The 10-Year Reunion

On the day my classmates and I graduated from high school, a motivational speaker addressed us all in the assembly hall. “By the time your 10-year reunion comes,” he said, “only one of you will be working the job of his or her dreams.” He looked down and referred to his notes. “About a fifth of you will be happy with your lives. A third of you won’t be, and the rest of you will be somewhere in-between. Also, judging by the size of your year level,” he added, “one of you will be dead.”

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Facing the Dole with Dignity

As a young 20-something, I spent a lot of time doing two things: listening to Nina Simone, and staring mournfully at my frighteningly low bank balance. Back then, I’d graduated from university, my youth allowance was kaput, casual jobs weren’t paying much, and my writing career — if you could call it that — was paying me in CDs instead of cash. I’d do sums in my head, and wonder how I was going to break even. “In your pocket’s not one penny,” Nina Simone sang, “and your friends: you haven’t got any.” It was a sadistic soundtrack for a sad state of affairs.

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But Farting Means I Love You

Long-term relationships can be such beautiful things. Having been with my boyfriend for a pretty long stretch now, I can safely vouch for the fact that when it’s working, there’s nothing quite like it. There’s warmth and security, comfort and shared history.

Of course, there’s also a trade-off: being in each other’s pockets for so long means any mystery you once held evaporated long ago. Some couples try to stave off the inevitable by establishing ground rules: you must always close the toilet door; you must never look at me when I’m changing; you must never see my anus—that sort of thing. Continue reading

Hands Off My Sister

There’s something repulsively Freudian about the way men worry about their daughters and sisters. Once puberty hits, things start to grow, peers start to leer, and male family members collaborate to ensure their precious lady-folk survive adolescence as white, unsullied flowers of sexual virtue. It’s weird.

On the other hand, my family didn’t have to worry excessively about my sisters. Between the three of them, puberty wasn’t exactly perfume, brooding and breasts. Instead, there were orthodontic braces, underbites, gangly limbs, perms, severe myopia, orthodontic plates, rainbow glasses and thick eyebrows. To seal the deal, Dad insisted they all keep their hair short, to the extent that one of my sisters was once ushered out of female toilets and into the men’s. Adolescence didn’t coincide with a sultry Lolita-esque sexual discovery for them. No, they had scoliosis instead.

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A Day In The Life Of My Mother

In both the realms of quantum physics and anthropology, it’s often said that you can’t observe something without changing whatever you’re observing. It’s a profound statement—one I probably first heard watching Jurassic Park or something—and it came to mind when I watched my mother pull out a yoga mat she hadn’t used in months, and lay it in front of the television.

You see, usually, when I gently suggest she should exercise more, Mum dismisses me. In her mind, she doesn’t really see the point. “But all your kids have left home now,” I tell her, “so you’ve got the time. You really should be moving that body. It’s good for you, and you’ll sleep better.” So I suggest a few things to her: getting back into yoga, going for walks, learning to swim. Continue reading

Kid’s Sports

Back in the homeland of my people—the vast, mystical moors of China—sport just isn’t the same. From what I can gather, the national pursuits there are Tai Chi, badminton and smoking opium. We’re a gentle—not gargantuan—race, so I never exactly excelled at Australian sports. I couldn’t swim or tumble turn. However, I didn’t always come last at swimming carnivals, like you’d expect. No, no. That would be weak. I was disqualified instead.

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Man Bites Dog!

My boyfriend’s a breakfast radio producer, which sounds like a pleasant enough career path. But in reality, it’s rendered our apartment into a relentless, blaring 24-hour multimedia news hub.

Every morning, radio news and talkback wakes me up, and Kevin Rudd bleeds into my dreams. By midday, every computer is uploading an avalanche of news sites: Fairfax, News Limited, ABC, Crikey, CNN, BBC. I’ve learned that, if you so desire, you can actually watch 180 minutes of evening news bulletins, non-stop. By Saturday, the place is a disgrace. The gutted remains of weekend newspapers line our floor, as if we’re taking care of a runaway creature that’s lost control of its bowels. Continue reading

Question of Etiquette

When my grandmother died a couple of years back, the mood was sombre. Death tends to do that I find. My extended family and I had gathered at the airport, ready to fly off for the funeral in Hong Kong—and lowen behold, my uncle was there. Considering I hadn’t seen this big, imposing, man-titted Malaysian dude in ages, I immediately went up to him for a friendly hullo. “Hey,” I said, bear-hugging the man. “How’ve you been?”

But instead of reciprocating the hug, he simply stood there, arms by his sides, glaring at me. There was no hugging back. Greeting this man was like embracing someone who’d recently suffered a terrible stroke; there just wasn’t any motion in the arms. After letting go awkwardly, we just stood there in mute silence for a while. Then I stared at the floor. “Men don’t hug,” he finally said, firmly. “Men shake hands.” Continue reading

Modern Etiquette … with Beth Ditto

Gossip frontwoman Beth Ditto has demanded people kiss her naked arse, repeatedly exposed her naked crotch on stage, and purposefully vomited on hecklers during live shows. So it might come as a surprise that she is also one of the most polite and charming people you’ll ever talk to. As a woman of the world, she discusses modern-day etiquette with frankie.

Is it appropriate to use someone’s toilet immediately after arriving at their house?

Oh, it’s impolite to expect your friends to hold it. It’s not good for their body. Just come to my house and take a dump! “I’ve got to take a shit,” that’s what I say. Or else, I say “doo-doo” or “number two”. Although, I probably wouldn’t say that in front of a grandmother at Christmas. I’d say, “Where’s the restroom?” Continue reading

Books I Should Have Read By Now (On Which I Have Given Up)

An admission: I have attempted all of the following books, and—after a good deal of brow-furrowing and chin-stroking—given up a the halfway point, thrown them against the wall, and redeemed them for cash: Mrs Dalloway (too boring); The Lord of the Rings (too long); The Picture of Dorian Gray (too tedious); Catch-22 (too confusing); Ulysses (too impenetrable); and anything by Patrick White (too Patrick White).

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