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Authors: Dyan Sheldon

Planet Janet

BOOK: Planet Janet
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For Erika T
and with special thanks
to Gayle Donnelly

THURSDAY 21 DECEMBER

Talk about self-centred! Me! Me! Me! Me! ME! That’s all anybody in this house cares about. I was trying to have a normal conversation over supper (the way people do in films etc.), not some Great Intellectual Discussion (I know my family’s limits, believe me), when I realized that no one was listening to me. I stopped dead right in the middle of explaining about what happened at lunch (which was v dramatic and emotionally stressful), and no one so much as glanced my way. Sigmund (my male parent) was messing around with his electronic organizer as per usual, and the Mad Cow (my female parent) was staring at him with her eyes squashed up like she was trying to work out whether or not he was going to blow us all up. Also as per usual, my parents’ other child – the one they should’ve aborted in the first four weeks – was reading some book like the rude, antisocial boil that he is. (Tomato sauce was dripping down his chin in a particularly revolting way. You’d think at his age he’d at least be house-trained.) Anyway, I just sat there watching them for a few seconds. They were chomping away like lions round a dead zebra, oblivious to anyone but themselves (for a change, right?!!). And it suddenly hit me not just how
Spiritually Alone
I am, but how easy it would be for me just to GIVE UP and become like them: shallow … superficial … more boring than asphalt. I recovered from this DEVASTATING realization and asked them very sweetly if they were aware of the fact that I was trying to have a conversation. I’d’ve got more of a personal response if I’d farted. Still staring at Sigmund, the Mad Cow asked him did this mean he was going out again tonight and, still staring at his organizer, Sigmund said he was just checking his schedule, and was that a crime now or something? I could tell that they were about to start another fight, which is pretty much the only thing they do together lately. If you ask me, it’s just as well Sigmund’s hardly ever home, or the flat would be like war-torn Beirut or one of those places. So, for the sake of
Peace
, I cleared my throat and tried again. “Hello? Hello?” I shouted. “Is anybody there?” Which was when Justin suddenly looked up and made his one joke about Planet Janet trying to communicate with Earth. That, of course, caught the parents’ attention. The three of them laughed like a pack of demented hyenas. It’s TOO MUCH, if you ask me. I’m at a v crucial time in my life when I should be encouraged to express myself and explore my feelings and experiences, and what do I get instead? I get, ooh, Planet Janet’s trying to contact Earth, that’s what I get. So I said that I didn’t see what was so bloody funny and the Mad Cow told me to watch my language, as per usual. Sigmund’s contribution, also as per usual, was to quote the only poem he knows – the one about seeing yourself as others see you. Too right, I said, and I removed myself from the kitchen in a meaningful way. I was REALLY irked. I mean, I listen to them all the time, not that any of them ever has much to say. (Blah blah blah the government … blah blah blah guess what happened in the supermarket … blah blah blah … blah blah blah… I mean, BORING or what?) So that’s why I decided it’s definitely time to start the Dark Phase. Disha (
My v Best Friend in the Universe and For Ever
) and I have been talking about it since September. I REALLY don’t want to end up having a trivial life like everyone else, especially everyone I’m related to. I want to LIVE, not just exist. I mean, life isn’t about what’s on telly or who left the toilet seat up, is it? It’s full of ANGST (meaning suffering and deep emotions) and PASSION. I want to be in touch with the REAL stuff. The DEEP pain and joy. The TRUE Essence and Substance. I have a
Questing, Artistic Soul
, and if I don’t get away from all this mundane crap it will wither and die like a flower in a desert. Anyway, I was lying on my bed thinking about all of this when I remembered this diary. Sappho (aka my Aunt Hannah) gave it to me as a winter solstice present. (Sappho doesn’t give presents for Christmas because it’s a Male, Capitalist, Consumer Bloodbath; she gives winter solstice presents instead.) It’s called
The Lives of the Great Feminists Diary
, and it’s packed with facts you never wanted to know about women you’ve never heard of. For instance, Fusaye Ichikawa founded the Women’s Suffrage League in 1924! I was REALLY glad to learn that! At last my life has meaning! Anyway, I was going to wait a couple of months and then throw it out without the Mad Cow noticing, which is what I usually do with presents from Sappho, but now I’ve changed my mind. Instead of trying to converse with people who don’t want to listen, I’m going to seek solace and self-expression in the written word. I reckon that way I can get in touch with my DEEPER SELF. And also it should help my chances of finally getting a story published in the school magazine.

