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Secret – by Karen

5 Aug

I was one of those children that always wished (without much hope), that her family had some dark, hidden secret. Perhaps I was somehow adopted or was, in some other way, a much more interesting back story to the exciting person I would one day become. Yes, I was also one of those kids that thought boarding school sounded awesome.

I believe my sister shares my inclination. She once reported to me that mum had said “there’s more to it than you’d understand”, with regard to my classic “odd uncle” who lived with his parents until their recent passing. Of course, my mother was unwilling to augment this deficient understanding of my sister’s. My sister interpreted her comment, to my bewilderment, as meaning that perhaps my mother was in fact my uncle’s mother, as after all he is a lot younger than the other children. Now, I say I was bewildered by this hypothesis, but I was very willing indeed to believe it, so much more interesting it is than the probable reality. In reality, my uncle is just a bit odd, and my mother thinks we might not have noticed that yet, because she’s never explicitly said so.

I never realised how ignorant I was on my mother’s belief in her omnipotence until a discussion about the care of my grandparents. My mother was concerned that my uncle might interfere with decisions about the care of the grand parent, who really did need to be admitted to hospital. “Well, if there’s mental illness there,” I said, reassuringly, “I’m sure that will be taken into account when the social workers consider his input.”

“Mental illness?!” said my mother, aghast, who had just spent about 45 minutes bemoaning his unfitness to make adult decisions. “Who ever said anything about that?”

Oh.

It turns out, there was in fact a dark secret in my family, but it wasn’t about me. A relation on my mother’s side was, wait for it, secretly adopted. He was not told until well, well into adulthood, and was reportedly horrified to learn that all kinds of random relatives, such as my mother, had known all along. That is not the stuff of childhood fantasy. When my mother told me this, I was actually kind of angry at her (although it is never productive to express anger with my mother). The slight smugness with which she reported how disturbed he’d been that they’d all known – it really irritated me. That is not a juicy secret. That is a pretty horrible situation to be put in.

Of course, there’s more to it than I’d understand.

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Secret – by Tabitha

3 Aug

I was talking to Beth a little while back about how we both misguidedly think of this blog as “secret”. Neither of us has actively promoted it to our Facebook friends, or indeed taken any steps to extend its readership beyond the circle of its authorship. It’s not that I don’t want other people to read it – on the contrary, I absolutely love getting comments from readers who aren’t the Flingers themselves – but more that I need to believe other people don’t read it, in order to write the personal subject matter. The secretiveness isn’t about the reading, it’s about the writing.

For my very un-secret blog in Hanoi, I was always painfully conscious of the audience. It was read by my friends, but also a load of people I didn’t know: Vietnamese people, other expats in Vietnam, people who’d never been to Vietnam, the Vietnamese government, people whose reactions you just can’t gauge at all. People who know me in the real world would often comment that they found the blog “restrained”, and it absolutely was. I was writing with the perspectives of so many different readers in mind, and trying so hard not to say anything beyond my remit of know-nothing-foreigner, that it was often a torturous physical effort to try to mould my thoughts into acceptable shapes. Sometimes the thoughts passed through so many self-censors I couldn’t even recognise what ended up on the screen. Sometimes my thoughts actually changed as a result of what I wrote, making me more positive and open-minded on the inside, as well as on the internet.

At least ninety-nine percent of feedback about the blog was positive, which was really pleasing, and made me feel all the effort paid off. The very few negative comments I did get were about the content of what I wrote – which is fair enough – rather than about me as a person, probably for the very reason that my person was so well-hidden, despite the blog being plastered with my photo. When they did take a stab at me – and I can only think of two times this ever happened – I was able to laugh it off, and think “Buddy, you don’t know me at all”.

Writing this blog is so much easier, but it leaves me feeling so much more vulnerable. I don’t think I’m even particularly revealing in my posts on here, I think I’m just particularly paranoid about the internet.

When I was in Hanoi, a very instructive thing happened on the internet. Some pathetic guy set up this blog whose sole purpose was to vilify and harass a few people in the Hanoi expat community who were well-known for starting a very successful local listings site. The blogger stuck up posters around town directing people to his pointless, personal grudge of a blog, which consisted of the completely predictable homophobic, sexist, violent, racist, pornographic slurs that this kind of guy on the internet favours.

He posted the family photos of his targets, and then made comments intimating child sexual abuse, and worse. He even forged a police record to accuse one of them of domestic violence. Having run out of vile things to say about his victims, he then expanded his net to include other seemingly randomly-chosen members of the community. He wrote pornographic rape fantasies about women I knew, and posted photos of the cast of the local theatre group and made sexually violent comments about them, including a whole bit about the genitals of one amateur actor – a high school girl. So I hear, anyway. I stopped being tempted to look at it many, many moons ago, and wondered why anyone else would. The can’t-look-away effect, I guess.

