Tag Archives: Ageing

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Forehead

21 Dec

I’m getting dumber as I age, because in my 33rd year on this planet, I decided that it was time to inject poison into my head.

Botox.

God knows why. It was largely curiosity, which appears to be the driving force behind my every impetuous decision. And you should know that the word ‘largely’ is used rather ‘loosely’ there.

Ten days later I fucking hate it. Hate it. And there’s nothing I can do about it, either. I’ve got to marinate in my stupidity and wait for my vanity to wear off, which will take approximately three months. This is just long enough to come to terms with the fact that I’m ageing, and also dream up a bunch of Botox jokes that’ll never get old.

Ha!

So, it’s an ordinary morning in an unnamed laser clinic in Sydney’s inner-west. I’m in a plastic chair, fingers clutching the leather satchel in my lap, and I’m grinning like a fuckwit before a woman with an I’m-still-funky-in-my-fifties orange dye-job and freakishly smooth skin. She repeatedly calls me ‘Gorgeous’ in an attempt of camaraderie that’s about as natural as her hair; and she is hovering over the top of me: an odd, waxen Skeksis from a nebulous era.

I trace a finger lightly across my forehead, emphasising that my presence in her salon is only spurred on by the appearance of “some fine lines starting across here”. I’m not, you know, vapid or anything.

Her hazel eyes zero in on my face as her throaty voice corrects me. “No, Gorgeous. Those are deep lines. Quite deep for thirty two, actually.”

Great. Apparently I’m ageing in dog years.

“And you’ve got a frown line beginning here,” she continues. “That’s a fine line.” Pause. “There’s one here, too. And your crow’s feet could do with a little…” She puts down the marker that she’s been using to Crayola my face with and picks up a brochure. “There’s a package available for treating two areas or more. It’s discounted at the moment,” she makes a show of flipping pages even though I’m fairly certain she knows the price by heart. “$459,” she glances up, her emotionless face incongruent with her tone. “It’s our Christmas special!”

Now, to put the cost of these injections into another context, $459 is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Liberia.

*Pause for effect.*

And, if a woman were to get this package four times a year (once every three months) her budget for facial paralysis would be the annual income of a Vietnamese fisherman.

Or, in other words, it’s a Christmas special fit for Tiny Tim himself.

Essentially, this package would make everything from the cheekbones up immobile. And, while this did appeal to my narcissism on some primitive level, I declined. At least until I learn how to express myself like a chimpanzee.

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The side effects are listed as she preps the syringe. “…drooping eyelids, bruising, headache, a heavy forehead-”

“Wait, wait,” I stop her. “A heavy forehead?”

“It’s not a pleasant feeling, but you do get used to it. You might have to raise your chin to read anything above eye line.”

I stare up at her. Without lifting my head, incidentally.

“I’ve got a date tonight, I’ll be alright for it, won’t I?”

“Of course. Just remain upright for the evening. If you lay down there can be complications.”

“Complications?”

“It can spread and paralyse other areas of your face.”

Best birth control ever. Sorry cute musician boy, I can’t shag you- unless you keep me perfectly vertical during the entire event- because nice girls don’t let their face get fucked on the first date.

Three days later I can’t move my forehead. And I’ve tried. When I do, one eyebrow twitches and the other flattens- I’ve nicknamed them ‘Mr Abbott’ and ‘Mr Shorten’, respectively. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk. What’s more- or possibly, what’s worse– is that she put far too much in. My eyebrows, once as delicately arched as the Bridge of Sighs, are now two broken roller shutters hanging over my face. I’ve devolved into Cro-Magnon woman. The skin under one brow bags attractively- sort of like a prolapsed uterus. I look like a Fraggle with a busted facial stitch.

Marlon_Fraggle

And one could argue that I am a complete muppet for doing this to myself. I mean: I can’t express how I feel about the results. I’m absolutely horrified, by the way, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I’m currently unable to convey that emotion.

And there’s got to be a feminist rhetoric hiding in that statement. Botox caps our emotional range. It lobotomises us, turning us compliant, docile. The patriarchal hierarchy is dimming our fire, man! The bastards. In Renaissance Italy, women used to drop belladonna into their eyes to dilate their pupils, which was the socially agreed upon sign of beauty. The side effects? Blurred vision and eventual blindness. So they were pretty as, but, you know, utterly fucking helpless. This sounds insane, right? Well, I posit that cosmetic injectables are the belladonna of the 21st Century. Don’t believe me? Botox is a compound of botulism, a toxin that was manufactured for chemical warfare in the Gulf War (among other places). Not only do we now inject this shit into our faces, but we pay people for the privilege. If the ridiculousness of that isn’t smacking you in the face like an autistic toddler, let me throw some farce comedy in to drive the point home: shortly after my botulism injections, I went and got myself an anthrax exfoliating peel and an ISIS labioplasty.

