The bridal party stood between an old wind mill named the “Southern Cross” and the ruins of the Old Ambalindum station homestead. The reception was held at Hale River Homestead, 115km NE of Alice Springs, on the famous Binns Track.
It’s not very often I get excited about weddings. But Laurie and Nico’s wedding was an exception.
The guests drove 55km of the dirt and heavily corrugated Binns Track (4WD only) through beautiful but rugged outback country. On the drive there I was passed by a ute carrying lounge chairs (little pieces of their home brought along). Later I would sit in these with groups of guests late in the evening, under the stars, toasting marshmallows in fire drums.
The caterers also navigated this road, with a trailer loaded with a bain-marie and other catering equipment. That must have been a precarious journey indeed.
This was a true outback wedding with reinvented traditions reflecting the unique and beautiful people that Laurie (Laurel) and Nico are.
Both the bride and groom are part of the very vibrant Alice Springs creative community.
Apart from the obvious remote logistics of the venture, this was far from your average wedding. Besides being super relaxed, it was progressive and free from the constraints of old ideas about marriage.
The celebrant Dave wasted no time on the usual formalities of wedding etiquette and was funny and thoughtful.
The vows were delightfully heart-warming but also light-hearted.
Probably my favourite line would have been from the groom.
“You’re the chickpea in my hummus”
Myself and other guests joked about the ratio of beards to bare faces. A number of established rockers in group meant one of my favourite things (a good beard) was visible at every turn.
Whilst the preparation for this event was no doubt hectic, the wedding was far from hectic. It was all about the kind of love I aspire to – not judgemental, but authentic.
The reception. Oh my gosh…the reception.
The venue is a large woolshed with a bar and kitchen area in the back is a feast of fun history and artefacts of outback and remote life.
The rustic and romantic venue lit up with strings of lightbulbs and fairy lights.
The food ranged from roast pork to vegan and gluten and dairy free. Everyone was catered for without any major fuss or difficulty in how this was achieved.
Three awesome rock bands perched on the back of a truck, and rocked us into to the wee hours of the morning.
There was no formal (and usually pretentious) “first dance” song, just the bride and groom dancing with all of us, until all of us couldn’t dance anymore.
Laurie and Nico have what the rest of us in the world could invest in more often – both share a passion for an authentic, inclusive, creative and community minded life. The wedding was a telling demonstration of that philosophy.
We were a colourful and creative bunch. Most of us were combinations of performers, musicians, film makers, photographers, artists and writers. The conversations were lively and filled with laughter.
There were four of us gals with fluorescent hair colours, so I wasn’t alone with my vivid magenta and purple locks.
Throughout the night, cartoons were drawn, and tales told. I practiced some comedy material around the fire and made new friends. The people that Laurie and Nico are was reflected in the similar people that surround them, creative, interesting souls.
I felt very honoured to be asked to this wedding and I can honestly say it was the most enjoyable wedding I have been to in my 47 years of life.
To finish, here is a short list of things that made this event truly beautiful to my way of thinking (I could list many more but this just the main points):
- Arrernte country was acknowledged in the ceremony. The land on which the wedding took place has always been and always will be Aboriginal land.
- The celebrant stressed that under Australian law “marriage is between two people”. The wedding goers whooped delightedly. Australia has just been through legal changes recognising same sex marriage and many people present were part of that fight to have those basic fundamental rights recognised.
- Laurie’s aunt and nephews and nieces serenaded us at the reception in Maori.
- There was no “Mr and Mrs” assumed. They were just introduced as “Laurie and Nico”. They are married and no old-world names or ideas about ownership (such as ridiculous traditions about surnames and titles) needed to be applied.
This was a wedding for everyone (not just for the bride and groom), there was no pretensions, it was 100% about love.
Not only the love between two people, but love of life, music, community and each other.
This is my art of peculiarity. The word “peculiar” is my own label for myself. I’ve been called many things in my lifetime.
Strange. Weird. Nutty. Crazy. Mad. Out-there. Eccentric. Dork. I’ve learned to deal with this labelling in some interesting ways.
But I’d like to think I practice a compassionate default position – that is, I don’t resort to name calling in retaliation.
It took me until my mid-thirties to the have the language to talk about this experience. My late 40’s have become about talking about this experience through the medium of comedy.
I used to embrace the word “eccentric”, but it was still someone else’s word for me. Recently, I decided that, given I still get these labels applied to me by people who should know better – I would embrace “peculiar” as my descriptor of choice.
Peculiar has appealed to me for a long time, but I’ll talk more about that later.
“Dork” was a high school label applied to me because of my love of English literature. I hated high school. Every day was a living nightmare of neuro-typical people telling me to be more like them, in the most cruel and unthinking ways.
It was as if this was there a sacred right to put someone down (because that other person somehow saw the world differently), placed under some mythical unicorn-like concept of “normal”.
I learned to say in response, “You know a dork is a whale’s penis?”
I would then go on to describe a Blue Whale’s penis, in detail. I often get laughs on stage when I say “You want to know how to get rid of a bully? BORE them to death!”
The reality was, in the pre-Google days, they wouldn’t have been able to confirm that it’s not just a whale’s penis – but any penis in nature generally. But they left me alone and that was the intention. To get them to leave me the hell alone.
This “topic de-centring” became part of my “art of peculiarity” list of coping techniques:
- De-centring. That is, putting them off their mean-spirited topic by either boring them with linguistics or further information about the name they are trying to use as a weapon. It would generally mean I would swamp them information and they would have nowhere to go with the abuse. I would take away the abuses power. The name caller would get bored and wander off.
