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.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Tattoo Secret

Hello there! We made it to Friday, presumably all of us alive! I hope our jobs, or studies, or holidays are treating us well and I trust we all have fun weekends planned? Good work team.

Today I would like to discuss tattoos, of which I have three. More specifically, I would like to discuss – drumroll please! – how I regret two of them! Yes, I am outing myself as a person who secretly regrets some of her tattoos. For the uninitiated, this is pretty much enough to get me kicked out of the religion. See, the tattoo dogma goes: you get yourself branded and you must stand behind your decision to get branded, no matter what. There are several reasons for this:

1 – admitting you have regrets might lead to other tattooed folk realising they too have regrets. No-one wants to be the person who makes someone else question the ink they got permanently drilled under their skin!

2 – it’s really hard to admit you did something dumb. Something dumb your parents probably actually warned you about. Yes, I did something dumb my parents warned me about and I regret it.

Let’s have a closer look at my situation (not too close, it gets ugly):

I got my first tattoo at age 18 and this is the one that I really didn’t want to tell you guys about, but I trust you and I know you won’t tell anyone. I was 18 and angsty. I had very attractive friends, who were very blonde and always pleasant and friendly and I didn’t feel like I fit that bill. I was the curmudgeonly one, seen here on the right:

When we were heavy into our Hole/Babes in Toyland/Bikini Kill skirt-over-pants wearing days, I was the only one who didn’t want the local iridologist to look deeply into my eyes and tell me I needed more salt. I thought he was creepy and old and attracted to girls far too young for him. I gritted my teeth through the fairy phase and all the talk of love and world peace and why couldn’t everyone else see it was just a ploy to get in each other’s pants?! I spent a lot of time drinking bourbon and having people tell me that my face looked angry.

Obviously I needed to rebel! And what better way that to…wait for it…get a tattoo on my lower back which apparently means “soul”. I can’t even begin to describe the look I’m giving myself right now. One eyebrow is raised, let me tell you. What about you? Have you gotten back up off the floor yet? Did we have a good laugh?

Here’s the clincher: I don’t believe humans have souls.

So why am I so stupid (and let’s face it, hypocritical. Who was I to tell these free spirits to wake up and smell capitalism’s giant fist, what with my “soul” tattoo?)? Well, I decided I wanted a tattoo without knowing what I wanted to get, so I went to the nearest bikie tattooist and picked a design off the wall and symbols were the smallest, cheapest option, and soul was one of the least insipid choices.

The bikie was rude, impatient and obviously much prefered to spend his time inking gang insignia on the skulls of men, but I had my tattoo and as any tattooed person will tell you, the adreneline was great.

My next one came a few years later, and this time I knew what I wanted. A creepy little silhouette of a monkey, also on my back. I don’t regret the design of this one at all. Well…I don’t regret how the design used to look like. See, this time I went to a different bikie tattooist, one with a worse reputation and and even more terrible chairside manner. This guy actually was gang-affiliated, a story for another day perhaps and I don’t think he even really spoke to me and he branded me in a shop above the main street of a country town.

So what happened, you ask? Well, he did a terrible job and it was patchy and scarred and when I went to get it fixed by bikie number one (I know. I clearly have issues with good judgement) he was all ‘Erm…who did that?’ Awkwardly it turned out they were friends, but it got fixed as much as you can fix something that was badly done in the first place.

I regret them insomuch as I now know that more thought needs to go both into what you want and who does it and it’s worth paying to have someone do it well. I don’t regret it enough that I’m particularly ashamed and I’m a vaguely okay person so I try not to be too hard on myself. Plus, if I ever have kids and they want to get tattooed, I can be like ‘Come here Tylersonblake and look at Mama’s back!’

To be honest, I don’t even know if I can be bothered getting them covered, although I am a huge fan of what Sydney writer Elmo Keep did to own her first tattoo, the story of which is here.

Last year I got my third tattoo, a song lyric in shorthand, which I wrote about here. Again, it was monkey-based and reading back over what I posted at the time, I have to laugh. I can’t believe I thought getting a song lyric in shorthand would stop people asking what it said/meant. So far I have no good answer and I tend to squeak ‘It’s in shorthand!’ which answers nothing for no-one. The short answer is I like the melancholia, I guess.