So my skin is now smoother, but in being frozen from the eyebrows up, I’ve lost something of myself. Botox has literally and figuratively flattened me out. My face- once earnest, friendly and reactive- is now a mask. I have permanent Resting Bitch Face. I’ve become Kristen Stewart. I didn’t realise how much I used facial expressions to communicate: to convey interest, surprise, to build rapport. Without my eyebrows, I find myself nodding a lot, like a bobble-head dog in a Chinese lady’s Corolla. In my haste to preserve my skin I’ve incapacitated a chunk of it, turning it into a metaphorical comic book that sits on the shelf in a plastic sleeve- the one that you never read and therefore never enjoy because you’re worried about a crease diminishing its value.

And I don’t know if that’s an equal trade-off.

Because I earned those wrinkles.

Sure, through smoking, but also experience. The furrow of worry above my left eye is courtesy of being trapped in Cuba with no money, no escape and no passport. The one above my right? Nursing violent lunatics for four years. That one there? A university degree. This vertical line above my nose? A crazy ex-husband. They’re the physical manifestations of a life lived. They’re my fault lines, each forming from the minuscule internal shift that has occurred from being thrust under a pressure that has tested me, nearly broken me, but ultimately fortified me. Would I trade them for a boring life and a smooth forehead?

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And, if you’re hurtling towards the bathroom mirror every morning to marvel at the way your face has subtly shifted in the past ten years, it means that you’re still alive with your motherfucking marbles intact, which means that you’re incredibly fucking lucky. And if, like many of us, you’ve been challenged in your life; and if, like many of us, your body is now a roadmap of your emotional scars, you should stand tall because it means that you’ve not squinted in the headlights of adversity (or, if you have crow’s feet, maybe you have) but bore a brunt instead. So be fucking proud of it. Don’t erase it.

Besides, as a smoker, I’ll probably have a few more wrinkles than the average girl, but that’s the price I pay for sucking nicotine through a little tube every few hours. Getting Botox to ward off the effects of that is like going to church for Sunday confession after you’ve spent the week beating the shit out of your wife.

Back in the clinic, when I decline her $459 package, the Skeksis warns me about the importance of injecting the rest of my face as a preventative measure.

“I never started getting it until late and now my frown line just won’t go away.” She points at her glossy forehead.

I squint. Nothing. There’s nothing fucking there. Michael Jackson’s sexuality was more pronounced than that wrinkle.

“Preserve your beauty now, Gorgeous. You don’t want to wind up looking like me.”

I blink, considering the sentence that’s running through my head, choosing to remain politely silent instead.

No. I certainly don’t want to wind up looking like you.

Part 1: Havana Sure Can Suck

23 Oct

Friday Morning

I was on my way to the Hemingway Museum when I had a conversation with a Cuban woman who initially mistook me for an extraordinarily pale local. When she found out I was travelling alone, she asked: “Are you nuts?”

I laughed. “The possibility has been raised.”

She grinned, high fived me, and assured me that Havana was safe.

Eight hours later I was mugged.

I almost didnt start the post like that. I nearly started it with: “I was mugged in Cuba”- an extremely strong opening line. It throws down a gauntlet, sets a tone. Or, I could have began with, “I needed a CAT scan after I was mugged, so I am now part of an elite club that has experienced the quality of medical care in Cuba first hand” but that sounds overly melodramatic. Maudlin, even: ‘I went to Cuba and all I got was this lousy CAT scan.’ Plus, the CAT scan was just a formality because I hit my head, and it turned out normal, anyway. My brain is normal. Nobody who knows me would believe that.

But yes, I was mugged. It was fucked. I’ll rewind the tape and tell you about it.

I had gone to Hemingway’s house in the morning and planned on booking a bus to Santa Clara that afternoon. I navigated Cuba’s crappy bus system to the Hemingway Museum without a hitch, but managed to board the wrong one on the way back. As a result, I got to Havana later than expected, so rather than book my Santa Clara ticket I decided to grab a drink at El Floridita– the bar that Hemingway used to frequent- and write a blog post. Three hours and two mojitos later, it was about 7pm and I was hungry. It was still light, so I began the walk back to my hostel to eat my leftovers for dinner.

I was four blocks away when a man came up behind me and grabbed my bag, trying to reef it off me. I turned and grabbed it, struggling with him. He pushed me and I toppled off the kerb. I continued to wrestle with him until the strap on the bag broke and he ran off.

Wednesday Morning

Now, to thoroughly confuse you all and rewind the tape again to a few days earlier; I was having breakfast at a cafe when the owner warned me about leaving my bag on the table as I was eating: “People will snatch it and run off. They will be gone before you know it.”

In response, I made a joke about tourists not wanting to run at all; especially not after bag snatchers.

Friday Night with The Locals

Well, not this tourist. This tourist jumped up and sprinted off after her mugger without giving the matter a great deal of thought.

I’m not writing that to make myself sound brave. I’m not, and it wasn’t an act of courageousness, anyway. When adrenaline starts pumping, you don’t think. You just react. That was my reaction. Was it foolish? Yes. Besides, what was I going to do if I caught him? Ask politely for it back? Negotiate in bad Spanish? Punch him? My only thought was that I needed to get my bag back- it had my passport in it. I never carry my passport around, but I was booking bus tickets that day. My iPad was in it. My iPhone, which had lived in my pocket all day, had been transferred to the bag at El Floridita. Everything was in it. I needed it back. I turned the corner after him and saw a local lady standing there.

