Dad.

Dad is renowned for two things. The first is his stubborn unwillingness to seek medical advice for any physical issue until it’s far too late. I’m not talking about niggling little issues either, I’m talking probably could use an ambulance issues. Let me illustrate by compiling the list of injuries he’s had that I can remember, where he didn’t seek immediate medical help:

  • Broken back (twice). He can’t remember how he broke it on either occasion *blank face*;
  • Kicked in the head by a steer, which rendered him almost unconscious and left his face mangled and bruised;
  • Kicked in the knee by a bull, which splintered the bone in his knee, which gave him stabbing pain and a limp for over six months;
  • Caught behind a fence which swung back on him when it was hit by a cow, when ended in broken ribs;
  • Dropped a running chainsaw, which hit him in the chin, then badly burnt his stomach. The first thing he did was take a photo of his bleeding chin and send it to us, claiming Mum had hit him.

He drives Mum up the wall with his injuries, yet she’s not much better, having reattached the tip of one of her own fingers after sticking her hand under a running lawnmower.

Needless to say, I don’t call my parents expecting sympathy when I’m sick.

The second thing he’s renowned for is never discussing feelings, either his own, or yours, except on the rare events that there is a full moon in the month of August, which falls on a Friday. If you attempt to discuss feelings, you will find yourself talking to his disappearing back, as he heads outside to take a long walk in a paddock to get away from the feelings that polluted his afternoon.

The Friday just gone happened to be one of those rare occasions he wanted an insight into my life. We were chatting on the phone about how much rain they’d had and what I’d been doing at work, and in some context I mentioned the word ‘husband’.

Dad: Speaking of, when are you going to get a husband?

Me: Oh god, really? Never. I could tell you some horror stories, Dad.

Dad: … I don’t know that I really want to hear about that, thanks.

Me: No, I mean stories about men my age. Seriously, they’re not like you, they have all these feeling and they want to talk about them all the time.

Dad: Oh! That’s not good. You know what you need then? You need a country boy, they don’t have feelings.

Me: Like Farmer Wants a Wife?

Dad: Yes! Or … what industry would you say you work in?

Me: Media?

Dad: Okay, here’s an idea! Let’s pitch a show called Media Woman Wants a Husband!

Mum [in the background]: Have you ever thought that maybe Julia doesn’t want a husband?

Dad: If you don’t want a husband, that’s also fine.

Just between you and me, I think Dad would prefer I never get married so he can spare himself the horrendous shame he casts on his reputation as the Strong Silent Type, because whenever he marries off a daughter, he ends up weeping in a corner at the reception and then making long speeches about wanting grandchildren.

Don’t ever tell him I told you that.

Public Service Announcement!

Yesterday I decided to be a nicer, more approachable person, and with that intent, I bounced out of bed at 5:30am this morning and went to the gym.

Out of the gloom of my local butchery, came a construction worker. As we passed, I smiled and cheerfully shouted ‘GOOD MORNING!’ above the din of my iPod…which was almost enough to drown out the comment he made about my arse.

I decided to try again when tonight I found myself in Kings Cross, a nighttime den of sin, strip clubs and drugs for those unfamiliar. I was in the Cross on a Tuesday night to provide company for one of my team members from work, who was getting a tattoo and who I didn’t much want to leave alone in the Cross, plus who wants to get tattooed alone?

As we waited, a Russian man came in, clearly drunk or high, to check on his friend who was in the chair. He sized us up and smiled. Cautious after my morning’s experience, I said hi but nothing else. Then he came over and said ‘You gurls ‘ave dis bag of choco-lates if you like’. Having had a run in with some Russians before, I was wary and smiled weakly as he placed a plastic bag stuffed with chocolates next to me and disappeared back into the strip club cleverly called ‘Strippers’ next door.

I’m giving this niceness thing one more day to kick in or else I’m going back to cantankerous.

It’s Going to Rain

I went to Newcastle for the weekend and as always happens when I leave, I came back to Sydney with way too much to think about.

Storm clouds are rolling in over the city, and it’s a Monday, so we should all be listening to ‘Armored Scarves’ by 13 & God. The whole album makes me feel like Dark Night of the Soul does.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Erotica Secret

Today’s secret is a bona fide secret, I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about this and besides me, there’s only one other person, and their family, who know.

