When I was growing up in Australia, I was bullied in school. Not in a terrible way, I hasten to add. Not like Matilda Epson whose parents must have thought it hilarious to name their daughter after a kangaroo. The kids in school were merciless. They called her ‘Hop-along Mattie’ and bounced around her in class while making smacking noises to mimic a kangaroo snacking.
Years later, when she was all grown up and married and a high-flying corporate lawyer with a Wall Street law firm and she was now known as Tilda Mason, she told me primary school had been hell. “And my surname was Epson! Bath salts! And I was fat! Do you remember? It’s a miracle that I didn’t develop an eating disorder!”
And then there was Kevin MacAllister who, if he’d been a kid today, would probably have been diagnosed with some kind of ADHD and mild Tourette Syndrome which, in his case, manifested itself as exaggerated blinking and the tendency to say ‘Crap’ a lot. It also didn’t help he was pigeon-toed. You can imagine the hell he went through on a daily basis for the 12 years he was in school.
My bullying was quite mild by comparison — the occasional shove against the lockers in the school corridors, fingers pulling back the corners of the eyes to mimic slanted eyes and, on more than a few occasions, coming home and taking off my shirt to discover that I’d been walking around all day with a piece of paper taped to my back that read, ‘Kick me!’.
“Well, they can’t hate you too much,” my sister said, by way of consolation. “My friend Melissa’s piece of paper read ‘My name is Melissa and I have lotsa head-lice!’”
The whole thing was so depressing. I spent hours fantasisng I beat up the school bullies right in the middle of assembly so everyone could witness their humiliation. I had everything choreographed in my head, syncing my kicks and karate chops to the James Bond theme song.
I even begged my mother to let me take up self-defence classes.
“Absolutely not!” Mother said firmly. “You are so uncoordinated, you’ll probably hit your own head and give yourself a concussion, and I don’t have time to spend nursing you back to health!”
“But you play mahjong all day!” Michelle said stoutly.
“You need to mind your own business!” Mother told her. “You have enough problems of your own without interfering with your brother’s!”
As my brother Jack recently pointed out, with that kind of tough parental love, it’s a wonder we didn’t grow up to be homicidal sociopaths. “With all that pressure in school and at home, how did we not snap?” he asked.
I sucked in my breath. “Oh God, that reminds me of Nobody’! Have you seen it?”
Jack sighed. “Have I seen it. Hello. I’ve memorised the entire script! In my head, all the guys that Hutch beats up are replaced by the faces of the kids in school! It’s so incredibly satisfying, you have no idea! That bus scene gives me life!”
“I love the home invasion scene!” I told him.
“You know, that scene makes me want to have my own panic room in my basement.” Jack pursed his lips. “If I lived in a house that had a basement, that is.”
Leave it to Saffy to love Nobody for entirely different reasons. “Okay, seriously, who knew Bob Odenkirk was so hot?” she said the other day, her magnificent bosom inflating to a lustful volume. “He was such a dweeb in Breaking Bad. Really, it’s amazing what losing a few kilos can do to a man.”
“He needed to take his shirt off!” Amanda said. “Just the once. He needed a Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy-moment. Remember when he took off his shirt in that movie?”
“Oh my God,” Saffy said. “My ovaries exploded.”
Amanda closed her eyes in ecstasy. “Right? That’s what Bob Odenkirk needed to do. Even if there was no reason for him to take his shirt off, he should have taken it off. I bet he’s ripped!”
“Even his name makes me hot!” Saffy added, her chest puffing up. “It’s like a Viking name. A hot, pillaging Viking!”
“Who’ll also get up and make you a hot cup of tea after having his nasty Viking way with you!” Amanda said. She and Saffy fell about laughing, clutching each other as they howled.
Just the other day, Tilda Mason e-mailed me and asked if I’d seen Black Widow. “You know,” she wrote, “I can’t get that movie out of my head! I keep replaying the scenes where Scarlett Johansson is beating up the bad guys but they have the faces of all those horrible kids in school!”
“Wait till you watch Nobody”, I told her.
Black Widow is now in cinemas and on Disney+ Premier Access.
Photos: TPG News/Click Photos