“Where did he go?” I panted.

She pointed up the street and I continued to run until it became clear that Usain-Bolt-The-Bag-Snatcher had disappeared into the streets of Havana. A group of kids sat on the curb. I asked where he went. They didn’t know.

“Please help me, he stole my bag.”

They laughed.

It was the laughter that did it. I burst into tears. The laughter abruptly died and a girl stood to approach me. I blubbered and pleaded and jawed about my passport being in the bag. I must have looked sufficiently pathetic because she indicated a phone and told me to call the police.

“I don’t know how,” I wailed. How do you call the fucking police in Cuba? Triple 0? 911? An interpretive dance?

She told her friend to call the police, then proceeded to try and calm me down. Reassure me. She asked me what happened. How many there were. Could I describe him?

I described him as best I could. “He was tall. Black. Sinewy. He had a shaved head.”

Yep. I basically said, ‘He was big and black.’ A black man stole my handbag. I must have sounded like every paranoid American I have ever encountered: ‘He was black- that’s all I saw.’

Wait- that’s politically incorrect, isn’t it?

‘The suspect was of Afro-Cuban heritage…’

A lady approached. “Senorita,” she said. “You dropped this.” In her hands were my sunglasses and head scarf, both of which had flown off when I gave chase. It was such a simple gesture but it touched me. That’s the thing about Cuba, the moment someone robs you of your faith in humanity, there are several others who will restore it just as quickly. It’s a strange place. The land of juxtaposition.

I thanked her. Profusely. With big bubbles of grateful snot escaping my nostrils.

Friday Night at The Cop-Shop

The police arrived. They didn’t speak English, and Michel Thomas hadn’t taught me the Spanish word for “robbed”. After getting the story from the kids, they indicated that they were going to drive around and told me to keep a look out for the mugger. It was dusk at this point, and long shadows had begun to crawl over the streets. It was hopeless, but I jumped in the back of the car.

We never found him. They drove me to the police station and I gave my statement to the one cop who spoke broken English. When that was done, they led me out into the waiting room. I sat down.

For four hours.

Yes. Four fucking hours. During that time, I became aware of various aches and pains. Both knees were skinned. There was a graze along my jawline. My head throbbed. Upon inspection, I discovered a walnut-sized lump. I had the beginnings of angry bruises on my knees and my hip. My back hurt. My muscles hurt. My bones hurt. Getting mugged in your thirties sucks. You aren’t malleable, anymore. You can bounce back from anything in your twenties but if you struggle with someone and get knocked to the ground at 31, well, shit will ache afterwards.

I asked the cops how much longer it would take. I knew that Cuba operated at a snails pace but this was ridiculous. Four fucking hours! The cops didn’t speak much English, but kept indicating that people were driving. I can only assume that cops were driving the streets? Looking for the mugger, maybe? They were taking it seriously and as I waited I figured out why. You see, Cuba is a safe place because the penalties for crime are so severe. Theft isn’t particularly serious, but assaults are. Since the mugger knocked me off my feet in his desperation to get my bag, the crime had probably segued from petty theft to assault. Assault. On a tourist: the countries proverbial bread-and-butter. If they find him, he’s fucked. Although, in my muggers defense- and I don’t know if I should write or give a shit about that, but- I don’t think he meant to knock me over. I think he saw me, picked me, and figured that he could snatch the bag and run. I don’t think he expected me to fight back and so it escalated. I’m lucky: he could have pulled a knife. I could have been knocked unconscious. Or he could have done something far, far worse to the young lady in shorts and a singlet walking the streets of Havana at dusk.

Friday Night: Hospital Part Uno

Eventually, the police came back. They didn’t find the mugger or my bag. They drove me to my hostel, and one cop waited in the car while the other took a second statement- a particularly tedious one because this cop didn’t speak a word of English. He indicated that I had to go to the hospital to get checked out.

“Tomorrow?” I asked hopefully in Spanish.

He shook his head. Not tomorrow. Now.

So, I was bundled into the back of a cop car for the third time that night- I spent more time in fucking cop cars than my goddamn attacker did- and went to the hospital. The doctor spoke English. I told him that I’d hit my head. He told me to lie on the floor.

“Pardon me?” On the floor? I was flummoxed.

He repeated it: Lie down on the floor. I glanced at the cop behind me. He nodded. I looked at the doctor, wondering if it was an error in translation.

“Lie on the floor?” I indicated the floor below me.

He nodded again. On the floor.

I glanced at the examination table beside me. “The floor? As in this tiled thing beneath my feet?”

On the floor.

So, to the ground I went, thinking to myself, I know Cuba is a third world country, but surely hes not going to examine me on the fucking floor. He told me to stand up, and I realised that it was some sort of crude neuro-obs test. The doc and the cop spoke in Spanish and I was bundled into the car again to get a CAT scan. Mind you, it was after 1am. I was mugged at about 7.30pm and I hadn’t eaten anything. I was exhausted, sore, teary, fragile, hungry, sweaty, dehydrated, and dizzy. Confused, as well. Remember- I speak basically no Spanish. I had no idea what was happening, I was just mutely following the cops wherever they led me.