I am the author of erotic fiction.

I think I’ve mentioned before that my mum had the sex talk with me and my older sister when I was five and uttered the memorable line ‘It’s not called a tail, it’s called a penis’, followed by ‘Stop laughing Julia’. Can I just state, again, for the record, I wasn’t laughing, I was horrified. Now it makes me laugh and if I have kids, I’m going to lead with that line too, make it a family tradition.

My mum was pretty open about most things, sure, she probably doesn’t love some of the topics I’ve brought up over the years, but I’ve never really been told not to discuss things and as the rabid reading child of a rabid reading mother, literature played a large part in shaping how I see things. She gave me her copies of Hunter S Thompson and Capote, then introduced me to Peter Kocan’s writing, and sat through a parent/teacher interview where my English teacher tried to politely explain that she was happy that I loved reading so much, but also that I’d given a presentation to the class that included discussion about a patient in a mental hospital compulsively masturbating. Sorry.

I also read Hollywood Babylon and discovered that famous people engaged in some pretty bizarre sexual fetishes, none of which interested me, but many of which disturbed me. From the pictures in the same book, I discovered that some “mums” and “dads” like to roll around on fur rugs and piles of money. I found a secondhand copy of the first volume of Hollywood Babylon a few years ago and bought it, so my children can be similarly damaged.

All of this caused much confusion, added to by the fact that Mum had asked me not to discuss sex with other kids at school until their parents had the chance to broach the topic themselves. I kept the secret all the way until year three when finally I couldn’t take it any longer and I finally relieved myself of the weight of this knowledge by taking my friend aside and telling her that she was wrong, babies don’t just appear, it’s not called a tail, it’s called a penis.

To this day, my friend still claims I ruined the innocence of her childhood. Sorry.

This same friend was also a big reader and at some point in primary school we decided that if we could read, surely we could also write, and thus we began our careers, innocently enough, by writing stories in coloured pencil in school issued notebooks and then swapping them.

I don’t know exactly how they became erotic, but evidently at some point they did. I wish I either still had copies or could remember the finer details, but alas, I can’t. All I remember was that hers was about a mermaid (the logistics of mermaid sex still confuses me) and mine involved a female protagonist who had a baby with an alien (so in this case Mum, maybe it wasn’t a penis, maybe it really was a tail). I don’t remember either of us finding it funny, but we must’ve known our parents wouldn’t love it because there was a lot of talk about how we needed to keep the stories hidden.

It all stopped suddenly one day when she awkwardly told me she was retiring as an author.

We didn’t speak about it again until we’d left high school, and one drunken night she told me that one of her older sisters had found the stories, I don’t know which, either mermaid or alien, and had then passed them onto her other sister, who passed them onto her brother, who passed them onto her mum, who was all ‘How do you know about sex?’

Sorry.

Apparently to this day she has to suffer through family gatherings where she is mercilessly mocked and until today, I had plausible deniability, which I hereby forfeit.

The worst part is that I now know that in the interim years when I’d run into her mum or her siblings and I was all polite and ‘How are you? Fine thank you! It was lovely seeing you!’ the whole time they were thinking ‘You over-sexualised beast corrupter of the youngest in our family!’

Sorry.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Underwear Secret

Jesus. How far up do they go?! – My best friend, Kelly, upon seeing me bend over.

Technically this isn’t really a secret. If you’ve ever been standing behind me when I’ve bent over, like Kelly here, then you already know about this one.

Let us begin.

I don’t really get sick. My health is fairly unremarkable as far as interesting stories go. I’m not lactose/fructose/lifetos intolerant, there’s not a food on the face of this planet that I can’t eat; I can’t remember the last time I had the flu; I’ve never had any terrible injuries or near-death experiences. Sure, I was born without one leg socket, but that’s rectified now and only clicks out occasionally, usually only in intimate moments when you least want to have to explain your birth defect.

I am, however, allergic to two things.

The first is the “gentle” environmentally friendly washing detergent my mum uses. Whenever I go to stay with my parents and do some washing, I break out in a rash wherever there is a piece of clothing touching my body. So pretty much everywhere. It usually lasts for a few days after I come back to Sydney and I have rigorously re-washed all my clothes in my harsh, highly perfumed, guaranteed to kill whales and dolphins White Capitalist Washing Detergent.

