It’s not often I ask for help. I’ve never been very good at it, what with being a lone-wolf, renegade adventurer, blogger. But today I out to my friends, I can call you that right? You see, the other day I went for brunch, dressed in clothes that I would come to realise, could also function as a cloak of invisibility. As I entered the well-lit inner city café/bookstore/ carb intervention centre, for a moment I thought perhaps I’d made a mistake and fallen upon the sign in booth at the start of a triathlon or at the very least, a competitive Mother’s Day power walk.
For as far as the eye could see there were Lululemon Compression tights and Northwest Fleece Vests filling every table, bar stool and cranny. It was as if a neighbouring gym had had a gas leak and this was their evacuation point. As I stood there in a dress and opaque tights, a look I describe as ‘leaving the house chic’, being ignored by a waitress dressed in last year’s best goat-milking coveralls, I couldn’t help but think – was I allowed to eat here? Perhaps, much like a Cannes red carpet, there was a dress code I’d missed as perhaps it was only communicated via weathering stares and spelt-milk fuelled eye-rolls.
Finally, my boyfriend, wearing leather soled shoes, an obvious silent protest against the Adidas that surrounded us, were seated. Seated at a table with four young women, all wearing matching lavender tights and fit bits, all talking about how they were too busy to hit the gym that morning. Unlike my boyfriend and I, they were served promptly and not judged when asking for extra bread and could heartily indulge in a large stack of pancakes because they were dressed to burn it off. I on the other hand, well the fact I was dressed in ‘day clothes’ meant I’d given up for the day, might as well turn in for the night, hoist open my mouth and roll me towards a trough…the end was nigh.
And then suddenly it struck me, as a tried desperately to get the waitresses attention because I needed cutlery to eat (though I’m pretty sure given I wasn’t wearing the appropriate amount of pre-workout foundation that she had just assumed I ate with my hands), that I was invisible. That without perfectly coifed and overly expensive exercise gear I might never have brunch again. My tears could have filled a thimble that day.
Of course I have my own workout gear but somehow I’m pretty sure my black leggings, the ones with a hole where my vagina begins, adorned with an oversized grey t-shirt hiding two Kmart sports-bras, well it’s not going to give me the visibility, the relevance as a person I need.
So that’s why I’m turning to you guys, my friends, my bestie’s, my compadres. Sure if I budgeted better, perhaps stopped having my one-a-day instant coffee habit or my monthly trim at Just Cuts, I could afford to buy all the ‘going out’ gym gear I needed, but I don’t see why my frugal lifestyle should suffer when I have you guys – haven’t I suffered enough by wearing ‘going outside clothes’ for years?
But lets be serious for a minute – If I don’t get your support then I’ll probably never be able to out for brunch again – don’t look away from me- I know it’s hard to see one of your peers begging for help, begging to be seen by all the coverall wearing waiters and waitresses of the world, but look at me! Look me in the eye – surely you can see I deserve to eat coconut infused muesli with optional pomegranate placenta at 11.30am on a Saturday just like everyone else? Do I not bleed if you stab me? Am I not you, just with a lot less shame?
From as little as $20 a day you can keep me in the attire I should’ve learned to grow accustomed to by now and I know that with your help I might be served before 5pm on a weekend, once again
Thanking you in advance
ps. This is how I will look once your donations start rolling in.
After over two decades of being on a diet, yep 20 years and I’m only 35 (I could’ve raised a teenager in that time, or at least two primary school aged kids), quitting dieting is like deciding to stop brushing your teeth. It’s gross and there was the chance that giving up on brushing my teeth, like not dieting might also make me less desirable. I mean if I wasn’t lemon detoxing I wasn’t living.
That makes me come across like a superficial bitch but you’ve got to understand, for years I’ve seen myself as one of those women that come across like they might be on a diet, could be a diet, like they’re kinda just one week of losing self-control away from standing in for the marshmallow man in Ghostbusters.
I told my fiance that I was giving up dieting. He smiled, said he supported whatever decision I wanted to make and returned to writing his blog about the lacklustre third installment of The Hobbit. But I was resolute. I told him that by not controlling everything that went into my mouth over the next 12 months there was a possibility I could double, maybe even triple in size. Was he ok with that? I answered for him – ‘you’ll just have to be!’ I shouted as I started to feverishly delete most of the diet and fitness apps off my phone.
Whilst my decision to get off the diet choo-choo train sounded altruistic in my head, that I was taking a long needed stand against the diet/fitspo culture that seems to consume most our lives, it was more selfish than that. I just wanted to see if I was good enough just the way I was. I know I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life, I’m not denying that, but deep down inside I’ve always believed that I was about 5-10 kilos away and committing to a 3 week starvation diet away from achieving proper success, financial stability and happiness.
If I was a size 6 I’d get more work, I‘d get more money, more friends, more love. It made sense to me. The world rewards the size dropper doesn’t it? I mean look at New Idea, Woman’s Day, fuck Ricki-Lee’s entire career is based on her talent to yo-yo. My time as a performer only saw to amplify this delusion as I saw my size scrutinised even more than during my frumpy teen years. There’s a fear of fat that drives most of us to try and be slimmer versions of ourselves, but that’s just crap, I’m a rational person, how can a fear of something so irrelevant lead to such an ingrained self-hatred? It’s disgusting. I was ashamed of myself. I needed to let myself become whatever it is I was destined to be and furthermore, love that version of myself.
By the end of 2014 I started to realise that all this time spent obsessing over the latest fad diet or exercise plan to date had yielded fuck all. It got me thinking, what if I took a year off from trying to improve myself and see what I might be able to accomplish as me, just the way I am? (I couldn’t avoid that Bridget Jones moment- sorry guys). If I just let the year ride out and took opportunities as they came and believed that I was merited in taking them, that I didn’t need to fit into a pair of Esprit socks to succeed, what’s the worst that could happen? It was a fraught decision based on a lot of what if’s and uncertainty but so far it’s going ok.
Taking all that time spent thinking about improving my physical self and channeling it into other things has seen me start to make headway on a lot of projects, that I otherwise might not have had the self-confidence to pursue. Of course currently it’s about 80% faking it to make it, but that’s pretty good.
I understand for some people dieting is important. Some need to do it for health and well-being and some of those people need support to do it, so it makes sense to look for programs that do that and are backed up with science, ongoing support and results but fad dieting isn’t the answer. It’s isolating. It makes you obsessive. It makes you sad. It can even make you smell, but most importantly it’s a waste of your precious time.
Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to moments of weakness with a diet shake and a bottle of wine, followed by a punishing Jillian Michaels workout, but for the most part I’ve resisted. I’ve learnt to take deep breaths and then after a few moments I find the urge to try the latest fad diet passes and I’m able to get on with the day.
I now believe that sometimes it takes a lifetime to break the habit of the lifetime. If no ones said that before, I’m claiming that quote btw.
**this writer must declare she does still exercise because she loves it and it’s good for her mental health.
‘….our identity is a sum of our parts, not just one part in particular.’
I’m not Trans. I can’t speak to that experience. So I won’t. What I will speak with is the experience of someone who was once in a relationship with a Trans Man. Some people know about this, some people don’t. I always felt uncomfortable talking about my experience, thinking that in doing so I was revealing something that wasn’t mine to do, so much so that when I did a show about this particular relationship back in 2009 I didn’t mention it. I was really into prop comedy at the time anyway. I argued it wasn’t important to the story. I argued with my director, my script editor. I told them it wasn’t my story to tell. And you know what? In all honestly I didn’t want to distract from the show. I didn’t want the audience to spend any of their time trying to figure ‘it’ out. Trying to figure out what that made me? Oh and the much more common concern – watching the audience try to figure out how we did ‘it’.
Does that sound crude? Abso-fucking-lutely it does. And sadly it was a question I got asked all too often.
No one ever thought they were being offensive or intrusive when they asked how we had sex and my grimaced smile didn’t really send home the message that it wasn’t an appropriate question to ask – the sort that revealed more about the ignorance of the asker then the answerer. I thought by not answering their questions that that would say, albeit silently, that their questions were inappropriate. Like when they asked ‘have they had the surgery?’ or when they said ‘it’s amazing, they pass so well. You’d think they were a real man’ or my favourite ‘I could always tell.’ I’d tell them finally to shut up, that it was their ignorance and lack of education talking, but I was loathed to discuss it further as I still believed that just because I’d dated a Trans Man, that didn’t give me the right to discuss it.
But now that I’m older and as an LGBTQI ally and advocate I believe it is visibility and experience that is our strongest assets in this community. Putting aside the Bruce Jenner media spectacle we’ve seen in recent weeks, sharing our experiences, even if they are fleeting is important. It doesn’t mean you’re telling someone else’s story, it means your telling only part of your story. So yes, I dated a Trans Man.
As friends, we were great. As lovers, we were fun, tempestuous, fiery, belligerent and miserable – the perfect 20something relationship. During my time with him, aside from the constant teary eyed break-ups and passionate reunions I never really thought about what being with him made me. People who knew us just thought it was great we’d gotten together, finally. Only when I started telling some close family and friends that didn’t know about him I was asked ‘are you gay?’ I would always answer ‘No, I date a man because I’m straight’ but I knew what they meant. They needed to make sense of it, as open minded as they were. If I was gay it would make sense. It would explain all the Indigo Girls albums and my fondness for the film ‘But I’m a Cheerleader.’ What didn’t make sense was that for all intents and purposes I was in a straight relationship and my boyfriend could be an asshole just like everyone else’s. On the odd occasion his transition would come up during our time together he used it to try and empathise with me, like when I was complaining of period pains and he tried to empathise and I threw his trainers out the window…
I won’t write about his journey in this post. I still believe that’s his to tell. What I will say is he was an activist and friend to many in the trans community and it was hard not to be in awe of what he had overcome to be the person he really was. And whilst my relationship with him didn’t make me gay, it did make me more aware, more liberal and more importantly, did in some way contribute to the person I am today. But that’s what all relationships should do. The good, the bad – they teach us something about ourselves.
After we broke up and I started dating again, I would sometimes disclose details of my past relationship with him and be met with a mix of curiosity and utter transphobia – ‘oh so now you’re with a real man’. This comment uttered by more than one but less than a few. Those relationships would last the length of a short breath.
I saw this short documentary once, where a Trans Warrior went around asking people on the street questions about what it meant to be a man. Questions like ‘If you were in a car crash and you lost your cock would that make you less of a man?’ In all of these ‘if you lost your cock’ questions the answer was always the same ‘having a penis didn’t make you a man’. The interviewers intention was clear – our identity is a sum of our parts, not just one part in particular.
I realised while reading some of the reporting surrounded Bruce Jenner’s recent admission as well as watching TV shows like Orange is New Black and Transparent – that while it is important we continue to see trans visibility increase in our society, that it is also important that those of us who have been in relationships with Trans People not fall silent on it. By letting people know that being a relationship with a Trans Person was part of your story it can help lessen the stigma and at times offensive curiosity surrounding the community. It can show young people struggling with transition that they will love, live and have tempestuous and at time shitty relationships just like the rest of us. It might just show them that it does get better. It sure showed me that.
I find women funnier. I just do. There, it’s said. It’s out there. For years I’ve taken a diplomatic stance – funny is funny no matter what the gender, no matter who is telling the joke, but who was I kidding, give me an Amy over an Arj any day. Now by no means is that meant to be taken as a disparaging comment on the Arj’s of the world, it’s just that my pen is inked from a different well, um, a well of ladies.
I was born this way. From the moment I came into the world, as my mother looked at my tanned skin and joked between puffs ‘oh look, she’s nicotine stained’…it was inevitable.
About a week ago some guy called Wippa from a radio show mentioned that funny women don’t get the guys. Mama Mia writer Lucy Gransbury posted a great response to his assertions – ‘Eat a bag of dicks’. A more articulate response to the ‘funny women shut up if you want to get laid debate’ I’m yet to see. My fiancé, a man no less, decided he too would post a response. Less barbed he conceded that funny was sexy no matter what gender but I begged to differ, and I did. Under his post, I wrote ‘I find women funnier.’ It was out.
As much as I’m a fan of David Sedaris, it’s his sister Amy Sedaris who I stalk with unwavering commitment. Her Instagram account is ‘what Instagram was made for’ a friend recently declared. Her recent turn in Broadcity, something to behold ‘where isn’t a toilet?!’
Judith Lucy and Jane Kenndey were the reasons I fought to stay up well past my bedtime to watch The Lateshow, it had little to do with Mick or Santo. Then of course there was Lynda Gibson in Let the Blood Run Free, Madge in Big Girls Blouse, Smack the Pony, Lucille Ball, The Golden Girls, Mona from Who’s The Boss, Ruth Cracknell, Lily Tomlin, Bette Midler and Shelley Long in anything. Oh and then there was Girls on Top that introduced me to Tracey Ullman, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. And Julia Davis pretty much revolutionised my viewing experience with Nighty Night, um and Jo Brand, Ab Fabs Patsy, Tamsin Greig, Janeane Garofalo, Olivia Colman and Parker Posey, and that my friends is only a list encompassing my formative years to say about the time I started working in comedy in the early 2000s.
Now sadly it was only when I started working in the industry did I learn, or sorry, I was told that women weren’t funny from some punters, some promoters and the odd comedian thus negating my entire back catalogue of inspiration, well they would have if I’d actually given a shit and for a moment believed them. I guess it doesn’t help that near every year some journo with space to burn poses the question ‘Are women funny?’ it’s about as relevant and interesting a question as that from my Year 12 debating final ‘Should you be permitted to choose whatever clothes you want to wear outside of school?’
Sure I have friends who are professionally funny and successful because they’re funny, but it’s also my lady friends from other walks of life that crack me up just as much, if not more. I think it’s the reason I think I’m drawn to them in the first place, that and their hair. It’s what I value most in a friendship, a good laugh and good hair. My mum is one of the funniest women I know, now whether or not it’s intentional we’ll probably never be certain, but on more than one occasion she’s made me pee my pants and this is well after the potty training years. My friend Clem never fails to make me laugh-cry in my face and then there’s Hattie. I see her maybe every 5 years or so, but I’m still left smiling for years after our catch ups because of her tales of exotic world travel engrossing me while her cigarette animatedly dances around the table as she weaves her squeal inducing stories. Actually if I’ve invited you around for dinner and plied you with booze and you’ve got a vagina it’s probably because you’ve made my tummy hurt with laughter at some stage….feel used? Good.
I’m sure if you know me you’ve probably always suspected that I’m funny girl inclined, there’s been rumours floating around for years and I just felt it was time to set things straight, on my own terms. I plan to raise my children as lovers of funny women and you know what, I don’t think they’ll be alone, especially if the recent spate of fan obsessing ver the Amy’s, Mindy’s, Tina’s and Ilana’s is anything to go by and they’ll be in the best of like-minded sexy funny company, I’m sure.
Dove recently launched another of their ‘every women’ campaigns with #choosebeauty. Their campaigns successfully work on the self-deprecating, self-hating woman, you know, the one that doesn’t know they’re beautiful, like really beautiful inside and out until a major advertising initiative tells them so, all set to muted tones of blue, cream and other unobtainable minimalistic basic design shit.
It’s important being beautiful isn’t it? Like really, really important. Forget health, forget love, forget kindness, it’s all about beauty and if you’re not conventionally beautiful that ok because we’ve got you covered – unconventionally beautiful? Or maybe you’re big and beautiful or better yet- beautiful on the inside? Oh man, we’ve got a slogan, meme, affirmation or cute instagram pic telling us to be ‘our own kind of beautiful’ for that – we’ll even put it on a mug, frame, canvas painting for you and that’s because it’s important that you’re beautiful because as long as you are beautiful you’ve got value, purpose, you’re ok to be here.
But what if you’re not beautiful? If it’s not of interest to you, or important.
Is it ok to not be beautiful?
I asked my fiancé this question a few weeks ago and his response was expected, the norm ‘but you are beautiful’. Ah, even in the eye of the beholder it is important. I wasn’t fishing for reassurance and I’m not doing that now, writing this, either. I was asking him in the wake of all these #beauty campaigns if were we missing the point. Sure it’s nice to be the most viewed painting in a gallery, but it doesn’t necessarily make you the most valuable piece of art in the exhibition. It all seemed a bit desperate I told him, like it was important everyone was beautiful, more important than say making sure everyone had clean drinking water or education.
I understand the need for self-acceptance. That is important. Being able to say ‘I’m great how I am’ is something we should all strive towards (at 35 I’ve only just started on this little journey) but why is it never ‘I’m great how I am because I speak four languages, love walks with my dog and I pay my library fines on time, every time.’ Why does it always need to be ‘I’m great because I’ve finally come to terms with my ankles’ – surely we’ve got more to offer then that. Can our lives have value without this constant pursuit whether it be from external or internal forces to be seen as beautiful no matter by what the prism we’re seeing it?
I’m asking a lot of questions aren’t I? I guess I’m thinking out loud a lot about this. I tried an experiment the other day. In a group of people I said ‘I’m not beautiful’ – as expected, because it’s expected everyone jumped in with ‘no, are you kidding! My mother thinks you’re very striking! You know you’re gorgeous right?!’ – now I’m not admonishing my friends, that’s their jobs as friends, fuck as humans on this earth to tell me I’m beautiful but why are we so reluctant to reply with ‘ok, so you’re not beautiful, but you’re a fucking dynamite in the sack and your socially aware design work is going to change the world.’ I’m just saying there’s a lot more to people at the end of the day but if we don’t see them as beautiful do they really exist?
Now I’m not saying if you’re not beautiful or don’t want to be seen as beautiful that you’re ugly. Embracing the ugly is just as problematic, because it’s just validation of the physical as is beauty and anyway isn’t one persons ugly another persons Jimmy Smits?
We’re all to blame for this. Even I watch those Dove campaigns and get all ‘oh but she’s so beautiful in her muted toned cardigan…how does she not know she’s a supermodel? …how does she get up the morning if she doesn’t have beauty?’
I’m still not sure where I’m going with this, I wanted to start a conversation and now I’m interested to see where it goes.
Beauty is all around us, it comes for the most part from what we as humans, beautiful and not beautiful, create – painting, music, sculpture, perfume, books, poems, film, dance, irrigation, architecture, engineering, science. I’m just wondering if it wasn’t so important that we be beautiful, I mean if we didn’t spend so much time and money making sure we’re all beautiful, that we might bring so much more achievable beauty into this world. A rambling thought I know, but a beautiful thought nonetheless.
When people ask me what my cultural background is I like to set them at ease by telling them I’m half second generation Australian. If you put the word Australian in there it makes them feel better like they could be friends with you. I bring this up because it’s something I’ve been thinking on since Australia Day and whether you celebrate it or not, I think we can all agree on the same thing, being Australian means different things to different people – like to racists it is a day to drape a flag over your car and drive around yelling out to people like myself to ‘go back to where we came from’ or the more enlightened but equally oblivious leftie idiot, it’s a day to let me know that ‘my people’ enrich this country and they’d totally ‘ride with me’.
Australia Day seems an endless parade of the question ‘where you from?’
To be clear I’m half Spanish, half Port Melbourne bred Irish. I’m as white as they come but to quote Rashida Jones ‘I’m ethnic’. I have a certain glow about me, a tan like I’ve just returned from holiday – really you must tell me your secret…
My gripe with the ‘where are you from?’ is that the question lacks nuance or a curiosity for a more complex answer. As if saying where you are from gives us all the answers. Surely we would get a more enriching response if we asked ‘what is your story?’
My father who immigrated here as a teen built a life and became a successful chef, but what came before that I don’t really know. I’m not sure what Spain was like other than being acutely aware that ‘the food’s better there’ and ‘they sleep after lunch.’ I was never told stories of the old country, partly due to my dad’s unrelenting work ethic and my relationship with my Abuela (Spanish for grandmother).
It has always been fractured. Since I can remember she didn’t seem to like me. She displayed this lack of affection towards me in her own special way, like only an emotionally estranged adult could – like buying me bras made for flat chested men and making me put them on, parading in front of her. Or refusing to speak in English to me, or getting annoyed when I voiced an opinion that challenged her traditionalist sensibilities, or forcing me to role play being a ‘maid’ or ‘wife’ whilst my brother got to be a ‘man’ and was rewarded grandly with lollies and personal freedom whilst I was ‘allowed’ to learn the secret art of ironing men’s underpants…
I never knew why my Abuela had so many issues with me. My mother explained it away over the years by telling me she didn’t like her either and true to form, when my grandfather (Abuelo) died late last year mum found photos of my father and the woman they wanted him to marry instead of my mum stuck behind old picture frames. They now sit pride of place in my parent’s house because my mum reckoned my dad looked pretty hot in them and it would have been a shame to have thrown them away.
Of course I never confronted my Abuela over any of her problems with me, I was young and, to be honest, my biggest interest was myself. As far as I was concerned, I was her granddaughter and it was her job to love me and shower me with praise regardless of clashing personalities. I always knew I could blame her reluctance to speak English to me as the reason I never really got to know her. If she didn’t like me then why should I have bothered asking her questions about her, about her life, you know before she became my grandmother – the role she had been reduced and relegated to only in the last 16 years of her long life.
It was only at her funeral that I got a bit of a glimpse of the person my Abuela had been and it was eye opening.