Plus- and I’m ashamed to admit this- my reservoir of trust in humanity had been drained after the attack, and this was stimulating my overactive imagination. I began to wonder if I was safe in the hands of the police. Were they really taking me to another fucking hospital to get a CAT scan in the middle of the night? Didn’t that sound a little ludicrous? How did I know that they were taking me there? I was locked in the back of a police car with two big dudes driving me through deserted streets that I didn’t recognise. I was scared. Fucking scared.

I know, I sound spoilt and paranoid. Whatever. I call it ‘disarmingly honest’.

Friday Night: Hospital Part Dos

At the next hospital, the doctor asked me if I drank.

I nodded.

“How much did you drink tonight?”

“Two drinks.”

He wrote on the CAT scan referral “App: Alcoholism.”

Yep. I travelled the world to be diagnosed with “Alcoholic”. Thanks Cuba. I was not drunk. Even when I was attacked I was not drunk. You may be reading this and tsking, thinking that I took a gamble on my personal safety and paid for it. Could I have caught a cab back to my hostel after El Floridita? Sure. But it wasn’t dark and I was close to home. Besides, the girls who I met at the hostel- who have been living in Havana teaching English for over a month- frequently went out alone at night. I was dressed like a local- hell, I’d been mistaken for a local that morning. And aside from my watch, which is the size of the average death-row prisoner’s last meal, I was not drawing attention to myself. I had no reason to expect that this would happen. So if you are thinking that I brought it upon myself, well: you can fuck right off.

Sorry if that sounded abrasive. It’s been a long 96 hours.

Saturday Morning

I had to go to the police station again to pick up the police report. Cuba operates at its own pace and the four hours I waited at the station was apparently not long enough to type something. I was told to ask for the Officer who was with me at the hospital. Officer Tomayo. By using a Russian Lonely Planet map, bad directions from a local, my feminine wiles, and a bike taxi; I finally managed to locate the police station.

Officer Tomayo had gone home.

“That’s okay,” I explained to the woman. “I just need to pick up the report.”

Nope. I couldn’t just pick up the report. I had to wait for Tomayo. And he wouldn’t be back until Monday night.

It was Saturday morning.

Without the police report, I was told that I couldn’t get an emergency passport.

And my hostel, which I was due to depart that day, was now fully booked.

So I was stuck in Cuba. Potentially homeless. For three nights.

Every solo female travelers dream. For me, it came true. In a fluorescent, Caribbean, technicolour nightmare. The situation was a shrapnel bomb that kept detonating.

I had to get that report. I pleaded with her. She shook her head.

So I burst into tears. Am I proud of it? No. I don’t use tears to get my own way. Usually I argue or, as I prefer to see it: I speak passionately in loquacious English. That wouldn’t work in this situation.

Besides, it’s not like I forced the tears out. They were there already, I just stopped holding them in. An ocean of salt water lurked beneath the facade for the next four days. It would randomly gush when reading Facebook messages, dealing with apathetic Cubans, or when I was told I couldn’t eat a hamburger. Or borrow a pen. Or sit in a local’s diner.

Anyway, the tears worked. They took me to the Immigration Official’s office. Curiously, she didn’t speak a word of English. How is a country with an education system as advanced as Cuba unable to churn out officials that speak fucking English? This is a country that exports doctors, for Christ’s sake. Is basic English- the language of 90% of the tourists that they rely on- too fucking hard? How can a street hustler speak perfect English, but a station full of cops not understand a word of it? It’s linguistic laziness.

I managed to get my case across in broken Spanish. She made a few calls, took me out the back, and gave me the police report. Success. Finally.

Saturday Night with Rum and Black Nail Polish

I checked into a hotel near the Embassy. It had a television. And the internet. I logged into Facebook, intending to message my dad, sister, and best friend to tell them what happened. I didn’t want to anybody else to know. It was still too raw. There were messages from my dad on Facebook already, actually. Asking if I was okay. Apparently some sixth sense/ father-daughter bond had told him that something was up. The first sentence of the group message I composed was “Don’t freak out”, which is the quickest way to freak someone out.

Then I bought a three dollar bottle of rum, painted my fingernails, and worked on feeling sorry for myself. I was alone, in a third world, communist country without my passport. Internet is nearly non-existent here. I had $200 with no way to get extra cash. I had no credit cards. I’d just discovered that my worldwide travel insurance didn’t cover Cuba. The Embassy was closed until Monday. I didn’t know how much an emergency passport would cost. I didn’t know if I could get a flight back to civilisation once I got it. I had two nights booked at the hotel. What if my passport cost $200 and I had no money for a place to stay? Was sleeping on the streets of Havana with a ten kilogram backpack in my future? I couldn’t even make a reverse charge call to MasterCard for emergency funds because, according to the staff at the hotel, reverse charge calls are not possible in Cuba.

