Blogiversary Blowout: Lucy Fenton Shares an Exclusive Excerpt from Superstition

Blogiversary Blowout: Lucy Fenton Shares an Exclusive Excerpt from Superstition.

This is the first glimpse of my new book. Enjoy!

 

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Blogging my way into difficulties

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After last week’s surprisingly controversial blog, I learnt a key lesson (that’s corporate-speak for stuffing something up). While I am essentially writing about myself, people around me do of course make appearances and some of them might not be happy about it. As a side note, a quick hello to all the Christian groups now following me. I’m sorry to say I don’t generally talk about religion and you may not be interested in the generally fairly mundane musings of a Sydney writer, but welcome!

But back to topic, I got in trouble and much frostiness has ensued with a couple of people this week. I’m not sure if mentioning this will cause problems too, but now I’ll stop the cycle. I’m not an island and it’s very hard to think of topics to write about that don’t contain some interaction with other people. Trying to find something else to talk about this week led me to saying yes to a couple of things I wouldn’t normally agree to in the hopes that it might provide material that won’t start a cold war (we’re very Anglo, so not a word is said directly and we repress like nobody’s business). As a result, this week I have exceptionally long eyelashes and resemble a llama. I have thick hair, which in a trickle down effect leaves me with naturally large eyebrows and eyelashes. Eyebrows – bad. Eyelashes – good. So I’ve never really considered eyelash extensions. At all, not even for a moment. But a free voucher was waved in front of me and I was searching for lack of meaning.

I feel ridiculous and am hyper-aware of them, not just because I can actually see them but also thinking that people are looking at my eyelashes and wondering what the hell happened. And they are here to stay for the next few weeks. I’d love to say that this was the first time I’ve stuffed up a beauty thing, but I’d be lying. Colouring my own hair when I was at uni saved a lot of money, but occasionally I’d get bored and try something new. So there was this one time when I found out why they put the helpline number on the side of the box of colour. No one means to turn their hair khaki. My flatmate literally laughed so hard he couldn’t get up from the floor.

Then there was the time I had a bikini wax from a Frenchwoman. Any one who has experienced this will know what I’m talking about. The rest of you can just wonder and be grateful.

The time I lost a Shellac nail into a cake I was taking to a dinner party. The nails were dark coloured and the cake was chocolate. Needless to say, I peeled the rest off and the surface of my nails along with them. It was too late but hopefully whoever got it thought it was a nut.

I could go on with all the times the beauty industry has done me wrong, making me believe that some new fad can make me the flawlessly groomed beauty that I never seem to have the time or energy to be. But overall, struggle is a good thing – trying and failing is interesting. Being perfect is boring so having characters who make mistakes is essential, but isn’t that easy to do. There is such a strong urge to smooth the edges and polish them up, in a way that is impossible to do with your actual life. You want to make them able to do the things that you never could and vicariously live through them. In the worlds you create, you have complete control so why not try to make it everything you wish your life could be? This is the worst possible thing you can do. What I try to always keep in mind is that even superheroes need flaws and weaknesses, the trick is in giving them the right ones.

It ain’t easy being an atheist

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Being an atheist is not all fun and games. Sure, you get to sleep in on a Sunday with no guilt, eat whatever you want, whenever you want, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. For one, there’s no set holidays with treats and goodies. The upside of this is you can do the ones you want (who doesn’t love decorating a tree, baking jam doughnuts and lighting candles all in the one week). The downside is you feel a bit of a fraud while you do it and its hard to be convincing in front of increasingly sceptical kids. Particularly in regards to the Easter bunny – I still don’t understand how that one managed to get onto the roster.

I don’t think anyone starts out life wanting to believe in nothing. It just kind of creeps in there, even after eleven years of religious education. I’ve read the bible, cover to cover. I’ve studied and read about other religions and gave the matter a serious amount of thought. I’ve gone to ceremonies in all the major religions, usually at the best time which are weddings or around the birth of children. I’ve given religion quite a lot of opportunity to convert me.

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People who feel strongly about their religious views volunteer their time. I personally volunteer for Ethics, which fits in with my worldview. What is ironic is my littlest guy sneaking off to scripture instead of heading to ethics. I haven’t yet found exactly which religion he’s attending as the results are rather garbled. Allegedly Christmas is the birth of Santa and the death of God. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the person up front is saying, which makes me wonder why we’re making such of fuss about religion in schools. How many kids are actually getting what it is all about?

