My fellow Australians,
Let us all rejoice, for we are young and free—not to mention well-travelled and worldly. Compared to the rest of the world, our passports aren’t so much “well stamped” as “heavily vandalised”, and this is a great thing. Between us, we’ve travelled to Bali and London, Berlin and Lagos, Baltimore and La Paz. And while some of us have yet to leave the country, we’re still a nation who wants to travel, at least. We’ve got world maps stuck to our walls and dream about visiting far-off places at night. Part of it, I think, has to do with living on a big island with a relatively small population. Most of us are huddled on the coastlines, so we look out across the ocean with dewey eyes and wonder: “What, exactly, is fuckin’ out there, eh?” Continue reading
When I look back over my 28 years, it turns out I’ve managed to do some pretty hideous things. Even now, some memories catch me off guard and make me want to curl with shame. I could be doing anything—driving my car, buying groceries—and out of nowhere, bam: suddenly I’m 10-years-old and urinating myself in front of the church congregation. Or I’m 18 and losing consciousness in the middle of a one-night stand, reeking of beer. Or I’m 19 and projectile spewing a bottle of bargain-bin shiraz on my mother’s carpets as she looks on helplessly in teary horror.
It’s always been like this: a cycle of rank stupidity followed by crippling mortification. As a kid, I told my entire Year 3 class that my mum had had an “abortion” before conceiving me. Then I had years of panic attacks after realising I’d gotten my terminology wrong and actually meant “miscarriage”.* Sometimes though, I’ll have good days where I feel okay about myself, when my boyfriend suddenly brings up the time I awkwardly picked up friend’s cat and accidentally fingered its anus in front of everyone. We all try to bury our shames deep down, but if you’re anything like me, it only ever turns out to be a shallow grave. Continue reading
When I first started developing lactose intolerance—a fateful day that involved a large iced coffee; then running down a hill, almost in tears, screaming for a toilet—I started sampling many soy milks. I quickly discovered not all soy milks are made alike. Organic varieties are often as thick as clag, while home-brand numbers often have the watery consistency of liquid paper diluted in a bathtub. So when I discovered Bonsoy, I rejoiced. Made in Japan based on recipes developed by soy masters (these people exist) over centuries, Bonsoy remains the richest, creamiest and tastiest soy milk on the market. If Nigella Lawson was breastfeeding me, I’d expect the stuff spurting forth from her breasts to taste something like this. Some soy aficionados have turned their back on Bonsoy—understandably—after a recent scare found it to have excessively high levels of iodine, which caused thyroid problems. However, it’s back on the shelf now, presumably safe and, for what it’s worth, delicious as ever. Continue reading
In September last year, a Melbourne primary school was responsible for a reprehensible anti-gay hate crime. And while I never thought I’d write the following sentence, the innocent victim was not a child, nor a teacher or parent. It was a kookaburra.
We all know how the song goes: Laugh, kookaburra, laugh / how gay your life must be. It’s a cute song about a native bird who is either very jolly or a raging homosexual. Both options should be completely fine with all of us. But when a Melbourne school principal recently discovered his students had cracked up laughing during the “gay” part of the song, he was mortified.
Like most people, I’ve had some awful haircuts. Even now, just thinking back on some of them makes me feel such intense embarrassment that I physically spasm with shame. There were my monk-like shaves in primary school (not too bad, really), followed by my bowl-shaped undercut phase (getting worse), to the ill-advised Disney prince look: a combed, down-the-middle bum-part that dominated my high school years.
I might’ve been Chinese, but all I really wanted were the same haircuts that the cool white boys had. It’s only later that you look back and realise you can’t just transplant good haircuts between races and expect it to work. Think of those Caucasian women who get their hair tightly braided and beaded by Ghanaian hairdressers on holiday and you’ll get my point. On me, these white boy haircuts were less “Disney Prince”, and more “Merry Little Hermaphrodite from Feudal China”. I never really got the cred I assumed a cool haircut would afford me.
I didn’t have the life story where I would settle down and have children in my 20s. So if you’re not doing that—which is one way a lot of women went—you’ve got to be on some other journey. So I was on this journey of taking the opportunities as they came.
In your 20s, you just have boundless energy. I never watched television in my 20s, I never went out to restaurants for dinner. I was on the move the whole time. I was singing in bands, I was tap-dancing, I was doing self-defence, I was organising rallies. I was taking everything in. I’d go dancing a couple of nights a week and work through the day when I finished studying. Continue reading
Dear Straight Men of the World,
We’re not so different, you and I. Even though I’m a card-carrying homosexual, I’m also fond of wearing flannel, drinking scotch and eating everything in sight. Like you, I thoroughly enjoy undergraduate jokes about poos, farts and foreskins, and I’ll always adore you for teaching me delightfully instructive phrases like, “Two in the pink, one in the stink,” and the simple-yet-effective, “Bash the gash.” In fact, one of my fondest memories is you at the sushi train, drunkenly teaching me how to finger-bang girls. (On a side note, I’ve shown my lesbian friends your technique. They say you’re doing it wrong.) Continue reading
Sing to me, suburbia of my childhood! Sing to me of Lorraine at Copperart and Yvonne at Chandlers! Sing to me of Barry at security and Garry at parking. Sing to me of pregnant-looking men eating chips bathed in gravy, and of actually-pregnant mothers checking dockets (to be safe) and shop-a-dockets (for two magical nights in Mooloolaba). Sing to me of Merril Bainbridge cassingles and of PAs that play Tina Arena’s Sorrento Moon on repeat. Sing to me of Muffin Break and Mathers, of Lowes and Bi-Lo. Sing to me, oh acne-ravaged Asian teenager working at Big W named Benjamin Law, even though you’re going through puberty and really shouldn’t sing at all. Sing it sweet, and sing it loud!
In the 1960s, I was studying medicine at Sydney University. The idea of making people healthy and happy always appealed to me, but I wasn’t all that keen on university. I was very shy. The other issue was I was gay. At that time, it was something no one spoke about, and police were busy arresting gay people by the hundreds. I remember one man—a radio announcer—being taken to jail, because he’d been seen kissing another man in a car. It was headline news, and there was much clicking of tongues and horror. It was absurd and repressive.
Several months ago, my youngest sister threw a party. Back then, I didn’t know her friends too well, but it wasn’t long before my boyfriend and I got caught up in a conversation that was friendly and foul-mouthed in equal measure: our favourite kind of chat. We all started talking about our lives—their undergraduate studies; our daytime jobs—until I must have said something that made them look at us with suspicion.
“Wait a minute,” they said. “Exactly how old are you guys?” Slowly, we told them our ages—I’m turning 28 this year—which prompted something odd to happen. Everyone began to shriek. And by “shriek”, I mean that what came out of their mouths was truly awful: scandalised, wraith-like howls that you’d only make in the presence of Death. For the first time ever, we were the oldest people in the room. I’d hit my late 20s and was already a goddamned hag.