My mother was the Greek tragedycomedy epic that I grew up with. She would sit in front of a mirror for an eternity each morning, applying thick makeup and arranging her hair. Then she’d put on a very short skirt—black or brightly coloured, sometimes without underwear—before selecting items from her treasure chest of jewellery. When she took me to the shops, cars honked their horns and men whistled. When she picked me up at school, the other mothers glared. She dealt with these attentions as though they were natural, taking pride in being noticed and what she regarded as the jealousy of other women.
At night, if she was short on cash, she would go to a nearby pub (often with me in tow) and reel men in. When desperate, she approached parishioners at the local church and pleaded for money or food vouchers. At night, she called home-visit doctors and coaxed them into supplying the pain relief that she was addicted to; several of them disappeared into her room for a long while—far longer, I suspect, than it takes to prepare an injection.
Embrace Australia’s finest writers: subscribe to Meanjin
Subscriptions start at just $5 a month — which goes directly towards our writers’ fees.