At this time of year in this typical Melbourne suburb, the weather is typically warm. When possums mark this shift in weather by using the postcode as a lavatory, it becomes a typical labour for some of us to pick up poo from the strawberry patch.
My strawberry patch is, quite typically, located in the back of the garden. I have just returned from it with a few bits of fruit, and some unkind thoughts about possums. This was, in every way, a typical Melbourne morning save for one thing: I could hear the joyous cries of women from over the back fence.
I am, like a possum, an intrusive neighbour, so I strained to catch their comments. “It’s do or die in the Carolinas,” said one. I think another cried, “I’d turn that Anderson Cooper!” There was a fair bit of whooping, a possible use of the term “firewall” and clear evidence of the term “Hillary”. This was a US election party, one held in honour of Clinton.
I have lost count, for example, of the Women of The Year awards that are handed out in Australia.
In a nicer, more valuable suburb, the sound of ladies at a celebratory lunch might be usual. Here, where almost everyone works to make their mortgage payments or skyrocketing rent, the weekdays are normally silent. Celebration is a luxury that only the rich can afford.
Or, at least, it was. Celebration is, I think, becoming typical — especially among ladies. And, while it’s awfully nice to have a party, especially one in honour of a strong woman who ruthlessly invaded Libya for no good reason at all, it still feels awfully odd.
I don’t mean that birthday parties feel odd. Or that anniversaries are odd or that graduations are or that you should even think about refusing an invitation to Iftar, which is the most fun I’ve ever had without a cocktail after sunset. These celebrations serve to bring people together in all the beauty of custom. They serve the idea of big things like faith or family or knowledge or life.
But there are now celebrations, often observed by women, for everything. And while the fact of the first female presidential nominee is, granted, a fairly big thing, it also forms part of an emerging tradition of a female western culture that seems preoccupied with emerging traditions.
I have lost count, for example, of the Women of The Year awards that are handed out in Australia. A major telco has one. A major financial newspaper has one. Several states have one. It seems mandatory for all the women’s publications to have one and I reckon I could probably find funding from a financial institution to have one, which would be presented in my backyard on top of a pile of possum poo.
Well into midlife now, women — chiefly of western background — throw themselves extravagant birthday parties. They will write “forty and fabulous” on the social media invitation, and we are all expected to agree that yes, 40 has become the new 13, and you never looked better, and it’s so important to love yourself; #soblessed. And it’s always your “choice” to stick a Botox needle in your forehead, and it is a right we must defend and celebrate as ardently as the female right to vote.
Celebration is a luxury that only the rich can afford.
Every day in mainstream media, I see a female journalist celebrated, not for anything she has done, but simply for surviving nasty internet comments. Usually, these are nasty comments offered in response to an article she wrote about how she has survived nasty internet comments. And, let’s be frank, we all knew that an article about how nasty internet comments are nasty was going to attract nasty comments, right? We are celebrating the inevitable.
Different business sectors honour women annually. Individual women honour other women or themselves on Facebook all the time. I see “brave” and “makeup free” photographs accrue dozens of flattering comments, which also seems odd to me as I don’t wear makeup nearly every day out of sheer laziness. Where’s my prize for wearing bog-catchers and simply not giving a toss? That’s right, I don’t deserve one.
Ladies, if you are over 30 and you still crave an award for participation in life, perhaps what you need is not so much another statuette or Facebook 'like', but 45 minutes with a good psychologist. Which is not to “gaslight” you and call you mentally unhealthy — this would be a case of the diagnosed pot calling the kettle anxious. But it is to say that celebration of the everyday as extraordinary is, by definition, abnormal.
But, our world is abnormal. I know this, and so do you. And so do the ladies over the back fence who are celebrating a candidate with an awful foreign policy record, but the distinction only of being the least repulsive person in the presidential race. I forgive you for maximising joy where you can take it. And I forgive the pooping possums, too. But I find it hard to forgive a world that now can do nothing but celebrate the ordinary, or worse — the least-worst option.