Maeve: Hi, I’m Maeve Marsden and you’re listening to Queerstories. If you can spare a few bucks each month to help me continue to produce this podcast, because you love it, or you love me, please check out Queerstories on Patreon and consider supporting the project. Also, follow Queerstories on Facebook for upcoming events, pics and other good shit.
Jude Perl has been performing music and comedy for nearly a decade, touring, recording and winning 3 Green Room Awards for Best Original Songs, a Green Room Award for Best Cabaret Artiste and Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe. She’s sold out seasons at Melbourne Comedy Festival, packed shows at The Hotel Cafe in LA and Ronnie Scott’s in London and in 2012, Jude was one of 10 finalists in the prestigious National Jazz Awards at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival. Another time, she choked on a moth. Who knows what she’ll do next.
Jude: Ok so firstly, when I get asked to tell a story and there’s no limitations or framework I immediately think “ok better tell a sad and traumatic story” because that’s the best way to keep people interested… which isn’t great… that that’s immediately where my mind goes and I have unintentionally built my empire by constantly talking about mental health – and now I’m wondering if my empire possibly has some foundational issues? So I wanted to tell you a story that’s actually happy – and about a time in my life which I generally refer to as being rubbish – school. And I have written A LOT of material about how much I hated school, I guess its my way of getting reparations, like ticket sales make up for what a bad time I had.
But also – it’s weird how we talk about huge chunks of time with one-word descriptions. Like I was at school every day for 12 years. It couldn’t have all been bad. There was some cool shit that happened? There was that day in grade 6 when Blair McDonough from the first season of big brother in 2001 walked past the school at lunchtime, and one of the kids recognized Blair McDonough from the first season of big brother 2001, and then Blair McDonough from the first season of big brother 2001 actually stopped and waved at us, and the teachers basically cancelled the next class after lunch because everyone was so excited that Blair McDonough, from the first season of big brother 2001 walked past the school. We had some good times… There was all that time we got to spend with Harold the giraffe in his safety van – remember Harold? I learnt so much from Harold. Like how we have stomachs, and also that you shouldn’t throw an active toaster into a bathtub full of water.
Basically there were some good times. And sometimes, you have a birthday at school… which is a whole mixture of emotions right? So my birthday falls at the end of June, which means most of the time my birthday was during mid year school holidays. But twice in primary school my birthday fell on the last day of term 2. The first time was in grade 1 or 2. And I brought a cake in to school – well my mum made the cake, I just brought it in. A cake for my class. For the whole class. Anyway, I went to bathroom with like 7 other kids, or however many kids you have to go to the toilet with, and when I came back, this one kid, let’s call him “Loni” had eaten the ENTIRE CAKE. He ate the whole cake. I don’t even understand how it happened. Also, just think about how big a cake is… like it was a cake for 30 children and 1 teacher. And this 7 year old ATE THE WHOLE THING. In the time it took me to take a piss. And you know he did it purely out of spite. No one WANTS to eat an entire cake. Like maybe you wanna eat 5 pieces… We’ve all seen Matilda. Even the kid who loves cake can’t eat a whole cake. He was just doing it to make sure everyone else was having a bad time… but who would be having a worse time than the person who ATE A CAKE FOR 31 people in the space of 2 minutes… Was it worth it Loni?
But I got him back 3 years later, I had him for secret santa, and I wrapped a used HB pencil for him. He was so mad he snapped the pencil in front of me. And I was like ‘it’s your present your breaking Loni”. Also – I don’t know why this happened, but one year our school went to do one of those kids game shows? You those game shows that would be on TV at 4:30pm after school? Like 4 different schools competing against each other in game show obstacles? And the show would be called “Booger Challenge” or “Flush Your Face” and it always ends with someone getting that green slime on them, regardless of the theme of the show… And the slime would always be accompanied by a hilarious fart sound, and the kids would go ‘ewwwwww’… I think the networks must have accidentally put a decimal point in the wrong place on an order, and they ended up with like a massive surplus of green slime and they had to find a way to use it at every opportunity. Anyway, our school did one of these once, and for some reason, the teachers picked Loni, who by the way if I hadn’t explained this already, was an unpredictable loose unit, they picked Loni to do the ‘talent’ segment. And it was Loni and 2 other boys just doing the worm for 3 minutes straight, and at the end as the presenter was talking, Loni was just flipping off the cameras behind him. That’s not the story I wanted to tell you today. Obviously I just have a lot of unresolved things with Loni.