Will I get another one? I imagine so. I’ve also discovered it’s really, really fun to take photos of other people getting their tattoos done so if anyone ever needs a tattoo hand-holder/photographer, let me know!

And that brings me to the end of sharing some secrets. I have some more I’m not sure I’m ready to share yet, like the one about my underpants, but I’ll let you know when I am/my parents have written me back into the will and it’s safe to overshare once again.

Monday – Friday: The Heterosexual Secret

I am heterosexual female. That’s not to say I have issues with the other sexual preferences, it’s just my lot in life.

I have had many a heterosexual crush over the years, most of them odd celebrity crushes which I have inexplicably shared with my younger sister. There’s been David Attenborough, DCI Frank Burnside from The Bill…Pascoe from Dalziel and Pascoe. Sometimes I question whether or not I was raised in a weird UK TV cult, the other members of which were of a more middle-aged demographic…

Then there’s my long-held thing for John Goodman, but if we start talking about that, we may never leave.

Anyway, at some point in recent years I was trying to pin-point when I realised I was heterosexual and I came to a startling and unexpected conclusion: I realised I was a heterosexual when I first saw the music video for Poison’s ‘Unskinny Bop’.

Yes, today’s secret is that I realised my heterosexuality by looking at men who looked distinctly like women, dancing with CGI outlines of women who were clearly based on the men dressed like women:

Even more specifically, I realised I was heterosexual during a few split seconds of the video in which CC DeVille appeared. Because of the wonders of the Internet and computers, I have managed to catch the exact moments in which my sexuality was realised:

Well hello there yourself, sir.

Like many music videos of the ’80s and early ’90s, I failed to understand the significance of a lot of the imagery. I mean, I knew Bret was being sexy with the mic, but at the end when CC gets pulled into a bathroom (?) by two non-CGI girls, who hang a ‘Private Session’ sign on the door? I thought they were going in there to hug and laugh. No. What the video was trying to tell me was that they were sexing in there. Totally missed it until later in life.

I also missed every single thing in Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ clip. This bit?

Totally thought it was just hardcore Christian imagery. In fact, I thought this clip was so awesome I distinctly remember running to get my mum to show it to her. She must’ve been so proud.

Oddly, I would quickly turn off the TV every time Roxette’s ‘The Look’ would come on became, shame of all shames, Marie Fredriksson was pictured playing the guitar while she sat on a closed toilet.

A toilet. Imagine if my mum saw that. How shameful.

Today as I watched the video again, I wondered, if I was ashamed of a closed toilet, what the hell did I think was going on here?:

Apparently although I’d realised I was heterosexual, I’d yet to learn what the hell it was I was meant to do with this. Here I was thinking people hugged in empty bathrooms, kissed the feet of Jesus and tore each other’s clothes off in bed, all in the name of friendship.

Apologies to any friends I had between ages of say, six and 14.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Boss Groping Secret

When I was studying at university, I worked at a large chain of hardware warehouses. You know the one, the jumpers are red, the aprons are green.

I really liked working there. Sure it was stressful and the shifts were long, but I worked with a really fun group of people and learnt some of my dirtiest jokes from them during smoke-o. Want me to share one? Okay, this is my favourite one and it gets bonus points for being hardware related: work decided to run a get fit program and the big boss, a big guy who was a very heavy smoker, was going around hassling us all to join up. I was sitting out the back with my favourite smoking buddies, a group of middle-aged, fairly coarse, married men. I loved them because all the jokes were loaded with innuendo, but it was all very good natured and they wouldn’t tone it down much if I was there (or if they did, then it must have been really revolting when I wasn’t around). It was a really warm day and no-one particularly felt like going back inside and when the boss came over and lit up, I think we all felt like it was licence to stay a while longer. He looked each of us over and his eyes fell on B, one of my particular favourites, a mulleted, weather-beaten guy with twinkling blue eyes and a well cultivated beer belly.

