What do I know?

by Sandy Burgham

Rapper Nicki Minaj wearing an illustrated t-shirt, designed by Pippi Nola














I live in fear that my children will never be able to earn money

after a lifetime of me probably doing too much for them, and in

particular, for encouraging my daughter to go to art school. They

assure me that “you just don’t get it.”

Art school, which we thought was a good idea at the time, ends

up being the most agonisingly drawn-out four years of my life

as I witness the slow unravelling of the person I knew, and the

emergence of an unfamiliar creature. We try to be supportive, but

don’t like her choices or ‘get’ her art at all.

She becomes cynical about art school, the world, capitalism, the

system, working for the man, which now I come to think of it, I am

too, but I don’t want her to be so cynical before she is 21. A friend

who went to art school, now a successful creative business owner,

reassures her and says its greatest benefit is that it teaches you to

think “Fuck you!” She gets an A+ in that particular sentiment.

I’m banned from her social media accounts for posting comments

like “put some bloody clothes on”. I find myself entertaining

thoughts like, “that nice young lawyer would be a good person for

her to meet,” or wondering if we shouldn’t have called her Charlotte

or Emma, rather than the kooky name we chose. Her choices trigger

my own identity crisis – am I conservative or liberal? I seem to

swing wildly from one to the other.

Through all of this, she has a ball — partying, laughing, being

naughty. All the things that I have done, in the days before social

media. We press-gang her into taking up a great work opportunity,

in a degree-related area but in another city. She is instinctively very

unsure about it. She quits after two months. I seethe. She comes

back home for free rent and food, and starts jobbing in the “gig

economy”. Any conversation straying into “what are you going to

do with the rest of your life?” is cut off at the pass by defensive,

gnashing teeth. “You don’t get it”. She earns money, but doesn’t

have a regular savings plan (ok, I didn’t at her age either, but this

really irks me). She smells of cigarettes, which frustrates me — me

who was hospitalised with asthma the evening of my 21st after

smoking two packets of cigarettes and other stuff.

She starts communicating with a stranger on Instagram. This girl

is allegedly the same age, and lives in Mexico City. I’m thinking it’s

a drug cartel, is her surname El Chapo? “You don’t get it”. They like

each other’s vibe (my word, not hers) and they want to “collaborate

on t-shirts”. Yeah, whatever, I’m thinking, while the “Oh god, when

is she ever going to get her shit together” ticker tape runs in my

head. I see her t-shirt design. It’s true, I don’t get it. I fear no one

will buy it and her dreams will be crushed. I pretend to love it. Time

passes. She’s still jobbing in the gig economy when more lucrative,

long-term work opportunities come up. But she’s not interested as

she wants to go to Mexico to meet her Insta friend. I freak out and

argue a case for longer-term contracts, which she ignores. “You

don’t get it”.

A cutting-edge fashion brand picks up the Instagram friend’s

range for stores in New York and LA. Our daughter’s t-shirt is

amongst the selection. I worry for her, no one will buy it because

they wont “get it” either — I can’t even work out what it says. It goes

online, she is credited. I am proud of her, but still worry. My helpful

offer to buy one is soundly rejected. “You don’t get it”.

One morning after Christmas, she is jumping for joy. Rap

superstar Nicki Minaj has posted shots of herself wearing the t-shirt

and social media is going crazy. My husband googles ‘Nicky Banage’

to find out who she is. I, at least, have heard of Nicki Minaj, not that

I get her. Then it dawns on me that indeed, “I don’t get it”. I share

the joy on Facebook, despite having just written about my loathing

of bragging posts about kid’s achievements. Mainstream news picks

up on it. I’m still puzzled by it all. Our daughter rolls her eyes and

books a flight to Mexico. — Sandy Burgham


This column first appeared in The Hobson Magazine, February 2019


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