Ok but I did have another birthday at school in grade 6. And it was the last day of term 2, and also the last game of winter interschool sports. Now, I don’t know why but I opted in to be on the netball team. I still have NO IDEA what is happening in netball, I don’t know the rules, I don’t understand what any of the positions mean… and for that reason someone made me Goal Shooter – who, as far as I understand, has one job of shooting goals. Now the only explanation I can come up with as to why I was given this position is because I was incapable of understanding what any of the other positions were meant to do or where they were allowed to go on the court, but this was the one role that I could understand. In theory… I understood that I was meant to throw the ball into the circle. And do that weird slow motion foot and hand thing… Ok so, we played what – 10 games? 5 home games and 5 at other schools? Give or take, I can’t remember. And we were on the bus on our way to play our 10th and final game at another school… And of the 9 games we had played so far I had scored – ZERO – points. NONE. I had gotten NO GOALS in 9 games. And again, I am wondering why the PE teacher didn’t swap me out to be like Wing bludger or Floss Attack or whatever… Again, I can only assume it was because I would have been even less valuable somewhere else… I’m not sure… But so far, I had scored zero points. As the goal shooter.
So on this day, the last day of term 2, our 10th and final winter interschool sports game and my 12th birthday, we rode the bus, and I think it’s fair to say, our expectations of how the game would go, were relatively low. But that didn’t mean our spirits were low. It was a beautiful sunny winter day and we literally had nothing to lose.
So we get to the other school. We do that weird pre-game passive aggressive hand touch shake thing with the other team. And the game starts. I get the ball. I pivot. I shoot. I miss. Again, I get the ball, pivot, shoot, miss. Everyone is trying their hardest, including me. Pivot. Shoot. Miss. We have zero points but we are not giving up. It’s the 2nd half. Pivot, shoot, miss. Whistle, keep going, ball is in play. “here if you need” here if you need. It’s the final minutes of the game. The score is zero to 12. I get the ball. I pivot… I shoot…. And the ball goes… In. And what happened then was an eruption of support I had never experienced in my life. Every kid on my school’s team runs up to me and lifts me up into the air. Some of them chanting my name, some of them simply yelling ‘it’s her birthday’. Everyone was ecstatic. It was like watching a miracle happen before our eyes. No one thought it was possible, but I did it, I scored a single point in our final game. Everyone was cheering, perhaps I’ve just imagined this in my euphoria, but I feel like even the other team started cheering for me… Everyone was filled with joy except our PE teacher, who was off to the side yelling ‘don’t reward her! She’s gotten no points this whole season!” But even the sports teacher’s attempts to reaffirm the cycle of shame and humiliation necessary to keep the interschool sports ethos alive, could not derail the celebrations. After great efforts both schools PE teachers managed to settle us down and the game continued. I get the ball. I pivot. I shoot. I miss. The game ends. We lose 15 to 1. It’s the closest game we’ve had. Again, perhaps I embellished this memory over years, but I’m pretty sure that everyone was still chanting my name as we got back on the bus after our victorious defeat.
And why did I want to tell you this story? There are 2 reasons. Firstly, it proves something that I have long suspected. If you work hard and get really good at something, no one cares. No one cares how good you are at a thing! Like you can be good at it and people will go, ‘yep you’re good at that’ but where is the HEART. Where is the STORY. What people really care about is someone who had no business doing something, blindly punching their way through and somehow coming out the other end. Every other player on that team was significantly better than me at netball. And we never chanted their name. Or lifted them up into the air. NOT ONCE.
And the other thing this story shows, something else I have also suspected for a long time is that, I actually think that maybe the secret to happiness is having no ambition. When you expect nothing, when your goal isn’t to win or to check things off a list, infact maybe you don’t even have a goal? Perhaps that is the most transcended place to be? I’ve been on stage many times, I’ve had audiences love what I do, hate what I do, mostly be completely indifferent to it… I’ve had many highs and lows, I’ve fallen in love, I’ve sung with my heroes, I’ve seen the best and the worst of myself and my loved ones… and I have to tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a group of people experience that level of joy as the grade 5/6 netball team when I scored a single point. Life is simple. Aim low, score low. And have a great time doing it.
Maeve: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to check out Queerstories on Patreon where you can support the project for as little as $1 per month. Follow Queerstories on Facebook for news and event updates, it’s been a weird couple of years what with the pandemic and me becoming a parent but I’m planning some big things in 2023 and I’d love you to be part of it.