- Laughter. I learned to take the label and act it out to make those calling me the name laugh. In almost Monty Python style. Ministry of Silly Walks (thank you John Cleese). That sort of thing. I didn’t understand other people. I had no idea about emotions or facial expressions and still struggle with subtle non-verbal clues when people talk to me. It generally takes me a while to figure out when they are being cruel. So, I choose to make fun of myself and make them laugh. While I am making others laugh, I am figuring out their intentions. Then I make choices about if I want to be around them.
- Avoidance (walking away). This works for me when #1 and #2 fail. It means if I think someone is negative to neurodiversity and only looking through the one-way mirror of their own way of seeing the world, I choose to avoid them. For me, simplistic name calling is something we should all grow out of at 8 years old. But sadly, some people continue generalist name calling until they die and often it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves. A commitment to developing self-love is a long-term investment within themselves that takes considerable work to shift. If I haven’t broken the ice with them and are not on more equal and compassionate communication footing with them after a good dose of information and laughter; then I figure it’s not my battle, but their own. I wish them well, encourage them by talking about their strengths and walk away. This includes being comfortable if they decide to walk away from me or avoid me – it goes both ways.
Name calling can destroy young people’s sense of security and self-esteem so easily. It’s an act of violence that society does not take seriously enough. You only have to look at recent suicides from cyber-bullying to see this is in heartbreaking detail
My advice for those of you experiencing cyber bullying – block, ban, delete! This is a #3 situation.
I talk about this in my public speaking gigs and in my comedy. As many say in comedy circles, “punch up – not down”.
None of my comedy makes fun of the disadvantaged. I dislike comedy that mocks the experience of violence, difference or disability. I make fun of myself and my relationships with others. I make fun of the abuses of power that adults sometimes inflict on children as illustrated through my own story.
I haven’t made friends in the comedy world with that approach. But that’s okay because I am not doing comedy to make friends. There is still a view that comedy can do whatever it likes and because it’s a joke, mockery is okay. I disagree.
Many an abuser has justified abuse with “I was only joking”. I think when I get on stage I want people to walk out feeling better – not angry because of a joke about their culture, disability or experience because it was somehow the right of the comedian to mock their experience (when it’s obviously not the comedians own experience). That’s a bullshit excuse and I don’t accept it.
So, I’ll continue to be peculiar, de-centre, educate and make people laugh and walk-away in different combinations. One aspect of that is a pilot radio show I am currently writing. Centred on developing self-care strategies for remote life, it’s called “The Misfits” and will be developed with the help of my community radio station here in Alice Springs 8CCC.
So back to the work of the word peculiar. From Merriam Webster:
Peculiar comes from Latin peculiaris, an adjective meaning “privately owned” or “special” that is derived from the word for “property,” peculium. Those words are cognate with pecu, a word for “cattle” that is also etymologically linked to a few English words related to money. Among these are pecuniary (“of or relating to money”), peculate (“to embezzle”), and impecunious (“having very little or no money”). Peculiar borrowed the Latin meanings of peculiaris, but it eventually came to refer to qualities possessed only by a particular individual, group, or thing.
All of the above relates to me rather personally (I’m always broke!) but this is my interpretation of this:
I choose to call myself peculiar. I choose to own this label as my private and sacred cow of labels for myself. It is my commodity. My linguistic currency of choice, that I carry with pride.
This is my art of peculiarity.
P.S. I am starting to think the title of this piece should have been “A whale’s penis”!
From the locker room of my parenting memories…
You might have a toddler if:
1. You have a high tolerance to foul, often putrid, odours.
2. You have excellent night vision, and ‘object on floor’ radar.
3. You have a high tolerance to high pitch, enormous volume squeals even at point blank range.
4. You know the words to numerous children’s TV show themes.
5. You can often be heard asking ‘Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?’ whilst in you are asleep.
6. You used to read a novel a week, now the most written stimulation you get is ‘Toy contains moving parts, not suitable for children under 3’.
7. You observe the above toy warning and you still give it to your child.
8. Before vacuuming the floor, first you must clear the debris and check for survivors.
9. You are oblivious to the pounding on the toilet door whilst you are inside.
10. When asked if you saw the news, you say ‘Yes, I hear Tinky Winky managed to locate Dipsy’s hat.’
11. You look forward to a day off and when it comes all you can do is sit and absorb the silence.
12. You look forward to a night off and when it comes all you can do is sleep.
13. You convert swear words into vaguely similar or rhyming alternatives.
14. You can often be heard saying, ‘Shhh, now come on now, calm down’, who you are referring to is sometimes the child.
15. When looking for a missing item you look in the toilet bowl.
16. The discovery of pieces of soggy biscuit and other pieces of half-eaten food in your pocket does not disturb you.
17. Your pets often appear traumatised or can rarely be seen out in the open space.
There was that photo taken so long ago,
Joy of a Vegemite smeared face just so,
This is not the way that I wanted it to go.
Should’ve taken us away from day one,
Long before the harm to both was done,
I was scared, trapped and unable to run.
You were so little, when you saw my tears,
Worried, seeing the depth of Mum’s fears,
I still hear your words after all these years.
“Mum, Mum, Mum, I see you are crying”,
“I’m okay” I said, you knew I was lying.
Could you see how inside I was dying?
He took away all my dignity, all my hope,
The love of my son allowed me to cope,
My sanity balanced on a slim tightrope.
I got us away, but you felt in between,
The anger, the hurt, the things unseen,
A rift between us as you grew to a teen.
I’m sorry that I couldn’t give you a family,
That I parented you somewhat absently,
I wasn’t there when you needed me.
Maybe we’ll never get back what’s gone,
I wish I could change what was done,
I’ll always love you, my Vegemite son.