‘B! You should definitely sign up, you could use losing a few kilos around the waist’, he said dryly. B looked up, grinned at me and said to our boss: ‘Don’t think so mate, can’t drive a nine-inch nail with a tack hammer’.

You have no idea how many times I’ve wished for a penis so I could use that joke. So many times.

One day I was hanging around behind the service desk, not a customer in sight and I was drinking a bottle of Coke, which technically wasn’t allowed, but seeing as though the warehouse was so cold that some of us had gotten frostbite, a lot of rules for checkout chicks had gone by the wayside. As I pondered my next escapades, I noticed one of my bosses, K, limping towards me. As I screwed the lid back on the Coke bottle, I smiled to myself. I really liked K, he was always grumpy and easy to aggravate, but also easy to make laugh and we got along just fine. Today he looked like he was in just the mood to be aggravated.

As he came closer, the lid of my Coke sprang out of my hand and bounced along the floor, coming to rest in the path of K, who bore down on it like an angry man-truck. I quickly realised that where it fell was exactly where his next footstep was going to land, so I dove for the floor to try and rescue it, crying ‘K, noooooo!’

I snatched at the lid and put my hand up to stop him from treading on it and as I looked up, I realised, with great horror, that my hand had landed on the upper, upper part of his leg. The almost groin part, the part that you would grab just before you grabbed the groin part, if you were his wife. My hand involuntarily clamped. Time stopped. I was now kneeling on the floor groping my boss.

He limped off, not even seeming to notice I was there.

I was bewildered. Where was short-tempered, shouting K? Why had he not stopped to yell at me, or at least mock me, if not make a formal sexual harassment claim against me?

As soon as someone came to cover me, I went and sought sanctity in the smoking shed, with my coarse friends.

‘Excuse me. I just groped K. I groped him and he didn’t even seem to notice. I groped him way, way up his leg and he didn’t even flinch. I almost touched the groin of K!’

They looked at me. Finally someone spoke. ‘Julia. How long have you worked here? A long time, yes? Yes. Haven’t you noticed that K always walks with a limp? You have? Why do you think that is? You don’t know? It’s because he only has one leg. He lost it in a motorbike accident. You groped his plastic leg’.

So today’s secret is: once I groped the plastic leg of my boss.

I never told him about it.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Smoking Secret

The city where I spent most of my time growing up had a giant storm water drain with open ends, which ran under the road for about a block, starting at the netball courts and ending at the little park where you could get rides on a tiny little train on the weekends if you were a kid. It was a kind of rite of passage to walk through that tunnel, legs wide enough apart to let the stinky, cold and very sludgy water pass between them and not get your shoes wet.

The scariest part of that tunnel was the rumours that swirled about junkies lurking in there and the bravest person would be the one who would go first and risk bumping into one of these phantom junkies. With age, I have realised this was stupid. Junkies aren’t going to go on the nod in pools of cold ditch water when there’s a comfortable, open-air public park to do it in!

It was in this tunnel that I first took up smoking*.

It was early high school, probably year 7 or 8 and I was susceptible to group think, and, it would later turn out, an addictive personality who would spend years worshipping at the altar of nicotine. On the day in question though, I was a scared little kid, terrified and excited about the fact that someone had managed to steal a cigarette from their dad. Notes were passed, plans were made. We were all in our distinctive maroon Catholic school uniforms, dark red, shapeless box-like dresses designed to prevent anyone from having sexual thoughts about us**.

A group of suspicious looking maroon kids was bound to attract attention, so we decided to head to the tunnel after school. Off to the tunnel we went, and light up we did. The thing about being new smokers was that we had no idea what it all meant, especially the milligrams part. Had we known, we might have chosen a slightly less hard-core smoking dad to steal from. 16mgs almost floored us and there was a lot of ‘I’m spinning!’ and ‘I’m going to throw up!’ emanating from the tunnel.

When we eventually sucked it down to the filter (and didn’t I learn the hard way to stop at the filter in later years) and stumbled into the bright light. Obviously the last thing you want as a smoking kid is for your parents to find out, and yet there, at the end of the tunnel, stood my mum with my dog. It was weird. The tunnel was nowhere near our house and the place she took our dog for a walk every other time in his existence was even further away from the tunnel, and yet here she was, lurking suspiciously.