The crematorium was filled with other Spanish immigrants as expected, armed with tortillas and paellas, but there were also other ‘new Australians’ all eager to pay their respects to a woman who had opened up her home to them, helped them set up homes by donating furniture, clothes, food, accommodation and providing language classes run in the front room of her house when they arrived in Australia, isolated and alone. WTF? As her eulogy was read I couldn’t help but think ‘this was a woman I wanted to know. How come these guys got to know her and I didn’t?’
A few years after her death my parents, on one of their regular pilgrimages to Spain to eat and talk of retiring there one day, connected with some relatives long ago estranged. It was on this trip that my father learnt that his mother hadn’t always just been his mother. She had a been a woman with a challenging, complex and at times brutal past.
The story starts with my bisabuela (great grandmother). She worked as a caretaker and domestic whilst actively involved in the Republican movement. In my fathers words ‘yes, she was a communist.’ She was also a mother of two boys and one girl. One of the boys was adopted, a result of a rumoured illicit pregnancy of a famous Spanish actress whom my bisabuela worked for.
My father learnt that one day when he was out playing, a priest with strong fascist leanings in the town, frustrated by the noise of children playing outside his window, tossed out a brick, killing the boy instantly. This was the catalyst for my bisabuela to become a gun runner for the resistance movement, hiding and stockpiling live ammunition in her home for her fellow comrades. The story goes that she outed by a fellow freedom fighter (snitch!) and one day the police turned up her house and arrested her, well not before she blew up the arsenal she’d been in charge of.
Taken to a prison, that to this day people are very reluctant to admit existed (even though it functions as a prison still…) she was summarily sentenced to death. My bisabuelo, told that she had been executed eventually hung himself but not before being known to sit in his backyard with a glass of wines as bombs dropped around him because he wanted to face his death. His body was discovered by his remaining son, who realising what the death of his parents meant to the children of the resistance, fled Spain and joined the Foreign Legion. My Abuela, now alone, was sent to an orphanage that from all accounts was abusive (think Pan’s Labyrinth) and eventually she was released into a life of servitude. The kicker in all of this, it turns out, was her mother wasn’t killed. The powers that be had lied. My bisabuelo was eventually pardoned and returned home to find her husband dead, her son gone and her daughter living in the belief her family was dead, as a domestic.
Hearing this story made me wonder, why had Abuela come here? Was she still afraid of persecution and rightfully so? I heard that my bisabuela was almost stopped from visiting when my father first immigrated because of her communist connections – maybe my Abuelo wanted to escape that ongoing association and that’s why she never spoke of it. Maybe her problem with my outspoken opinions and causes scared her because after all she had experienced first hand the devastating effects fighting for what you believe in can cause. Maybe her work with immigrants and refugees was fuelled by an empathy and understanding for their situation, their want and need to escape their old life. Maybe because as cliches go I ‘look’ Spanish…maybe, maybe, maybe.
I don’t know. Sadly I didn’t know the woman. I wish I had.
‘The day of my Confirmation arrived and I marked it by wearing a brand new pair of floral culottes and a cream gypsy blouse. I knew how to play the game and had dressed accordingly – as an adult virgin.’
It’s not easy been 12 years old at the best of times but for me in 1991 things were tough. I’d lost out on the school captaincy by one vote because my rival had strategically asked one of the more influential voters of my year out on a date prior to the election, and as such, defeated, I’d been relegated to Vice School Captain. They didn’t have a badge for vice school captain and it had been proving harder then I’d thought it would, wedging my title into day-to-day conversations.
For me though, being at a catholic primary school, aside from my lack of status there was also the religious aspect to contend with. I viewed religious studies as more of a history class to be debated and questioned, than to be understood as blind doctrine and unquestionable truth. Even at such a young age I was aware of the human nature to romanticise and fictionalise our past. The bible – particularly the New Testament, as far as I was concerned was written by Jesus’s frat brothers who weren’t afraid to don slightly smudged glasses when the need arose. Take Mary Magdalene. The first time I heard of her she was described as a fallen woman – a prostitute who supported Jesus through her own private means AKA private parts. I asked my religious studies teacher if the other male apostles also supported Jesus through their own private means? This was met with a frown and the reminder that the men were apostles and the women in Jesus’s circle were not, they were prostitutes.
‘How do we know that?’ I asked. She carefully explained she knew it because it was written in the bible.
‘By men’ I remarked.
‘I don’t know that has to do with it?’ she replied.
‘You have to consider that don’t you?’ I posed to my teacher. ‘There’s no stories in here written by women.’
‘It’s just they might have offered another perspective that’s all, like they might not have cast themselves as prostitutes in their story.’
Detention. Punishment: to read the New Testament and make peace with it’s absolute authority. When I asked for a highlighter and some paper to make notes they agreed sending me to the naughty corner would be a better use of everyone’s time.
I learnt a few months into Grade 6 that in order to graduate I would need to be Confirmed. Whilst most of most schoolmates got excited at the prospect of a spring garden party I asked the more pertinent question ‘what is Confirmation?’
‘It’s the adult ascension into the church, when you take responsibility for your own faith and destiny. Once Confirmed you will be seen as an adult in the eyes of God.’
12 years old!? An adult? Responsibility?
‘But what if you’re not even sure you believe in a god?’
‘Well you better get on it’ my teacher said ‘No belief. No graduation.’
‘This is bullshit’ I mumbled to a friend as we sat on the back fence throwing rotten eggs at the private boys school passing by. ‘I mean are you tell me that once I’m Confirmed I can be charged as an adult in say a court of law?’
‘I dunno’ my friend responded, trying to be supportive.
‘You don’t understand’ I spat at her ‘you’re a born-again-Christian. You chose to believe in god and all that crap. We Catholic’s are forced to.’
We sat in silence as we worked our way through the rest of our eggs.
Part of Confirmation is that you choose the name that you wish to represent you in your adult life. The only caveat, it has to be a saint’s name.
‘Any saints name?’ I asked.
My teacher paused, knowing that if she lied to me I would undoubtedly uncover the truth and then subject her a reckoning of repercussions.
‘Yes, any saints name Louise. Any.’
My mother was all to happy to drive me to the Australian Catholic University library, after finding my own school library lacking in the way of books on saints name. Of course there were the usual offenders, your Luke’s, Matthews, Mary’s and Anne’s, but I wanted something more. If I were going to have to carry this name around with me through life it would need to mean something. And so it was, in the stacks of a university library I found what, or should I say who I was looking for – St Dymphna.
Her story, putting the incest and murder aside, read like the fairytale Frozen. A young princess in Ireland, who’s father stricken with grief at the death of his wife decides to take the saying ‘to get over someone you need to get under someone else’ to mean his daughter, chases Dymphna and her priest (yes, it’s all sounding very Thornbirds) through the Irish landscape, only to finally capture and behead her because she wouldn’t marry him. Even over 1300 years later I could relate. To add to her allure she was also the patron saint of the mentally ill and victims of abuse. Perhaps I could funnel my disbelief in god into my belief in her? Just till graduation anyway…
Not to boast but I’m one of those kids who was baptised by rock star priest Father Bob Maguire and hold onto your hat, book ended it with now Cardinal George Pell when he was only starting out as a career catholic. For people like my opus dei loving uncle this was a big deal, like being Confirmed by the hand of god. For me it was an elaborate ruse to graduate Grade 6 by letting a man wearing a dress touch my head.
The day of my Confirmation arrived and I marked it by wearing a brand new pair of floral culottes and a cream gypsy blouse. I knew how to play the game and had dressed accordingly – as an adult virgin.
As I approached the alter I quickly turned around to check for the authorities – for surely given that any moment I would become an adult, it was fair to say I might be charged as an adult for my egg throwing shenanigans. They were yet to arrive…
George recited some prayer and asked me what my chosen name was.
‘Dymphna’ I said.
What was meant to happen next was that he was meant to give it the tick of approval and move me on my way towards a hall filled with cordial and fruitcake but he didn’t. Instead he took a step closer to me and told me that I couldn’t take the name Dymphna and that my name would be Angela. She was a nice saint. A wholesome saint, a less defiled by her father kinda of saint.
‘No’ I said ‘I’ve chosen Dymphna. I was told I could chose whatever saints name I wanted.’
He said nothing. The congregation had started paying attention by now as the line of their own children heading towards the alter came to a grinding halt.
‘Who told you that?’
Out of the corner of my eye I could see my teacher sweating through her own culottes.
‘Oh your teacher’ he smiled ‘but I’m a priest and I’m telling you that’s not true.’
‘I thought you might say that’ I replied ‘that’s why I went to the Australian Catholic University and did some research and no where is it written that I can’t chose my own saints name. I also rang the office of the Archbishop of Melbourne and they said the same thing.’
‘Excuse me a moment’ the priest went off leaving me kneeling at the alter, thinking about the reality that might be me repeating Grade 6.
‘Just go with Angela or Mary’ a mother of another classmate hissed at me.
‘She’s the Spaniards daughter’ another remarked under their breath.
The world was turning against me. I had to hold strong.
After about 20 minutes he returned.
‘We’ve discussed it and decided that we will allow you to proceed with the name Dymphna.’
I sighed. I’d have to make do with winning the battle this time and the war; well I’d win that another time. Perhaps after cake.
For the months after my Confirmation and leading up to my graduation I wrote my name in the top right hand of all homework, essays and tuck-shop orders as Louise Marguerite Dymphna Woodruff Sanz (lots of names yes, but as the woman at the Confirmation service pointed out, I am a Spaniards daughter). This resulted in my parents being called in to address this blatant acting out as my teachers saw it. My mother was confused and rightly so. Surely, this was my new name? Had they, the school not insisted upon it? Was it not a prerequisite for me graduating? Ok, yes it was, they admitted but I wasn’t meant to take it literally.
That was what hit the nail on the head for me. Whilst I was meant to take the bible and it’s archaic and at times prejudiced views of the world literally – like the women of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John being either Madonna’s or whores, when it came to things like becoming an autonomous adult, who was now according to the church equipped to navigate my own faith and destiny, that was to be taken with a grain of salt, be seen as a token act and nothing more. I could bend my idea of being confirmed. I couldn’t be expected to blindly follow a religion without question and conversation. Wouldn’t it be dangerous? Fanatical? To just behave?
And there you have it – it was all about behaving. To be a good at any religion, at the root of it, was to behave and to follow. Not to ask questions about supposed virgin births, frankincense and myrrh. Not to challenge issues of gender, sexuality, women’s rights, domestic violence, divorce, worship, faith, reform, fanaticism and terrorism.
There are good things in the bible too, just as there are some good things in Fifty Shades of Grey (if you just ignore a majority of the book) but as a way to live, as a way to practice a life without question I’m afraid it wasn’t for me.
Now look I could be wrong and when I die I find myself in a place called Heaven with a lot of people walking around wearing t-shirts that read ‘Told You So’ and ‘I’m With Stupid’ but either way I think I’ll be ok. I’ll have a whole new identity – Dymphna – patron saint of the mentally ill and victims of abuse – knowing the allegations about the church I doubt I’ll be short of friends up there.
‘As far as I’m concerned, everyone – gay or straight – has the right to be as unsure and skeptical of the institution of marriage as I am.’
I watch wedding shows. Heaps. Say Yes to the Dress, Four Weddings, anything with David Tutera in it. I watch them to see how the other half live. They’re my version of Animal Planet. When a bride turns to camera to share with us that they’ve dreamt about this day since they were a little girl that to me is the same as David Attenborough telling me that male Koalas have two penises. WFT? Mind blown! Really? And there is where I disconnect. I never had dreams of getting married as a young girl, having a wedding, of wearing a princess dress. It never made any sense to me. There were so many other things you could be doing like swimming, bike riding, reading ALL the Babysitters Club books, studying, debating, dressing up as a playing card to attend your friends 10th birthday party, reading all the POINT THRILLERS but planning a wedding at 8 years old – surely that was a thing of the past? Something to be frowned upon in a more civilized and evolved society.
Clearly it is not.
Now here’s the thing, before I go any further I should let you know that I’m engaged to be married, which sounds a lot like ‘I’m a hypocrite’. But hear me out. Turns out the guy I fell in love is really into the idea of getting married. I can’t say he tricked me. I knew pretty early on in our relationship, well our first date exactly where his cart might be hitched when he told me in great detail about his ideal wedding (Spoiler alert: involves the Speigletent, a flash mob and some sort of trapeze with dolphins). As he concluded with the idea of rounding out the ceremony with a song from the Titanic soundtrack he turned to me and asked ‘so that’s my perfect wedding, how about yours?’ I nearly choked on my vegetarian dumpling.
I’m not the marrying type. I have problems with it. In some countries it’s still about property, abuse and subjugation or/and same sex discrimination and sure I hear you scream at me ‘but marriage has evolved in the Western world. It’s about mason jars, commitment and Ed Sheeran songs now, not ownership. You can even keep your maiden name! It’s evolved!’
Oh really? I reply. Has it? It’s evolved has it? Then tell me why in this country it’s still only the domain of straight couples? It hasn’t really evolved has it when you need a legal proclamation in your wedding service that really drives home the discriminatory practice of straight Australians participating within an antiquated and frankly embarrassing piece of legislation that is as old as settlement itself.
My issue with marriage? It’s exclusionary and as it stands in regards to certain sections of our community – discriminatory. My straight partner and I can sit and talk about marriage and plan a wedding in the knowledge that we can do it. However if in Australia you sit outside of the heteronormative, that is to say you’re not a man marrying a woman to the exclusion of all others well you can talk about it, no law against that, shit you can even plan for it but you can’t do it. And why? Because you’re not straight. But don’t worry, sure you might not be able to marry, but you can put your name down on a registry/ excel spreadsheet in most states. Isn’t that enough?
To be clear I might be ambiguous about marriage but I do like weddings. I love love and all that goes with it. Celebrations, parties, get togethers with an open bar –all a good thing. The idea of having one ‘snuggle bunny’ for life – adorable. Maybe not entirely realistic, but it’s f**king adorable. However not all of my friends can stand in front of their friends and family and tell their ‘snuggle bunny’ that they love them, nor can they declare the whole in sickness and in health thing either and look if you want to be pedantic there’s a whole bunch of rights in regards to equality in this country that same sex couples don’t have because basically they can’t marry. Same sex couples can’t jointly adopt in Victoria and some other Australian states because they’re not married. Rights to your partners pension should you die, carers benefits etc are also not the same and absolute as married couples. Inheritance rights in many states are not recognised in the case of same sex and defacto couples.
Ha! You said defacto couple! – so it’s not really about discrimination just against homosexuals is it? Yes, yes it is. There have been a few moves to overhaul rights for defactos in regards to adopting, inheritance and property rights, however because that would mean giving same sex couples the same rights as the marrieds…well no we can’t have that. They’re slippery little suckers those gays – trying to get their civil rights by bootstrapping their cause to the average straight Australian defacto relationship…well I never!
And of course never mind the fact that inequality of the Australian Marriage Act is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, because who gives a shit really. I mean for most of us, the fact that same sex couples can’t marry, or can’t even opt out of getting married (just like the rest of us, because choosing not to do something is as much a right as doing it) doesn’t affect us and our day-to-day lives. And why should it? We’re the first class. We’re straight. I mean the only way it might start to affect us was if straight people stopped getting married, as a protest. That, until everyone had the same rights, the BILLIONS of dollars pumped into the Australian wedding economy every year would just stop. Imagine that – florists, cake shop owners, wedding dress designers and wedding DJ’s the country over out of work like employees of the ABC.
People will start to ask why the people of Australia stopped getting married and we will tell them – that we will no longer help our government facilitate discriminatory practices against members of our community. Leaders of business, feeling the sting of dried up bridal spending will write letters to their members of Parliament asking for bailouts to help them in this time of wedding austerity. Members of Parliament will put pressure on their political parties to change their stance of the Marriage Act as the Australian economy cripples under the weight of the estimated loss of over 2 billion dollars a year. Even the most homophobic misanthrope wedding car hire service owner when faced with such a financial loss like will declare – ‘oh for the love of god, let them marry!’
Now I don’t imagine everyone will jump on this protest straight away. Like with any social change it will start small. A few couples here and there will cancel their upcoming weddings after realising their newly out cousin might feel uncomfortable and excluded at the wedding when the celebrant has to legally declare that their union is ok because it’s between a man and a woman. Then we’ll get a hashtag started like #letthemmarry (spit balling here) and that’s when things will really take off. A groundswell of support will emerge and Tony Abbott who by then will be Minister for Menstruation and the Hymen Renewal Scheme will be forced to make a change.
I can’t take credit for this idea. One of my best friends who is gay (don’t worry, I wanted to stab myself in the eye as I wrote that) told me the only way things would change was if the straights got involved. Succinctly put, he said ‘same sex marriage is a straight issue’.
I’m part of the small grass roots movement. When my partner proposed, I paused, realising that if I was to try marriage it would be with this guy and only him and so I knew that when I said ‘yes, but on the proviso we don’t get married until everyone can’ that he would say ‘that was a given.’ And he did. And so we will wait.
People ask us all the time when is the big date? How are the plans going? And every time someone asks we tell them that we couldn’t imagine inviting our gay friends to a wedding only to have them hear that due to their sexual orientation they are denied the right to stand in front of their nearest and dearest and let the world know that they are in love. Sure, it makes some people uncomfortable but I’m completely ok with that. A little bit of discomfort for equality seems a relatively small sacrifice for both sides of the conversation.
I’m still not sure I’m the marrying type but given I’m in a position to at least choose if I want to get married or not, it means I’m in a position of privilege and I should exercise the responsibility that goes with that accordingly. As far as I’m concerned, everyone – gay or straight – has the right to be as unsure and skeptical of the institution of marriage as I am.
Now because I’m engaged, I can’t watch my wedding shows with as much irony as I once did but they have helped give me a clearer picture of how my partner will look on our wedding day in his resplendent white dress being led down the isle by his father and presented to me. I’m very much looking forward to that especially with all my friends looking on and taking cash bets on the side to see if I go through with it.
If you support marriage equality as you no doubt do you can go here: http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/ and further show your support! Or you know NOT GET MARRIED TILL THINGS CHANGE
I found myself looking at my fiancé last night thinking, that if our relationship had played out on a TV sitcom we would have broken up at least 500 times by now.
In truth we haven’t broken up all, not even once, haven’t even got close. Even through all the long distance, the late and complete out of sync work schedules and meeting the parents, we’re still together and happily. That didn’t stop my thinking though that if we were Leonard and Penny in any episode of The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) none of our struggles to stay with the one you love would count for anything, especially if, lets say, I said something stupid like ‘I just don’t care much for fantasy.’
About 2 months into our relationship. While we were watching an episode of TBBT One of the characters on the show made a reference to something I didn’t get, I think it was Howard. With no canned laughter to direct me to whether or not the comment was funny, I asked my partner what it meant. ‘It’s a Lord of the Rings reference’ he casually told me but than a look of horror spread across his face as if he was suddenly faced with an awful reality ‘you do know what Lord of Rings is don’t you?’
Now if this was an episode of TBBT his comment might have held more weight. Our discussion about my lack of interest in fantasy masking a deeper insecurity about our relationship, or not being deserving of love from a blonde or some crap like that, but we would never say that if we were on TBBT — instead we would just break up and the rest of the season would play out with us trying to just be friends, whilst navigating Sheldon’s obvious ‘on the spectrum traits’.
‘You’re shitting me right? Let me tell you something. I’m a 33-year-old woman. I’m over the point where I have to pretend to like things you like just so you’ll like me. I know what I like and you know what you like and occasionally you might show me something and I’ll like that or I might do the same to you, but fundamentally as long we have share the same values we do not have to like the same fucking things. Now go to sleep.’
And just like that I turned the light off, rolled over and we both went to sleep and woe and behold when we woke up the next morning we were still together — that was until of course some months later he said to me at the conclusion of the film Bridesmaids ‘Who are Wilson Phillips?’….
I’m a dog owner. When I say it like that it sounds more loaded than it actually is. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, society says I am because I’m a dog owner. To give my position in society more gravitas I can also tell you that my dog is a rescue dog. I can also tell you that I wrote that line whilst sipping on an almond milk latte in Brunswick. I bet you can tell what sort of person I am can’t you? If I let you know that she’s a staffy and I named her after a lesbian bouncer I once met called Roxy it kinda seals the deal – I’m a northside wanker. I might as well call myself an artist, live with my artist boyfriend and not eat sugar (thanks Sarah Wilson!). I am all of those things – a wanker, an artist, sugar free and a dog owner. The last of which is the most important.
But I’m an anxious dog owner. My dog is a rescue dog and she was fine when we got her but then an off leash dog attacked her and lets just say it triggered something in her and she’s gone from ‘oh your dog is so cute, lets pat her to death’ –
-to ‘look away children, if you look it directly in the eyes you will turn to stone.’
Since her attack she’s been on antidepressants, anti anxiety medication and to top it all off she has to wear a mask that makes her look like Bain from Batman. We tried to jazz it up but the paint flaked off and now it just looks like an old jail cell strapped to her face. We are the worst kind of dog owners because we didn’t tell the owners of the unleashed dog to piss off, or report them. We thought because our dog was a rescue dog that we were to blame when their dog grabbed her head and wouldn’t let go because they told us so and well they were dog owners and dog owners are socially responsible people. They buy food for something other than themselves. They’re meant to be good people.
