Maki Morita (she/they) is a Japanese-Australian writer and performance maker on unceded Wurundjeri country. Recent projects include dance piece (live art, Labour Lexica exhibition, Linden New Art, 2022) and Trash Pop Butterflies, Dance Dance Paradise (fortyfivedownstairs 2022, Theatre Works 2023). She is a 2022 Wheeler Centre Playwright Hot Desk Fellow and has appeared in events including National Young Writers Festival, Feminist Book Week and Yardstick.
SUBURBAN QUEERNESS / THE ANOMALY OF DANDELIONS
Threaded through primrose suburbs are the anomaly of dandelions, soon to be tucked away. As I child I thought dandelions were beautiful, and my parents would say Good! Pick those dandelions, we don’t want them in our backyard. I liked arranging their sunny halos over a vase, in my bedroom, in a similar fashion to roses or tulips.
There’s nothing new about sweeping together (fairy)dust and stashing it away. After all there are hoarders, stamp collectors, and the like. My favourite thing is paper — I collect wrapping paper, tissue paper, clothing labels made with nice paper, magazine cut-outs, postcards… which mostly go unused. My mother would always say Why are you keeping these piles of rubbish! But to me they are not rubbish; they are keepsakes.
The thing is my mother also kept ‘rubbish’. She would carefully cut out shoeboxes to make draw dividers. Tissue boxes became pencil holders. There was the big plastic bag full of smaller plastic bags in our kitchen, because as most Asian mums will tell you, Plastic bags can be re-used for anything. However, the function and order of these refurbished items rendered them ‘acceptable’. For some, fading into the façade of white bread suburbia is a lifelong endeavour.
For others, there is room to question this penchant for order. We can afford to peer into twists and gaps, to crawl into dark corners. In searching for lost glitter and stranger forms of beauty, we seek to embrace disfunction. Whether we realise it or not. Why marry for security? Why mow the lawn? Why have sex for procreation? Why not wear a funny hat?
And like this, we may become an anomaly in the way of dandelions.
While anomalies coexist with suburbia, there are penalties for overgrowth. Take the case of a lone share house on a straight (in both senses of the word) tree-lined street, identifiable by its quintessential front-porch couch (with holes, slightly lopsided). This outlandish artefact teeters in the kind of place where white women wear lululemon leggings and overpriced t-shirts bearing slogans like ‘fitness gangster’. Where a war of attrition begins by occupying a resident’s regular parking spot. God knows why we lived there.
Over many months of neglect, our section of the nature strip climbed above those of our neighbours. A woman once walked past and began tearing out the stalks with her bare hands. The anger this small patch of knee-high grass caused in her was initially amusing, then slightly alarming. She threw fistfuls of it onto the pavement, to little avail, then stalked off muttering annoyances.
With overgrowth comes visibility, and with visibility comes the pressure to either admit to noncompliance or trim it away. As an adult, embracing this visibility is akin to queer puberty — the protracted youth and delayed hooliganism that comes with comfortably fitting into your skin a beat (or two) after adolescence. In this sense, there is a certain freedom to leaving bushy sprawls rather than manicuring neat hedges.
Like dandelion wreaths, the throwaway remnants of suburban maintenance can be weaved into something new. While delicate and ephemeral, they may gather again and again over time, like the joy of coming together in the queer underground. The act of shimmering bright comes with the threat of being uprooted. Yet it is precisely this daring act that can allow for the birth of reverie, of a dreamlike space crafted by collective outlandishness.
Towards the end of its life, the dandelion turns to seed, and at this late stage it acquires a strange usefulness: wishful thinking. What was once an enemy of the suburban lawn becomes a novel means of articulating desire. Children are encouraged to blow the aged dandelion’s wispy seedlings into the sky. To close your eyes and make a wish. This way we learn about ambition, hope, everyday magic. And so the possibility of something different is instilled in the fantasy of youth. Within the rigid outlines of suburban lawns, clouds of lust are sent floating upwards.
Ironically, this human act assists with spreading seeds so that more young dandelions can grow, who will then be treated as pests by much of the human population. That is, unless they survive gardening days and careless shoe tramples to make it till old age. Why is it that this object of otherness requires the passing of time to prove its unique worth? Or is it precisely the unwantedness of dandelions that make them a suitable thing to send scattering with a mere breath, on which to attach our runaway desires?
Our relationship with magical thinking in many ways defines suburban queerness. The experience of growing up while dreaming of something seemingly distant. A lingering sense of being an anomaly, and looking for the right place to sprout petals. This continuous search keeps us in a state of permanent adolescence, always wishing, defying, and sprawling over, to the great disgruntlement of some.