The reason I’m putting it out there, because generally I don’t think of my views are necessary to the existence of others, is because I got slammed this week. I was accused of being a bad parent for not giving my children the Christian upbringing that is vital to their wellbeing. I was told that children cannot decide for themselves what is right and wrong, they need religious instruction (presumably before they start roaming the streets and dealing crack to other primary school kids).

Despite knowing nothing about what is taught in Ethics, it was dismissed as sub-par. Now if this had been a stranger, I would have shaken it off, but it is someone who knows me well. Given that I lead a completely ordinary suburban life, largely indistinguishable from my neighbours and everything seems to be swimming along in a normal and reasonable manner, this criticism seemed overly harsh. If I had been Jewish or Muslim, I’m sure the way I bring up my kids wouldn’t have been scorned in the manner that it was.

Faith is the belief in something despite having no evidence. No one knows what happens after you die. Atheists are in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to that. But just because I don’t believe in a deity doesn’t mean that I’m out to destroy society because I don’t know right from wrong. My law degree might have helped, but I’m pretty sure I could figure most of it out myself, even without the somewhat opaque religious lessons of my childhood.

By far the worst thing about being an atheist  is being open to criticism because supposedly I have nothing to offend. Why is it okay for insults to be lobbed at me but then I don’t have the right to respond without being “intolerant” if I point out the limitations of their beliefs?

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Secrets Volume 2

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I’m really liking the Mary Lambert song “Secrets” at the moment, the chorus being “I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are”. Such an incredibly brave stance to take, given the things she’s talking about revealing, and has revealed about her personal life aren’t of the “I like to fart in the bath and pretend its a spa” variety. Secrets like diamonds, can be graded from the hardly any bad bits to bright sunlight and a strong breath and the whole thing fractures into dust. Internally flawless secrets are hiding lollies from the kids and sneaking them in the pantry while they’re not looking.  Heavily included secrets are more along the lines of “I murdered someone and stashed the body in the basement”. Not many people would have a problem giving up the first one, but anyone committing the second would tend to keep it to themselves.

But like diamonds, the grade of secret is only part of it. Another big part of what makes a diamond is the size. Similarly, I think part of what leads to secrets being confessable or not lies in the level of fault that can be attributed to yourself. People are much more willing to confess to big secrets as long as it’s not their fault. The more you move towards things that you are directly responsible for, together with the grade of the secret, leads to you being less willingness to be open about it. This is because people are judgemental. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, after all if we didn’t use our judgement we’d be still living in caves ruled over by the thugs with the biggest clubs. Judging things, weighing up the merits of our actions and others, teaches us how we want to live. What we actually want to stop is incorrect judgements about things and people. Being judgemental is natural and fine, what we do about it is more important. Not agreeing with abortion and making the decision that you wouldn’t have one yourself is using your opinion to form a framework for how you live your life. Applying that exact same framework to everyone else, regardless of circumstances, is where the flaw lies.

Gen X-ers like myself tend to think that the next generation are all about exposing themselves. If they’re not sexting, they are posting videos on youtube or endless pictures on social media. I think this is probably a little unfair, given the amount of newly single post-forties people I know on Tinder (no I haven’t looked, given the rumour that most of the pictures are not of their faces. Some things you can’t un-see). Similarly, my facebook feed is constantly filled with pictures of whoever is currently on holiday. I literally have seen every meal they’ve eaten. As a side note, I don’t get this trend. Anyone can order a meal from a restaurant. No effort or skill has gone into it. If you haven’t put the time and effort into making it yourself, I don’t care.

Letting the world know what you’re secrets are is fine and potentially liberating, but I can’t really see myself as someone who would let it all hang out. I’m far more likely to hide the big things away or let them be enacted by a character in one of my books. This is a confession of sorts, but nothing I have to own up to. Cowardly, possibly, but all writers need material and if you give away too much of it in public, there’s less left inside you to put on paper. I find when I’m deep into writing something difficult, it’s hard to stop from bringing it over into my personal life and vice versa. Writing about a married couple fighting in Saint Kate led to several tense moments with my husband but it also meant that what I wrote seemed to many people to be very real, because in a sense it was. So unlike the very brave Ms Lambert, I do care if the world knows what my secrets are, if only so I still have something to write about.