I want you to stop and imagine yourself in that position. The fear. The anxiety. The isolation that comes from not speaking the local language. Having nowhere to go. Having nobody who can help you. Having no foreseeable options. It’s terrifying. I bleat about ‘Authentic Travel Experiences’ on this blog a lot. Well, I just had one. Where I had no control. I was free-falling in Cuba and the sense of inertia was nausea inducing. I stopped eating due to stress. I just sat in my room, smoking, watching Spanish dubbed movies, and replaying the incident over and over. What if I never fought back? What if I acted like a proper female and screamed for help, instead? Would people have come to my aid? Would it have scared him off? Could it have never happened?

I checked Facebook and discovered that my call to arms had come through. My sister sent me wonderful, reasonable words that immediately calmed me down. She researched where I should go, what I should do, who I needed to speak to, and what she would do on her end to make my life easier. My best friend spoke to a mutual friend of ours and together they passed the hat around, pooling funds that he offered to send me through Western Union. My dad contacted relatives who all offered help, love and advice. When I needed them the most, they were all there for me ten times over, and the love that I felt through their messages made me burst into fresh tears. I don’t think that I can express what their gestures truly meant to me. It meant the world?

No.

It meant something much bigger than that.

Anyway, I could keep typing about my shitty life in Cuba but this post is long enough. I’ll close with this, to round it all off in a nice, circular way: Six hours before I was mugged, I had been at Hemingway’s house on the outskirts of Havana. You can’t enter it, but you can peer through the windows. When the guard’s back was turned, I surreptitiously reached into the bedroom window and touched his bed.

Yes. I’m lame.

But

I touched Hemingway’s bed (!)

I was so excited that I stopped and snapped a selfie on my phone. It’s a picture that is now lost, but in it, my eyes are alight and mischievous. My face, creased in a grin. I am happy.

Ridiculously happy.

I have no idea what lies in store for me that evening.

In that photo, I am just a giddy fan-girl at one of her favourite author’s houses. I look relaxed, excited, and free.

The image of me outside his bedroom window will now only exist in my memory, but it will stay there forever. Alongside my favourite Hemingway quote, which is a very pertinent thought for my current situation: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Graded: F+

29 Sep

I worry that this is going to sound like a mediocre sociology essay. One that’s handed in a week past its due date. It has a coffee stain on the top left hand corner, and a stoner named Jeffro had to peel it off his backside the morning he woke up on the kitchen floor after a particularly messy frat party at Kappa Beta Alpha.

I’m going to talk about Free Spirits.

Without using the phrase “marching to the beat of our own drummer”.

However, I am going to bang on with tired, slightly forced analogies. There will be times when I sound breathtakingly arrogant. And, in my own awkward, hopefully adorable, cow-eyed, single girl way, I’m going to lay down a moderately convincing argument as to why you should try and date one of us because, as you may well know, ‘Free Spirit’ is actually an anagram of ‘girl who can be easily lured into bed with just a Jefferson Airplane record and half of an orange flavored Bacardi Breezer’.

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Then I’ll put my phone number at the bottom, click upload, and prepare to brave the swarms of eligible single men.

I’m practising my tinkling, flirtatious giggle right now, actually. It sounds like an oversized army boot smushing small, fluffy woodland creatures into shards of broken light bulbs.

The literature available on this topic seems to be split between two extremes. Girls who relate to a little too closely to Summer from 500 Days of Summer: “You can love a Free Spirit, but at the drop of a hat she will leave you for her next adventure, because she has only one true love- her independence” and men who write things such as: “How to tame a Free Spirit in ten steps or less: get her pregnant to trap her, and only tell her that she is beautiful twice a month to break down her confidence”. Wow. It’s little wonder that we apparently hold our freedom as our most prized possession. I wouldn’t want a man to “tame me” any more than I would want to emasculate or domesticate one myself. I’d argue that being with a Free Spirit has many benefits to the right person, but we aren’t for everyone.

If you ever find yourself in a relationship with one of us, you may discover that we are periodically tempestuous. Or maybe just tempestuous since, you know, it kind of suggests intervals of heightened passions. That was tautology, really. Slipping in “periodically” just stopped that sentence from reading: ‘We are high maintenance’. It’s probably true that we can be a bit…chaotic. We are a curious blend. Low maintenance enough to stay casual and malleable- and we have a ready laugh available for the foibles of the world around us- but we have high expectations and are all hopeless romantics with high ideals at heart. We aren’t a one dimensional Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Most of us are moderately complicated but ultimately worth the effort. You know that metaphor about the peaches at the top of the tree being juicier? Well, I posit that we are worth the climb. Most men don’t bother because there is plenty of low hanging fruit that can just be taken- and there are skanky peaches on the ground that are perfectly happy to be trodden on- but if you manage to clamber up that tree without breaking your neck, we will probably challenge, invigorate and inspire you; but for goodness’ sake, don’t think that we are going to storm into your dreary life and vomit rainbows everywhere.

We won’t judge you for your bank balance, but we will judge you for your character. We like to scratch the surface. There may be times that you feel that we are cracking open your cranium to peer inside. We speak our mind, so you will be free of emotional game playing, but we will probably remain enigmatic…unless you can find a girl with a blog verging on brutal honesty. We are ruled by intuition. You will never understand the choices we make. Half the time we don’t understand the choices we make. Just run with us, once you get used to impulsivity and infrequent bursts of insanity, it’s fun.

