WHAT IS IT with the broad public – strangers on the bus – when they encounter something out of their experiences and need to poke at it? Maxine, in episode 15 of The End of the Line, a series of British fictional monologues on podcast, ponders this issue, with her wife and baby daughter in tow. As she’s put on to ponder the bizarre question of basically which vagina the child emerged from.
Of course, they don’t ask it in such brash terms, and the questions are coated in sugary euphemism with the pretence of ‘broad-mindedness’ but through the writing of this feisty and furious episode you get to understand how strangers often feel it is their right to ask people who are different to them, very intimate questions. It’s a kind of bland, childish curiosity that spurts from the mouth of the unaware into the face of someone who has struggled with this issue all their lives. And mostly, it infuriates.
And the question fits into a whole litany of ridiculous levels of insensitivity, which Joe and Joan Public trample around in, with hobnailed boots. Questions like “What does it feel like to be so tall? So short? So fat? So thin? Are you sad you don’t have children?” come to mind, in this well-written and angry text which is as much about motherhood as it is about being human.
Maxine sparks the kind of incredulity of being fairly young in the face of silly people, but it’s an incredulity that each of us experience, in the face of someone out there – a stranger, at best – who considers us not enough. Not normal enough. Not like them.
Introducing a lesbian into its quiver of opinions about having babies is an angle to the series which has been a long time coming, and it is everything you might have anticipated. Maxine rages with a complex anger which embraces her wife and child with great love.
- Maxine is a story written by Emily Morgan and directed by Mark Heywood. With production support by Lynne McConway and editing by Pocket Blockbuster, it features casting by Sydney Aldridge and music by Daisy Chute and Cerian of the Heard Collective; it is performed by Hannah Genesius and it is the 15th in a series of podcasts produced by Ink Jockey collectively called The End of the Line.