What's fun until it gets weird?

There are no winners when you play Cards Against Humanity with your mum.

There are no winners when you have to explain what smegma is or the mechanics of a glory hole. You have opened a door you cannot close—you have lit the fuse of a truth bomb so great your childhood is now raining down around you like confetti at a public execution, like wigs at a drag queen graduation. When you witness how surprisingly good your mum is at this game of awfulness, you'll wonder whether her naivety and innocent questions are all for show. What if she's trolling you? What if this is payback for all the awkward questions you asked her as a child? Perhaps she has never forgiven you for breaking into a haka at a pedestrian crossing because a Māori man was also waiting to cross. Even though the son responsible for that particular public embarrassment was your brother, she's reached the point where all of the stupid things you did as kids can and will be attributed to either one of you.

There is no excusable justification for a family bonding activity that involves your mum and your aunties cackling over the phrase'Fucking a corpse back to life' and then winking at each other across the table, as if to say, 'These kids have no idea'. You and your cousins will look at each other and with your cousin telepathy—which is similar to a WhatsApp group chat only more exhausting because you can’t turn off notifications—you’ll all think-say to each other, 'Whose fucking idea was this? Don’t you dare leave this table, Shannan, we're making this memory together.'

We all thought this would be a good idea, perhaps even fun, but then every good idea gets corrupted sooner or later. Every good idea is a meme ruined by the Young Nats. Every good idea has a secret past involving a shotgun wedding and/or snakeskin pants. Every good idea has the potential to kill you in your sleep.

There is no turning back once you’ve played the 'bukkake' card. From this moment, your days will be ice cream melting on pavements and bone fragments in vegan pies and the image of your mum getting ready for bed reaching for her Estée Lauder night cream will make you wish you'd thought twice about playing that damn card. From this moment, the world will be a Lynchian nightmare of backmasked beat poetry and a VHS loop of your mum chanting 'bukkake, bukkake, bukkake' while scooping mayonnaise out of a jar with her hands and feeding it to your neighbour's dog Sparky.

There is no time to be embarrassed or vague when you explain these things to your mum because the alternative is that she'll turn to Google, and you have no idea what the safe search settings are on her work computer. It's probably best that she hears it from you. This is one of your unspoken responsibilities as a child, along with setting up your parents' wireless printer and finding a restaurant for dinner that caters to your dad's terrible luck with car parking, your mum's passionate distrust of herbs and is listed in the fucking Entertainment Book.

Well—Mum, Aunties—when several men and a woman love each other—actually maybe they don't have to love each other, but they certainly should at least be good enough acquaintances that they will engage in small talk about the next kindy working bee when they run into each other in the cereal aisle—and maybe it doesn't have to be a woman—maybe it can be another man—so when several men and a woman or another man have consensually agreed to what's about to happen they have a special cuddle—OK, it’s less a cuddle and more a group masturbation session—they jointly jerk off and when the men are about to finish—when the men are ready to express their love or casual acquaintance—when the men are on the edge of ... ejaculating ... they do so on her—or his— ... face.

There is no blistering silence like the one that follows while your mum and aunties ponder this explanation before submitting their supplementary questions. You're not equipped to handle their queries about the ethics or etiquette of bukkake and what even constitutes bukkake—does there have to be a minimum number of participants? Who gets the enjoyment out of it? Because when it comes to sex and enjoyment the balance is never weighted equally, so is it the givers or the receivers who get the most out of this experience? Then your mum asks, 'Have you ever done it before?' and your life will flash before your eyes like a haunted Viewmaster—like a This Is Your Life montage scored by Hans Zimmer—like an out-of-body experience with puppets. Your aunties and cousins turn expectantly to hear your response. One of them has a box of popcorn and your out-of-body self will think, 'Where did Justine get that popcorn?' and before either you or your out-of-body self can comprehend what is happening you'll say to your mum, 'Well, I don’t think it really counts because it was just me and one other guy and he caught me by surprise'—and shit—you made it worse. You’ve somehow made explaining what bukkake is to your mum and aunties worse. Then Shannan will say, 'Isn’t that called a facial?' and before you can shoot her your most poison-fire-tipped death stare your mum asks, 'What’s a facial?'

There is no readily available time travel science to send you back in time to slap Past Chris, the inventors of Cards Against Humanity and, while you're at it, the writer who decided that Rory should sleep with Dean, much to Lorelei's disappointment, perpetuating the narrative of Gilmore women disappointing their mothers with their sexual dalliances. There is no magic spell or brainwashing device capable of erasing the night's events. There is only a silent ride home and a hasty goodbye when your parents drop you off. There are further follow-up questions the next day via text. There are tears in the cereal aisle when Max's dad John avoids eye contact because he is far too acquainted with them and heads straight to the checkout even though he hasn’t found everything he came here for so now he'll have to make a stop at the New World down the road where the gluten-free bread is more expensive but it's worth it to not have to make small-talk with you.

There are craters on Mars that were once filled with water.

There are children born to parents who have waited their whole lives to love them.

There are no winners when you play Cards Against Humanity with your mum.

Chris Tse was born and raised in Lower Hutt. He studied film and English literature at Victoria University of Wellington, where he also completed an MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. He is the author of three collections of poetry published by Auckland University Press: How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of the 2016 Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry), HE’S SO MASC (2018), and Super Model Minority (2022). He and Emma Barnes edited Out Here: An Anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ Writers from Aotearoa (Auckland University Press, 2021). In August 2022, he was appointed New Zealand’s Poet Laureate for 2022-24.

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Chris Tse's website

Auckland University Press author page

Read NZ Te Pou Muramura author page