That sense of fearless adventure we hold transcribes to a sense of boldness in love. We tend to jump in wholeheartedly. Being experience junkies, we sense and feel things at the highest possible level. We can be intense, but we value freedom so we won’t ever smother you. The love of a Free Spirit is blindly loyal and occasionally selfish. Note I say blindly loyal- in nine out of ten cases, you can trust us when we fuck off to foreign lands alone. Most of us don’t travel to sample the local penis; we do it because the walls of reality have begun to close in, tightening around our neck like a noose. We have to periodically flit away to remind ourselves that we are still free. And alive. It’s my belief that we are all born free but life puts you in a cage. Most people don’t notice it but some of us are claustrophobic. Routine makes me suicidal. It’s why the concept of a nine-to-five job is intolerable to me. I need the novelty of the unknown or my feet start to drag.

To keep a Free Spirit happy, you just have to leave the door of the cage open. Let us wander and explore- with or without you- trust us, and we will return. At heart we are less like delicate butterflies and more like homing pigeons. I’d argue that someone who holds the childlike sense of wonder that keeps them scampering off into the great unknown with rose coloured glasses slightly askew would be a good catch. She would never try to box you in and she looks at her partner in the same way she looks at the world- with an unflinching appraisal of its flaws but completely accepting and loving of the same.

It’s not always easy for us. If men don’t try and tame us, they will often mistake our love of freedom for something else, something expendable. I’ve been told that I can’t act or talk the way that I do and expect to be treated like a lady. Because I am not secretly naming the unborn children of a man I meet, I can expect to be used and thrown away like a tissue. Ridiculous. It’s my experience thus far that most men aren’t secure enough to let us roam. Most men aren’t strong enough to sit with separation anxiety. Most men will try and turn you into a mother, a housewife. Most men won’t like hearing “I’m going to Myanmar for two weeks in November…” and most men will worry because they care. Most men can’t reconcile that wonderful protective instinct that they feel for a partner, and they will pop a collar and tag on you. Outside the bedroom. Precisely where you never want to wear one.

You will never impress a Free Spirit with diamonds, and spoiling us isn’t necessary. Personally, I don’t care if a man ever buys me flowers, but if he can consistently show me that he gives a shit through his actions, I’m happy. We aren’t materialistic but we are easily bored, so you will need to keep us engaged, amused, and constantly guessing. I don’t want to dredge up movie clichés to highlight my point, but there is a scene in the end of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where the perennially Free Spirited Clementine says, “I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.” I hate how that sounds. It’s blasé. Heartless. Flighty. Unfortunately there is an element of truth to it: we are capricious. Incredibly so. Our affections can be fragile, we are easy to frighten away and when we lose our emotional investment, it’s over. Many women can stay in a relationship after they have withdrawn emotionally. Convenience can keep them there. Comfort. Familiarity. Stability. We don’t value these things highly enough to stay in a situation that doesn’t work for us. The second that the embers begin to die, our feet start to itch.

I told you we can be selfish.

Despite the flippant literature I’ve read, most of us leave lost love with a heavy heart, and we will always remember the good times fondly, but at the core we are creatures that crave stimulation. This is why I suspect that many of us are cursed to have short lived affairs- something that bothers me if I’m truly honest with myself. The optimist in me believes that there may be hope- people grow, they mature, they slow down and their priorities change. Things that aren’t important to me as a thirty year old woman may hold dear importance to me in a decade. When I was twenty, I moved to another city by myself, where I knew nobody, to chase my dream of being a writer. I left my friends and my established life to venture off the page.

I would never do that now.

I toy with the idea, but my life is in Sydney. My family is here. My friends are here. And the bonds that tie me to this group of people have become more precious as I’ve aged. I wouldn’t leave my family any more than I would cut off my left arm. I’ve changed and grown in those ten years, some for the better and some for the worse. I’m happy that I had the balls to do it once, but as a thirty year old woman with a plethora of battle scars, I acknowledge that my loved ones are a source of oxygen. I need them. My priorities have shifted. So, maybe one day I will fall for a man who is just…enough. Someone who satiates that urge to run. Someone who excites me enough to keep me still. Because on some fundamental level, we all crave love, even those that never want to be tied down.

Henry Rollins has a beautiful thing that he has written about love, where he talks about keeping passion alive by augmenting it with absence. You can find it here. To me, it encompasses being with a Free Spirit. You will exist in a recurring state of missing them, remembering them, and burning for them, but you will never, ever get tired of them.

Meditation Retreat Part 1: Escape from POP House

26 Dec

Like all bad ideas, it seemed like a good one at the time.

Go to a retreat north of Bangkok over Christmas. Meditate with Buddhist monks. Learn mindfulness. Live simply. Unplug. Rest your mind.

I lasted a day.

One.

Day.

It wasn’t the cold showers, the 2 inch slabs of foam on the floor that served as mattresses, or the lack of stimulants. It wasn’t the no smoking, the meditating for five hours a day. It wasn’t the ‘no meals after midday’ rule. It wasn’t the ‘kill no living creature, not even a mosquito’ tenet and it wasn’t the people- as odd as they were. I’m not sure what it was- probably not wanting to become a Pod Person, but I’ll get to that part later. In any event, I escaped.

