doubt.
I recall reading recently about a divorce settlement where the man demanded the family address book, claiming the woman knew the information without the book, whereas he did not.
The very first day I left my daughter at her first school, I made fast and best friends with the loveliest woman. We were absolutely 'tight' for years, her children and mine, constantly roaming on their silly pink bikes the streets between their houses in Albert Park; known by and terrorising every shopkeeper in Bridport St.
A memorable moment of that sleepy time was the afternoon where brothers and cousins swelled the rank of afternoon wine drinking in the garden shade, 3 soft artistic men with paunches were instantly roused to athletic violence when 5 little girls rushed in to say "a bad man came up to us in St.Vincent Gardens".
Those suburban dads were transformed into Terminators streaking up to the corner intending to sacrifice the soft hands by which they all lived, in the intended act of thumping the shit out of some poor pervert.
Don't Knock The Burbs.

jape said...

Get a dog. Go to the park. You'll be surprised how ... ok-ish ... so many people are.

eek said...

I saw a bumper sticker (I think it was a bumper sticker anyway) recently that said: Secretly we're all cool inside.

While I think "all" is overly optimistic, I do at least hope "There are more secretly cool people than you would expect just by looking at them" is accurate.

A girl can hope anyway. :-)

lily was here said...

Sometimes the ordinary IS the extraordinary. Sam I'd think they'd find you fascinatingly interesting, not freakish at all. Your darling daughter is going to lead you to places you've never been before.. thats exciting!

X

angel wings and hearts said...

i can very much relate to what you are saying in this post. my partner and i, are, and always have been, just content with our own company or each others company. sure we have times when we like to be around people but basically we keep to ourselves. that was until my daughter was born in 1986. we soon realised that in order to socialise our child that we would need to start looking at the world differently. to cut a long story short it all went along "normally". little friends made, party invites, coming for a play after school. i would never have thought that i would be involved in listening to kids read, accompanying them on excursions, tuck shop duty and helping set up the out of school hours program. i decided not to involve myself as much when she went to high school. we still had to make time etc to bond with her friends parents as the sleep overs start, and you do like to know who your kids are spending time with. oh yes, you need to know the other parents so you can tell them when their kids (and yours) have been buying alcohol and keeping it at your place!!! said alcohols was confiscated and put away til their 18th birthdays (they were 15 at the time).
now she is 22 and it doesn't stop there. we not long ago met her in laws! we now find that we have to fit them into our lives as well. she has left home as well so now we are "empty nesters". she has grown up quietly confident, probably spoilt as she is an only child, and is in her last year or a nursing degree.

she said to me the other day "mum, kids look at your hair in disbelief, like it is some sort of fairytale hair, their mouths drop open as you walk by". i said i noticed! my hair is dyed bright red. i still don't think i fit in anywhere but i guess i do...somewhere. look forward to fun kiddy times with your little girl.
D
x