Well I call bullshit on that. The time I spend with my dog now includes avoiding off-leash parks, forcing my partner to run up ahead to corners to make sure the coast is clear and hanging out in parks where dogs have to wear a leashes, most of our time is taken up avoiding other dogs off leash and their owners in streets, roads, parks where they have to wear a leash – basically everywhere they’re not meant to be. It’s exhausting.
We found a nice park, leash only for our dog to run around in. Brilliant. We were even able to take off her mask. Great. A 20 minute walk about the pen, Shawshank Redemption Style. That was until two dogs came bounding over, barking at our dog, off leash followed by their owner. We kindly asked they keep their dogs away saying the usual ‘she’s a rescue dog who was attacked blah blah blah’ – they ignored us, saying their dogs were fine – we did the usual ‘I’m sure they’re great, but she’s a bit unpredictable blah blah blah’ – they kept coming towards us. We had no option, we had to leave. The one thing we didn’t say – ‘this is an on leash park you ass, there are signs everywhere, your dogs need to be on a leash’ – why didn’t we say it? Cause his dogs looked like fluffy balls of joy with sun shining out of their ass’s and ours looked like…well, a bouncer.
Our neighbourhood is full of off-leash dogs. There’s the two dobermans, the angry fluffy white dog who also attacks children, the guy who enjoys crossing the road to us just to see us have to cross to the other side, amongst others.
And then there was the other night. I took her for a quick walk around the block, stopping in an on-leash park and she was mask free. Suddenly through the darkness though came bounding a dog, a huge dog. Roxy played it cool, but as the dog started barking we all knew she wasn’t playing. I tried to get her mask back on ensuring my dog couldn’t defend herself and was at a loss of what do to (my dog weighs 15 kilos of pure muscle and subordination) and the owner appeared. I yelled out at him to call his dog back. He laughed. I yelled again, this time too time poor to do the ‘not to cause offence’ dance and he continued to find the whole thing hilarious. I told him to leash his dog. He laughed and so with no alternative left, as the other dog jumped for mine I threw my body on top of my dog, like a secret service agent taking a bullet and slammed into the ground. His dog bumped into me and when the owner came nearer he saw me lying on the ground, trying to catch my breath and all he could do was pause and say ‘sorry bout that’ before disappearing off into the night.
I’m sure he went straight home and told his family that a crazy woman stacked on her dog in the park and he would do so while I hobbled home with a shaking dog, bruised down one half of my body and bleeding from a cut on my hand.
But hey, he’s a dog owner. He’s a good person and I’m an injured almond latte drinker with a problematic dog who blogged about it.
It’s really hot in Melbourne at the moment. You might have figured this out from the barrage of Tweets from Melbournites proclaiming it to be ‘f**king hot.’
A heat wave in any major city is a great test to see how your fellow residents might react in say an armageddon.
Have you seen or read The Road? If you have it will give you a slight indication of the harrowing desperation a family displays in a heat wave. If you haven’t, someone eats a baby to survive and the way I saw a mother push a young Goth out the way for the last remaining bottle of coconut water at the 7/11 I thought yes; she’d eat a baby if she had to. Not hers, but she’d definitely have no problem eating someone else’s. When the Goth girl dared to ask why she was entitled to the last bottle, the mother let out a hiss and in her greatest Walking Dead moment spat back at her ‘I have children. They need water. There’s a heat wave you know.’
Now look no ones saying that breeders aren’t a necessary part of the human race, but in that one moment this woman basically told this young girl that her families life was more valuable than hers and her black clothed brethren and what for? For the naturally occurring electrolytes in coconut water, that’s what. It’s a jungle out there.
I’d like to say this was the end of it but while waiting in line to top up my Myki card, her husband, short of a hand gun and the face stubble that the only comes with the end of days, was holding the line hostage as he made sure their family had all their supplies and if he wasn’t satisfied he’d send one of this own children back into the isles to grab another essential apocalyptic item – like low fat cheddar or the unsalted cashews. The clerk was doing his best to reassure the rest of us in the 10 deep line that we’d be served shortly, that we would survive, but we all knew the truth, we were stuck while this kids figured out what Magnum’s they wanted and as a result we would die in a 7/11 whose air-conditioning had broken.
Our only relief came when a woman scraping 90 turned to the mother and said ‘I waited so long for your kids to decide on an ice-cream my catheter started to leak. You’re standing in my urine.’
For those of you that don’t know, the reason you often find lines of people at 7/11’s these days isn’t because of their Slurpee’s but because about 2 years ago our state government decided it made no sense to be able to buy a ticket to ride on a train/bus or tram or the actual train/bus or tram you were hoping to ride on so you have to either pay online and wait at least 24 hours for your card to top-up or head into a 7/11. The State Government also decided around the same time that it no longer wanted Melbourne to bare the title of ‘Most Liveable City’ and instead would now compete for the title of ‘Most Leavable City’.
You think I joke? The other day I watched as a Customer Service Officer (not sure what their role is other than to tell people they can’t buy a ticket to ride) asked a partially blind woman with a walking stick to get off the tram and top up her Myki card at the shop across the road. Yep…
So in a heat wave if your travelling colleagues don’t beat someone to death by the time they get on a tram, that in and of itself is an amazing feat of self-control.
On the tram I soon realised that the men of Melbourne had all decided on mass that because they have cocks that meant they should take up more room than usual. With legs spread, displaying sweaty groins it’s easy to be intimated, but fuck, it was fucking hot. I was going to sit down. I found a seat next to a guy that if asked would have taken two extra stools just to sit his balls on. My first instinct would be to apologetically sit next to him, half a bum cheek on what remained of a seat for two, but no, not this time. I asked him to move over to allow me to take up the room allocated for me. He told me he was hot. I said ‘yes, that’s often the problem with heat waves.’
He farted next to me for the rest of the trip, on purpose. It was decided – I would sell him for meat and than donate his skull as a sex toy to a jail.
Mania through lack of sleep.
When we got our new house I’m pretty sure the first words we spoke were ‘oh my god, it’s air-conditioning. Fuck yeah!’ If anything we couldn’t wait till sweet, sweet summer where we would be able lie in undies in front of Foxtel and occasionally glance at each other, smile and say ‘fuck yeah, air con.’
That’s what should have happened. Instead last night consisted of wearing nothing but undies, yes, but also screaming at each other ‘don’t touch me! I don’t want your body heat! Get away from me!. For the love of god don’t touch me!’
Seems our air-con is actually a swamp maker. It works on the principle of blowing hot air into cramped spaces, thus ensuring the occupants of the house intermittently pass out from something I’ve coined ‘thick air.’ ‘Thick air’ leads to heat wave mania, where suddenly the thought of standing in a puddle of leaked catheter urine is the only option to lower one’s body temperature.
And just like that, we become animals. When you honestly think that pissing on each other might be the key to a cool nights sleep, humanity has lost all hope.
Over the last few months I’ve been teaching my boyfriend to drive. Life got in his way and he never got around to getting it. I’ve learnt to accept this excuse as an ingrained narrative of how his life has played out thus far. Relationships I’ve learnt, for the most part are a lot about letting things slide. I’m good like that.
The first thing you’ll realise when teaching a lover as opposed to a child to drive is that deep down you still have a need for them to not leave you and to like you, really like you. You also have to make sure their self-esteem is propped up at all times, regardless of your own personal safety and reassure them that everyone nearly runs over a pedestrian from to time.
Also as you’re not a parent to your lover, well hopefully you’re not, you can’t say the following:
‘You nearly killed someone’
‘You nearly killed that whole school bus’
‘Stop being an idiot’
‘What do you mean you don’t know how to reverse park/ do a 3 point term/ merge…’
‘Get out of my car’
‘Fine! Walk home!’
‘You wanna drive an automatic? And I guess you wanna get your legs waxed after we finish?’
‘This car is worth more than it was to raise you, remember that.’
‘For the love of god stop!!!!’
‘Shit we’re going to die’
‘Merge…merge, merge, merge, MERGE!!!!’
‘Have you put your seat bell on?’
‘Hand brake! Hand brake!’
‘Do that again and you’re grounded!’
‘There’s still so much I want to do with my life!’
When you’re teaching a lover to drive it’s all about wanting to say those things and finding other ways to say it.
‘Hey babe, maybe the cars not turning on because you haven’t put the key in the ignition? Must have been a really tough day at work. Here, let me turn the car on for you. Love you.’
‘Hey babe, I know technically you’re in the right and that pedestrian shouldn’t have j-walked but remember regardless that you’re in a car and as such you have to be the more responsible one. Yes, they were definitely in the wrong. Yes, I reckon they got quite the fright. Yes, you were right and they were wrong. Love you.’
‘Hey babe due to a traffic incident happening right now we’re about 10 seconds away from impending death if you don’t stop right this minute…or whatever makes you comfortable. Love you.’
‘Hey babe there’s a park…there’s one there and there and there and there…that’s ok, we’ll find another…there’s one…and there’s one and another one, and another one…nup you’re right, let’s circle the block and see if we have any luck next time.’
‘You look very handsome today, have you done something with your hair? No? Oh you’re sitting in the drivers seat, that’s what it is. Makes you look all sexy and full of authority. Wanna drop me at work? Sure you’ll have to leave the car there and catch a tram home but I’ve got a real hankering to be your passenger, sexy driving man.’
‘No babe, I only grab the door like that when we get really close to trucks going 110 on the Hume Hwy because I’m working through my own stuff right now. Love you.’
‘Indicators are cars ways of expressing their feelings and intentions to each other and sometimes even when they don’t feel like talking to each other, they have to.’
‘Hey babe, you’ve got to understand that sometimes when I tell you do something, it’s not as your girlfriend beating her man down, but as a woman who has over 16 years of driving experience and a responsibility to other people on the roads telling you not to do something. Love you.’
Teaching your partner to drive can either cement your relationship or tear it apart limb by limb, leaving a rotting carcass by the road side with nothing but a smear of blood; your only reminder that once you deeply cared for each other.
At the time of writing this blog we’re still together.
It’s New Year’s Eve and I’ve still got a script submission to finish so I’ll be brief. I’ll try to be brief. Look I might fail to be brief and so what? Who gives a fuck about failing?
I do. We all do.
I failed a lot this year. I even wrote a show about failing. That failed too.
2013 was not one of those years that I’ll look back on and think ‘that’s the year that defined the Sanz legacy.’ It is most likely a year that I will look back on and need reminding that it fell between 2012 and 2014 – ‘Oh that 2013….!’
But of course with failure must come success – they’re like Will and Grace. I had some of that too. I moved in with my boyfriend, properly, not just both of us living out of suitcases in various states of the country and undress! BAM!
I overcame rickets. (I think, I have to book a blood test but I’m feeling less bendy).
I moved house again with my boyfriend (twice in one year without breaking up. Win)
I discovered you can lay-by holidays.
I finally decided to count listening audio books as ‘reading’.
I was published.
I made a film.
None of these things were resolutions. I resolved for none of them to happen in 2013. In fact last New Year’s Eve I decided the only resolution I was going to do something great in 2013. I didn’t specify what. Just something really great.
How I thought an ambiguous mega goal would be more achievable… slow clap Lou, no pressure there.
It turns out that was the hardest resolution I’ve ever had to keep and I failed at it. In fact I failed so badly my social anxiety only seemed to get worse as soon as I decided to really make my mark. My stage fright returned with the vengeance normally only associated with recurring thrush, I drove my partner crazy with sleepness nights (and not the sexy ones). By saying I would do something great I somehow managed to mangle it’s meaning beyond recognition and question my own relevance in the world.
It’s only sitting down tonight and making myself write a list of all the things I did in 2013 that I realise I did do something great. I made stuff. I did stuff. I got frightened. I got excited. I felt disappointment and happiness. I was betrayed. I suffered loneliness and made some great friends. I got through to the other side. I made it to 2014. I get another year and I will no doubt fail and succeed in 2014 as well. It shouldn’t be how will I change’ in 2014, it should be where to from here.
I think that’s what New Years Eve should be about. Not about what you’re going to do differently next time or how much weight you’re going to lose, how many times you’ll go to the gym or about quitting sugar or finally filling out your E-Harmony profile honestly. It’s about what you have done and where you might go from there.
Which leads me to my new resolution. I did write down ‘thigh-gap’ but it seems everyone’s doing it and much like a Big Brother contestant I want to be ‘different and original.’
Looking back on 2013 I realise I need to get stronger. I need to get to a place where people’s opinions don’t affect me as much (we all need to do that). I need to not constantly be getting out of other people’s way in the street and apologising for taking up space in the world.
I would also like to crush a walnut with my bicep.
I’ve also learnt that if I don’t manage to get stronger by 2015 than no doubt I would have accomplished something else, something I didn’t resolve to do….like crush a walnut between my thighs…I don’t know, anything is possible.
Happy New Year.
See this photo.
In this photo what you see here is me, sitting, being fat.
I was probably being funny too, cause that’s what fat girls do best, funny.
You can’t see it, but I reckon everyone in the room was laughing at something I’d just said.
Somebody probably peed his or her pants.
So back to the photo and me being fat in it.
I know I was fat because at the time this was taken I was constantly being picked on for my weight whether it be by ‘friends’ in the playground, or ‘friends’ of my parents commenting on my ‘full figure’ or my grandmother who would purposely buy my clothes too small for me and than make me wear them in front of her. Boys called me names.
One of my more humiliating moments I recall was when my grandmother returned from Spain with a bra for me. It was a 12AA. I was a 10DD. It didn’t fit. In my head now I know it didn’t fit because I wasn’t a boy, but at the time with very little around me to compare my figure to, I assumed that it didn’t fit because I was fat. And my grandmother didn’t correct me. My mother, I think burnt the bra. It didn’t matter how much my mother told me that I was OK how I was, I didn’t hear her. She was also wise enough to let me know there was nothing wrong with being fat either, lots of people were but that didn’t matter, all I heard was fat and now at 34 years old, I still hear it and the worst part is I view it as negative. When it comes to fat shaming myself, I’m my own worse bully. When this photo was taken I was 156cm tall. For those that know me, I had a very minor growth spurt after that (a whole 4 centimetres…small victories). And I was roughly a size 4-6 if not smaller. I weighed about 40 kilos.
It did not help that I didn’t look like all the other girls at my school. They were all so tall, like beanpoles, like all the girls in Australian magazines and soap operas. Thin, blonde, worthy. I had a tiny waist, boobs coming in and hips. Some adults often described me as ‘womanly’ or ‘sexy.’ I was 13.
And so it began. The great disconnect with my appearance. It’s been over 20 years since that photo was taken and I still struggle to see what everyone else sees. I hide behind mainly baggy clothes; I’ve been on a diet since I can remember. I get sick to my stomach if I break 1200 calories in a day. I exercise constantly. I honestly think that when I look in the mirror, that if I could just lose a bit more weight I’d be able to wear clothes that draped. I’m an idiot. I’ve got curves like a Kardashian minus the personal tailor. There will be no draping in my lifetime unless I make friends with flesh-eating bacteria…but hey you can only cross your fingers for so long…
The narrative of my chubbiness has informed so much of my creative work that I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was imperative to my identity. I write from the perspective of the outsider looking in, the best friend character, the strong personality driven girl, the underdog, the alien. I’ve done pretty well out of it, whether it’s the truth or not. Here’s the thing, it shouldn’t matter whether I’m chubby. I might not be. I might be. I really have no gauge anymore. I know I can wear children’s pyjamas but I’m not sure that means anything.
The thing is when I saw that photo the other night I got upset. I wanted to go back and tell my 13 year-old self to not listen to all the fat shaming and than maybe the next 20 years would be different. Social engagements would not be so crippling at times, I wouldn’t always think somewhere in the back of my head that my relationships didn’t work out because of my appearance, I would write populist chick-lit fiction that opened with lines like ‘the clacking of $700 heels only served to heighten her enviable calf muscles and say to the world that she was ready for anything’ as opposed to ‘she masturbated quietly to a poster of Zach Efron as her boyfriend sat in the study on the phone to his new girlfriend.’ But telling my 13 year old self that if anything I was actually almost underweight at the time that photo was taken wouldn’t have been enough, after all it wasn’t myself that thought I was fat, it was everyone else saying it, making excuses for saying it and shaming me into thinking it was the truth, a truth I’ve lived by ever since. It takes up a lot of my time thinking I should like myself better, sorry correction – it wastes a lot of time. My time. No one else’s, mine. I’ve decided next year I’m going to have a body shaming detox and take up sword fighting or podcasting, I don’t know, I could do anything. All I know is, it’s got to be more productive than what I’ve been doing.
The idea is that you find at least 5 things to be grateful for each and everyday and by keeping a list of them you can reflect back on the good things in your life, making the bad things, well trivial and in making them trivial give them less power in your life. It sounded right up my alley so I was eager to get the gratitude ball rolling.
Before I started though I had to give myself some rules so that my daily entries didn’t read like an ode to just ‘making it through the day’:
So NO –
- Woke up – still alive!
- Passed urine without trouble
- Still breathing
- Bowel movement regular and unforced
- Internet usage rolled over
Basically no gratitude was to be given for just being alive. I needed to be grateful for more.
So here’s Day 1:
- Heaters! Heaters are amazing.
- Mango’s – how good are mangos?
- Really good Crunchy Bar – are there any other types?
- Bath – how good are baths?
- Went to gym and it was awesome. Caught up on James Spader’s The Blacklist.
Sure my period was on it’s way, my credit card wasn’t rejected at the supermarket, they’re letting me pay off my computer in installments and the fuckwit across the road did me the honour of letting me park out the front of my house and sticking his truck there – but that’s too ‘poor me’ to be really grateful for it. It’s not really gratitude, not the sort of Miranda Kerr grateful I was aiming for.
- Glass of Rose. Wine is awesome. Thanks life.
- Bought a new hairdryer
- Weather’s pretty good
- Accomplished Pilates
- Really great raw dinner due to my strict no grain-diet. Raw is well, raw.
Didn’t need to mention the new hairdryer was a result of the fact I couldn’t afford to get a haircut that week…
Soon I was grinning so hard with gratitude that my face hurt.
- Friends. Yep, just generally friends are pretty good.
- Heat pack for menstrual cramps – phew
- Nice outfit – looking pretty good today. Thanks clothes.
- The RTA wants to keep me alive by sending my rego reminder to me – how considerate
- Oh look, gas and electricity is due on the same day as rego – how convenient? Can just put one reminder in my diary.
- Sever sinusitis aside, it’s great they’re back burning to prevent further bush fires
- Periods are great. They remind us of fertility and that our bodies are efficient machines.
- It should always be further than you expect to walk to get an ice-cream on a really hot day – makes you appreciate it more.
- Airplane turbulence is just life’s way of saying ‘Boo!’ – Happy Halloween Lou!
- The broken drawer at home is just its way of telling me it needs to fixed.
- Parking fines are fine by me. Thanks for the reminder not to be selfish and hog parking!
- Scratching my car on a wall makes me grateful for insurance.
- Not having up-to-date insurance is just life’s way of saying ‘gotcha!’ – oh how we laughed…
- The best thing about not bring lunch into work today is seeing it still sitting on the kitchen counter defrosting and leaking everywhere – buzz me swimming in soup water FIRST when we get home!
- Someone better than me got the job. That’s better for everyone in the world, gotta be grateful about that
After days of working out what I’m grateful for, I feel I’ve found a happy medium. I think Miranda would be grateful that I was finding my own path.
- Woke up
- Passed urine without trouble
- Still breathing
- Bowel movement regular and unforced
- New security light installed. New security light doesn’t work. Can’t wait to see what fun that leads to…
Everyone can’t love us and on occasion we can barely be liked.
I finished up a new show I performed on Saturday night. It was the funnest (yep I’m using that as a word) show I’ve ever done. It was also the bravest as I made a decision not to use my usual safety net, to try something different, to do a slightly different show each night. I was immensely proud of it.
It got a really lovely response. People contacted me via my website and other social networking to let me know how the frankness of the show spoke to them – that was a first. It also got some nice reviews. The people that got the show got it. They saw beyond the shambolic appearance and realised that was the point, part of the story, a glimpse behind the fourth wall. That the disjointed nature of the show was a fundamental part of the structure of the show. The brand new ending of the show that was fashioned in the week leading up to the show was my greatest risk but it was one I embraced. The show did what it said it would on the box – be different each night, be a mix of theatre and stand-up and challenge me as a performer and maybe in doing so I could open myself up to a new audience. I asked to debut it at the Melbourne Fringe festival because if ever there was a festival that embraced risk, well it’s that one and it’s all the more brilliant for it.
But for all the people that liked the show, of course there’s always going to be people that hate it, write about how much they didn’t like it and even mention that a cervical cancer scare in the days leading up the show was no excuse for the ‘under-rehearsed’ nature of the show. Ouch.
And you know what the shitty thing is? For all the great responses about the show, it’s this review that I listen to. This review that I believe, not the rest. As someone who has always lived by the motto (especially when it came to producing other acts over the years) ‘a great review is great, a bad review…well let’s just pretend it never happened.’
Now look, no one saw this review, oh look they might one day, it’s in a newspaper, hey people probably saw it and didn’t say anything to me, I don’t know. It didn’t affect ticket sales, it didn’t affect how I did the show, it didn’t affect me until after I saw it and so naturally I called my mother.
‘I thought we’d agree you’d stop Googling yourself?’
‘I agreed to nothing’
‘Do I need to take away your internet privileges, again?’
‘No mum I’m 34 years old.’