I fled the meditation retreat. On Christmas Day.

Yes, fled. Literally fled.

“Subject was last seen wearing a black Che Guevara cap, grey fisherman’s pants and a white T-shirt printed with a chihuahua wearing antlers…what’s that?…Uh, no, it’s not a Christmas shirt….well, I think they are just deer antlers attached to the…Yes, the choice of T-shirt is ironic given the date, sir. Subject is of above average height…”

This sentence may give you an indication of how much of a gigantic pussy chicken I am: I waited until everyone was in the morning meditation session before I snuck out.

I reasoned that an “escape” could be kind of fun. I was like a well-fed kidnap victim who had found the opportune moment to flee her captors before Stockholm Syndrome kicked in. I pictured myself darting down the road, backpack creating a camel-like hump on my back, iPod blaring Sabotage by The Beastie Boys. I would run, duck and crouch like an awkward ant.

Actually, if I ever have to escape anything, I want Sabotage playing in the background. I need to find a midget with a boom-box to follow me around until the opportune moment comes to blast that song. Yes, it would give up my position, but running and doing a forward roll to that bass line would be worth it.

I cracked the door to my dorm. Everyone was in the meditation room. I snuck down the stairs, furtively glancing over my shoulder. All clear. I hit the bottom step and hurried past the breakfast bar where I locked eyes with Phan, the leader.

Nananananananana Leader!

Shit.

I was caught like the dirty little sneak I was. I had no choice but to explain myself, and the conversation played out like a bad breakup. There was the it’s not you it’s me (“No! Phan it’s not the program, the program is fantastic, this is all me and my shit…”) the painful words you never want to speak but have to (“This is just *sigh*, a bit more intense than what I’m looking for right now…”) the knee-jerk conciliatory gestures (“No, you don’t have to give me a lift to town. I’ll walk. Really, I want to.”), the awkward goodbye (“Well…I best be off then. Thank you so much for your hospitality and everything you have done. Thank you, but I have to leave now…”)

It was hideous. I felt dreadful: he was so lovely he offered to drive me into town to save the walk. Well, I think that was the reason. Hopefully he wasn’t planning to bundle me in the trunk with a shovel and a length of rope.

Personally, I’d have preferred a furtive escape. It would have been more entertaining.

I trudged the 2km into town, found a 7/11 and, after a Snickers bar, a ciggie and an iced coffee; I was content. Sugar, caffeine and nicotine had given me more inner peace than five hours of meditation. Maybe I have simple tastes. Maybe I’m a stimulant junkie. Who knows. But, if you add ‘sex’ and ‘sleep’ to those three things, you have my five food groups.

I stood on a corner, like a demure prostitute, for fifteen minutes before a taxi drove past. The driver didn’t speak a word of English. Not one. Well, maybe one: airport. I showed him my Expedia confirmation email. He laughed. I tried to pronounce the hotel name, got a blank look.

I was feeling quite desperate, especially since the taxi was moving and I had no idea where I was being taken. Not back to the retreat. Please not back to the retreat.

I tried valiantly:
“Uh, Bangkok city?”
*Thai*
“Chinatown, Chinatown in Bangkok.”
*Thai*
“Bangkok…the city? The big city with vroom vroom, cars and lights and…lady boys and…oh, fuck…you have no idea what I’m saying, do you?”
Laugh. *Thai*
I slouch. Then, “Wait…airport?”
“Airport?”
“Ah! Airport! Yes, airport, please.”
“Airport *Thai*”
“Yes.”
Frown. *Thai*
“Um, yes.”
*Thai*
“Airport.”
*Thai*
It’s okay, if I can get to the airport, then I can get another cab to the city from there. Realistically, this is just like hitch hiking, except at the end I pay the driver with money rather than a blowjob.

I had better luck with the second cabbie, although a breakdown in translation made the conversation take a bizarre turn. For some reason, when I told him that I’d watched Muay Thai fighting in Phuket, he thought that I was a Muay Thai fighter. He thought I had fought in Phuket. You know, in the actual ring.
He was adorable: for the rest of the journey he called me “CC from Sydney, nickname: The Kid!” complete with shadow boxing and the associated swerves back into the lane. I didn’t correct him. CC “The Kid” from Sydney sounds like the sort of person who ducks and rolls to Sabotage, and I kind of liked that.

I checked into the hotel and tried lazy on for size. I gave myself a DIY pedicure (I know they are only $6 here, but I am mildly ashamed of the pig hooves that have attached themselves to my ankles). I decided to hit the 7/11 for cheap beer, which would be consumed whilst writing this. I had moisturiser on my feet with socks on, so I chucked on the complimentary slippers that are in my hotel room (yes, my reaction to a retreat that pared down the material in favour of the spiritual was to leave it and book a 4 star hotel. Whatever. I will be turning thirty-one-derful in it. I may as well celebrate the first anniversary of my 30th birthday by stubbornly refusing to age in style).

