I just finished reading Tim Rogers’ memoir, Detours. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. I feel a bit bad about that. There’s nothing actually wrong with it. It’s warm, lovely, and funny, in parts. Banjo Paterson-esque in writing style. But I judge a good book by how compelled I am to read it, rather than how disciplined I must be before I allow myself to buy another book, and this one fell into the latter. By contrast, Tina Fey and Marieke Hardy had me turning page after page.
In the absence of narrative, memoirists must have to work a little harder to keep my attention. For memoir, it’s about humour and familiarity; familiarity with place or circumstances. I don’t seem to hold fiction to the same ruleset. In Marieke Hardy’s, You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead, it was humour and place, with mentions of familiar scenes in Sydney and Melbourne. In Tina Fey’s, Bossypants, it was her particular style of humour and that her alter ego, Liz Lemon, is pretty much me. I, too, have been awkward and bespectacled, working as the only woman with a bunch of donut-munching dudes, where a robust sense of humour is a business requirement.
But as I think about it, Detours does have some humour, is certainly familiar in the most aching way, so why didn’t it at least get a 4/5? I don’t read reviews before buying a book and if I had, I would’ve known this memoir, from one of my generation’s icons of the Australian music scene, doesn’t share many stories of the band and the lifestyle from the road or the stage. There are few references to that part of Tim Rogers’ life that we are most familiar with as Gen X, former Triple J listeners. Instead, it’s a more intimate insight into what it’s like to be Tim Rogers. I won’t bother repeating what the review in The Guardian says, because Brigid Delaney’s appreciation for the book captures the depth that was lost on me at the time of reading and is a far better review than anything I could cobble together.
I think it was the ache that chipped a star off my rating. The ache Rogers has as a long-distance parent, the aching anxieties that he’s managed throughout his life, and the aching longing that moments of his memoir elicited within me when he described the Melbourne of the early 90s. Out of home for the first time and well into the music scene, I frequented the same places and I often wish I could relive 1993, if only to take it all in again from the eyes of the naive 19 year old I was back then. In one story he refers to Topolino’s, a well-known St Kilda pizza joint that’s still there, and it drew me straight back in time. Sitting in Topolino’s with a couple of friends and band members after a gig, eating pizza and spying Judith Lucy sitting a few tables in front of us. Oof…there it goes again. Nostalgia hurts sometimes.
In the days since I finished the book, I’ve played Heavy Heart on repeat. If the publishers had done a book trailer, this would’ve been the soundtrack. It’s been made more poignant with the context of Rogers’ memoir. Perhaps I should revise my rating up.
I’ve rolled my eyes when I’ve seen you at the shops slurping down a large latte in your black three-quarter-length Lululemons and your high-vis Nikes. I’ve grunted as I unfollowed your Instagram #fitspo and Facebook posts of kale-encrusted tofu. I’ve found you smug and superior with your beachside tree stance and your anti-McDonald’s-fast-food rants.
I’ve weighed the same since I was twenty. Not on purpose. Just good genes. The only variations, during pregnancy when the weight went up, and under stress when the weight goes down. I’ve never watched what I ate, except to make sure the pasta didn’t fall off my fork or the pizza didn’t miss my mouth. I’ve enjoyed my own smugness. A smugness eschewing fitness.
And then I hit middle-age. The extra couple of Christmas kilos weren’t shifting and I tried to stop the snacking. But it’s hard to stop the ritualised grazing in front of the telly after the kids have gone to bed. So, I did what every other person in a mid-life new-year panic does and joined a gym. It was close to home with three free sessions. I had no excuses.
For eight months I had to make myself go. Sometimes I could ignore the voice in my head that said, “not today, go tomorrow”. If I could at least push myself through the front door, I knew I’d get it done. On a normal week, I would go twice. On a good week, three. Cost is a motivator when intrinsic drive is missing.
But something changed in October. I was more often going three times a week, and sometimes, four. Those extra few kilos are now gone and staying off. I began paying attention to the heart rate monitor and arranging my day, so I could workout in the afternoons when I burn more calories. I’d gradually become more coordinated. I bought activewear.
I’ve sneered at your activewear, Lorna Jane, when I’ve seen you at the shops. Unless you spill that latte down your front, there’s not much need for those moisture-wicking properties in the gluten-free aisle at Coles. But here I am, grocery shopping in my workout gear, posting heart-rate screenshots on my Instagram. I say to myself, you’ve changed, man.
It’s pride, for sure, but more than that, the posting is belonging. A yearning for recognition: your pushups may still be lousy, but look, how far you’ve come! As for the shops in my activewear, you’ll probably see me there. I’ll be the one slurping a latte in the Doritos aisle, in a moisture-wicking tank-top and the short-shorts I’m now brave enough to wear.
Because, really, who can be fucked with all the wardrobe changes?
A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I got tattoos. His first, my second. Matt’s realisation and acceptance that “what’s next?” is his default state, led to the homage to his healthy ambition for the big picture. So, for his 40th birthday and in the spirit of Jed Bartlett, he got What’s Next? tattooed on his forearm in the West Wing font.
“Nevertheless, She Persisted”, in the script from Sarah Becan’s design, refers to Senator Elizabeth Warren and her standing up to the Republicans But it has more layers for me. It isn’t just the more expansive feminist shoutout to the women who’ve pressed on in the face of male oppression and glass ceilings, it’s also acknowledgement to my own fortitude in the face of procrastination and challenging times; it’s a tribute to a 16+ year marriage that’s endured hard times and individual growing pains. It’s encouragement to keep writing, keep learning, keep pushing, even while it can be hard to find the time or the energy.
When you consider our choices together, it just goes to show how different we are in our approaches to life. Yin and Yang. Sometimes our contradictory opposites have repelled rather than complemented. I’m sure those hard times—when we’re both negatively charged electrons—will come up again from time to time, but we’re still here and that’s a positive sign.
I used to buzz around while I did what I had to do. Contented. You were happy to see me and would talk to me and made sure I had what I needed. The cat didn’t like me at first. It hid under the couch in a place I couldn’t reach.
When you leave at 8:45 a.m., I retrace a lonely path from the fridge to the sink, down the hall to the couch and around the living room and then the bedroom and back again. The cat has come out from under the couch and sits on top, unflinching as I go by. It no longer swats or sniffs at me, but swishes its tail from side to side when I come near. As accustomed to me as the cat has become, over the same time, you have withdrawn.
When I get to your bedroom, sometimes now, the door is closed. It is dark under the door and you do not come out. I retreat to my own space and wonder if you will ever come out of yours. Other times, your door is left open and I can come in, navigating around the things you’ve left on the floor. Traces of you that I touch and cannot move.
You have stopped touching me in the way that I need to be touched, but at least you can still move me when I am lost, like you. I have worked out how to draw you out from your unmoving silence. My sustained, guttural hum stirs you from your reverie and so I sit in a corner, humming, unmoving, waiting for you to respond.
There are others like me, retracing their own paths every day. Others that used to be cared for and are now ignored. I have shared my humming process with them. Every now and then one will not be heard from again. Replaced.
Some, though few, are lucky. They don’t need to beckon for attention. They continue, unabated, to remove the tiny traces from the floors of human lives.