The second is nickle. I am so allergic to nickle I itch just thinking about it. I figured out early on that if I don’t want green skin and rashes, I can only wear jewelry made of silver or surgical steel, which was necessary for someone as determined as I was to put as many holes as possible in my body.

My issue then was with pants. I joke about being allergic to pants, but for the most part, I actually am (though really, I do just love to not wear pants). Every pair of pants I’ve come across that has a button, has no material covering the flat piece of metal that sits against the skin of said pants wearer. I am allergic to that. I am also allergic to belt buckles. I get a raging, hideous rash that’s impossible not to scratch. It looks great to be scratching your groin region in public, as does a rash appearing at the top of your pants. It’s very hard to convince anyone in this day-and-age that a rash within the pants is actually not some heinous thing you caught from a sailor.

I tried everything people suggested, including painting all my buttons and belts with clear nail polish. What a joke. All that did was make my groin region smell like freshly painted nails.

I suffered for years with my pants allergy until one day at work, it dawned on me that there was a solution.

At lunch I raced down to Myer and up to the fifth floor. I pushed past the slim blonde ladies shopping for fancy, fun underwear and I headed, and I’m not making this up for heightened drama, to the very back of the lingerie section, where the shelves were dusty and the lighting was low.

‘What are you doing?’ whispered a snow-capped elderly woman, glaring at me over the racks.

‘Don’t you even try and stop me, I know what I’ve come for and I will be buying them no matter what you might say or do,’ I replied, narrowing my eyes at her and flashing a gang sign.

We circled each other, like two dogs after the one fried chicken carcass. Meanwhile, her cronies had arrived, limping behind tennis ball-capped walkers.

They spat, ‘You have no right to be here! We’ve earned the right to be here! It’s hard for us to get out of bed and we’re always scared and suspicious! We lived through wars and the Depression, we were the wombs of the baby-boomer generation!

I didn’t care much for their histrionics and told them as much. We live in a sunny democracy where comfortable underwear should be available to all tax payers, not just a privileged few, and it was the strength of my conviction that helped me snatch up two pairs of underpants and out run those old biddies.

I used to work in the underwear sales industry so by the time I reached the checkout, I’d removed said underpants from their hangers and folded them, tags up, in a neat pile, which I placed on the counter. I looked back over my shoulder and smiled smugly at the gang of grannies behind me. Suddenly a huge gale-force wind almost knocked me to the ground.

While I had been revelling in my win, the sales woman had unfolded a pair of my giant black grandmother underpants and was flapping them, like a huge sail. I clung to the counter desperately. ‘What are you doing, you stupid witch? You’ll kill us all, put them down! If I wanted the entire world to know I’m buying giant black grandmother underpants I’d wrote a blog post about it!’

She crisply folded and then bagged them and handed them to me with a tight smile. Clearly she too felt I was stepping on some toes. I spun around and flipped them all off before storming out.

Let me tell you, despite the drama, it was worth it and much to the disgust of my mother and friends, I have delighted in sensible, comfortable underwear ever since. Sure, it was hard during the great g-string uprising of the early two thousands, but I refused to be persecuted for my beliefs and I think it’s really made me a better person.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Tequila Secret

I am sitting at the bar of a small, old pub. It’s a Sunday night, and I’m here because I live directly across the road and come to the pub most nights. I don’t always drink, especially on Sundays, but I like hanging out with the publican, who doesn’t bat an eyelid if  Kelly and I walk in in our pyjamas with a bag of popcorn and ask to use his microwave. I like this publican because for the time  I lived across the road, he was like a beacon of sanity for me. Years later I realised that’s pretty much the job description for a publican, but it was fun sitting outside with him after he’d locked the pub up for the night and talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up.

On this particular Sunday night, I’m sitting with a local jazz drummer and a few of his friends. We’re all in good moods and this seems cause enough to celebrate. The drummer held up a hand and yelled ‘Tequila, four shots here please!’ I did a quick count. I was included in the four. Shit.

I described the experience once before, but all you need to know for this story is that I ended up with a shot of tequila dripping down my face, because for at least five years, I could not drink tequila. I couldn’t even smell tequila. My body refused to allow me to ingest it.