Rang Disha after the kitchen was finally evacuated by the peasants. She was suitably shocked by their behaviour, though not, of course, surprised (she’s known me a long time and knows what my family’s like almost as well as I do). D says she reckons the Mad Cow squashes her eyes up like that when she’s really trying to focus on something, though I can’t imagine why she’d want to focus on Sigmund. I asked D where she gets this stuff from and she said from books. D’s ready for the Dark Phase too.

I was going to tell you what happened at lunch, but I’m so emotionally depleted now that I can’t exactly remember what it was.

FRIDAY 22 DECEMBER

Last day of school before the Christmas break, so it was v intensely busy. On top of everything else, I had to race to the shop during lunch because I left all my Christmas cards at home (the Mad Cow was nagging me this morning as per usual so I totally forgot about them). I got fifteen cards (including one from Ms Staples, my English teacher and a constant source of inspiration to me), and a present from Siranee, who’s going up north for the holidays.

Went round to Disha’s after school to discuss the Dark Phase. Disha agrees that since we both turn seventeen next year (D’s Libra and I’m Scorpio), it’s an excruciatingly important time for us and if we’re ever going to REALLY LIVE and not just go through the motions like our parents we’d better start preparing for it now. Also we’re both very
Creative and Artistic
, and it’s the Great Artists and Writers who have always known how to suffer. If they’re not killing themselves or hacking off body parts then they’re full of
doom and gloom
and muttering about how awful everything is (Disha says she reckons Shakespeare was always in a Dark Phase). We owe it to ourselves to explore the Deep End of the Pool of Life. D and I decided the Dark Phase will begin on the
Stroke of Midnight
on New Year’s Eve. We’re going to be intense, serious, intellectually and spiritually curious and adventurous, and spend a lot of time nurturing our
Souls
. To do this we’re going to read poetry and great literature, really get into art and serious films, and wear mainly black clothes and make-up so everyone will know how deeply we experience things etc. I’m v glad I changed my mind about chucking this diary. The Dark Phase and all its revelations, understandings and epiphanies MUST be recorded!!!

The Mad Cow and Sigmund were arguing again at supper. (If things go on like this much longer, I’m going to demand combat pay.) The MC was all wound up because when Sigmund said he’d take her Christmas shopping tonight she didn’t think he was going to invite half of his single parents group along as well (this, of course, was a GROSS exaggeration on the MC’s part; it was only Mrs Kennedy). Anyway, when they broke for air I took the opportunity to make my announcement re the Dark Phase. It really is the season of miracles, because for once (to my utter amazement) they were all listening. Sigmund said, “Does this mean you’re leaving Earth’s orbit for good?” The Mad Cow said I could forget getting any money from HER for a new wardrobe (as if!), and Justin, keeping to his policy of being as difficult and bloody-minded as possible, said that it wasn’t the Great Artists and Writers who understood suffering, it was the poor sods nobody’d ever heard of. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? My brother the philistine Neanderthal. Justin said that if I wanted to get in touch with the deepest levels of human angst I should try living on the streets! I didn’t even stay for pudding after that. I went straight to my room. Obviously I’m starting the Dark Phase not a moment too soon!!!

SATURDAY 23 DECEMBER

Disha and I did some last-minute Christmas shopping today. (Except for D, I’m giving everyone either v cool candles or v cool picture frames that I got in the market.) We ran into David and Marcus. David wanted us to help him find something for his sister. This proved a little difficult. She doesn’t read, she doesn’t have any hobbies, she never writes letters, she has no interest in plants and EVERYBODY always gets her bath oils etc. (I ask you – what choice do they have?!!) On the basis that, if nothing else, David’s sister must eat, Disha suggested food, but that was also out since David’s sister’s always on a diet. I finally cracked it and he got her a gift voucher at the video shop. (David thinks I may be a genius, but modesty made me point out that I am related to a psychotherapist.) To celebrate, we all went for lunch in this v cool Japanese noodle place. We were hysterical through most of the meal because the only one who can really EAT with chopsticks is David (he’s not especially sophisticated; he’s just Chinese). I was going to get another little present for the Mad Cow because Disha remembered that I gave her a candle for her birthday, but I spent more than I’d meant to on lunch. So we went for coffee instead. (Marcus and David, being male, don’t really like shopping anyway. They find it v stressful and largely boring. D and I discussed it later and we agree that it’s something to think about. I mean, they can play the same computer games for HOURS ON END, which we find EXCRUCIATINGLY TEDIOUS, yet when it comes to something that’s actually quite intellectually demanding and stimulating they either get pissed off or fall asleep. Disha reckons it must be genetic.)