‘Anyway, what’s the big deal? Like you give a shit’.
‘But the thing is I do’ I muttered back, embarrassed.
‘Lot’s of people like marzipan, I hate it. You don’t see marzipan getting upset now do you?’
Hmmm….so now I was marzipan.
‘It’s not the same mum. This is a person and they don’t like me.’
My mother’s maternal love was almost too overwhelming.
‘It’s just, well I was trying something different –‘
She interrupted ‘-and they didn’t get it. So what? Remember that time you wore that matching Bolero and bike short combo to casual clothes day back at primary school and you lost some friends over it?’
‘They weren’t matching mum, I coordinated them myself.’
‘Whatever, the point is people hated you over it, disowned you, refused to me seen with you and yet 25 years on you’re still wearing Bolero jackets.’
‘They’re cropped blazers mum.’
‘They’re Bolero jackets Lou. You’re fooling no one.’
She was right. I’d never let negative attention about me or my work dissuade me and given I’d just done a show that was ostensibly about embracing failure, this was not the response I should have been having. I needed to basically, not give a fuck. Easier said than done.
Now look, I’ll probably obsess over this negative review for at least another week before a puppy distracts me or an article on global warming snaps me out of my narcissistic self-loathing.
But in the meantime, we do all need to look at the disturbing reality that we’re always more willing to believe the worst, that somehow that’s more real. That when someone says ‘nice smile’ you doubt them, can’t handle it, but when someone says ‘your nose is quite prominent’ well it’s fucking scripture.
A great video made by comedian Amy Schumer says it best (about how fucked up we are!):
Basically we’ve got to get better at appreciating those that support us, treat us well and encourage us to be better people, better performers and better writers. Whereas a negative review can inspire you to do excel, at some point you need to just switch-off, not hear it any more and forge your own path wearing your Bolero jacket with pride.
I decided to do a show without a safety net, something that was different every night. It’s the show I’m the most proudest of.
This is a review from Crikey written by Patrick O’Duffy.
Review: Lou Sanz Speaks Easy | Melbourne Fringe Festival
Eighteen months ago, Lou Sanz was sitting pretty thanks to the success of her award-winning comedy show Neverending Storage. It should have been tours, yachts and rent boys from that point on. But the thing is, when you’re on top of the world you have further to fall, and instead of moving on, Lou found herself paralysed by anxiety, fear of failure and crippling stage fright. The only way to overcome it was to push through and create a new comedy show—leading to this, a show about her efforts to create that show.
If this all sounds a bit introspective, metatextual and personal—well, that’s because it is. But Lou Sanz Speaks Easy is also a very clever, funny and playful show, even at its darkest and most emotional points. Lou talks about the power of denial (and panic), the invention of the telephone, bad Rock Eisteddfod shows, ex-boyfriend conspiracies and how to pitch a festival show when you’re still not sure what it’s about.
The show is low-key to start and never becomes super-high-energy, but it’s honest and smart—and it’s very funny while also remaining very personal. Sanz has a calm, deliberate style that works for her material, which is at times disjointed but deliberately so. She amalgamates the material by confessing her own anxieties, reading from old diaries and getting the audience to change up some of the material (it’s a different show every night, after all), stitching it all together into a relatively neat package.
Lou Sanz Speaks Easy isn’t always an easy show, especially towards the end, but it’s a funny, clever show that has a unique voice. With its metatexual content and commentary on the comedy industry, it’s a show that will speak to veteran festival-goers and even more to other performers while offering plenty for those on the fringes of, um, Fringe. It’s well worth checking out.
It’s my birthday tomorrow and what I’m doing for it is a surprise. Yep, I’ve been told to just wear something that makes me feel good.
‘So I can wear my new fluoro pink tracksuit then?’ I asked.
‘Sure.’ My boyfriend replied.
‘Yes, but understand, you’ll be more embarrassed than me.’
Well played, well played sir.
The first surprise birthday I ever had was when my sister was born, the day before my 8th birthday. As such my party and life as I knew it was cancelled – SURPRISE!
This naturally brings me to the second surprise ever thrown for me. In an effort to make up for their below par parenting towards me proceeding my sister’s arrival, my mother took me for a birthday breakfast at Denny’s (yep, in the 80s the Nepean Highway was littered with American icons…Sizzler, The Keg..did I mention we had a f**king Sizzler!). As we walked into the completely empty shrine to the pancake and hope, a 16 year-old girl called ‘Becky’ greeted us at the door. Aside from a real name the only other thing Becky lacked was an adequate education in hospitality. From the moment I met her, Becky’s lack of professionalism appalled me.
“Hi, welcome to…’ she glanced at the menu for clarification ‘…Denny’s?’
Brilliant. Happy 9th Birthday to me.
My mother only made things worse.
‘We have a booking under Sanz, but not a birthday booking just to be clear *wink wink*, just a regular breakfast booking. Yep, I’m just a mum taking her kids out for a pancake breakfast for no particular reason.’ *wink wink.
We waited while Becky took some reading and basic comprehension classes and finally she found our name on the otherwise blank reservations page.
‘Yes, for 14?’ Mum glared at her – you’re letting the team down her eyes seemed to say. Becky’s eyes on the other hand seemed to say ‘don’t be surprised to find me on the side of a milk carton one day.’
‘Um, well look if you don’t have a smaller table, we’ll happily take the table for 14 – after all we are only here for an impromptu breakfast, but not a birthday party, absolutely not a birthday party.’ *wink wink.
My mother continued on with her charade even as we stood only metres away from a table of 14 made up for a birthday party, complete with birthday banner that read ‘Happy Surprise Birthday Louise’.
But for Becky, well the tipping point had finally come.
‘So you want to have a breakfast on a table for 3 and then go to the birthday party?’
My mother’s eye’s narrowed.
‘Look given there’s a table made up for 14 already, we’ll just sit there. No problems.’ She snatched the menus from Becky and led my brother and I over to the table. Looking back at Becky coming to terms with life, I wanted to say something like ‘kill yourself now’ you know, in an act of sisterly solidarity but it was my birthday and so it was important I focus on myself, at least for one day. It was the right thing to do.
‘Well look at this’…you had to admire the woman ‘…a party for another Louise on your birthday and we’ve been sat her table! I mean what a coincidence!’.
I looked over at my brother, my only ally in this farce, but ravaged by hunger he had taken to sating his appetite with snot. I suddenly felt very alone.
Of course the only thing that could make this surprise birthday party more surprisy would be if, say we were seated right next to the car-park, you know, just so I could see my friends arriving armed with gifts and listen to my mother proclaim over and over again ‘oh the coincidence, oh the coincidence’ – made more coincidental by the fact most came clutching the invitation my mother had sent them – oh the coincidence.
I’d like to say the surprises in my life got better, but you know me by now, we’re all friends…let’s push on.
My 16th Birthday party.
‘Come meet us at the Pancake Parlour Lou’…giggle giggle.
I hung up my landline telephone chuffed. I had friends, they were awesome, they’d organised a surprise party at the Pancake Parlour and sure it was another fast food family fine dining experience, but I’d grown, we’d grown – my friends liked me and now was their chance to prove it. Life was awesome. Their life was awesome cause they were friends with me.
Finally pancakes would redeem themselves. I was glad I was about to give them the opportunity to do so.
But then the bill came, after the pancakes and my friends firmly cemented themselves as dicks. Not one of them had bought enough money to pay the bill, let alone my serving of ‘All You Can Eat Maple Pancakes’.
‘Yeah I guess in 1954 pancakes were a lot cheaper. Inflations a bitch.’ I found myself saying in attempt to emphasise with my friend Gavin, who stood before me clutching 20c and a hard-on.
‘Well if you hadn’t had the extra side of butter Lou.’
‘Totally’ I said ‘you’re right, far call. If I’d known you were working to a budget…’
I couldn’t blame it entirely on them – I had low self-esteem , I’d been the one to settle for them. Slow clap Sanz, slow clap…
Thank god the money I’d gotten for my birthday to buy a bra that did up at the front was enough to cover the shortfall. Oh the coincidence.
I’ll admit, I have a complicated name. I’m one of those people with two official sets of ID but that’s not the worst of it – my mother you see, kept her maiden name and so I also have a double barrelled surname, but not a hyphenated surname, because my mother argued, even back in the 70’s, that her and my father were two separate people, with two separate names. The government however did not agree, and made my mother make her maiden name one of my middle names.
So for the first few years of my life I was Louise Marguerite Woodruff Sanz. My mother however stood by her maiden name, never becoming a Mrs Sanz and sure as hell never answering it to it. In primary school I remember her refusing to answer my friends when they would refer to her as Mrs Sanz. As far as she was concerned it wasn’t her name. She preferred everyone to call her by her first name, which believe it or not, even my teachers preferred than having to address her as Ms Woodruff – her actual legal name. It was that look of discomfort I recall the most. That educated, regular people would prefer to call my mother Mrs Potato than by her maiden name. It was the sort of thing 1970s German dissidents did, not middle class mothers from Brighton.
Contrary to the popular rhetoric I even hear bandied around today, I didn’t grow up as a rudderless child, without a sense of place or identity because my mother didn’t share the same name as my father, I actually did ok, more than ok really. To be honest I was more affected by the knowledge that when my father immigrated to Australia, he was made to change his name from Miguel to Michael, because Australian’s couldn’t pronounce Miguel. My father was forced to change his name because apparently the Australian tongue struggles with the letter ‘G’. Tell that to all the Gerry’s, Gerald’s and Greg’s you know.
I was always insanely proud that mother had her own name (she was also a vegetarian – I didn’t know Mexican food came with meat options until an ill-fated trip to a Taco Bill in the late 90s). She explained her choice to keep her maiden name as ‘easier’. It was on her driver’s license, all her legal documents, to change it would be too much of a hassle. And then what if my father and her got divorced, more paperwork, but most importantly, it was her name. She’d had it for 25 years when she met my dad and it wasn’t something she was willing to part with it.
As I got older, I got more emboldened to move my mother’s name out of the ‘middle name’ abyss it had been relegated to and put it into everyday life. At 12 I was signing my homework off as Louise Marguerite Dymphna Woodruff Sanz, much to the horror of my teachers, who constantly felt the need to raise this in every parent teacher meeting – again more concerned by the incorporation of my mother’s maiden name, than the latest addition – my Confirmation name – Dymphna, Patron Saint of Incest Victims and the Mentally Ill.
By the time I was a teenager and had started writing soppy teen memoirs for other teenagers to act out on stage, my mothers name was now part of my surname, even though, legally it was still my middle name, that is until the law changed and no longer did it need to be hyphenated.It was free. I was free. My brother and sister never really seemed fussed, they liked being Sanz’s. It didn’t bother them, which only made it cooler, cause it now meant in my family I was the only Woodruff Sanz, that, along with my teen moustache set me apart from everyone else in the world.
Things however got complicated when I was granted a Spanish Passport. My name was changed to Luisa Margarita Sanz Woodruff. You see in Spain, the mother’s maiden name comes after the ‘family’ name. Given I had a Spanish Passport before an Australian one, it was now my only official form of ID, aside from Double Dare Champion Card from 1993 and so when I got my driver’s license I went in with my spanish passport and to this day, 16 years later, that is still the name on my driver’s license.
As I writer nothing gave me a stronger sense of satisfaction than to play with all my names as I signed off a ‘Written by’ credit. There was L W Sanz, L Woodruff Sanz, Louise Brandis, Mrs Jonathan Brandis, Louise W Sanz, LMW Sanz, Louise M Woodruff Sanz, LMD Woodruff Sanz. The possibilities were endless but then I started doing stand-up and introducing Louise Woodruff Sanz proved troublesome.
If I’d thought the pronunciation of ‘G’ was hard for people try W’s and S’s and Z’s. After a while, to make things ‘easier’ I shortened it to Lou Woodruff Sanz. It was still too hard for MC’s who were often distracted by mic stands, warm beer and the glamour of stage life. So I went with Louise Sanz. Nup, still too complicated. And so it was with heavy heart it went to Lou Sanz. Like a vegas headliner and just ambiguous enough so as not to reveal my gender before coming out on stage. It was inevitable then that confusion began. People were now getting frustrated, concerned even betrayed. Was the writer Louise Woodruff Sanz the same as emerging comedian Lou Sanz? Was this a Jeckyll and Hyde kind of thing? Was she transitioning? What the fuck was going on!? Who did she think she was!? And even though I was following a long line of people with stage names, mine was not because I didn’t like my name, it was because I wanted to make things easier on everyone else. After all that struggling I went back to Sanz because it made things ‘easy.’
But of course legally, I’m a Woodruff Sanz, so now I have alias’s. I have files that say ‘Lou Sanz, legally known as Louise Woodruff Sanz, also known as Luisa Sanz Woodruff.’ It can sometimes make getting things like credit a little complicated as nothing sounds dodgier than listing all the names your account could be under. Everyone just wants me to make it easier on them, change my name so that don’t have to press the space-bar more than they’d like .
A friend of mine though pointed out that when I get married, things will get easier, because well, you know, if you decide to have kids it’s important they know what family they belong to. That we all share the same name, so it’s only natural that if I chose to have kids with my partner we’ll have to have the same name.
‘You’re right’ I said, ‘but I worry about all the paperwork my husband will have to go through. He’d be better off keeping his own name. It’s easier.’
‘You’d make him change his name?’ she asked, not amused by my killer come back.
‘If your main concern is my hypothetical families unity and sense of identity, then it shouldn’t matter whose name we use.’
She was stumped…I knew why, when there are articles on the internet titled ‘How to let people know you’re keeping your maiden name’, I often forget how very far we’ve actually come since the days my mother decided to go against convention.
I was making things awkward…and I’m probably always going to. It’s ‘easier’ for me.
I’m going to write something in a moment and straight up it’s going to come out sounding like I think I’m a better person than you. It’s not the case, trust me, I’m so self-deprecating that I still don’t think I’m ever going to top this one day in 1984 when I received the ‘Best Cursive Writing Award’ in primary school – an award I had to make and give myself, an award deserved nonetheless.
So here it goes:
In recent months my partner and I have given up gluten.
Yep, notice how I used the partner as opposed to boyfriend and yep, we’ve given up gluten, as in, this is not an action I could do on my own, it’s something that can only be done in pairs like playing weekend tennis, shopping at Ikea and watching Mad Men Season 3.
Of course the exile of gluten from my diet is not the only one thing that might be considered ‘wanker-esque’ – I also don’t drink dairy. Yes, I refer to dairy as a drink. I don’t do it, can’t do it, won’t do it. But most café’s accommodate that these days, just as they did yesterday…
‘I’ll start with an English Breakfast tea if I can, with soy milk on the side. Thanks.’
I watched as the waitress walked away, briskly, making sure not to look back as my boyfriend and I hung mid sentence – ‘could we see a men….’
‘You’re cursed’ He said to me, as he pulled out his iPad, so as to enjoy another meal with me.
‘She probably just didn’t hear us because she’s wearing her hair over her ears.’
He checked his Facebook account.
I checked how my life had come to this…
With all faces checked and accounted for he looked up.
‘Maybe we should just get up and grab the menus ourselves.’
‘No, I waitressed for 25 years – ‘
‘ – really, you started waitressing when you were 8?’
‘- yes, JF I did. It was what you did in the 80’s.’
‘- endorsed child labor?’
‘- had a work ethic JF, a work ethic.’
‘And so it’s this work ethic of yours that’s the reason I’m sitting here starving?’
And so as is often the case in our relationship, against my wishes JF got up, and like a Dickensian orphan went to find some menus. I wondered if the winter cold my get him and if he’d ever return….
Moments later, he did, just as the waitress placed our drinks down.
Clocking our self-secured menus she asked the question that was on everyone’s lips.
‘Are you here for breakfast? Would you like to see a menu?’
‘Are they different to the ones we have?’ I asked.
‘No’ she replied ‘Would you like me to grab you some?’
My boyfriend sensing I was well on the way to making a new best friend and couldn’t bare the competition for my affection, stepped in.
‘I think we’re ready to order actually.’
Unsettled by the uniqueness of the situation the waitress enquired ‘food?’.
‘Why not?’ I said ‘Let’s shake things up a bit.’
And it was then I noticed I been bough Earl Grey tea, not English Breakfast. Normally when presented with something I had not intended on drinking I would just smile and swallow but having just returned from the US where it’s custom to send back things you didn’t order, I decided to mention it.
‘I ordered English Breakfast. This is Earl Grey.’
Her silence masked her confusion.
‘I’d like English Breakfast.’
‘That is English Breakfast.’
‘It says Earl Grey on the label.’
‘That’s how they spell English Breakfast sometimes.’
I smiled through my mouth, the way I’d been taught.
‘If you could just take it back and get me the English Breakfast that’d be great.’
‘And if we could order…’
She left before the words could leave my boyfriends mouth.
‘Really? You couldn’t have just drunk the tea?’
‘Milk with Earl Grey? Never, like sure if I had some lemon and honey on offer I could possibly make do, but look that’s not the point. The point is, I ordered English Breakfast. It has the full-bodied flavour I need this morning. I’m not the bad person here.’
She returned, only to inform me that they had no English Breakfast tea but her boss had told her that Earl Grey tea was the same. It was like comparing Britney Spears to Keisha – a waste of my time.
I won’t bore you with the details, but we ordered. Nothing flash. My boyfriend, something with croquettes and bacon, myself, an omelette and a side of gluten-free toast.
Surprisingly our food arrived with little fuss. I felt we were all turning a corner. Mornings can be hard on anyone and I was in a mood to forgive and forget. That is until –
‘Um, I ordered a side of gluten toast?’
She looked at me, as if unsure of whether we’d met before…perhaps earlier that day…I watched as it all fell into place for her.
‘Is it on it’s way?’
‘We don’t have any gluten free bread.’
‘Were you going to tell me that?’
‘Ok, glad we cleared that up.’
With her tip clearly in the bag, our waitress wandered off, leaving us to our meals.
‘Is it me?’ I asked JF.
‘I don’t see anyone else here’ he rhetorically replied.
After breakfast we wandered the streets for a cup of English Breakfast tea and some toast with a passion not often seen outside the finale of any season of ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’
Finally we settled on a little café that boasted a menu of quinoa’s and goat’s cheese and on the bottom just under the surcharge disclaimer, there it was, gluten free toast.
We sat down, smiling at the waitress who waved at us as we came in. With pure joy we ordered English Breakfast tea, not the Earl Grey variety, and when all was said and done and they asked me if I’d like to order some food I said ‘yes, I’d like some gluten-free toast with jam thanks.’
I kissed JF lightly on the face mouth, even allowing the waitress to linger a little longer than was appropriate to watch us, but even after our chaste embrace ended she remained.
‘I’m sorry, we don’t sell gluten-free bread.’
‘But it’s on the menu.’
‘Doesn’t mean we have it.’
There was nothing more to say. She was right…just because it was written down on a menu of goods for sale, it didn’t mean they had to have it. And so I walked away knowing that when this story of one woman’s search for the breakfast she ordered would be passed down through generations, that I was going to come off as the wanker and years from now, they’d still be right.
A traditional school photograph, me with my two black eyes, alongside my brother and his sexually ambiguous haircut (I can say that because we’re related). This photo once represented my scamp-like nature. When people looked at it they would often remark, ‘Oh my, how did you get those two black eyes?’ And I would laugh and say, ‘Oh, that’s just a result of my scamp-like behaviour, of course.’And then we’d all laugh, and their general delight in me would flow on further throughout the night and well into the morning.
It was a photo that sparked conversation. It was a photo that ignited a thirst to know more in all who came across it, in all who wanted answers to questions. It was a photo that made people laugh. It was a photo that made people cry, especially when they found out that my parents had managed to retain custody of me after the incident in question. I was just another child who had fallen through the cracks, who the authorities hadn’t managed to save. The guilt they would feel from just glancing at this photo, which I sent them every Christmas for the next twenty-five years, would fill them with so much despair, they would eventually give up on life, have their wills rewritten to make me their sole heir, and have ‘do not resuscitate’ bracelets made up, followed by a full page ad in the Saturday Age that just read, ‘Sorry, Lou.’
Of course, I was unaware of all of this guilt the authorities were feeling until Today Tonight landed on my doorstep, asking me to comment. I feigned disbelief and yet also offered the appropriate amount of gratitude, and they asked to see the photo and I at first said no but then they just insisted, and I still said no, and they asked again in adamant voices, and I told them, ‘No, this photo isn’t for you, it’s already done enough damage,’ but then they saw the twinkle in my eye, and I opened the door and said, ‘Go on, in you come, and don’t forget to wipe your feet,’ and they scurried in, the reporter remarking as he pushed past me, ‘You’re such a little scamp,’ and I said, ‘You don’t know the half of it, and feel free to help yourself to a Scotch Finger biscuit.’
But all of that feels like a lifetime ago. Because now, every time I look at this photo, I only see betrayal and lies, and I wish, now, that it had never been taken. It is a photo that hides an unimaginable depth of betrayal, secrets kept from me for over twenty-five years by those closest to me.
Betrayal doesn’t just happen; betrayal is the result of long-maintained untruths that have somehow become facts over time. And so I will present to you the events I believed that photographed captured, and then the truth of the events and the truth of the betrayal.
In 1987, my best friend was Tamara Minogue, the prettiest and most popular girl at Blah Blah School. We shared mutual interests, insofar as she hated me and I hated myself. We would often play four square at lunchtime – ‘we’ being the gang I was an associate member of, having not achieved full membership as result of no one wanting me to achieve it.