After an initial flurry of outrage, I realised that shit like this must be all over the internet. It’s not outrageous, because sadly it’s not even noteworthy.  The internet is filled with guys like this, the ones Stephen Fry calls “all the stinking, sliding, scuttling, weird, entomological creatures that inhabit the floor of the internet”. This article about the kind of emails that female columnists receive is particularly illuminating, and revealed to me that even the language these guys use is all the same, a kind of stock-in-trade “shocking”. One columnist says she gets five sexually threatening messages a day. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about, or how vulnerable you’re leaving yourself, or if you’re starring in your local amateur theatre production, if you’re on the internet, you’re apparently potential fodder.

And it’s for this reason that any vulnerability I feel about this “secret” blog is completely misguided. While I don’t think it’s wise to reveal too much of yourself in any public forum, there’s no point trying to hide yourself away or cover up your flaws or weaknesses on the internet, because there’s probably someone out there readying themselves to insult you or be offended by you just as soon as they find you, no matter what. Just the other day I noted that the author of one of my favourite sites, Parenting in Crappy Pictures, had had to defend her crappy picture of her child in a front-facing car-seat. Seriously, people?

This is one person, however, I never want to find this blog, and that is my mother. Bullies, trolls, misogynists, self-righteous do-gooders, whatever, bring ’em on. Mothers, however… that’s another story.

Secret false cake – by Justyna

3 Aug

I’ll let you in on a secret of mine. I don’t really like cake all that much. Same goes for tea. I would prefer to sit around pints of beer and pretzel sticks with my friends, but, as previously mentioned by Beth and Tabs, women tend to like cake. Loads. So I sit along with my dainty fork and join in. I’m not in pain really but I do often wish there was a plate of beef jerky in front of me instead. Cooking I can do, but baking, well my repertoire is reserved to muffins and oatmeal cookies (mainly because of Kazek who loves baking). Creamy cakes are definitely out. Torts are just some sort of misunderstanding. And the remainder? Well I’ll eat it and enjoy myself but mainly for the ritual rather than the taste. If you give me an espresso to wash the cake down with I’ll be happy enough. And I have never, ever, wet myself at a wedding when the cake has been brought out.

My cake eating patterns have changed somewhat in the recent years though. I eat cake more often these days than before. Mainly due to Michal. He is the biggest cake eater I have ever met. He likes peasant cakes mainly though (read no fancy shit or cream please), and he can eat copious amounts. Sometimes Michal’s mum will bake a massive apple strudel or a cheesecake and bring it over. Within two days Michal can eat the whole thing with me having but a sliver. He doesn’t apologise for it either. It’s his weakness and he’s happy to indulge every time. When we came down the mountains yesterday we stopped at a spa town famous for its underground springs (Krynica), wanting to show Anthony how smelly the water can get and how supposedly good it is for you. There is a massive building reserved for the water sampling. There is also a cake stall. Michal visited the cake stall first. My mother, never the biggest baker, bakes a cake every time Michal comes over. Her son-in-law-arse-licking-type behaviour. It’s pretty entertaining.

Under the commie times there was a sweet product here roughly called ‘similar-to-chocolate’ chocolate (czekoladopodobne). Basically it was fake chocolate. Apparently the masses were not allowed to enjoy the real taste of cocoa. I still have the taste of it in my mouth because I accidentally bought a block of it a week or so ago. I thought it was outlawed but it appears there is still a market for this horrid garbage. It looks like chocolate, it is packaged like chocolate, but it smells and tastes like cardboard dipped in a thin layer of a runny chocolate-flavoured milk drink. And then it leaves this horrible, oily film on your upper roof. Kids used to get it as birthday treats and for Christmas. It caused many tears and psychological issues.

Secret – By Beth

29 Jul

When I read this week’s topic I immediately thought of a particular secret from my high school years. It wasn’t my secret. It was the secret of a guy I went to high school with. I did the wrong thing with that secret. And I still really regret it. It was one of my unfinest hours.

Although our school was fairly tolerant in many ways, it was still on the northern beaches of Sydney. So there was racism, and misogyny, and homophobia. Enough homophobia that out of a year of 120 students, only two people came out during school. It was two girls, and they were a couple, or had briefly been involved at least, and when it came down to it, they didn’t really come out, as get outed and then have to deal with it. Lesbianism was seen as enough of a titillating novelty that they didn’t seem to get too hard a time, but maybe I just don’t know the whole story. I can think of at least three gay guys in our year, and none of them were out in high school.

A friend of mine was close friends with one of these guys, and told me his secret. Like a damn fool I told another friend of mine (justifying it by the fact that that friend of mine went to another school), and she told her friend who as it turns out knew a friend of his. There were three people who broke that trust, but he blamed me the most. Because I had “pretended to be someone who people could trust” when in actual fact I was an “evil horrible bitch”. He really told me what he thought of me. Over and over. Aaaah, high school. As my great grandmother said “I wouldn’t be young again if you paid me!”

For about a year after that whole episode I would look around nervously when I was at a pedestrian crossing. Feeling sure that this guy would run me down if he could.

It was such a breech. I’m still so ashamed. Why did I do it?! What haunted me most was the worry that I’d blabbed out of some deep seated homophobia within myself that I wasn’t aware of. I have a very active guilt complex. I saw a show once where this obsessive compulsive guy could never be near a pen for fear he would write a confession to a crime he didn’t commit. I totally got that guy on some level.

I’ve kind of resented secrets ever since.