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It was at Sueís wedding that I began to realise what was wrong with the world.
I like weddings, even dry ones, because you get to meet all sorts of people that you would never see otherwise, and get to see how the ones you wouldnít want to meet behave.
I went with Emma, whoís Sueís fourth-best friend. Numbers one, two and three got to be bridesmaids, but Emma didnít see her exclusion from those elite ranks as being a total disaster. Emmaís definition of a diet is "what you eat", and the bridesmaidsí dresses were an unflattering shade of apricot and cut to show every wrongly-placed bulge.
Emma believes that Sue chose the dresses deliberately, with full malice intended. Alan, the bridegroom, has been hanging out for Kathy, bridesmaid number one, for as long as Emma can remember. Kathy isnít interested, but then Sueís not the sort of person to forget to nail the coffin shut.
Emma nudged me in the ribs. "Watch Jason," she said. I watched. Jason was the best man, but under that gaiety was a mask of pain. "Itís the end of the world for him," she said. "He knows Alanís only marrying Sue because sheís the last one left of the gang, and Sueís worn him down, but Jason knows what a shit he is, and how unhappy heíll make her. And heíd do anything for Sue."
I contemplated the tragic triangle for two forkfulls.
"Now look at Petra," Emma said. I looked. The second bridesmaid was making sheepsí eyes at Jason.
Michael, in his formal morning suit, was drooling over Petra.
Emma continued to point. "Julieís crazy about Michael, Andrewís still chasing Julie, Debbie wants Andrew, ... Itís like a daisy-chain, only much more fun to watch."
I was watching Debbie, who is a nice lady, though with a poor taste in men.
Emma followed my stare, with an observant grin.
"Where do you fit into all this?" I asked.
"Oh, Iím crazy about you. But donít worry about it. Iím sure Martin will make me a suitable offer."
I thought that the first round of divorces might sort things out a bit, but it didnít. Alan fell immediately to a predatory secretary who made him feel marvellous for the first six weeks and old from there on in. Sue took one look at Jason, who had broken up with Petra especially for the occasion, and decided that she preferred a married used-car salesman. Julie decided that she might as well hang in there, because Michael was still waiting for Petra to get over a crush on her counsellor, and there was no way that she was letting go until she had to.
I had lunch with Emma, still on her diet and prospering from it.
She was cynical about the state of the world. "Ten billion people," she said, "and not one of them in love with the person that loves them."
"I think itís a good thing," I said. "Think of the cliques that would form. The smug, self-sufficient couples, the happy families. Where would be our great literature, the wars, the entrepreneurs, the muggers, the swindlers, the tax commissioners obsessed with personal power?"
"But do we need so much unhappiness to make the world an interesting place?"
"The reason that Iím bored at the moment is that somewhere out there, someoneís happy."
Emma paused over a spoonful of creamy dessert. "Iím going to do something about it," she said.
The first attempt was a disaster, and so were the second and third. Petra was left with two black eyes and pregnant to a wharfie that left after two weeks, taking all her shoes. Jason shacked up with an eighteen year old guy that made him feel totally miserable and left his records all over the floor. Kathy found God but discovered that he was two-timing her with a Deaconess.
"Iím going to have to be a bit more scientific," Emma said.
Piles of psychology books and many deep and meaningful conversations later, she realised it wasnít as easy as it sounds. "Iím not a rat, so they canít tell me what turns me on," she said. "All Iíve found out is that conditioning isnít what I do to my hair, adjustment isnít what I do to my TV, and Psychopathology isnít a rock band. Theyíre not interested in love ó thereís no money in it."
She thought she might try alternative, less socially entrenched, avenues. She discovered that, cognisant with the expanding opportunities available to women, witches are too busy making nerve gas and napalm to bother with aphrodisiacs and love potions.
Then she struck gold. She appeared at lunch, her finger in a thick tome.
"Itís easy," she said. "Look at Sue. Sheís a Pisces. Water sign. Devious as all hell. Emotionally manipulative. And poor old Alan. Leo. Fire sign. Physical. Emotionally vulnerable. He didnít have a hope. And the used-car salesman was an Aries."
"So what do you plan to do?"
"Make sure that people meet compatible people, Air signs with Fire signs, Earth with Water, that sort of thing."
Emma organised a dinner party. The target was Sue again. Her intended was Stuart, straight out of Dynasty in an immaculate dove-grey suit, handsome, craggy features, a Jaguar, and a Virgo. A solid Earth sign, geared to possessing, caring, nurturing. A firm foundation for a solid relationship. Petra, an Aquarius, had been invited, washed-out and wispy, as a token cover-up.
Kieran, Emmaís current flame, was there too. Ugly, scruffy, vague, head in the clouds, and a Gemini to boot, Kieran was a threat to nobody. Sue took one look at him and went "grab".
A week later, Emma was still fuming. "Bugger the lot of them," she said. "If thatís the way they want it, then letís break the chain for good and all."
"What do you mean?"
"Finding the right partners for people isnít the only solution," she said. "Think laterally for a moment. There is another way, and itís staring you in the face."
Her eyes narrowed. "Have you ever realised how totally disgusting the human body is? How it sags and smells and oozes. And flakes and wrinkles and cracks.
"See me for a moment as a dermatalogical David Attenborough. Life on Body, a study at enormous magnification and glowing colour of the mites, nits, germs and bacteria that infest our temple of humanity. A celebration of organised revulsion. If anybody goes to bed with anybody after that ..."
"But whoíd finance it?"
"Every wowser body in the country, from Bob Hawke and the Churches to Mothers against Drink Driving. All I need to do is sell the concept."
You must have seen the series. The ABC is repeating it for the 139th time, and for five of those the rating was more than an asterisk. To me the highlight was the episode called Eating People is Wrong. The one in the restaurant, where the cascade of skin and hair from the cook forms into a snowstorm over the soup. But Green Slime, where they did saliva, had its moments, too.
Even if you didnít see it, all the right people must have. That is why, if you hadnít realised, eating drinking, talking or even breathing in public is forbidden, why it is a capital offence to touch somebody, and why the ecological crisis is being solved by the simple expedient of the extinction of the human race.
But for all the gloom and doom, there is a silver lining. Now she canít eat out any more, Emma is gorgeously slim. She takes my breath away. But she wonít have a bar of me. She says she doesnít like fair weather friends.
Copyright © D.W. Walker, 1990
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