Even Georgia White, who was born on a leap year, was a full member, and she wasn’t even two years old yet (because she was eight and born on a leap year – Google it if you’re struggling). For whatever reasons, I constantly found myself falling short of their requirements for full membership. Not even a well-timed hand job would work, partially due to the fact none of the gang members had penises, but mostly because I didn’t know what one was.
On this day, as we played, I found myself dominating the field. I won’t lie to you – it felt good. Real good. My palm was like an iron fist, only flatter. The ball smashed down on each victory. Dunce: SMASH! Jack: SMASH! Queen: SMASH! King: SMASH! I was a fucking champion, and I wasn’t afraid to shout it from the rooftops!
‘I’m pretty good at this, Tamara. In fact, I’m better than you today. Wanna feel the touch of a champion? High five!’ Needless to say, Tamara left me hanging, and I was told in no uncertain terms that my company was no longer required, and that perhaps I would find more suitable friends at the other end of the playground. Of course, as we were only eight, the conversation went more along the lines of:
‘No one likes you, Louise.’
‘Yeah, go away.’
‘You smell like wog.’
‘Fuck off, you cunt.’
Or something like that. It was so long ago. You can hardly ask me to recall specifics.
Abandoned, rejected and isolated, with nowhere to call to home, I ventured to the other end of the playground. It was a wasteland, filled with boys who picked their nose and ate their snot; a place for little girls with itchy vaginas who got their periods on slides, vegetarians, a guy we suspected was Asian, chronic farters and boys fascinated with their penises. As I scratched my vagina, I thought, Perhaps these are my people. Maybe they’ll truly accept me. But to be accepted here I would have to convince the overlords – Fat and Skinny. You’ll never guess how they got their nicknames.
Fat and Skinny ruled from a fort that overlooked the playground with their army of My Child dolls. I’d never owned a My Child doll, only a Cabbage Patch doll.
Lucy was her name, but she was rarely spoken of. She was short and fat, and had freckles and red hair – I took one look at her and knew I could never love her. But I was forced to adopt her. Forced into motherhood. I tried to make it work, gave it the best shot I could, but do you know how hard it is to bring a kid home to play after school when you’ve got kid of your own? God forbid it’s someone you really like, and then one day you walk in on him and the doll, and you’re all like, ‘I don’t understand!’ and he’s all like, ‘She gets me,’ and I’m all like, ‘But she’s a doll,’ and he’s all like, ‘Exactly, Lou, exactly.’ No one knows what happened to Lucy after that, but, as a mother, I can theorise that maybe the little skank found herself getting into a heated argument where she was knocked down onto the hardwood floor in the kitchen and her body was stuffed into someone’s limited edition Blossom-branded sleeping bag under their bed while the assailant waited for their parents to go to bed, at which time they took the body and tied it to the back of their bike and rode it down to the park, whereupon they stuffed her body along with the sleeping bag into a barbecue and doused it all with petrol, then setting Lucy on fire, while they finally felt human again. At best I can only theorise, but I do know that’s the day my heart turned to stone and it’s why I’ve never really been able to get close to another human being. (And breathe, Lou, breathe.)
Anyway. As I climbed the 6-foot jungle gym/ fort to Fat and Skinny’s lair, a black crow landed in front of me – looking back now, this was possibly an omen, an omen screaming, ‘Stay away, little Lou, stay away!’ But all I remember thinking at the time is, ‘Oh, a black bird! How pretty! I love black birds, and black birds clearly love me!’
Reaching the top of the fort, I came face to face with Fat, a chubby blonde girl who always appeared clammy or lightly moistened. She stared at me through eyes that revealed a future of hepatitis, diabetes and glaucoma. ‘Welcome, Lou. Would you like a biscuit?’ said Fat, handing me a Salada. I was too polite to point out that a Salada wasn’t a real biscuit, so I just took it.
A second voice crept up behind me: ‘We’ve been watching you.’ It was Skinny, a mouse-like girl who liked to gnaw on things – and people, if the scarring on Fat’s arm was anything to go by.
‘You’re the small girl whose friends don’t like her. We know all about you.’
‘I’m in the same class as you guys.’
‘Class means nothing here on top of the fort,’ declared Skinny, clearly the more dominant in their girl-on-girl struggle to be on top.
‘So, Louise,’ said Skinny, ‘have you ever done a backflip off a fort before?’
‘Um, yeah, totally, like, all the time. If there’s a fort, I’m flipping off it.’
I was clearly lying, but my need for gang acceptance was too strong, or my self-esteem too low.
‘We thought so. From the first moment we saw you, we both knew, and I think I speak for Fat on this as well, that you were a girl with a daredevil spirit.’
‘Some people describe me as a bit of a scamp,’ I interjected.
‘Yes, that’s exactly what we thought. You’re a bit of a scamp. And you know what we said we were missing in this gang?’
‘A bit of a scamp?’ I asked
‘Exactly. Our gang needs a bit of scamp, and you, Lou, might be just that bit of a scamp we’re looking for – that is, if you can prove your worth.’
I stepped to the edge of the fort. I’m not sure what it was – maybe it was the fact that I’d finally found some friends who had unbridled faith in me, maybe it was the crowd that had gathered at the bottom of the fort, the faces of the disenfranchised looking up at me: David with his penis in hand, the Asian kid who years later we’d discover was really just a New Zealander, the fourteen-year-old girl who was still in grade three due to foetal alcohol poisoning. Suddenly I realised that yes, I could flip, I could do it. I grabbed the metal bar with both my hands and felt a tap of support on my back from Fat or Skinny, and I flipped/plunged to my death.
But something strange happened as I hurtled through the air that day, all 32 kilos of me. My best friend Tamara, dressed as Bette Midler, appeared beside me and spoke words of such wisdom, chanting the lyrics of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’.
And then everything went black.
They’re not sure how long I lay unconscious on the tanbark after my 6-foot fall (or ‘moment of freedom’), but it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes. Then, somehow, I managed to drag my battered and broken body to the teachers’ lounge. Doctors say that after some head traumas, the human body can appear to function as normal before the haemorrhaging kicks in.
Not two weeks after the best failed backflip in the history of our school, photos were taken, and this is how this photo came to be – a memory from my day of empowerment, a day when maybe I didn’t make into Fat and Skinny’s gang, but at least I tried and that’s all that matters. This photo reflected the scamp in all of us. That is, until a few months ago.
Mum and I were talking about photos, the way that mothers and daughters often do. I was reflecting on this particular school photo in a moment of nostalgia and started to recount the story of my quest for greatness in the school playground one afternoon, when suddenly my mother sobered up and interjected.
‘You didn’t fall,’ she stated.
‘You were pushed. They tried to kill you.’
I said nothing for a moment, trying to take it all in.
‘It was always suspected,’ she continued, ‘but no one could never prove it. They found a Salada not far from where your body landed.’
‘That doesn’t mean anything,’ I spat back, angry and confused.
‘The teacher’s report said they lured you onto the fort with biscuits – they’d been trying to get a kid up there for days to push off. You must’ve just blocked it out.’
I wanted answers! ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me?’
‘There never seemed like a good time. We thought maybe when you graduated from primary school, but then you got cystic acne. And then we thought maybe in high school, but there was still the acne, and you got your period and breasts on the same day. That, coupled with your unwanted hair problem, your distinct lack of interest in cock, which led us to believe you might be a lesbian, and your penchant for wearing Jack Daniels promotional t-shirts, Blundstone boots and elasticised Kmart trousers – well, there never seemed to be a good time to bring it up, you know, without the possibility you might kill yourself. And Lou, this was in the days before funeral insurance.’
So look at this photo, everyone. Look at it carefully, because it’s no longer a photo of a scamp-like girl and her effeminate younger brother – it’s the photo of an attempted murder victim and her effeminate younger brother.
It is a photo of betrayal, for, in the words of Arthur Miller, better known as the man who married Marilyn Monroe, ‘Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.’ Sticks like my face, covered with my blood and mucus, did that day in 1987 to tanbark below the fort.
(This article first appeared on the Daily Life website www.dailylife.com.au)
As women, we’re often bombarded with music, literature and movies about break-ups with lovers. But when it comes to being dumped by a friend, we often struggle to find a way to articulate how devastated we feel and how to go about reconciling this loss in our lives. I know all too well the pain that comes with losing a friend, for I myself am a veteran of the friendship wars.
A few weeks ago as I left the bathroom at a local pub I ran into a woman who up until 12 months earlier, I would have considered one of my closest friends. I say ‘until’, because now all we could manage to say to each other was ‘Oh. Hi.’
We had never formally discussed our break-up, but the lack of returned phone calls, and the ongoing rain checks had led me to think something was awry. Thanks to Facebook, this suspicion was confirmed when I was treated to a swag of photos from her birthday party – a party that I appeared to be the only person in the world not to have received an invite too.
At 32, I’d been dumped by a friend.
But it’s not the first time this has happened. As I said, I’m a veteran. And like any incurable romantic, I remember my first time keenly. Picture it. Primary school, 1987. I’m enjoying a Le Snack when my best friend casually walks up to me and tells me in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.
In a telling portent of all future relationship breakdowns, I reasoned with myself that it was probably that she loved me too much. That in fact, she was frightened of the intensity of her friendship feelings towards me, and needed to insert a suitable distance so as not to make things ‘weird’. This sort of borderline unhinged optimism continued until a week later when she tried to throw a brick at my head.
I decided it might be best to move on.
For the next few years I lived a ‘best friend-free’ lifestyle, making friends with whom I wanted when I wanted, giving very little regard to the type of friend I was attracting. I went from short-term friendship to short-term friendship, like a used lollipop constantly being returned to its wrapper. I’d been burnt by the hot plate of friendship once before and I wasn’t going to be making that mistake again.
Then I met Ryan.
Picture it. High school drama, 1993. Me, slightly overweight, drenched in the smell of cortisone and acne creams and he, sexually ambivalent and with a TV in his bedroom. It was a friendship we both found rewarding until one day, sitting on his bed watching theX-Files, he pressed pause on the VHS and turned to me.
‘Wanna make out?’ he asked.
I burst out laughing and popped another Caramel Crown.
‘Why are you laughing?’ he asked. ‘Is it because you think I’m gay?’
His tone dictated that this conversation was about to take a stroll towards serious town. Sometimes, you can just tell.
‘Um, no I don’t think that…but, are you?’
He jumped off the bed and began to pace around.
‘No, I’m not gay. Why does everyone think I am?’
‘I don’t know’ I mumbled, wanting to help him but mostly wanting another biscuit.
‘Then why don’t you want to make out with me?’ he implored.
I looked at him and said what seemed to be the most sensitive thing for a girl to say to a boy struggling with his sexual identity and looking to score a quick pash ‘just to make sure’.
‘You don’t have any chest hair. I’m just really all about chest hair at the moment.’
The next day upon arriving at school I found a note taped to my locker. It thanked me for my year of friendship services but regretted to inform me they would no longer be required. Honesty, it seems, is not always the best policy when dealing with a friend.
I thought of Ryan as I stood there, outside that pub bathroom, struggling to think of what unspoken offence I might have caused that would result in my literally being struck from the Facebook invite list. Nothing immediately presented itself. Perhaps I was imagining things? Had she just been busy? Was I being too needy?
But maybe the problem isn’t me. After all, five years after friend-dumping me for not adequately addressing the heinous accusations being leveled at his sexuality, Ryan came out as a homosexual male with a particular fondness for chest hair.
Sometimes, you just have to stop pretending.
‘*****’ Time Out, Sydney
Winner ‘Time Out Critics Choice Award 2012′
There was a surreal moment right at the beginning of the night in which one audience member audibly groaned and started animatedly discussing with her partner whether they should stick around, after Sanz made what would have otherwise appeared to have been a throwaway joke about how her show wasn’t actually about the 80s family movie classic The Neverending Story. But take heart, audience member: you may have been disappointed by the relative lack of sweet, sweet Falkor action, but at least you got to see one of the best shows of the 2012 festival.
Sanz is a writer by trade and her last couple of shows – Please Don’t Use My Flannel for That and Not Suitable for Children – were a) very funny, but b) pretty much her reading from things, with the odd audio cue thrown in. Neverending Storage is a far grander creation, with Powerpoint, lots of audio, illustrations, video clips (including, at one point, the single most hilariously incongruent visual to have ever accompanied a list of things money could have been better spent upon than storage) and the odd piece of audience interaction, all tying into Sanz’s litany of romantic disasters illustrated by the increasingly-expensive shipping crate into which she’d rammed the detritus of a relationship seven years ago.
But while the technical side of the show has ramped up, the biggest development is Sanz herself. Gone is the somewhat stiff narrator of her previous shows, replaced by a wry, confident comedian entirely at home on stage. She’s always been a great writer, but Neverending Storage heralds the arrival of Lou Sanz: Performer.
As appeared in The Lifted Brow – The Summer Magazine , January 2012.
Recently, I had the terrifying feeling that I’d run out of things to write about. In my panic, I found myself attempting to convince an ex-boyfriend to get back together with me, say only for three months—you know, just till he hit that bit where he could turn into a cheating wanker and I could become an irrational thespian, shredding his prized Pixies t-shirt by a freeway alongside an open flame.
There’d be no hard feelings and after three months, we could simply walk away with just enough damage done to fuel my work for perhaps the next six to twelve months.
So here he was, two years later, resting his lemon on the side of his earl grey tea. And here I was, in the same café, sipping my coffee as I awaited his reply.
I was pretty confident that I’d sold him on it; he too liked the drama. And I was pretty happy with the whole thing generally. Okay, perhaps it might’ve sounded a touch desperate—some might even have argued pathetic. But come on, I was young. I could earn my dignity back later on.
I watched him carefully. He took a brief sip of the tea and realising it was too hot, put it back down again and took a deep breath instead.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it.”
“But some things are going to have to change.”
He leaned back in his chair, rubbing at the sole of his worn-out Dunlop runner. It had a tear in the side, a result of his trying to brake on a fixie.
I was concerned. This was not part of the plan. I was not here to negotiate.
“But I don’t want things to change,” I said. “I want us to get so caught up in the moment where we think this is a good idea, and then BAM—I call you one day and tell you that dinner is at seven, not eight. And then you tell me that you can’t make it because you’re inside someone else.” I placed my hand on his, encouragingly. “Just like the good old days.”
He ran his hand through his hair. “But it won’t work between us if we repeat the mistakes of the past.”
“It’s not meant to work out between us,” I said. “It’s just meant to be something that holds us over for a bit.”
He tried his tea again. It was still too hot, or perhaps with age he’d become less tolerant of heated beverages. “I’m not a rental property Lou, while you save up for a mortgage.”
“I thought I made it pretty clear that what I proposed was more of a research mission. You know—like going diving for an old wreck, finding some treasure but ultimately deciding to leave it at the bottom of the ocean, rotting.”
Annoyed, he pushed his tea away. I only just managed to save my coffee from falling off the table.
“So you’re okay with raping and pillaging my life for your little stories, but not staying around to raise the child that might result from your careless ways? Is that what you’re saying, Lou?”
“A child?” I said. “I don’t want a child with you, or anyone.”
“Why, Lou? Because the birth of a child might be the moment where you have to really confront the reality of your life?”
“Um, what are you on about?” I said. “This was just an idea. If you don’t want in, then I’ll find someone else.”
A disconcerting smile broke out across his face. “Oh really, Lou? You’ll find another one just like me, another one of your men? Well, I’ve got news for you, Lou. We talk, yes we do.”
“You speak to no one!” I spat back.
“You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you, that none of us know of each other, but we do.” He smiled a smile I wanted to punch.
Surely he was bluffing. “But how?”
“We all need our secrets, but if you must know? Facebook. I was reluctant at first to join; to be honest, I was more than happy with my MySpace setup. But public opinion and social convention swayed me and so I joined and at first I thought, and I’ll be honest Lou, I thought it was bullshit, but slowly it opened itself to me, its wondrous delights, its gardens of knowledge, and I came to realise I wasn’t alone, there were others like me, others who’d at some point had to endure you Lou, others who understood.”
It would seem I had been checkmated, and I had never been good at Scrabble.
This whole plan was not working at all as I’d hoped. It was almost beginning to feel like I had been set up, that sabotage was upon me. Or that I’d walked into a self-fulfilling trap.
“Why did you even agree to meet with me today?” I leaned back in my chair, attempted to fake some power.
“I was curious. I wanted to see after all these years what you were willing to lay on the table for me.”
“Lay on the table for you? There will be no laying.” I tried to banish my cleavage; it was no longer my fallback plan. But I was in too deep, and the boobs in this story were out for all to see.
“Perhaps that’s where we need to negotiate Lou.”
I got up to leave.
“Fine, Lou. Walk away. But I have what you want.”
“You asked to see me today because you know that I can offer an unfulfilling relationship like none other.”
He was right. He offered destruction and drama to an unprecedented degree and with only three months to work with he would be pushed to the hilt, perhaps outdoing himself in a way neither of us had thought possible.
He resumed sipping his tea.
“I think you should sit back down, Lou. You’ve created quite the little scene with your unprompted standing.”
He was right. I slumped back into my chair.
“So, Lou, like I said. Things will have to change for this to work. Firstly,” he began. “You will no longer address me as the ‘friend’ in those little blogs you write. You will refer to me by my birth-intended name—”
“No, I can’t do this,” I interrupted.
“It’s not worth it—your gloating, your bullshit. Not even my drive for a decent story is enough to make me do this.”
“But you need me, Lou. Without me you are nothing.”
“Maybe I am, and maybe without you I will never write again. But maybe it’s best to accept that fate instead of this, with you.”
“I made you, Lou. You know that.”
I stood up and he stood up. He matched my standing intensity. But he was not going to win.
“Perhaps you had something to do with who I am today. I’ll give you that,” I said. “Because there’s only so many times you can walk in on your boyfriend surrounded by candlelight and pulling himself off to Andre Rieu without this having some profound effect on you. But right now I’m better off taking my chances by walking into oncoming traffic. It has drama, pain, anguish. It has the will-she-or-won’t-she-survive moment. It has it all. And you, you have nothing.”
And with that I left him, walking swiftly, determined not to look back. And then I heard it, the quick pounding of feet, the calling of my name. I spun around, and I was confronted by an out-of-breath waiter. He was waving an unpaid bill at me, but I was not angry. Ahead of me was the busy street, and the traffic was waiting.
You can purchase the full publication here http://www.theliftedbrow.com/?p=160
I’ll be honest; I’ve never really had a proper Valentine’s Day. It’s through no fault of my own because god knows I’ve tried. Dressing up as boxes of heart shaped candy, yelling at random men in the street ‘ ok who wants to eat me; I have a soft centre, taste of strawberries I’ve been told, or you could pick a flavour, I’m cool with that too…oh god, look at me! Why won’t someone love me!…look at me!’
So like I’ve said, I’ve tried. God knows I’ve tried.
Having recently been dumped by my boyfriend, less than a week ago to be exact, I’m expecting this Valentine’s Day that I’m going to be single. I hold a Master’s degree in case you’re wondering where my powers of observation about my life come from and yes; sometimes it’s hard to be as perceptive as I am. Burdens hey, we all bare them.
My first understanding of Valentine’s Day came about when I was 7 years old and Matthew Kennedy threw a bottle of perfume at me, hitting my arm and as such unfortunately managing to miss my heart. I still remember the lilt of his words that accompanied his physical abuse ‘my mum made me give you that because I don’t like girls who have moustaches.’
With his jealousy of my ability to grow facial hair 10 years before he sprouted a pube laid to bare across the school playground, I held my head high, kicked him in the head and returned to my game of handball, sore arm and all, cause and though I’m loathed to do it because it calls for a direct quote from Destiny’s Child but ‘I’m a survivor.’ Of course with all the chaos of the day it was easy to lose focus of what was really important; that I got a valentine and as such my self-worth was clearly better than anyone else’s was because even though he didn’t want to admit it, convention dictated that Matthew Kennedy was in love with me.
Years past and I’ve managed to miss Valentine’s Day every time, for varying reasons of course:
– I’m single at the time
– My boyfriend is dating someone else and can’t afford to spring for 2 presents (totally understandable)
– We’ve been on a break
– He was Catholic
– I wasn’t tall enough
I did think perhaps my dry streak might have ended early last year when an old flame rang me to say just say:
‘Hi there sexy’
‘Oh hi there’ I quipped back
‘Hey you know how I could always call you if I had a problem Lou.’
‘Yeah, what’s up?’
‘Well it would appear I have a bit of a blockage.’
‘I’m not a plumber.’
‘It’s not that sort of blockage.’
‘Then get some Metamucil, I mean really we haven’t spoken in months and now you call because you’ve always had a fibre shy diet. This really isn’t my problem. I told you that when we were together’
‘No, it’s not that, I’m just lying here, all pent up and thought I’d call and see if you were good to your word about helping a fella out.’
‘You want me to come over and have sex with you?’
‘Oh no need for that, I’m pretty much almost there, we could really just do it over the phone…you know phone it in.’
I have decided though I’m not going to bemoan Valentine’s Day this year; I’m pretty sure my ex isn’t, so no, instead I’m going to do a twist on an old favourite. I’m going to stand out the front of my house tossing bottles of perfume at men as they walk past and fingers crossed I knock one unconscious and finally get the chance to defile someone to country music – like they say ‘fish gotta swim, girl gotta try.’