The Mad Cow dragged the Christmas tree in from the garden this afternoon, complaining the whole time like it was as big as the one at Buckingham Palace or something. (Defying all natural laws, it’s exactly the same size it was last year, which isn’t exactly enormous.) Sigmund’s meant to do the lights, but he wasn’t home so I got stuck with the job. Of course, she nagged me to check them before I put them on. None of them worked but I put them on anyway. I don’t have HOURS to waste testing every bloody bulb. Alice Bestler’s having a bunch of us over to watch Christmas videos tonight.

LATER

Had a v good time at Alice’s (her parents were smashed, so we helped ourselves to the eggnog), but came home to find the MC still up. Redecorating the Christmas tree. She was even grumpier than usual because she’d had to rush out to Woolworths to get another set of lights. I told her the lights were working fine when I tested them, and she believed me. She’s really not that bright.

CHRISTMAS EVE

When I was little, Christmas Eve was
Magical
. I’d wake up practically tingling with excitement. (One time I even threw up all over the kitchen table, I was so jazzed!) I’d lie awake for hours, listening for sleigh bells and singing angels and stuff like that. Oh, youth! How brief it is, and how deluded! (I know I’m only sixteen, but I already get a bittersweet feeling when I think about my childhood.) Now Christmas Eve is about as exciting as Groundhog Day (but with presents). The same people. The same food. The same arguments. To show you what I mean, Nan arrived this afternoon just in time for lunch (as per usual). The first thing Nan says
every year
is, “Doesn’t the tree look beautiful?” And then she starts complaining about the ride over, or her arthritis etc. I said hello to Nan, and then I said I had to deliver my Xmas presents to my friends and got out of there FAST before Nan started banging on about God. When I got back, my mate Flynn was waiting for me. The MC was force-feeding him her home-baked biscuits (which are more like pressed sand than what you buy) and Nan was going on about Why We Celebrate Christmas as though he’d never heard the story before. Flynn was trying to smile and act interested and hungry and all, but I could tell that he was V GLAD to see me. There was definitely sweat on his forehead, which was excruciatingly attractive in a v virile way. I sort of go in and out of fancying Flynn, but right then I was absolutely more in than out. In fact, I really wished it were snowing, because then we could have gone for a walk in a winter wonderland and had a snowball fight, which I know from films is a
v Romantic
thing to do. (And also v Christmassy, of course.) But since it wasn’t even raining we went to my room. Flynn and I had a v interesting conversation about the hypocrisy of adults. Do what I say, but not what I do. Blah blah blah, God and Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men, but it’s really all about selling as much crap as possible, and then the prime minister even tells everybody not to give anything to street beggars. What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not on the God Squad or anything, but even I know that Jesus was v into helping beggars and people like that. I said maybe Nan should go round and read the PM the New Testament, because he seems to have missed a couple of crucial chapters. Flynn agreed. Flynn’s pretty intelligent. He says his family behave even worse at Christmas than they do the rest of the year too. And they never give him what he wants. I said I was thinking of painting my room, and Flynn said he’d help. (Even if I fancied doing the whole thing all by myself I would’ve accepted – think how sweaty he’ll get painting!!!) Then we exchanged our presents. I bet he got me something from Body Shop. Even though he wrapped it himself to throw me, you can tell from the shape. And, anyway, boys aren’t exactly imaginative shoppers, are they? Flynn guessed I gave him a photo frame. He said he hoped there was a picture of me in it. What a brilliant idea! I wish I’d thought of it
before
I wrapped all my presents.

BOOK: Planet Janet
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