Here Be Haters

Something weird happened to me recently that involved right-wing conservative columnist Andrew Bolt. Don’t worry, it wasn’t sexual (or at least as far as I remember). Calling it a “fight” sounds too intense; calling it a “debate” sounds too scholarly. No, what transpired was a battle of minds, people. Instead of using our fists, we used our words! Instead of violence, we resorted to intellect! Rather than locking swords, we locked tongues and okay this sentence has become unexpectedly disgusting and I will end it now.

Anyway, long story short: Andrew Bolt wrote a column, I wrote a column in response, he accused me of provoking my readers to violence against him and then called me “a gay with comprehension issues”. Which I actually thought sounded quite cute, like I was someone who had a fabulous learning disability. But what happened next was like a scene from The Return of the King. Darkness descended, orcs swarmed over the hills and suddenly there were screeching wraiths in the air. All I’ll say is there really is no greater hive of scum and villainy than a News Limited website comments page. And once you have Andrew Bolt targetting you, the Public of Australia—Norm from Shailer Park; Beryl from Clapham—begin to bay for your blood. Continue reading

Why Does It Have To Be Like That?

Before I start, let’s make one thing clear. I would rather be run over a bus—a bus that was on fire—than marry my boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong: we’ve been together for a decade and I adore the bastard. But the prospect of a wedding—the stress, the cost, being photographed a million times and making out in front of relatives—just doesn’t appeal to me. The average Australian wedding costs $50,000 and if I had that kind of money, I’d rather buy, say, a round-the-world plane ticket. In fact, doing the math, I could buy 25 tickets. I’d bring my friends.

Still, none of this makes me anti-wedding. Because hot damn, I love me a good hitchin’. And it isn’t just the free alcohol. I love the pageantry of the whole thing: dressing up in suits and gowns, adjusting my boyfriend’s tie before we arrive and seeing my friends at their most beautiful. Weddings makes me feel grown up. I weep openly during the vows, and when I see the bride and groom’s families do the same thing, it triggers even more snot-nosed heaving. It is a beautiful thing. Continue reading

When My Love Is Far Away

Longing for a lover can inspire beautiful art. At the start of the 1900s, it compelled Proust to write his magnum opus In Search of Lost Time. By the end of that same century, it inspired Everything But the Girl to write a lovely song about how the deserts miss the rain. In reality though, missing someone can be pretty unbearable. When you’re in a long distance relationship, you realise a desert waiting for rain would feel torturous. Your entire existence would be reduced to drought. You would die of thirst. You would shit sand.

My boyfriend and I have always spent long periods apart, on and off. When we first started dating, he embarked on a six-month exchange to Hong Kong. For the past 18 months, I’ve split time between Australia and Asia for work, leaving for months at a time. More opportunities came up this year, so we finally packed up our apartment and caught planes in opposite directions. He flew to North America; I headed back to Asia. “International power couple!” my friends said merrily. I felt the opposite of that. I felt like a kid in squeaky shoes and a helicopter cap, waving sadly goodbye to his best friend at the airport again. Continue reading

The Horror of Hostels

There’s a particularly gruesome horror movie out there called Hostel. Some of you may have seen it already. Like most movies featuring gratutious torture, I refuse to watch it (severed achilles heels—sounds like a lark!). But from what IMDB tells me, it’s about a small group of backpackers travelling throughout a Slovakian city “with no idea of the hell that awaits them”. Needless to say, the film deeply upset the Slovekian tourism department.

Besides the senseless violence—severed fingers, brutalised corpses—my main gripe with the film’s premise is this: Aren’t backpackers’ hostels horrifying enough already? Do we really need to imagine guests being cut up and left to bleed, when most of us find giant bloodstains on our sheets upon arrival anyway? Do we need to see someone disembowelled in a hostel, when Balinese food poisoning does the same thing? Is there not enough horror already in backpackers hostels without making it worse? Continue reading

How to Start a Book Club

Keep It Tight

No less than five members, no more than 10. Too few people and you may as well be lighting candles, laying out yoga mats and passing around hand mirrors. Too many, and it ceases being a bookclub and officially becomes a party. Unless, of course, that is exactly what you planned all along, you diabolical scamp.

Talk To Your Local Bookshop

Bookshops run their own clubs, but they’re also invaluable if you’re starting your own. Smaller independent bookshops will often have staff members who specialise in clubs. It’s worth making an appointment with them to see what they can offer you. Depending on the bookshop, some can even host your book club in their café, or hold mini presentations of new releases that might suit you for next month’s title. Some shops can organise discounts if your members buy a minimum number of books too. Just ask. Continue reading

The Refugees Are Coming!

Edited version originally published in frankie #43 (Sept/Oct 2011)

Lock your doors, my fellow Australians! Shut your blinds, crawl into your bomb shelters and sandbag your daughters. For there is a collective menace lurking our island shores, and they come to ravage our country, take our jobs and plague our communities with crime, disease, headscarves and delicious ethnic food. Their transport of choice? Loathsome ocean-faring vessels of sophisticated design—‘boats’, they’re called—and when our federal politicians’ highest priority is to stop them no matter what, you know we have a problem. God help us all. Continue reading

When I Was 20-Something: Jenny Kee (interview)

We were part of a gang who all knew there was a world out there. Only a tiny pocket of it was in Sydney. Sydney had been pretty boring. I’d been at East Sydney Tech doing dress design, and it was a very old-fashioned type of design school where they wanted you to make little shirts, and it wasn’t at all inspired. It’s an inspirational place now, but it really wasn’t in the early 60s.

Me and my girlfriends knew what we wanted was in London. It was a need to express ourselves and we just wanted action. Heading to London was just the thing. You didn’t fly then, so you had to get a boat—six weeks to London—and sailed on the high seas. There was no stopping us. Continue reading

When I Was 20-Something: Jimmy Little (interview)

I moved to Sydney when I was 16. It was like I was being pulled by a magnet to explore a future I had in my mind at school: to venture into the city, as a country boy, in the search for a music career.

I liked the whole variety of Sydney: the trams; the double-decker buses; people from all walks of life. There were about eight cinemas in the city. I’m a movie buff, so I had all these movies to go see. And I’m a big milkshake drinker, and there were milkshake bars everywhere. And hamburgers! So all of this was tripled and doubled and you-name-it, especially when you come from a town where you had one or two cinemas, and one or two milkbars. Continue reading

A Letter to My Future Child

Dear Future Daughter/Son/Non-Specific-Gender-Identifying Trans Child,

Take a seat. Daddy has some things he’d like to get off his chest. And no, it’s not just the piles of festering plates and clothes that have piled around him over the years, because boy, parenting sure does lower your standards over time. No, the things Daddy would like to get off his chest are more philosophical and emotional than that. I would like us to have a heart-to-heart—even though, over the years, you have slowly broken mine.

Oh shut up; you so have! And before you continue on with your terrible whining (a noise that has always made me gag), go out and ask any mother or father out there and I guarantee they’ll say the same thing: All children break their parents’ hearts. It’s just what children do. In fact, it’s what Daddy’s own mother continues to remind him still, to this very day, every time they speak on the phone. (Will she never die?) Continue reading

Turning 30

Edited version originally published in frankie #42 (July/Aug 2011)

Some time later this year, I’ll turn 29, which is a funny, nowhere-ish kind of age. In fact, all of the late 20s are this entirely non-remarkable, in-between phase of life: old enough to horrify teenagers, but still young enough to be envied by the elderly, who demonstrate this by groaning in an almost sexual way while touching your face. Continue reading