Speaking of...with Chris Ryan

Season 1: Episode 2

Speaking of… Love, take a trip down memory lane with comedian, writer and arguably one of Canberra’s most beloved residents, Chris Ryan… (feral cats complementary of course!)

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Speaking of... love by Chris Ryan

I’ve been wrong about love many times, for ages. I used to think love was something that made you feel good. Like having a bag of Salt & Vinegar chips you could consume and discard quickly, offering no lasting nutritional value. Certainly, with no consideration for how the chips felt.

When I was 4, I thought I loved a mangey cat that my parents tolerated enough let me keep, but not enough to have it de-sexed. I named the cat Pussy and it kept having kittens then trying to kill them.

I realise now how disturbing that sounds, but at the time, my family acted like it was perfectly normal for me to carry kittens around in a metal bowl and force them to have tea parties with me in my treehouse.

I vividly remember singing Lionel Ritchie’s “You’re once, twice, three times a lady” to the cat, holding it …firmly… because, I presume, she didn’t really like my singing. I sang the song with tears in my eyes, because those lyrics felt like they were written specifically for me…to sing to my disturbed, reluctant cat.

Honestly, it’s a miracle I’m not in prison.

To this day, my older brother still imitates my obsessive cat patting by patting his own head ferociously until it looks uncomfortable and almost painful – making the point that it was weird and so was I.

I’m a parent now and I look back at all that and wonder what were my parents thinking?!

It was the ‘70s and we were living in India; animal welfare was not high on the agenda. For sacred cows, yes, for semi-feral cats, no.

I should not have been allowed to play ‘house’ with cats, and Pussy should definitely have been de-sexed after, if not before the first litter.

Come to think of it – the word litter to describe the delivery of kittens seems inherently disrespectful but apt, considering how people (including me) treated them.

Someone should have also prevented me from giving that Cat such a lewd and unimaginative name.

In High School, if I fell “in love” with a boy it was because he was cute and funny or tough and aloof – but in all instances, he had to be paying me no attention whatsoever.

My feelings would last between 2 minutes and two weeks, unless he made the mistake of liking me back. Then it was over instantly.

It was such a proven phenomenon that I coined the phrase “The Aaargh Syndrome” to explain it. ‘Aaargh’ representing the exact moment when I realise he likes me back and I have to metaphorically scream and flee.

For me, “Love” from age 14 to 22 was attraction, built on the foundation of being ignored.

Never in a million years did I think that when I met the father of my children, he would be wearing reflective sunglasses.

I had to interview him at a regional newspaper. He was designing a cycleway for a community group and when I had to take his photo, I said: “I’m going to have to get you to take off those sunglasses.” And he did.

I ran into him at a party the following weekend and he didn’t remember me. That was infuriating. But also, kind of hot. He later told me that he thought I was a Doctor’s wife, because in that small town of 3000 people, I had a city haircut and a clean pair of jeans.

He would go on to become the singularly most infuriating and challenging person I have ever met. His self-assured calm, intellect and independence immovable against the tsunami of my impatience, rage and hunger for attention.

Love, as I’ve come to understand it after 23 years, doesn’t always feel great. It’s not someone who agrees with you or wants to watch the same movie and eat the same food. It’s not holding someone down while you sing Lionel Ritchie at them – unless you’ve agreed in advance and there’s a safe word.

No. Love is more like steamed greens, committing to a job you hate, making a pot of tea when it’s not your turn – all with no round of applause – because finally, inevitably, love is not about you.

Chris Ryan is a 46-year-old woman, so for 90 per cent of any given day, she is detecting and removing errant chin hairs. That she’s made time to write at all with this packed agenda is testament to her relentless pursuit of artistic excellence. Sometime after the apocalypse, Chris plans to record her 2020 festival show I Thought It Would Be Nice at lounge room gigs in Canberra and release it online. If you’d like access to her droll, ill-considered and often conflicting thoughts, such as they are, subscribe to her newsletter. She is also vaguely present on YouTube and omnipresent on Facebook and Instagram.