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone.
I spent some time in the US this year mainly performing, mainly spending a lot of time on Skype trying to make myself still an attractive propspect to my boyfriend back home at 2am in the morning, mainly trying to smile at the passive aggressive remarks of Midwest men like ‘ you know, your stuff would be funnier if you weren’t a woman…you know your stuff would be funnier if you didn’t have that Australian accent…you know your stuff would be funnier if I found Mexican’s attractive…you know your stuff would be funnier if you didn’t write it yourself…your stuff would be funnier if I wasn’t attracted to you, but only sexually and only if my wife was cool with it’ and mainly trying to explain to other Australians that lived over there, that yes I like it and everything but no, I could never see myself living there. I would watch as their tiny little heads filled with newly formed transatlantic accents exploded all over their skinny black jeans, you know, the ones that belonged to Sid Vicious, the ones he was wearing the day he died. All the kids are wearing them, especially in New York.
And this is where this story is set, in New York City. It’s a bittersweet town for me, after all this is the birthplace and inevitable killing zone of Law & Order – no one called a Grand Jury on that decision and as such I call ‘worst bullshit cancelling in the history of ever’ – yes, worse than the Wonder Years and that short lived law series with Moira Tierney and Rob Morrow which was EXCELLENT!
I was walking through Central Park with my friends Mark and Sam, minding our own business when suddenly a small child flew off his bicycle in front of us. It took Mark a moment to get to him as we waited for the all the other cyclists and pedestrians who were closer to the accident to just walk or ride around him. By the time Mark got to him and helped moved him out the way his mother had ridden up and as any mother should she started consoling her boy who had managed to escape with not even a scratch, but it didn’t stop him from whinging to his mother that he never wanted to ride his bike in the first place and yes, bikes are stupid.
My friend Sam and I watched from a distance. To anyone else we probably looked like two Hispanic nannies neglecting the white babies of the Upper Eastside elite.
‘If anyone asks’ I told Sam ‘we tell em we sold em, sold their little white babies.’
‘Man’ said Sam ‘I wish I’d filmed that on my phone.’
‘That’s what monsters do.’ I told her.
‘God, Lou it’s not like the kid was shot. He fell off his bike. If anything if he had died at least we’d have some footage you know for insurance and stuff.’
I watched as Mark started to drag the bikes of the mother and the son one by one to the side of the park and that’s when I noticed…
‘You know who that is?’ I teased Sam ‘It’s the actress from Will & Grace; you know the one that isn’t Karen.’
Sam took a closer look with the zoom feature on her phone.
‘So it is’ she breathed in ‘it’s the other one.’
Oddly enough only hours before Mark and I had engaged in an exhaustive 15 minute diatribe about how much we hated ‘Will & Grace’. As Mark was gay this was clearly a confronting conversation that needed to be had. I think we had both settled on the uncomfortable truth that ‘Will & Grace’ was really just ‘Ned and Stacey’ except that people knew what ‘Will & Grace’ was.
Tired, Mark put the final bike down next to our feet and we waited patiently as the mother escorted her still whinging trust fund child back to the curb.
Now in most developed countries and I’d argue most countries where humans live, I guess the normal thing to do would be to, as a mother, thank the man who stepped out into oncoming traffic and pulled her son to the side of the road out of harm’s way and then went back and got both bikes, but as were in the US there was a strong chance this wasn’t going to happen and so that’s when things got awkward.
The actress from Will & Grace continued to ignore Mark as he hovered nearby, the English gentlemen in him having trouble coming to grips with the fact he was being completely ignored and would not be receiving the most simple of a thank-you. Fuck, a coin being placed patronizingly in the palm of his hand with instructions to go and by himself the Hispanic cleaners standing next to him some sweets wouldn’t have been nearly as offensive at this moment.
Now granted, if the kid was injured and being tumbled into an ambulance I think we’d all settle on a compassionately raised eye-brow enough of a thank-you, but he was fine, my friend was exhausted from helping out and you know what, fuck all the excuse making, it would just be the polite fucking thing to do ‘Ms Not Karen from Will & Grace.’
I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and let the bikes drop to the ground. And that was when we got her attention.
‘Come on’ I said ‘Let’s go, she’s not going to say thanks to you Mark because she thinks she’s on TV.’
And that was the truth, there was something in her eyes that said ‘Yep, you know who I am and so you’re going to get all fan obsessed and I shouldn’t have to thank you from saving my child, I’m on TV.’ To which my eyes said something back like ‘yeah and your last show was cancelled and you’re wearing a bum bag and people with bum bags can’t afford to not say thank you to the man who saved your kid from being run over.’
After that Mark and I found ourselves having a cocktail somewhere as we normally did after 10am on a weekday. We settled into a hotel bar in the Meat Packing district and started to while away our day and bitch about said television star.
‘Karen wouldn’t have done that’ I told Mark.
‘Of course not. In fact if it had been Karen we’d be having these cocktails with her right now.’
‘Yes and her husband Nick Offerman.’
‘Yes, yes she is.’
When it was time to head home to drink more wine I stopped into the bathroom. It was one of those set ups with 10 sinks and only one toilet.
As the toilet door didn’t have an engaged sign I opened it expecting to find an unoccupied toilet. How wrong I was.
‘Get out!’ screamed a fully clothed, pants zipped up and all woman of about my age standing next to the toilet.
‘Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realise, the door wasn’t locked you see’… I mumbled my way to shutting the door. “I’m sorry but the door was open.’
I waited outside the toilet and tried to distract myself from what was not going on inside. She hadn’t locked the door, it was still clearly unlocked and from what I could tell she was just standing in there.
‘Are you ok?’ I called out ‘Do you need me to get you some help or something’? Maybe she was from a squatting country and confused. I was trying to help.
Finally the door flung open and the women ran to the sink to wash her hands, probably from the all the over top of her clothes masturbation she’d been up to.
‘I can’t believe you just walked in on me’ she ranted ‘I mean I was in there.’
‘Yes, I said, but in my defence the door was unlocked – ‘
‘Is that how you go to the toilet in Sydney?’ she accused me.
‘Ok, Australia isn’t just Sydney, but yes, we go to the bathroom by opening unlocked doors.’
Clearly distressed she ran the water over her hands for far too long and yet for whatever reason I still couldn’t compel myself to go to the toilet.
‘It’s just so rude’ she continued ‘I mean not to even be able to go to the bathroom without some Australian girl just walking in.’
‘You left the door unlocked’ I mumbled back wondering if what had really happened was I’d stumbled across her attempt to cruise women in bathrooms stalls.
Suddenly an older looking version of the women walked into the bathroom.
‘Is everything ok? She asked the irrational toilet woman ‘you’ve been gone and awfully long time.’
‘This Australian woman just walked in on me in the bathroom!’
‘I did not, well not really, she left the door unlocked. I just opened the door and it’s not she was doing anything, she was just standing there, fully clothed.’
‘Fully clothed?’ Asked the women who I was pretty sure was her legal guardian.
‘Pants up I mean’.
‘You did it again? She turned to her daughter who hid her head away.
Ok, so this was clearly a thing.
‘So you left the door opened on purpose?!’
‘No, you walked in on me.’
Her mother turned to me ‘really, you Australian’s are so rude.’
‘But I didn’t do anything wrong’ I yelled back. ‘Clearly your daughter has a thing for baiting women into bathrooms.’
‘How dare you!’ Her mother spat at me ‘it pains me to say to it, but the truth is the last good Australian died the day Steve Irwin died.’
And with that she bundled up her daughter and left the bathroom.
Unable to pee anymore I left the bathroom shortly after. Mark was waiting for me.
‘You took long enough’ he moaned ‘is it a vagina thing?’
‘Well yes’ I said ‘you could definitely say it was cunt related.’
I read an article in The Age recently, because yes, the newsagency had sold out of Grazia – BAM! No, I was really reading The Age and no it wasn’t something I’d already read a week earlier on the Guardian Newspaper website and then was re-reading syndicated as ‘our’ news in ‘our’ newspaper, no this was proper Australian news, an entire article devoted to the ‘perish the thought’ idea that Australian women are more likely to list their ‘absolutely cannot live without beauty treatment’ as spray tanning over leg waxing, like I said my brain is actually perishing at the thought. I mean imagine the site of it, furry tangerine coloured women wondering around, freely and clearly without a thought for prioritisation. Personally, as a person of ethnic extraction I celebrate this coming together of colour and leg hair. Viva la revolution!
Earlier this year I was asked by UN Women (calm down, the Melbourne branch) to go into high schools and talk to you young women and inspire them, well I was there to talk at them, a presenter from Getaway was there to inspire them. At the end of the session a young Greek girl raised her hand to ask a question and when it became clear this wasn’t a question about Getaway it was directed at me. It was a question asking why girls like myself weren’t ever seen on Australian TV, well not in things that weren’t Fat Pizza, well look not on any other channel other than SBS and to be fair, SBS 2. I jokingly remarked that years ago when I was first starting out in television in Australia an exec at one of our ‘ethnic orientated television stations’ actually told me I wasn’t ethnic enough for them, a sentiment re-iterated to me again earlier this year by the same station. I hadn’t conceded defeat though I told the young girl, cause well given my tanned olive skin I was hoping to score an audition for Home & Away. As the polite laughter died down another girl raised her hand ‘but wog olive skin isn’t the same as real olive skin is it?’ And then she motioned to the spray tanned glossed veneer of the presenter from Getaway ‘I mean that’s real olive skin nowadays isn’t it?’ And before I could object every girl in the room nodded in agreement.
It’s not the first time I’d been told the colour of my skin wasn’t what people considered ‘real olive’ nowadays. When I was in my 20’s I moved to the UK where lovers of the fake tan, muffin tops and chubby Page 4 blonde lived in harmony together. Given I didn’t have a muffin top or a desire to get my ‘knockers’ out for a lads mag I thought I was safe from this orange goo seeping into my life, but my Gordie housemates had something else in mind. Every Saturday morning after a night on ‘the pull’ my housemates would waft into the kitchen smelling of skin varnish and draped in sarongs to stave off streaking. A bottle of turps was always kept within grabbing distance in case of any furniture smudging. For the most part they left me alone, after all I didn’t even dye my hair, some people were such as myself were clearly beyond help, well that was until one day when I was ambushed while watching a re-run of Big Brother Up Late, my only witness Russel Brand talking to me from the TV as my arms were held down and I was slathered in fake-tan because and I quote ‘we just really wanted to see if it would work on your skin’.
Of course amongst all those that don’t think my skin can actually be called olive and tanned these days because it doesn’t come with instructions to prevent streaking there are some purists like Tom, a guy I’d worked with at a music festival a couple of years back. We ran into each other again at a friend’s BBQ in the chilly winter Melbourne months when he saddled up next me and asked if I’d like a sip of his white wine and yes it was a euphemism. When I told him I was allergic to semen the conversation moved on…
‘You should keep that tan Lou, it suits you, how’d you get it?’ He hovered close enough so that I knew his body was covered in a combination of Lynx and skin.
‘It’s natural, I have olive skin.’ I replied navigating the hummus that only seemed attainable if my hand were to brush his against his person. I decided against using any dip with my bread.
‘You know Lou I’ve never touched olive skin before.’
The air vomited around us both…
‘It’s the same as any other skin.’
‘I doubt it Lou, here touch mine.’
He held out his arm…
‘Or if you’d prefer’ he began to mime unzipping his trousers as I turned away and silently began to cry – I really wanted that hummus, this bread was nothing without it.
‘Can I touch your skin?’ he asked.
‘If I bought you a drink maybe you’d let me touch it then?’
‘ Can we please stop talking about touching skin?’ I watched as the last of the hummus was devoured by someone who didn’t have to push past Tom’s penis to get it.
‘You’re a feisty girl aren’t you Lou…I like feisty girls, feisty Spanish girls, maybe you and I can get together one night and make paella together.’
‘I’d prefer it if you just fucked off.’ To be honest he was bearing the brunt of my frustration over my lack of hummus.
‘Ok Lou, no need to be a cunt about it. It’s all good. Anyway, if I’m honest I prefer dark skinned blonde girls; at least they care enough to pay for their tan.’
A few weeks after that encounter I was on a tram when a young woman approached me interested in where I went to get my skin done. I didn’t bother even explaining it was my natural tan, all I said was ‘make sure you ask your spray tanner for the colour that existed before orange became the new olive.’
Here is a reading of my story ‘The Girl Who Looked Like a Man’ from my show ‘Not Suitable for Children’.
This is a reading from my new show ‘Not Suitable for Children’. A collection of children’s stories not at all suitable for children.
‘Hey slut!’ my girlfriend yelled at me as I greeted her for a coffee.
‘I’m reclaiming the word’ she informed me as I sat down opposite her in my denim-on-denim ensemble.
‘Yeah, I gathered as much’ I bemoaned partially because I knew where this conversation was headed and in no small part because the cafe she’d insisted on meeting at didn’t do soy milk.
‘It’s fine’ she said ‘I don’t know why it’s such an issue for you. Just get skim milk. Same, same Lou.’
This is why I needed a boyfriend, not for any other reason than to avoid these type of catch-ups. I imagined friends of old calling me up wanting to meet for a dairy laden latte and I’d be all ‘oh I’m sorry, I’d love to but I have a boyfriend and he has a penis I need to attend to…yeah, I know, it is a shame, but what you gonna do?’
‘You’re a slut Lou! I’m a slut Lou! We’re all sluts! Isn’t that great?!’
I looked at my tea delivered with nothing but a lemon wedge to mask its tea-like flavour.
‘I’m not a slut.’ I said as I eyed a woman leaving the Vegie Bar with a take-away coffee which I was certain was a soy coffee, probably a flat white by the looks of it; after all, we had the same shoes.
‘But of course you are’ my friend interjecting my hypothesis.
‘You’re a woman and you have sex, ipso facto you’re a slut Lou.’ I watched as she slammed her fork into her crumbling tower of cheesecake and I enjoyed the last bits of my lemon wedge.
‘The fact we have sex didn’t make us sluts, an ingrained misogyny in the lexicon did.’
My biscotto wasn’t hitting the spot but then again biscotti never did and yet each time I was still surprised by my little realisation.
‘No Lou you’re using traditional definitions. It doesn’t just have to be a woman who has multiple sexual partners at any one time Lou; it can also be applied to woman who just has sex in the winter in lieu of escalating electricity bills such as-‘
‘-so help me god do not even finish that sentence.’ I commanded, discreetly rubbing my new hot water bottle I’d only bought hours earlier in my bag; the only rubber in anyone’s life certain to stave off winter madness and combat escalating electricity bills.
Annoyed and scratching at her Henna tattoo from a hens night past she turned on me ‘I just don’t see what you’re problem is. Everyone’s talking about it! Come on Lou, Slut Walk – it’s what this is all about!’
‘You want the truth as unpopular as it maybe I just don’t believe in the word slut. There shouldn’t be such a word. It’s always been a bad word with bad connotations. You can’t reclaim a word created to be negative. I’ll concede that perhaps you can rehabilitate it – ‘
‘-Amy Winehouse was rehabilitated.’
‘Yeah, and it’s worked to startling affect hasn’t it?’
‘-What about cunt? That was reclaimed and it’s the same as sluts.’
‘What? That in a lot of ‘sluts’ have cunts?’
‘That’s a very simplified way of looking at things Lou but yes most ‘sluts’ do own a cunt but also that the word was reclaimed.’
‘If you want to get in a tit for tat about the word cunt – ‘
‘Ha! You said tit!’ squeeling like a school girl.
‘I also said tat but where’s its credit…’ I mumbled as waitress quietly put the bill down on our table.
‘Did you enjoy your lemon?’ she asked
‘Yes, yes I did. Thank you very much.’ She smiled as she took the lemon wedge and empty tea cup away.
‘Well someone’s got a cunt and that someone definitely likes a girl who enjoys a good lemon wedge…’ my friend languished back in her chair.
‘Shut it’ I said as I hunted around in my hand bag for my strawberry lipgloss.
‘I reckon you could slut it up with her good time.’
‘You’re using it as a verb now?’
‘When in Rome…’
‘That in no way applies to this discussion. We are not in a situation that warrants a deflection to the hedonistic times of ancient Rome.’
‘We are in Brunswick St…’
Neither of us said anything. Not a week earlier I’d been somewhat hedonistic just off Brunswick St…my friend didn’t need any more wins.
‘What I was getting at is that cunt is a word imbued with positive connotations until it was reappropriated for another means. A negative, oppressive means, but over time and with limited success I might add it’s started to live in a more positive light in the lexicon.’
‘So it’s kinda like the Rob Lowe of words?’
‘No, a woman’s vagina is nothing like Rob Lowe.’
‘But he was a good guy and then he shagged and filmed an underage girl and then bam! He’s on the West Wing!’
‘Ok the likelyhood of ever seeing a cunt on television over Rob Lowe…’
‘You’re missing my point Lou. I’ m just saying that women should be allowed to be sluts!’
‘How about women just being allowed to be women? You know to dress how they like as a woman, say what they like as a woman, live like they want as a woman and not be concerned with the ever present threat of being sexually assaulted or shamed? I’m just saying that seems like a better use of our energy as opposed to rebranding a word already fraught with problems.’
‘That wouldn’t fit on a t-shirt Lou.’
‘Your feminist rhetoric needs to fit on a t-shirt.’
Sadly she was right…
‘So for the walk what will your t-shirt read?’
‘Oh I’m not wearing a t-shirt, I’m just going to write slut across my breasts.’
‘Ok, fair enough. I guess I’ll just walk next to you.’
SlutWalk is happening on Saturday 28th May at 1pm, State Library and contrary to popular belief I believe it’s about how women should have the freedom to wear, say and live as they please without the threat of sexual violence and shaming. It is not about reclaiming the word; it is about taking away its meaning so that arseholes can’t use it to hurt us ever again.
Last night I was woken by an anxious friend calling me from overseas concerned that her boyfriend was on the verge of cheating on her.
‘It’s horrible, like I know he’s not right now cause he’s making me a smoothie but when he asked if I wanted avocado I just thought of my god that’s her vagina and him making me the smoothie well that’s just him metaphorically f**king her.’
‘With the avocado?’
‘No, she is the avocado. Don’t you see?’
‘He’s not going to cheat on you with an avocado, there’s not enough room’ I mumbled as I rolled onto my side and was greeted with my flashing clock and the reminder it was 3am – clearly finest advice given hour.
‘It’s my own fault you know, I hired her for this campaign and she’s his ‘free walk around the park.’ Oh my god, I’m Jennifer Aniston. I can literally feel the pity of others dripping off me.’
‘Not that this is important, but you do know it’s free to walk around a park?’
‘Not in LA Lou.’
My pillow fell on my face but to my shock and horror I was still able to breathe…f**k I can’t even muffle myself properly at this hour…
‘So what she’s his ‘if I could cheat on you it would be with her’?! Everyone knows they’re just the thing of fiction, something couples do to add meaning to a relationship.’
‘You so know this is how it started with Brad and Angelina.’
‘You don’t know that.’
‘Him and Jen were just kicking back at their house in Malibu and Jen’s all like she’d so go Captain Picard – ‘
‘-Captain Picard, from Star Trek?’
‘- yes Lou, he’s very commanding and anyway I thought you liked bald?’
‘I’ve done bald, but it never set a precedent.’
‘That’s a shame; I think you and the Captain would work well together.’
‘He’s not real’
‘Those things from your past you’ve called relationships aren’t what we’d call real either but let’s not split hairs, I was talking about Jen and Brad.’
‘Yes, back to those close friends of ours.’
‘Don’t get sarky.’
‘And so am I Lou, from this constant fight to keep my man.’
My pillow smelled nice, I could feel my oxygen levels running low…
‘Well they were just hanging and she’s like her night on the town would be Captain Picard and Brad laughs and knocks back some carb-free popcorn and Jen tickles him until he admits he’d so go Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and then they both laugh cause they know they’ll never cheat on each other cause their cheats are fictional characters and then Jen’s like ‘hey Brad, we just got this script, it’s called Mr & Mrs Smith I’m thinking of producing it post Friends and then BOOM he’s suddenly adopting Asians.’
I hung up, still alive.
Now a few years back when I was living in London I’d had this same conversation with my then boyfriend who at every turn made it very clear he was never out to impress me.
‘Any page 3 girl’ he said. ‘You know just for something different.’
‘Different how?’ I asked
‘You know naked with boobs.’
‘Oh as opposed to myself?’
‘Well I can see you naked any time I want so it doesn’t count.’
‘I can guarantee you from this point on you will not be able to see me naked anytime you want.’
‘You going all frigid or something?’
‘Yes, that’s it. I’m going all frigid or something.’
The conversation had been prompted when my ‘night off’ guy had moved into the same street as us, Matt Day, previously of A Country Practice…ok, so it had been a long time between long term relationships and I hadn’t gotten around to updating my list. It happens to the best of us.
‘You have to change your guy’ my boyfriend stated.
‘Cause he now lives next door.’
‘You’re more inclined to have sex with him if the he’s next door. It’s a presented opportunity now.’
‘I don’t want to have sex with him.’
‘It doesn’t matter if you do or you don’t.’
