Sleep Well Woody Allen

In 1997’s Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen’s central character said “all people know the same truth; our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.” There are other standouts from that movie – “baseball’s easy because it has rules” and “I’m a guy who can’t function well in life but can in art.” Now that the proverbial has hit the fan for old Woody, it’s hard not read more into them than I had before. I wonder if he’s been mulling them over as much as I have in the last week. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how he’s really feeling, but I do know this: I don’t want him to have done what he’s accused of. I don’t want him to be a paedophile.

You’d have to be living in a parallel universe not to know that allegations he molested his daughter Dylan Farrow have resurfaced, 20 years after they were originally made public. Everyone seems to have an opinion, despite none of us being there to know exactly what happened, but it’s not looking good for him is it? Then again he doesn’t exactly make it easy for himself – the awkwardness of his demeanour, both onscreen and in real life; his reclusiveness; his obsessive need to focus on his sexual inadequacies in explicit detail in almost every screenplay; not to mention the marriage and children to a woman who was once his stepdaughter. These are things that are at first glance a little startling; with concentrated effort they can quickly be seen as totally freakish behaviour. The more you think about it, the more suspect it becomes. So did he do it? Well, I guess so. I will always believe the victim, that’s what we must do.

And yet there is a little part of me that’s holding back. Not because I disbelieve Dylan Farrow or because I’m a Woody Allen fan and don’t want to see an idol disgraced, but because we live in a world that is already so suspicious of the motives of men and I don’t want yet another story confirming that suspicion is justified. I have men in my life who are wonderful, kind and honest men who would never hurt a child, yet every time a paedophile is discovered they too are judged. And they know it.

It is particularly apparent in the way we view older men. I have a father about the same age as Woody Allen who is fascinated by little children. Where my mother is disinterested in the offspring of anyone unrelated to her, my father can watch children for hours delighting in their company. He is not creepy, he is not predatory, and he’s absolutely not interested in them for any sinister motives. He does however live in the moment, have an incorrigible mischievous streak, and is a big fan of play. He lights up around tiny people and always has. He loves observing how they interact with the world; it is something he has passed on to me. The difference is that as a woman I am fairly free to interact with children without causing alarm, whereas my father – my kind, genuine, gentle father who children gravitate toward – keeps his distance. He’s respectful, cautious and aware. He wouldn’t dream of approaching a child unless he knew both the parents and the child themselves were okay with his presence – after all he was once the protective father of a little girl watching out for bad men. He still is.

But as his daughter, it makes me sad. It makes me sad that my father has to modify his behaviour because we live in a world where men and children are a suspicious combination. It makes me sad that the children themselves don’t get to benefit from the wisdom of his years and the silliness of his humour. It makes me sad that I can’t make him a grandfather when he’d be such a very good one.

So back to Woody, and another of his quotes: “It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.”

I really hope for the sake of my father that Woody Allen gets a good night’s sleep every night.

This is NOT Woody Allen!

When In Doubt, Lewis Carroll

I can’t remember my Cabbage Patch Kid’s name. Should I be worried about that? I know this is a weird thing to suddenly start obsessing about in my late 30s, but the thought struck me today and I can’t shake it.

I remember all sorts of things about childhood. I remember the names of the couple who owned the corner store and sold me lollies in paper bags; I remember every one of my pets names, including the goldfish my uncle won me at the Brisbane Ekka that died on the drive home; and I even remember what we ate for dinner the night my younger brother was born 32 years ago. But for the life of me, I can NOT remember the name of this doll.

To be fair I don’t remember having names for any of my toys except two – my stuffed bunny, ingeniously called Bunny; and a doll I named Louie after my imaginary friend when I realized I was too old to be talking to an apparition. But Cabbage Patch Kids were different. They arrived already named. They had birth certificates and adoption papers and a whole backstory on how they came to exist in the world – and everyone except me seems to remember the name of their charge.

I do remember that I changed her name. I even did it through the official channels so that Hasbro would issue me with a new birth certificate, but that name escapes me too. Her original name, like all Cabbage Patch Kids names, was something long and old-fashioned and impossible for a six year old to spell, and knowing what appealed to me at that age I fancy I renamed her something awful like Cindy, but I honestly don’t know. I also recall that I was desperate to go to the Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland Ohio to get poor little No-Name a sibling, though sadly it never happened.

Cabbage Patch Kids are pretty much the weirdest dolls ever created. They’re creepy looking, knobbly-kneed, and have some dude called Xavier’s name signed on their arse. God knows how they ever became so coveted. There are urban legends about owners sending dolls in for repairs and being issued death certificates when they were beyond salvation; and a persistent rumour of the 1980s suggested that the dolls were originally designed to desensitize the public to the appearance of mutated children born in the aftermath of nuclear war – which is probably not a bad description of their big plastic faces and oddly proportioned bodies really. In grade four, I slapped a boy called Stephen when he told me I had the same legs as his sister’s Cabbage Patch Doll. It was not the compliment he’d intended it to be.

Yet like real mothers, we loved and obsessed over them despite their looks. Clearly with their bottles and nappies and feeding routines, Cabbage Patch Kids were preparing us for a life of maternal joy, but by forgetting the damn thing’s name I’ve failed the very first test haven’t I? At worst it shows I’m a shitty adoptive parent who didn’t uphold my half of the adoption contract between Hasbro and me. I guess I should take comfort in the fact that I’m unlikely to ever be a mother to a real human being and the chances of this translating to anything meaningful are slim. Besides, my dog is ten and I’ve never forgotten his name.

But there is a nagging bother that is refusing to leave me. I don’t really like the idea of my childhood memories slowly eroding, and this decidedly weird looking doll has become the embodiment of that fear. I wonder if I’ve killed too many brain cells with alcohol since becoming a grown up. Is the stress of juggling adult life causing bits of childhood to start escaping? It’s not a thought I want to entertain. As the saying goes, being an adult is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

I miss the time where my existence was 99% play and 1% worrying that mum would catch me wearing one of her bras so I could make the act of breast feeding seem more real (from what I’d observed of her feeding my brothers, it was all in the way you subtly flopped your tit out into the baby’s mouth without anyone actually seeing your nipple – what can I say? I was a weird kid). I miss that part of life where being lost in your own world was not only completely acceptable, but actively encouraged. I miss feeling sorry for Alice that she ever had to leave Wonderland. And I miss having the time to be fascinated by all the little things around me.

So now my Cabbage Patch Kid is sitting in my lap as I write this silly piece, wearing her ridiculous satin wedding gown and crushed veil, and I’ve realized she smells exactly as she did when I got her over 30 years ago – and then it hits me. Constantine Danica. Her name is Constantine Danica, and I renamed her Kate Jane after two of my school friends.

It’s such a relief to know I can still find my way down the rabbit hole.