Saturday, July 2

Anonymums – anonymous

Subtitled Three women, the truth and a whole lot of dares, Anonymums is an account of three Australian women (Mums A, B and C) – Mum A had met one of them several times at an annual writers’ festival, and the other online. In both cases the women clicked, and she suspected that they, like her, might be diminished by their lives as suburban wives and mothers. “Most days I felt like a zombie – a mindless, animated slave to two needy, demanding kids...” The final straw came when Mum A realised she had a cleaning sponge preference. And thus was born the project – for three months each Mum would get a dare from one of her friends and have to respond truthfully to a question from the other, with twist that the last months’ truth and dare had to be self-set.
There were guidelines – no skydiving, no affairs, nothing that could wind up on Jackass, no salsa – and the dares seemed relatively mild. In December Mum A had to go to a shopping centre, line up, sit on Santa’s knee, ask him for a steam mop and buy a photo for posterity, Mum B had to wear siren-red lipstick for a week, and Mum C had to have a Brazilian wax.
The truths were a little more challenging – tell me about the worst mother you know, tell me your most used sexual fantasy, tell the truth about how you sometimes wish you’d never have children. And in all cases the women found themselves changing, expanding, and challenging aspects of lives that had been mundane.
Anonymums is a recognition of the unrelenting monotony of motherhood, the inequality of parenthood, the frustration and resentment of the stay at home parent, and a realisation that this doesn’t have to be the case – I found Mum A’s self-imposed Big Dare, to change the running of the house and reduce the resentment she felt toward her husband, possibly the most interesting.
I also found her response to the question “tell me about the worst mother you know” fascinating, because of the way it challenged her to look at the truth of this woman’s life rather than her (admittedly distressing) behaviour born of compromise.
I also liked Mum B’s observation, on day 3 of a week-long dare to abstain from both chocolate and alcohol,
I have a headache. Could it be withdrawal? And if so, from what?
More likely it’s from hearing all about episode 24 of Ben 10. What happened to the Wiggles? That’s what I’d like to know. Then, we knew where we were: a bit of Hot Potato, a rock or two of the bear, point your fingers, do the twist and jump in the Big Red Car. But now, I’ve got ‘diamond-head guy’ and 'four-arm guy’ and eight other guys to deal with. If Big Boy actually knew anything about this cartoon I wouldn’t mind so much – but he’s never even seen the actual show. Won’t let him watch it because I think he’s too young.
Instead, I was watching firsthand the power of word-of-mouth advertising. Kids, it turns out, are naturals at it. Some kid came to pre-school with an enormous plastic omitrix-watch-thingy, and voila! The Game Has Changed.
I’m not a mother, though most of my friends are, and I have in my life children ranging in age from infants through to Lynn’s teens. I also remember the experience of co-parenting my younger siblings. I believe the hype about parental love being transformative and encompassing and amazing, but I also know it’s exhausting, unrelenting, consuming, never-ending and unrecognised. Anonymums redresses this somewhat, and I like the ending, where they are not only reinvigorated by vow to continue challenging themselves and each other.
I don’t need to re-read it, though, and have left it at the airport, hopefully to be picked up and perused by a mum in need of a reminder of her own identity outside the mum label. – Alex

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