‘I think you’ll find it does both legally and human rights wise’
He closed his copy of the Mirror, Sandra from Cheshire’s breasts saw the light of day no more…
‘No. You see if we’re together forever then he’s your only way out, whereas I get page 3 ladies and Julie Sawahla but only from her Press Gang days, you’ve should’ve given yourself more options.’
‘So you’re saying I either sleep with Matt Day, cause that’s bound to happen at some point when he walks past our flat with his baby and wife, or never sleep with anyone but you ever again?’
‘Yes. It’s really a concept that doesn’t involve that much thought Lou.’
‘There’s a lot things in this room at the moment that don’t require much thought…’
We’re not together anymore. 15 years on (yes, it was that long ago I made him my ‘get out of jail free card’) and Matt Day is still a hottie, but as my relationship ended and I matured with age I was very aware of the severe limitations I’d placed on myself with only one option, now I have more, starting with Ron Weasley and ending with Shaun Micallef (yeah, I just haven’t made my career more awkward). That is why there is now a chair on my front porch, just in case they move in down the street.
Dragging a discarded bassinet through the streets of Brunswick I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonder that is ‘hard rubbish day’ as I yelled out at no one in particular ‘has anyone seen my baby? I told her to hold on…damn babies.’
My housemate said nothing as I dragged my latest find into our house.
After a moment the tension got too much.
‘Do you really think we need more bassinets in the house, you know given you don’t have an actual baby?’
‘You say that like I’ve got a hidden stash of bassinets hidden under my bed, like some sort of crazy baby lady.’
We both said nothing.
‘So where did you get it?’
‘Just found it on the side of the road, can you believe someone actually wanted to throw this out?’
‘Yes I can’ my flatmate remarked, gesturing at the bassinet handle that had broken off in my hand.
‘You haven’t been walking around pretending there’s a baby in there have you?’
I said nothing but knew my silent stance would betray me.
‘Again Lou? Really?’
‘Well look don’t panic I bought something from an actual shop as well.’
I stepped aside to reveal a large portrait of the Swiss Alps.
‘Oh good god.’ My housemate mumbled.
‘It’s even mounted on chip board so we can stick pins in it.’
‘Why would we stick pins in it?’
‘Cause on occasion everyone gets an urge to stick a pin in something, it’s just human nature.’
He glared at me and for a moment I couldn’t help but feel like a pin cushion…
‘It’ll be great, every time someone walks down the corridor they’ll be reminded of the Alps and it was only $6 at Savers.’
‘That’s where you bought it? Savers?’
‘Yeah, you’d have to pay like at least $30 bucks for a Swiss Alps pin board anywhere else. I’m not a fool, especially when it comes to art.’
Later that afternoon as I sat in my lounge room looking at my latest find I found myself making a list of the things I could do with my aforementioned bassinet:
- Do something with it involving cheese. Thinking some sort of fondue party…
- Buy small plastic babies, fill bassinet with small plastic babies and then leave on porch. Maybe scatter some other plastic babies around it for effect with a trail of plastic babies leading out onto the street. Watch from my office to see if anyone really cares about abandoned little plastic babies.
- Have a baby and then make the bassinet not only a great find but also functional.
- Make into a herb garden and then write about it in Frankie…that is if they ever return my phone calls…(Reminder to self – CALL FRANKIE)
- Attach some invisible string to it and then when my housemate is working with his door open drag past in manner of haunted bassinet, whispering something like ‘I’m the ghost of the baby you never knew you might have had.’
- Don’t do anything with bassinet. Just leave the bassinet alone or better yet, throw it out. STUPID IDEA.
As night came around I informed my housemate that I would be turning my bassinet into a herb garden, after all I’m adult. He seemed satisfied with the idea. I then wished him a good evening and set about trying to find where I’d misplaced my invisible string.
I’m never good at buying Christmas presents. I always seem to get outdone. Like the year I got my friend a double pass to the movies and then his girlfriend rail roaded me by giving him a baby. It’s not that a Hoyts cinema pass can’t compete with a new born child; it was just the way she did it, all legs akimbo screaming his name. I went for a more a dignified approach having placed his tickets in a carefully chosen Wrongside card which featured the adventures of a dog trying to teach his owner how to roller skate. Classic Sanz. I remember months later he rang me up to say thank you for the present, what given all the chaos of now having a kid he’d plumb forgotten his vouchers until he recovered them while tidying up the coffee table one afternoon.
‘They’ve probably expired.’ I told him ‘or been cancelled by someone who rang the cinema to see if anyone had bothered using them.’
‘I guess it’s the thought that counts. Thanks all the same.’
‘Well we can’t all just show up umbilical cord at the ready, some of us like to put more thought into our presents.’
Last Christmas was no different. Whereas my brother got my parents the gift of him getting engaged, I presented my parents with the gift of a nail file, Michael Chugg’s autobiography, oh and news that my ex-boyfriend was moving into my house after a 5 year estrangement.
In my defence my ex was sleeping in another room, on the ground, but as friends were all too quick to point out ‘how does that differ from last time Lou?’…well played ‘friends’.
So whereas my brother was looking to the future, I’d pretty much stumbled across an old garbage bag of clothes destined for St Vinnie’s, opened it up and gone ‘oh there’s that dress I really like, why don’t I wear it anymore? I should so wear it more; like all the time…oh that’s why I don’t wear it …it has an elasticised waist, but hang on I’ve lost weight so it’ll probably look great…no, it has an elasticised waist, why on earth did I just not burn this dress! Why am I giving it to someone else? No one looks good in an elasticised waist, even the poor! Oh for the love of god, why did I even buy it?…is my life just a landscape of regret littered with mistakes?’
We got on fine. For the most part until he started washing my dishes.
‘Really there’s no need to do the dishes.’
‘But I should, I’m a guest.’
‘I’d really rather you didn’t.’
‘They’re just dishes.’
‘No they’re not just dishes.’
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’
‘It’s too much like a relationship if I let you wash my dishes.’
‘Is this about the fact I don’t wash your dishes anymore?’
‘I’m just saying I’ve gone 5 years without you washing my dishes and I really don’t think it’s a good idea if you start washing them now.’
‘We’re not talking about dishes now are we…?’
He moved out a week later.
I’ve never been one for Christmas parties, or parties in general. A lot of forced conversations with people I wouldn’t normally make eye contact with on a tram, who make remarks about nuts, giggle at the word nuts, have a few drinks and then later in the evening ask you if you like nuts, giggle when you say you’re partial to a cashew, then pull their own ready-packed nuts out and ask you to sit on them.
Over the years I’ve become a virtual hermit when it comes to the festive season, I’ve also developed an acute allergic reaction to nuts. But this year I changed my mind. I decided to RSVP to every seasonal festivity I was asked to attend, you know to see who my real Facebook friends were these days and start eating nuts again.
Of the two invitations I received, yes colour me popular and dip me in the collective spit of the local high school football team circa 1996, the first one was last week. As usual it got off to a great start.
Arriving, I had my name ticked off at the door and the ‘all you can eat and drink’ invite was whittled down to me taking an orange ‘meat tray’ raffle ticket and being advised I was entitled to one complimentary drink at the bar of my choice so long as it was red or white something, any further clarification and I would need to fork over my own money. Let the festivities begin…
Once inside and armed with my ‘rose’ or as I instructed the girl at the bar my ‘half-half’, I looked around to see if I knew anyone. Of course I didn’t, which meant I was exposed and vulnerable and having decided to go bare-legged on an ‘I really should shave my legs this morning’ day perhaps this feeling was somewhat exacerbated. I finally settled on making eye contact with someone that looked like someone I knew. I was aware he wasn’t the person I knew but I hoped the loud music, his lack of interest in me and the conversation we were having about funding bodies and Jon Polson would be enough to carry the time over until someone I knew arrived or I started to find him attractive.
‘So you doing a Tropfest film this year?’ he asked as he adjusted his belt holding up his khaki coloured man slacks.
‘No, probably not.’ I replied.
‘Shame really, I could help you. I made a Tropfest film last year.’
‘That’s great. Did it win anything?’
‘Not last year, but you gotta remember that’s when the global financial crisis hit. It affected everything.’
‘Including your chances of getting into Tropfest?’
‘Amongst other things.’
‘You do know that if it doesn’t get into Tropfest, it’s technically not a Tropfest film.’
‘That’s a really limited way of looking at life Lou.’
‘Well using your logic that means that the short film I made was an Oscar film. It never got into consideration for the Oscar but what if that was my intent, thus it’s an Oscar film.’
‘They give Oscar’s to comedies these days Lou?’
‘I’m making a Sundance film next.’
‘But let me guess it didn’t get into Sundance?’
‘Didn’t have to. It’ll always be a Sundance film to me and my half-brother whose mortgaged his house to pay for it.’
‘What’s it about?’
‘It’s an atmospheric film set along the central coast.’
‘The lead character’s mother dies and she has to deal with that on the central coast, that’s why it’s set on the central coast.’
‘We’ve got the DOP, just need to write the script now.’
‘Why bother, with a storyline like that I’d be surprised if it didn’t write itself.’
‘I’ve been watching a lot of Darren Aronofsky lately so I totally know what you mean.’
‘Yeah, good luck with that.’
We both stood there saying nothing to each other, aware it was better than the alternative.
A few hours later, partially satisfied with the all-you-can eat buffet I’d received in the form of half a luke warm prawn I’d split with my friend I couldn’t help but notice someone staring at me and not in a ‘I can only bare to look at you from a distance for fear my heart might burst if I get too close.’ But more a ‘I know you killed my daughter and even though the cops don’t have the evidence to get you yet, I know and I’m watching you’ kinda way.
‘Do you know him?’ my friend asked, discreetly glaring his direction.
‘Don’t look at him!’
‘Maybe the thinks you’re cute.’
‘No, that’s not it. He’s looking at me like I hurt him in a past life or did something to his dog.’
‘Maybe you did. If you ask me I wouldn’t be surprised if you were a total bastard in your past life.’
‘Thanks for that.’
‘Like the guy that gave Marilyn Munroe the enema that killed her; a passive aggressive cog in the history of cover ups.’
And then it hit, like the day a handful of tanbark hurtled it’s way to my face in the St Joan of Arc Primary School playground back in 88 ‘cause my skin was a darker shade of middle class Brighton pale – I knew him. He was the blind date I never went on.
‘Shit, I know who he is.’
‘Remember that guy who my friend tried to set me up with earlier this year and I had to reschedule and he told me I wasn’t taking our relationship seriously even though we’d never met? I’m pretty sure that’s him.’
(go here for the original story http://lousanz.com/2010/06/21/i-like-my-friends-conditionally/)
‘But he’s blonde.’
‘Exactly, it was never going to work out anyway.’
‘How do you know what he looks like?’
‘My friend sent me a photo’
‘And he got a photo of you?’
‘He told me he Googled me.’
‘Wow he really hates you.’
‘Yep and we’ve never even met.’
‘I thought only past lovers looked at you like that.’
‘So did I.’
‘It’s impressive Lou that men can now hate you even having never dated you.’
‘If I’ve learnt nothing this year, it’s that very fact.’
‘You must feel a real sense of accomplishment.’
‘I do, I really do.’
Sitting on the tram, heading home, trying not to make eye contact with the women shaving her legs opposite me, my phone beeped. It was a message from him:
I know that was you tonight. Have things gotten that bad between us you can’t even wish me a Merry Christmas?’
I wrote back nothing, the volume on my iPod leading me to distraction. The phone beeped again.
I could have made you very merry if we’d ever met. We could’ve had a family by now. Enjoy your coal Lou, enjoy your coal. You’ve been a very bad girl.
Then another beep.
And that wasn’t meant in a sexual way. You’re just not a nice person. I dodged a bullet.
And so I finally wrote back.
Merry Christmas. I’m just glad I got you what you want. Thank God for artillery themed lay-by. Lou
…..And Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Ok, so someone once told you that you bear a striking resemblance to Harper Lee and you thought yes, yes I do, and so of course the only logical thing would be to become a writer. And so that’s what you’ve decided to do. Great. Welcome. Pull up a chair. Can I get you a drink? No? Of course, me too, I never drink before midday either. Now before we go any further I’m going to get you to grab a pen, because to be a real writer you’re going to need a few things: latent carrier syphilis, a cravat and a Twitter starter account for writers (follow Stephen Fry, Benjamin Law, Marieke Hardy and current left-wing political poster boy – insert applicable name here). It would also do you good to develop an irreverence to Augustus Burroughs (e.g. he’s just like me, but I’m not gay, he’s the symbolic cock in the arse of my life), an apathetic and uneducated understanding of Cloudstreet (e.g. everyone knows it’s New Zealand’s answer to Angela’s Ashes) and an almost anecdotal dedication to Margaret Atwood (try you need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer at your next Camus cheese-and wine appreciation night). Done? Great. Now you’re a writer! Might I be so bold as to say the hard work is over? So what next? Should you start a blog? Sure, why not?….
So you’ve decided to toss acid in the face of the teen queen we like to call conventional publishing and start a blog. You call it Thinking of You, the story of a young boy spurned by his father’s love exploring his relationship with his now deceased mother, set in a seaside town. It’s a really good blog, too, so much so that after encouragement you decide to upgrade it and expand your readership. An ex of yours, who to this day believes it wasn’t cheating as long as you didn’t know about it, offers you some career advice, the only thing they’ve ever been good at getting up. They suggest funding, but what path to take? You could apply to the Australia Council which is, after all, about the promotion of new vibrant and diverse talent, which you have in spades, if you do say so yourself or you could register for Google Ads?
You decide to apply for an Australia Council Grant….
It was five months ago but you did it: you applied for an arts grant. Unfortunately, blogging isn’t recognised as a legitimate artform and your submission is denied. But hey, we encourage you to apply again in the future and might we suggest you try your hand at short stories. You can pick your sorry self up from the pub floor and apply for another grant for something else in four months? or – fuck it – just throw in the towel here. Your choice.
You apply for an arts grant, again, and you are denied, again. But hey, they encourage you to apply again and encourage you to keep writing and thus the dance begins again (if you want to apply for Google Ads go for it.) But congratulations my friend, that empty or almost chronic feeling of failure accompanied by a burning desire to keep on trucking, well, that’s the feeling of being a writer, a real writer, so don’t despair, you’re a real writer now. Go buy yourself a t-shirt! Your career begins and ends right here.
You decide to apply for Google Ads….
After carefully accessing your blog traffic with Google Ads, you finally start to see some revenue from your writing. You celebrate by buying a stamp to put on the envelope that holds the letter to your Year 10 English teacher – a rampant alcoholic and failed writer who once had an open letter published in The Sun (yes, before it amalgamated) – telling them you’ve made it, you’ve finally made it. You celebrate by writing your own open letter to the Green Guide about a recent episode of Two and a Half Men asking why a wifebeater is allowed on prime-time TV. A Herald Sun writer hits upon this small but poignant letter and they demand your resignation from The Australian, which is fine given you don’t write for The Australian, but as the writer from the Herald Sun doesn’t actually read, they weren’t to know. Bless ’em. As a result you are commissioned to write for online publication The Drum. With your Twitter followers now around the hundreds, the possibilities open up before you. You could submit an article to some indie fashion / badgesavvy culture mag – let’s just call it Spankie ? –Sign up for a radio course at some public / volunteer-funded station? or record a spoken word single of Mandy Moore’s ‘Crush’ on rhythm guitar and enter it in triple j’s Unearthed contest ?
You submit an article to Spankie, then wait for a reply. You can hear crickets in the background. You bide your time by subscribing to it, maybe they’ll notice? Nice try. Should you do the radio course while you wait? If not, your career ends here.
You decide to do a radio course at a hip volunteer station ’cause after all you have heaps of cool ideas… wait… there’s a really long waiting list. To bide your time you subscribe, maybe they’ll notice? Don’t worry, someone will die soon enough.Should you enter Triple J’s Unearthed?
Otherwise, your career ends here.
You decide to record a spoken word cover version of Mandy Moore’s underrated hit ‘Crush’ – and it’s cool now ’cause she’s married to Ryan Adams – and enter it in triple j’s Unearthed. It does so well it pretty much kicks the latest indie comedian’s single in the dick, and not only does it win but it goes on to become the number one most requested video – a homage to Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ directed by some guy who used to play the drums in Powderfinger on Rage. Invited to headline at Splendour in the Grass and various other summer festivals, you finally find the time to draft that short story you’ve been meaning to write, and then when you’ve finished writing it you decide to have a crack at a book? Wait, no, fuck that, you apply for an arts grant to write that book, like any clever sod would?
You decide to write a novel aimed at a local indie press entitled I Forgive You, the story of a young boy spurned by his mother’s love, exploring his relationship with his now deceased father and the brother he never knew he had, set to the backdrop of a once prosperous mining town. But before you do that you’ve got to complete a double shift at a Portuguese chicken family restaurant and then go to rehearsal because the band you manage is playing a venue where the boys ride fixies and the girls work in PR, and the gig is tonight and you promised them you’d be there, and then you’ve got your writers’ group like the next day and you haven’t done anything for it yet and it’s your turn to read and that girl’s going to be there, the one that’s really into Janette Winterson and Sarah Waterson, and sure she’s got a girlfriend but that’s nothing: the well-placed whisper of a Hunter S Thompson quote will wet the legs of any writer girl. Look, you’re just too busy right now living life to write about life and win the Vogel and anyway, MasterChef is about to start, so it really isn’t a good time.
Your career ends here.
Your Literary Career: Choose Your Own Adventure was published in The Reader November 2010
‘Is 22 still too young?’ I asked as I watched the object of my distraction lie naked say for a few well-placed bubbles, in a bathtub on my local Hoyts cinema screen.
My friend heaved her fist back into her popcorn for one/ for both of us to share.
‘Yes, she said, in this case it is.’ She took a sip of hers/ mine diet coke. ‘We’ve known him since we was like 13 years old.’
‘But surely if there’s grass on the wicket it’s kosher to play cricket?’
I glanced at the now ex-Harry Potter actor on the screen, dressed in nothing but a samurai sword and a belt, the subject of our discussion.
‘That’s a bit anti-Semitic Lou’
‘It’s a saying, it means good.’
‘Ok, but here’s a hypothetical, if say there isn’t grass on the wicket then my guess is it isn’t kosher to play cricket, right?’
‘So in that case it’s anti-Semitic because it’s a negative.’
‘It’s just a word, there’s no anti-Semitic sentiment involved at all.’
‘Ok, let’s say I believe you, the other glaring problem is you don’t play cricket, nor do you understand it.’
‘I’m a full MCC member. If anything that gives me carte blanche to wax lyrical about young Hollywood youths who have come of age.’
‘No, no it doesn’t. You treat your MCC membership like that Bikram yoga course you never took.’
‘I took it.’
‘Once Lou, once.’
‘It was full of women that didn’t need to wear supportive underwear even when they bent over.’
‘If you stopped blaming gravity you too could live without a bra. It’s all about will power and you know, if it you had less skin.’
‘So? It’s my membership; I can do whatever I want with it, even if that means never using it.’
‘If I was your membership I’d despise you. Year in, year out leading it on, paying for it so it’s always at your beck and call, getting it’s hopes up every time there’s an Ashes series or a Grand Final but never following through on your promise of attending, so it sits there in the stairwell staring at the phone, a single tear rolling down it’s cheek, masturbating to your forgotten touch, praying that things could be different but knowing deep down inside that you’re never going to change, that you’re never going to change.’
‘We’re not talking about the cricket anymore are we?’
‘Don’t Lou, don’t. It’s hard enough I have a Jewish friend and enjoy the cricket because I’m a big supporter of diversity but I’m afraid if we keep talking you’ll offend me with some remark about nuns and flying and you know how I feel about the church Lou and nuns because I wanted to be a nun once so let’s just watch the movie.’
As instructed I turned my attentions back to the movie now with a slight feeling of guilt wafting over me, either that or it was the smell emanating from the gentleman sitting on the other side of me struggling to hold a conversation on the phone with someone I figured was his wife because he kept telling her the store had run out of control top panty hose in her size and he was in line like a West German matriarch waiting for a bread ration to find them for her and would be home soon – in the middle of a crowded picture theatre. Bless him, maybe we should’ve all pissed off and given him some privacy, after all no one likes to have people eavesdrop on them, especially at the movies.
This wasn’t the first time my interest in someone younger than me had been shot down in a flame of ‘you’re over 30 now; you’re beginning to look more sex pest and less elegant aging beauty.’
In my defence it’s not predatory, it’s not like their age has ever ended in ‘teen’, it’s just that I general date more ‘Magnum PI’ types, you know the sort that could harvest a coconut plantation thanks to the ecosystem that exists in their chest hair’ and less ‘I think it’s a guy, could be a girl, but I’m pretty sure he’s a guy, he’s just very pretty for a guy, maybe if I’m lucky I could teach him how to drive, or maybe his parents will let me take him to Luna Park for the day, or maybe I can pick him up from the airport when he gets back from schoolies week.’
I’ve gone younger only on two occasions; and only once without knowing. The unknowingly bit on the side was a camping fling and he seemed wise beyond his years, well we didn’t’ talk much and he smelt of absinth but I knew he could drive and he was taller than me; everything pointed to him being over 30.
‘He’s 26’ our mutual friend told me when she discovered the extent of our association.
Spitting my luke warm tea all over my Gado Gado I proclaimed ‘But he has arm hair!’
‘That doesn’t mean he’s legal.’
‘It would help’ I couldn’t help but scoff.