I remember the look on her face distinctly and it said: Get out of the junkie tunnel my idiot middle child, but at the time I mistakenly read it as: You were wrong about newsreaders being able to see you from inside the TV, but you were correct about parents being able to read minds, my idiot middle child.

Oh the lies I spun on the spot. I’m too ashamed to even repeat them. In the end, she was just like ‘Right. Gangs and bullies and spaceships. I don’t care. Please don’t hang out in tunnels’. I had fooled her, she didn’t know about the cigarette. I swore I would never smoke again.

Mum, I wasn’t bullied into the tunnel, I was smoking in there and I smoked a lot in later years, and now I don’t. There. You finally know there truth and only one question remains: what were you doing lurking outside that tunnel?

* Which I guess confirms that there were addicts of some kind lurking in there.

** This didn’t really work. By the time I was 16, I had a 23-year-old boyfriend who was probably mostly attracted to the gross uniform.

Postscript:

In high school I got a lot of detentions for some really weird reasons, but one legit one was for smoking in school uniform at a cafe downtown. Yes there was a table of about eight of us smoking indoors (which seems wrong, but the cafe provided ashtrays) in school uniform, but I was both the heaviest smoker and the only one not smoking on that day for whatever reason. I remember the vice principal was almost orgasmic in this glee at catching us and floored by my friend Claire’s explanation (she had the most lenient parents) that it was actually just her smoking eight cigarettes at once. We stuck to the story but still ended up spending a Friday afternoon after school doing a anti-smoking find-a-word. Why anyone thought this would dissuade kids from smoking, I don’t know.

Monday – Friday Secrets: The Metallica Secret

Ah Metallica. What I love about writing about Metallica is that I don’t even have to describe them, such is their bohemuth. I say Metallica, you think whatever Metallica-related thoughts you might have. Unless you are the spellcheck for this blog, in which case you keep trying to tell me Metallica doesn’t exist.

Here is my Metallica secret: I do not like old Metallica, I only really like Load and Reload era Metallica.

Maybe this was a bad secret to lead with, I can feel you all getting all judge-y.

For the sake of not being beaten to death by Metallica fans, I smile and nod politely when people talk about losing their virginity to Ride the Lightning (how they managed to succeed at that without spending the whole time making ‘I’ll ride your lightning’ jokes, I don’t know. I personally chose Pretty Hate Machine which has issues of its own) and I make sure to go ‘Whooo!’ when people talk about Master of Puppets but in my life there exists only two Metallica albums.

It’s like I have a sweet ear, which is much like a sweet tooth, but for music. Most pop music is too sweet, like the ear version of Squeeze Pops. Sure, a tube of really sticky liquid candy seems like a good idea, that is until you realise all you have is a tube of goo that’s rotting your teeth on impact.

Later Metallica are the perfect antidote! Load and Reload are catchy as hell. If you were a stripper, you could totally shake your money-maker to either of these albums, but they still have enough grunt that you don’t feel like a total flake when listening to them. Or at least I don’t feel like a total flake.

Also, it was around this era that James Hetfield unmistakably became a bit of a babe. Early Hetfield looked like an anorexic lion, all teeth and hair. Later Hetfield has this great lumberjack/cowboy bear thing going on. Let me tell you, combining bear with lumberjack or cowboy is pretty much always a good thing, but to be able to do both? Amazing. If you have a heterosexual female significant other, now is probably the time to tell you that she’s closed her eyes at least once and imagined you’re Later Hetfield. Okay, I lie. She probably does it all the time.

People will try and tell me I’m wrong and lame and that Later Metallica sold out, and to them I say, ‘Sorry, what? I can’t hear you, can’t stop to save my soul, I take the leash that’s leading me!*’

Another benefit of only liking Later Metallica is that all the albums you like are always in the $9.99 bin and no-one is every likely to steal them from you! I can sense that you’re coming around to my point of view.

And that? That’s my Monday secret.

* This is a referrence to the amazing Later Metallica song, ‘Bleeding Me’. You probably didn’t get that.