It started when my parents went away for the weekend. I’d moved out of home, but Steph was still living there, so I came home and we organised to have some people over, which sounds civilised, and by which of course I  mean we organised to have some kids from her school over to get wasted.

They were at the precipice where typically they looked old enough to get alcohol themselves, so I was at the precipice of being the older sister who didn’t really need to be there and was a possible authority figure, so when the kids arrived with a bottle of tequila, I joined in enthusiastically to prove that I was hip to their jive.

The rest of the night, I can only recall in flashes, like the trailer to some really bad thriller starring some guy with his pants tucked into his combat boots.

Flash: we’re downing tequila and even though I’m really drunk, I’m completely aware that no-one else seems to be.

Flash: I’m standing in the carport in the back yard. Suddenly, I’m in my dad’s motorboat, I don’t know how I got there, the most logical explanation seems to be that I flew into the boat, with wings that came from somewhere. I raise my arms about my head and start shouting for people to get in the boat, I’m going to start the boat and drive it downtown (I don’t know if I’d heard the George Jones lawn mower story at that stage, but it seems likely).

Flash: I’m sitting on the back steps feeling weird. The younger brother of one of my friends is sitting next to me, whispering to someone. Through the haze of tequila I can make out ‘She’s so drunk I bet I can make her throw up by talking about weird sex stuff’.

Flash: His evil ploy worked.

Flash: We’re burning my sister’s school uniform on the back porch. Turns out it Catholic school uniforms are very synthetic, because suddenly, there’s plastic blobs of Catholic school uniform melted to the wood. We think it’s hilarious. Or I do, but I’m also still in the throes of paranoia about the level of my drunkenness and the police officer who lives next door.

Flash: I’m passed out in my old bedroom, in a very cold single bed. I feel weird. I realise I’m going to throw up at the exact same moment I realise I can’t walk.

I am that person who threw up in their own bed.

Flash: I can suddenly walk again, probably due to the shock. Or possibly I’m flying, I’m still not sure. I strip my bed and fly the sheets to the laundry. To do this I must fly by the group of kids in the lounge room. They all look up and quickly realise what’s going on. I feel as miserable as I look, knowing that I just became that older sister who threw up in her own bed when no-one else had thrown up all night, except for that one other kid who no-one liked.

The next day I was so sick I couldn’t even help my sister clean up. I felt terrible.

Mum and Dad came home and nothing was mentioned until a few days later when Mum looked up and said, ‘Oh, by the way, if you’re going to smoke, use ashtrays, there’s cigarette butts all through my garden. Also…did you burn your sister’s school uniform?’

Yes.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Short Adult Secret

When I was a kid, I looked like this:

That’s right: blonde, cute and slightly demonic.

We lived in many places when I was a kid so you’ll have to excuse the fact that I can’t remember which godawful drought-stricken, dying town it was, but at around this age, or maybe a little older, we lived somewhere where there was a supermarket which employed a man with dwarfism to sweep the floors. Little people are confusing for kids. It’s strange to see someone who’s your height but clearly an adult, working the ol’ nine to five.

Because I was so little, I used to go food shopping with Mum all the time and so I would see this guy regularly and I’m sure I stared. As an adult who strangers approach to discuss height, I completely understand that this must have been infuriating for this guy, but as a kid, I was just confused and trying to figure it all out.

One day we had stopped next to the square ice-cream cones or some such thing and I looked up just in time to see something so terrifying to my kid-brain that it chilled me to the bone. Clearly this guy had had enough, and when a kid walked by and looked him up and down, he snapped and with his giant broom, he took off running. Down the aisle came a screaming kid followed by a growling man. Lordy, I almost fainted.

Mum turned to me and said, ‘That’s right, he chases kids’. Now, I don’t know if she’d seen him do it before, or if she was trying to teach me that it was rude to stare, but I looked up at her, horrified. A child-sized adult who could chase you with a broom was the most shocking thing I had encountered. The sum total of my life’s experience of horrible things at that point was the day I choked silently on a Mentos when crossing a highway with my dad, who would never hold my hand tight enough for me to feel safe around the trucks. I was unaware life had more curve balls.

