Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hey Dude, speak my language

Every now and again I win four numbers in Life’s Lotto and Teen2 calls me Dude.

It’s usually when we are raving about something we are both crazy about - like her dog Zwiggy - who is the nicest dog any person could possibly adopt from the Sandton SPCA.

“But Dude,” Teen2 says as we argue how severely Zwiggy should be punished for eating my new shoes. Or chewing a hole in the more significant parent’s favourite leather chair.

“But Dude...” Teen2 says, setting out her case for the defence.

I always wreck the moment by trying to hug her (Teen2 – not Zwiggy) or by dribbling with pleasure because she is conversing with me like I’m a real person and not the lady with baggy upper arms with whom she shares a gene pool.

And Zwiggy always gets off with a bad-girl-bad-girl and a wagged finger and a long walk to make up for it all.

Teen language is my kind of music. I can listen to it all day. But when I try to sing along, I’m scared I’m going to get the words wrong.

So it is when I’m writing Confessions of a Virgin Loser for Mr Steve Vosloo from the Shuttleworth Foundation that cold week in July that I throw myself on the mercy of Teen1 and Teen2.

Help me get it right. Don’t let me become the poster lady for ridicule and contempt among thousands of cellphone addicts who want to read books on their cellphones instead of using battery time to chat to their families. Help me speak the true language of a Virgin Loser, I beg.

Thus it comes to pass that Teen1 and Teen2 and their friends gather in my kitchen fuelled by airtime bribes and promises of mall trips and a bag of biltong for Zwiggy.

And they read Confessions of a Virgin Loser. And they argue about language and why people in different places coming from different spaces can say one thing and mean another.

How one boy trying to pop his cherry is another boy trying to peel his banana; one girl cracking up is another girl hosing and pissing herself while the rest of the group gets pissed and chunders and barfs.

And they read and they agree. That there are a million different ways for a Virgin Loser to tell his story. And however he tells it, whether in the words of a boy from Sandton or Mitchells Plain or in the words of a boy from a school with no windows or from one with three swimming pools – it’s the same story.

And they read Confessions of a Virgin Loser to the end. And they laugh. And then they laugh some more. And Teen2 says jeez, mom where do you get all this crazy stuff from?

And I say: I get it from you, Dude.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Naming Game

It’s not easy having the same name as everybody’s Great Aunt Edith. Especially when your parents get original and spell it wrong just to make sure your life is even more miserable.
I am called Weedy Eedy (in my skinny years) and Greedy Eedy (in my fat ones). And then there is Needy Eedy during those grim days when I eat school lunch in the cloakroom in case no one wants to sit with me at break. Warning: this tale gets sadder.
It doesn’t stop with the Eedy thing. If you have a name like Edyth, the chances are you’re not going to have a decent surname like Harris or Nchunu. It would have to be something like Bulbring, with a funny, foreign double dot on the “u” that gets abandoned at my coming of age when I can’t get the computer to behave.
So because of my problematic surname there are days when I am Bully, Bullybeef, Bullfrog, Bulldust and then it all gets very ugly when my friends get brave enough to say words like crap and shit out loud. Thanks Fatty, Bones, Greasy and Stinky for all the good times growing up with you guys in Port Elizabeth.
Having a bad name has given me a taste for names. In Pops and The Nearly Dead, I call my main character Randolph. He longs to be called Red (cool) but ends up with Randy (ouch) which is hard core when you are a horny fifteen year old boy. His love interest is called Regina (rhymes with vagina) Versagel. And if you say Regina Versagel fast enough over and over you know how badly it can go wrong. Revenge is sweet, in my twilight years.
In my very first book - The Summer of Toffie and Grummer - I give my main character the name Beatrice Wellbeloved. Mainly because she isn’t much loved at all. It is only when she learns to forgive, let go and love herself and other people that she can "be well loved" (gettit!).
And then there is my calendar girl April-May February in Melly, Mrs Ho and Me. I choose the name to illustrate how much at odds her parents are from the day she is born. They want to call her by their favourite month of the year – but can’t agree on what it is. So they give her two calendar names and live with the uneasy compromise until they get divorced - and split her name.
There is hardly a name in any one of my books that does not have a hidden meaning or a personal association for me.
So it is with Confessions of a Virgin Loser, the m-book I write in the cold month of July for Mr Steve Vosloo of the Shuttleworth Foundation (Steven Vosloo - see how sensible some parents are) and his bunch of cellphone addicts (whose names I don’t know).
What name to give the Virgin Loser? He is earnest and anxious and fervent and serious and staid, combined with some troubling loser tendencies. And the story he tells is the honest account of a course of events he embarks upon under great pressure from his peers to lose his virginity. It is told with candour and honesty. It is frankly told.
Hello Frank, you lovely Virgin Loser.