‘You’re being an idiot, he’s hot, and you’ve got a really big tent. It’s like fates colliding.’
She was right. He was hot and no one had ever complained about my big tent – there’s always been plenty of room for everyone.
My only other Harold and Maude moment came in my mid twenties, in Sydney when my staple wardrobe consisted of vintage mini dresses held together with staples, fish net stockings and cowboy boots held together with gaffer tape care of my film school. It sounds hot. It wasn’t. Think about how you might dress to attend an
‘I’ve never had an orgasm party’ and you’d be bang on the money.
His name was By, 21 years old. He told me my legs were like a stair way to heaven. It was a nice thought, but if anything my legs were more a rope ladder to Wobby’s World, complete with disused helicopter and that look of 100s of disappointed children realised they weren’t at Disneyland.
Our affair was brief; it had to be that way. He had much to do like move to London to live in a squat and pursue an acting career only to develop a predilection for c**k, an addiction to crack cocaine, and chronic STD that would eventually land him in prison – who was I to derail his dream?
As the film credits rolled I realised maybe my friend was right, that 22 was still too young.
‘I think I’m just going to look and not touch.’
‘Great. You know who does that Lou, men in parks that stand in bushes watching women jog by and wear pants with elasticised waists.’
‘So you wanna see the new Harry Potter next week?’
‘Do I have to put you on the sex offender’s registry?’
‘Not yet’ I smiled. ‘Not just yet. I’m on 31, it’s not creepy yet’
Coming home from a gig on Saturday night realising that if I managed to make it home by 9pm The Bill would be in full throttle and even with my comprehensive knowledge of back-story I’d struggle to keep up, I stood waiting for the illustrious No 19 tram. Not to worry, I wasn’t alone. I had the luck of keeping company with a couple of teenagers/burgeoning football team and when I say a couple I mean not enough to terrify me into a gang bang, but enough to have quite clearly justified their purchase of two slabs of Jim Bean & Coke.
Not that I’m a snob in the traditional sense, but yes I will admit, a couple of slabs of some sort of pale ale and these young men would have easily transformed in my eyes from just sex offenders to alleged sex offenders.
One of them spat in front of me or threw up (I’m finding it harder and harder to tell these days) before asking me how my night was, well that’s what I thought ‘…avin a good night…cat…apper…penis’ meant.
Having promised myself not to get herpes in this lifetime I stepped back from him and then watched as he tried to chase a car packed with ‘the ladies’ down Sydney Rd egged on by his friends in a way a dog might chase a car, a dog whose parents paid for it’s private school education.
I noticed a girl in the mix drinking a Red Bull with her hair pulled back into a sensible ponytail. She watched the idiots around her and for a moment I was reminded of a young me. One of the boys kept pulling her hooded sweat, trying to drag her over to him like a caveman but to her credit she spurned his advances as he tried to whisper something in her ear. She pushed him away.
‘No Tony, I’m not giving you a hand job.’
You go sister I thought as I smiled to myself.
‘Last time my hand cramped and I couldn’t text for like hours and you didn’t even cum, f**k that.’
How I yearned for those curious fumbling years…
Finally the tram arrived and we all climbed on board, the teenagers by now figuring that if they sat at the back of the tram they’d come across less like drunk dickheads and more like hip urban commuters. I moved to the front as I heard a conversation about ‘how to spot a tardo’ fade into the distance.
Deciding to stand for the next few stops, I noticed an older woman staring at me and found myself wondering for a brief moment if the No 19 was the tram of choice for lesbians to cruising away their Saturday night. I didn’t have to wait long for my answer as the woman came over to me.
‘You remind me a lot of myself when I was your age.’
Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never been into the idea of hooking up with people that look me, admitting though that I was yet to come across 5’3 curvy Latino type gentlemen who couldn’t grow a decent moustache, but hey, the night was young.
‘Um, thanks’ I replied to her, not that it was a compliment she’d paid me as I looked down at her cankles.
‘Back when I was your age I tried to kill myself, didn’t manage it mind you. Just ended up alone.’
My eyes drew away from her cankles and elasticised Susanne Gray pants and I suddenly realised how sad a complete stranger could make me feel.
I didn’t know what to say and my overwhelming curiosity to ask why she hadn’t kept trying was threatening to leap out of my mouth at any moment.
‘Um…I’m sure someone loves you.’ I offered.
‘Does someone love you?’ she asked.
‘My parents I think.’
‘Some of my friends?’
‘What, you mean like a boyfriend or something?’
‘I knew the touch of a man once, his name was Tom. Full of cock and confidence Tom was.’
‘What happened to Tom, did he die in the war or something?’
‘The war? I’m only 37, he was only 17.It was the love that dare not speak its name. Don’t be stupid. Died in the war. No, he just changed schools. It wasn’t meant to be.’
‘That’s a shame.’ I muttered, looking at this woman, this broken woman. Why had she been so unlucky? Would I have the same fate given I once admitted to a crush on the red head from Harry Potter?
‘If you don’t mind my saying your fringe makes you looks like a guard at a women’s prison.’
Oh, this must be why no one loved her.
I pulled the cord announcing my impending stop.
‘Ok, well you have a good night then.’
‘You don’t work in a woman’s prison do you?’
‘Would you like to?’
‘Ok, no harm in asking.’ And with that she started up towards the back of the tram looking to acquaint herself with some of Jim Bean fuelled football team.
As I hoped off the tram I heard her turn to the girl I’d seen earlier.
‘You remind me of myself when I was your age.’
‘I’m not licking you out or nuffin’ the girl spat back at her.
You go sister I couldn’t help but smile to myself.
I like my friends. I find it helps. However sometimes I get the distinct impression that if faced with a ravenous mega crocodile in a swamp they would throw a bucket of fish guts over me and then run for the hills watching from afar as I get torn limb from limb, stopping only to remark to each other ‘poor Lou, she’s just always in the wrong place at the wrong time.’
This thought came about after a good friend of the ‘I just met him at the gym and he was the one and now we’ve bought a split level apartment together in Woollahra and I thought I knew what happiness was but I didn’t, I was a fool on a teenagers errand because now that I’ve met the blood (his name is Ian*) that pumped through my heart, well Lou I wondered how I ever managed without it before’ variety sent me an email admonishing me for not even owning a toaster oven and highly recommending I go on a blind date with one of Ian’s friends.
A new toaster oven I could use, but a blind date, chances of that making me an evenly toasted piece of heaven smothered with Nutalex was highly unlikely and that level of certainty comes with age children, age.
I emailed her back, politely declining, telling her I’d recently bought the box set of Pugwall and I owed it to him to watch it in full over the next say month or 36 years, so she rang me.
‘Pugwall isn’t available in box set yet. I Googled it. You’re lying.’
‘It should be.’
‘This is neither the time nor the place to go into that Lou.’
‘I finished Press Gang last week.’
‘I don’t care.’
‘He’s a very nice man Lou.’
‘I’m sure his mum finds him real nice.’
‘Really Lou? A mum joke?’
‘Technically it wasn’t really a mum joke, but granted there was an inference so I’ll give you that.’
She ignored me and to be fair I understood why.
‘Ok, so he’s nice.’
‘Yes nice and has a job. He’s not leaving someone, dating anyone else, not moving overseas, doesn’t have a harem I know of and he doesn’t dress as a clown.’
‘I’ve never dated a clown.’
‘Clowns, performers, street folk, it’s all the same from where I sit with all my financial security looking down on you.’
‘Look, I’m just really not into the idea of it at all.’
‘Just think of it like going to a Farmer’s Market and you’re the cow that needs to be milked.’
‘That analogy managed to offend me on so many levels.’
‘And look I’m going away in a week so now really isn’t a good time to start anything.’
‘You’re going to Sydney for a weekend.’
‘And his recent STD check came back clear and don’t panic I showed him a copy of yours.’
‘God, I should never have given you a copy.’
‘Consider it a reference check.’
‘Fine, I’ll meet him.’
Within 15 minutes of hanging up I’d received an email from him, informing me he liked going to the gym, the movies and he’d Googled me, thus the absence of questions directly relating to myself I imagined. I’m not a mad fan of Googling people. I have a weird thing about getting to know them on my own terms, not have information thrust upon me, but this doesn’t always halt the expectation from others that you’ve Googled them. Whilst dating someone it came to my attention I’d missed his birthday – oh stop throwing stones – I’d asked him on numerous occasions when it was and he wouldn’t tell me. None of this was helped when at dinner one night I asked how his week had been and he pointed out I’d missed his birthday, something that if I’d ever checked his Wikipedia entry I would’ve known…
I wrote back to email guy and said next Wednesday would be good for a coffee. He tried to up the anti to dinner but I know what I’m like after a meal and a glass/bottle of wine so I told him coffee was preferable. He wrote back saying fingers crossed they might serve nuts there. I wrote back saying that if was prone to such overwhelming bursts of hunger perhaps it best he ‘eat’ before we met up.
The Wednesday arrived and out of the blue so did my parents, fresh from an 8 week jaunt around the Mediterranean. I’d have to reschedule. I sent him a quick text explaining the unexpected events that had led to our coffee cancellation, heck I even through in some wit without trying to sound flippant. All in all it was the perfect text message, however my intended audience didn’t agree.
My phone beeped. He’d replied:
‘Hi, look I’m worried if you can’t make time for us now then what hope do we have for a future. Think about it.’
I couldn’t help but think he had a great sense of humour, so I checked.
‘Are you serious?’ I wrote back.
‘Yes. I need to know now you’re just not going to flake out on me. I really wanted to meet you but I’m started to think you don’t want the same things I want for us.’
Ok, let’s just drown the puppy in the hessian sack now. I looked around to make sure I wasn’t jilting someone at the alter and had some how become so torn from my own reality I hadn’t even noticed, but no, my tracksuit was still firmly on and my kitchen looked nothing like a cathedral, but the floor did need to be mopped.
I deleted his number from my phone and got out the bucket.
My phone rang, it was my friend.
‘It took a lot of leg pulling to get that guy to even agree to meet you, especially after he read your blog.’
‘And hello to you too.’
‘Sorry’ I put the bucket down.
‘He rang to say you’ve stopped responding to his messages.’
‘Yes, about 3 minutes ago I stopped responding to his messages.’
‘Is this what happens Lou? Is that why your relationships end up in the toilet faster then a uni girl’s hair extension after a smoko?’
‘For Christ’s sake, he acted like we’d agree to start working things out after having gone through a legal separation.’
‘You’d be so lucky’ my friend scoffed.
‘He’s not right in the head.’
‘A predisposition to schizophrenia is a non-issue Lou.’
‘Oh my god is it so hard to believe that I have little to no interest in getting married or moving in with someone? If and when you see me advertised on Craig’s list then maybe I’ll re-evaluate, but right now I’m fine with Pugwall and men that might not return my calls.’
She said nothing as I imagined her muting the Lifestyle Channel before coming back to me.
‘Ok, fine. I’ll just tell him you’re taking time to figure yourself out.’
‘No, just tell him his messages were inappropriate and scary and at the end of the day I prefer the company of clowns.’
‘I knew it.’
‘Yes, you know me better than I know myself.’
We hung up and I picked up the mop just as my phone beeped. It was from email guy.
‘Hey, look you take all the time you need to figure yourself out. I’ll still be here. My sister thought she was gay once too, just turned out she couldn’t eat wheat. Take care.’
And so as I deleted his message and blocked his email address whilst buttering my toast I couldn’t help but think maybe he’d end up being the one that got away and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
Standing on my train station platform I thought about my new financial year resolution; to move away from meeting men at arts industry based events such as music festivals/ library borrowing queues / openings/ other festivals/ readings and the video store. So far it was going well; I hadn’t left my house in over a month. Eventually however, after advice on airing out my bedroom I found myself on a train station platform with a good looking young man standing next to me. Sure it was a crowded platform and one could argue there were really no other options as to where he might stand but in my mind what was important was that I thought I still had ‘it’ and I could meet people outside my ‘circle.’
He looked harmless enough, black wool jumper and jeans, not so tight as to cut off his family legacy and black worn brogues. All he was missing was a petite red-haired girlfriend with a blunt fringe, a smock with the Saver’s tag still on it, a pamphlet on alternative birth control methods and a Banksy tattoo and he would’ve looked like the guy who had everything, but all he had was a clip board and nothing else.
‘It’s very cold isn’t it?’ I turned around to see clipboard guy speaking directly to me.
‘Yes’ I replied as I hugged my large oversized duffle coat around me, a coat that could’ve past for a doona cover and of late given Melbourne’s freezing temperatures had been alternating as one. I’d had to start using the coat when I realised I’d started to develop an unnatural attachment to my hot bottle and the fact it had the ability to contour to my body shape. I only wanted one thing to do that and preferably I didn’t want it made from rubber and smelling like my grandmother.
‘Guess that’s winter for you’ he continued, allowing our natural chemistry to flow.
‘Well yeah, June is a winter month.’
‘So are August and July but not always in that order’ he pointed out to me.
He fiddled with his clipboard.
‘Mind if I ask you some questions?’
‘No, not at all’ I responded as my ovaries began to move of their own accord – they were still there, good.
‘I noticed when you arrived at this station that you failed to validate your ticket.’
Ok, so this one wasn’t like other men I’d known, this one was a conversationalist. Tick.
‘Um, I bought a ticket.’ (I chose not to add the phrase ‘at least’)
‘Yes, I saw that but like I said I failed to see you validate your card. Is there a reason you didn’t manage to do that?’
‘I guess I just forgot.’
‘That’s why we have memory madam, it stops us from forgetting.’
‘What, you’re not making any sense’
‘But some of us don’t like memories. I don’t like all of my memories and that’s why I don’t like dogs and biscuits.’
Suddenly I felt a craving to check my inbox for any invites to something in Fed Square or at Meat Market I had forgotten to RSVP to, I mean who had financial year resolutions anyway?. .idiots did Lou, idiots…
‘Um, it’s not really any of your business why I didn’t validate my card.’
‘Today I’m making it my business’ and with that he opened up his clipboard and I couldn’t help but think this was the reason I’d never really gotten into role play.
‘Ok, fine you want to know why I don’t validate, well let’s start with the train before this one was cancelled and this train the one due to arrive is now 16 minutes late. It’s like being in a relationship with someone who ignores you at parties and then you brush it off cause you are after all barely 5’3 and he would have to look down to even notice you were there and that’s a big ask sometimes, well it’s the same as validating a ticket for a train that is running late all the time, never smiles when they see you and then surprises you by terminating early even though you already booked that holiday to Vietnam and you told him at the time that the tickets were non-refundable – if my own existence can barely be validated then I’ll be damned if I’m going to validate a ticket!’.
Clipboard guy stared at me for a moment.
‘Are you really only 5’3?’
‘I’m wearing heels today.’
‘Oh that explains it.’
He didn’t say anything for a moment.
‘I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to upset you.’
‘You didn’t upset me, I’m ok, just fine me and let’s be done with this.’
‘What makes you think I’m a transit officer?’
‘You’ve got a clipboard.’
‘Lot’s of guys carry clipboards and it doesn’t mean we work in the transit industry. I don’t even own a car, but I bet you couldn’t tell what with your eyes being so jaded by prejudice.’
‘How does owning a car have anything to do with whether I validated my ticket?’
‘From where I stand it has everything to do with it.’
I looked up at the train timetable, delayed by another 7 minutes; God must’ve still been in the bathroom tending to himself.
‘Look, don’t worry I’m not a transit cop, I’m not going to fine you even though you are pretty fine, maybe we should have a coffee sometime. My mother says coffee is good for you.’
I realised at that point me developing an almost sexual relationship with my hot bottle wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing…
‘So if you’re not here to fine me what are you doing?’
‘It’s an assignment for school.’
‘School? Like postgraduate buiness school?’..even I noticed the desperate pleading in my voice.
‘No like high school. I’m doing an assignment on ethics and we were told to approach single parents and ask them a series of questions to see if their ethics had evolved after becoming parents let down by the world.’
‘You’re in high school?’
‘Yeah, Year 11.’
‘So you’re like 17 years old.’
‘Oh good, that makes what I was thinking 20 minutes ago even more illegal.’
The train finally pulled up.
‘I’m not a single mum just so you know’ I felt I needed to point that out to him.
‘Sorry, didn’t mean to offend, it was just the fact you were carrying a doona with you.’
‘It’s my coat.’
‘Looks like a doona.’
‘Yes, I know.’
‘I like older woman you know. I get on great with my mum and she says I’ve got very soft hands.’
‘She doesn’t have to be the only lucky lady in my life.’
And with that I boarded the train and maybe, just maybe I walked away from an opportunity missed.
Often when one thinks of romance we conjure up images of young, nubile (look, maybe that’s just me and my penchant for being able to bounce things off walls) creatures, fornicating on a deserted beach at sunset, declaring a love that need not speak its name, unapologetically crushing the pink tinged roses he’d bought her at the start of their date…
To be honest though, after years of getting sand in my crutch and never been given flowers, when I think of romance it’s slightly more evolved, having changed from whispers of sweet nothings to something more along the lines of that if I’ve been seeing a guy for a few months and I don’t receive a phone call from a friend telling me he’s been shagging someone else, well I burst into tears of happiness cause fuck me I’ve never felt so much joy.
However in recent weeks my idea of romance has evolved once again, it’s more platonic by nature (and no, I’m not mounting objects on the wall and running at them). Whether this has been a result of getting better bed sheets or recent illness’s ‘how many flu’s can you get?’ it’s growing where?’ and ‘you’re not pregnant like we first thought, it’s an infection’, I’ve found myself seduced by the romance of being a shut in.
It started simply enough. Friends asking me to go and have a good time with them, sure it seemed like a nice idea but that would involved getting dressed into what I call my ‘outside’ clothes and I’d only recently discovered the benefits of your ex leaving his crap at yours – large over sized hooded jumpers. I needed to devote as much time as I could to this new found discovery. Of course I wasn’t a complete social drop out; I’d always offer a solution to my friends:
‘Come around to mine and I’ll make us some dinner, we don’t need to go out to have a good time.’
‘Will you be wearing pants?’
‘And what about that gingham smock thing?’
‘I’ll be wearing both; I’ve neither shaved my underarms or my legs.’
I did understand though why my friends started seeing other people when my dinner menu consisted of the one and only question ‘baked beans or spaghettio’s, and I don’t have any bread, we’ll just have to make do without bread right?’
My flat mates were as supportive as they could be with it all, but when one wandered in to see me reading my copy of Laura Bushes biography and fiddling with the oven whilst drinking my 10th cup of strong Yorkshire tea for the day and lamenting I couldn’t find my anti-anxiety medication anywhere useful and must’ve left it in the shower, well he had to intervene cause ‘Lou, you haven’t showered in days, lets stop making shit up ok?’
I was sure I wasn’t a complete lost cause; after all I had to leave the house to go to my local video store to continue my research on British police procedural dramas. What I was researching I didn’t know quite yet. It had taken me about 30 seconds to admit to myself I’d so go Vincent D’Onofrio from Law & Order Criminal Intent, but the lead guy from Midsummer Murders, well it had been over 6 years and I still wasn’t convinced, as such there was much work to be done.
The video store was easy enough; people go in there with top high ponytails and hooded jumpers all the time. I made my selection, including some DVD’s of a show I was to be in, but when I got to the counter and the clerk informed me I was one over my Weekly Special limit I chose to put that DVD back – really, I thought, I should buy it, you know support local industry the way it was supporting me – the clerk seemed happy with my selection including the one I chose to put back.
‘Good choice putting that one back. If you asked me we stopped making people laugh when the Crocodile Hunter died.’
Arriving home shortly after I logged onto the internet and joined an online DVD rental store.
It was pointed out though at some point, even though I was literally living in my own filth trying to work to deadline that I might need deodorant or a leg razor, you know for ‘special occasions.’
Trudging out in my smock and high tops I walked the 50 meters to my local shopping centre and found myself staring at the deodorant rack, armed with soy milk, veggie burgers, HP sauce and Oreos, debating whether a further spend of 38c was warranted given I wasn’t loyal to any sort of particular brand. To this day I don’t know the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant and I’m afraid I’m too old to ask.
Now I’m not casting judgment on anyone that picks up in the toiletries aisle at a supermarket, but I’m not a huge fun of scoring anywhere near where they sell lubricant and indigestion tablets, because it would be too much like looking into a future relationship mirror. So imagine my surprise if you will when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I spun around to see a man wearing elastic wasted trousers – enough said.
‘I know you from somewhere’ he so eloquently observed.
My vanity got the better of me, Christ I was in a smock and trainers.
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘Yes, I saw you die at Vibe comedy one night. It was awful you were shit.’
‘Me I like jokes that rhyme.’
‘We all have a type.’
‘That we do, that we do.’
‘So buying deodorant, you don’t smell that bad.’
‘I wear deodorant.’
‘Then why you buying more?’
‘It’s not like a never ending packet of Tim Tams.’
‘I don’t understand’.
…and it was at that point I realized he quite possibly wasn’t even 24, of course he wouldn’t get the reference.
‘Look, um, if you’re not doing anything would you like to come to Maccas with me? I have a voucher and a health care car, gets you a discount’
He then noticed my soy milk and before I could answer…
‘..hey sorry, just saw the soy milk, but that’s cool, we both like vag.’
I went home and joined Woolworths Home Delivery and safe in the knowledge I wasn’t leaving my house anytime soon, took off my pants.