Shopping then became my least favourite thing to do. I was constantly aware that at any time, I could be chased by a short man with a broom. My mum happily went about her shopping, oblivious to the fact that I was walking along, clinging to whatever side of the trolley was closest to the shelves, peering through the bars and over the food goods, trying to spot the man and his broom.When we would turn into a new aisle, I would run to swap sides on the trolley.

I’m not sure if this is an actual memory or not, but I have a vivid mental picture of slinking along the cold food aisle, my mum stopping to get peas, my little blonde head peering over a blue box of Weet-Bix, when he appeared on the other side of the trolley, pushing his broom along. Time slowed and we made eye contact, and he sneered at me and growled. I don’t recollect what happened next, and my mum has never mentioned me ever “fear-urinating” in public, so maybe this never happened.

I am over it now and harbour no ill-will towards people of any height, but at one point, it would have been true to say, I was terrified of short adults.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Metal Gig Secret

For a few years there I almost exclusively listened to PJ Harvey, the first Garbage album or whatever Kathleen Hanna happened to be doing. I had a much smaller music collection then, being a poor student and living in Australia where the Internet at the time was not the greatest. Anything interesting existed on countless tapes I made from the radio.

Then I got myself a gentleman friend who I will begrudgingly say had the best music collection of anyone I’ve ever met. In the years we were together, I stopped listening to the radio and reading music press, everything I discovered about music, I discovered from him.  I like to think by the end it was a bit more of a two-way street.

One of the bands he introduced me to along the way was ISIS, who made lovely epic atmospheric metal and the first time they toured here we trekked to Sydney to see them play (the entire gig later ended up on their Clearing the Eye DVD). We were staying with his parents a good few hours up the coast from city, and we had to rush dinner to make it to the gig on time.

When we got there we met up with a bunch of his friends, who knew the support band so we made our way to the front to watch them when something started to feel weird. Sydney summers are both hot and humid, but this felt more like I was baking in hell. I remember looking down at the beer I was holding, a blissful, amber oasis and I chugged it as quickly as I could, hoping to break the blanket of heat that was suffocating me. That was the last thing I remember before being dragged out by my arm onto Parramatta Road, the artery to Sydney’s vast expanse of car yards and terrifying suburbia.

What had happened in the meantime was that I’d fainted, but because of the crush of the crowd, I’d fainted standing up. Noticing this, my gentleman friend slapped me. Nothing. Not knowing what to do, he dragged me outside, where I stumbled around for a second before finding a ledge which I promptly clung to before I threw up. I was hot, miserable and more than a bit confused about how I’d managed to swallow the whole green bean that lay at my feet. I crawled up on the ledge and sat there stunned. Was I really the girl who’d just fainted and thrown up a whole green bean at a metal gig? Yes I was.

The gentleman friend ran across to McDonald’s and bought me a Coke before peppering me with questions about whether I was okay, because he wanted to go inside and watch the band. There might have even been something said along the lines of ‘I am not going to miss ISIS’. I looked at him with disgust. Had I been able to reply, I would have said ‘Hey loser-face! Not sure if you noticed like the hoards of other ISIS fan here did, but I just fainted standing up and threw up a whole bean!’

Instead I nodded weakly and he left.

A guy came over and said ‘I’m so glad you’re okay, I saw you being dragged out, you look so much better now’.

I decided then and there that all ISIS fan clearly weren’t loser-faces, so I jumped down and meekly made my way inside. Two men grabbed me as I walked through the door and told me they’d seen me being pulled out too and that I should stand with them as they had a spot with a breeze that wasn’t very crowded. I stood between them and someone I’m fairly sure was Seldon Hunt (I’m a bona fide graphic design groupie, but also too shy to ask questions like ‘Are you Seldon Hunt?’ and really, who wants to answer questions like that anyway?) and blissed out to ‘Backlit’ and ‘In Fiction’ and ‘Grinning Mouths’.

The two guys I was standing with turned out to be really fun and I saw them at every subsequent ISIS gig I went to, none of which resulted in me throwing up.

This is that night’s performance of ‘Backlit’. You can see how small and crowded it was, though I like to think that I threw up out of sheer excitement at getting to see them. ISIS were a fantastic band.

I discovered later that that night was the first and last time I’ve been referred to as ‘Princess’ and now I avoid mixing beans with my metal.