So, it’s Christmas Day in Bangkok and I am darting across a six lane road in grey fisherman’s what looks suspiciously like a pair of pyjama pants with paper slippers on.

In short, I legitimately looked like I had escaped from somewhere.

Which takes me back in time to Part 2…

My Old Lady

20 Jun

I was ambushed by a hobbit this morning. Not literally, of course. It pleases me to refer to short people as hobbits, in much the same way as it pleases me to see a midget run. It warms my heart. There is no greater pleasure in this life than watching a midget run. I highly recommend you find one and chase them today. You will thank me.

This particular hobbit, was a little old lady who drifted out of a doctors surgery, peering at me through surprisingly fabulous glasses.

“I’m sorry darling,” she began in a lilting Irish brogue, clutching my arm. “But my blood pressure is playing up. I was wondering if you could help me across the road. I feel awfully dizzy…”

I’m not sure if it was the charming accent, the promise of inflating my ego momentarily by doing something fantastically benevolent, or the fact that I’m not a cunt. (Sorry if that word bothers you, I sit on one, see, so I have no problems using it.) Maybe it was my iPod shuffling to The Rip at that exact moment, a song that always makes me agreeably mellow. Whatever it was, I agreed.

On a side note, this is not the first time I have been ambushed by an old lady in Glebe. The last one was accompanied by a frightened looking Maltese terrier trapped in a stroller. I was having coffee with a friend and she approached us, telling us that she was homeless and wanted $5.35. Exactly $5.35. I should add that this woman didn’t ask politely as much as she stood over us like Chopper Reed and demanded the money. She didn’t exactly look homeless either, homeless people usually aren’t well dressed, clean and a bit fat. Such is my experience, anyway. When we told her that we didn’t have any money- which we genuinely didn’t- she stared at us stonily for about a minute. A minutes worth of awkward silence that I wanted to fill by hurriedly explaining that we had been out drinking the previous night, and all of my money had disappeared into the bottom of the cute bartenders tip glass in a desperate and transparent cry for attention. Suffice it to say this woman then told us off, demanded a cigarette, and told us that it would be her last one before she killed herself. “Righto love,” I replied, proffering my pack. “Just do it over there, okay?” Later on, my friend would describe a letter he saw in the MX paper: To anyone who saw me scream at the old bag with the dog in the pram in front of the 7-11 on Thursday, I’m sorry. But I’m sick of supporting her habits.

But, back to my amazing story.

I lead her across the road, planning to deposit her neatly on the bench that lay before us. Fabulous glasses lady kept walking. I was perplexed. She explained that her flat was just over behind the school, and if I wouldn’t mind walking her there…because she still felt…so…dizzy.

Now, I don’t want to be responsible for the shattering of an old ladies hip, at least not before breakfast. I agreed to walk her and, with her still clutching my arm like a baby bird, we trekked to her flat.

On the way she told me her life story, as old ladies often do. I love it. I can’t wait until I’m old and I can scare the youth with the ridiculous bullshit I post on this blog. “Acid and angry sex, with a bit of shameless flirting, and a good measure of insolence all encased in drunken disorderly conduct. That’s how you live your life, darling. A heady mix of bad boys, balls and beer. It’s the only way…”

This ladies’ life story was decidedly more chaste. She told me about her husband, the only man she had ever been with, cheating on her (bastard). Her daughter, who is engaged to a charming Scottish fellow…well, glasses lady thinks he’s charming, she can’t really understand a word he is saying. The emergency hysterectomy. The perforated eardrum. The palace in Lane Cove that was replaced by a small flat in a baffling suburb that sells vegan dog food. Who would buy vegan dog food anyway? Her little Madeline loved her chicken necks… The Peugeot that just wouldn’t start. The seafood allergy. The nosy neighbour. The three young sons: lawyer, journalist and part owner of the Enmore theatre. Before I could hopefully ask if any of these successful Irish lads were single, we had reached her flat.

I gaily waved off her offer to buy me my morning coffee. We hugged, braided each others hair, painted each others toenails, had a brief chat about Alexander Skarsgard’s abdominals, and I left.

The troubling thing is how suspicious and utterly…Sydney I have become- something that has only occurred to me in retrospect. My knee jerk reaction as she initially clasped my arm was to grab my bag. As we walked, I found myself wondering if she was going to push me over and beat me to death with my iPad- perhaps a fitting end for this rancid Apple tramp. When we reached her flat and slowly ascended the staircase, I wondered if she was the bait that led young, slightly reckless, inner city women to the rape dungeon. Never mind that I could probably bench press this woman if I tried, I’d be lying if I said these thoughts never crossed my mind. I am aware that writing the above makes me sound paranoid, neurotic, delusional, and wary of the world in general- something which I’m not. Well, my therapist and I are working on it, anyway. I’m better now, the serpents only crawl down the wall towards me every other day. Ironically, as I wrote that sentence a man stumbled past me singing Insane in the Membrane. True story.

But, I had better wrap this post up, I’ve run out of similes, my coffee is cold, and the homeless men are descending on me, bludging my cigarettes. If they aren’t just a hallucination, anyway.