Unmaking Beds with Benjamin Law


This article was originally published in issue 2 of mous magazine in 2016.

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When I first started reading Benjamin Law’s book, The Family Law, I did it in bed after I had a massive fight with my mum because I hadn’t made it that day. There’s a certain looseness to an unmade bed that I like, it just feels softer. I never understood why we make beds, or – at least – why we put so much emphasis on it.

“For fuck’s sake Anthony, if you’re going to make your bed, just do it properly. It’s about respect for me, and this house,” my mum said, “And hang up the towels in the bathroom after you wipe your hands!”

“I try, but they fall off the rails.”

“You’re off the fuckin’ rails, mate.”

“Jesus Christ seriously…” I’d said and she looked at me dead in the face so disappointed and said, “Yes, Anthony, seriously. I’m serious. Just like I was serious about having you when I got IVF in the NINETIES! Before they made it easy.” And you can’t win after she brings out that gun, can you? No. After mum brings her vagina into it, well my bullshit feelings about how it feels more honest to lay in an unmade bed, like I’m not pretending to be made or put-together in any way don’t really stand up to how my mother was harpooned with a speculum to have me.

I think you’re the most honest when you’re in bed, you have conversations that need to be had in bed. They start there. So if felt fitting that I read Benjamin Law in bed because his writing starts an important conversation, though he’d probably never admit to that. When I interviewed Benjamin Law, I found myself shutting the door to my room and sitting on my bed as I waited for his call. When we chatted, he’d just come from a meeting about what’s happening in Season 2 of The Family Law.

“When Series 1 finished, there was a lot of unanswered questions. Like, one of them is, when you decide to separate – amicably- what are the consequences? What does a divorce look like? What we want to look at is the anatomy of a divorce, you know? What does co-parenting look like? Is it easy? It’s never easy, it’s fuckin’ hideous. Series 1 left on this note where the parents, almost naively, thought that everything was going to be okay and straightforward but when has any divorce ever been straightforward?” Ben said over the phone.

“And there were other questions about how when you’ve spent entire life being a wife and a mother and your identity is based around that, what happens after a divorce? How do you claim independence and a sense of your identity back? It’s a difficulty a lot of people face, especially women in this context.”

What makes Ben’s work important isn’t necessarily what he’s talking about — divorce and its effect on family life, queerness and how it manifests itself in our adolescent lives are all things that we have talked about and do talk about pretty regularly — but the personal context with which he presents these stories, as an Asian male. “Sometimes it’s conscious but I’m a minority within a minority in Australia and there’s probably another group I’m a part of that I’m not even aware of. It’s like I’m a lasagne of minorities or something,” Benjamin jokes.

Click here to read the full article in issue #2