Sunday, August 31, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Four: Downfall of Paris

When I was a young girl I was a dancer. Lots of girls were (and still are) schlepped to dance lessons at a young age as a gender defined rite of passage, yet the years that I spent ‘jump 2-3ing’ and ‘battering-up’ were largely bereft of any true cultural appreciation. I spent fifteen years in pursuit of the hobby so I’ll expect you to go “shit, that’s a while” before you discover how horrifically underwhelming my passion and focus was the whole time.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t want to be good. I did. It’s just that I wanted be successful without any sacrifice or reason, in the same way that I wanted to have the entire catalogue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cards but I resented the idea of having to build the collection from scratch.

It all started in my first year of primary school when, one morning tea break, my very Irish friend Eibhlish was hopping around the school oval. She had the concentration of a cub chasing a butterfly, repeatedly lifting up her front leg, leaping out onto it and completing the move by bringing her lifted hind foot in front of the grounded other, closing them tight, toe to heel as if pulled by magnet. I asked her what she was doing, making her endless circles around the patch of land that we had usually flicked marbles around on.  

“I’m doing my Jump 2-3’s” she said.

“Your what?”

I was alarmed that she knew how to do something that I’d never seen before. She was usually very reserved and quiet, and such a bold move from her to switch our game to something unchartered had made me instantly suspicious.

“The circle at the start. Then I do skip 2-3’s. Here, I’ll show you” Eibhlish said, as she took my hand and taught me my first steps. From then on, all term, we’d take the same strides in close hemispheres. We’d dance during all of the breaks and every day after school while we’d wait to be picked up by my poor parents, whom must’ve eventually caved in to my pleadings to begin classes at the same Irish dance school that Eibhlish visited every Saturday.

It turned out that Eibhlish quit taking dancing classes shortly after my father was posted to another state with the Air Force, forcing us to leave Perth.  We had formed a very close friendship, but I started to realise that even from the age of nine, dancing was to be something ongoing that I could hide behind. It was a part of my character as much in childhood as young adulthood, and the music genuinely inspired and consoled me, but it was still a performance act that other people enjoyed as much, if not more, than me.

I started properly competing in 1994 at the age of ten. My older sister Deb would be bribed into curling my hair with ‘rags’, which entailed strips of old bed sheets being wound into my sectioned and moussed mane. I was made to sleep in them for two nights usually, and then they’d be yanked out on the morning of the competition with a Shirley Temple inspired end result. To this day, the smell of cheap cedel or Final Net hair spray gives birth to butterflies in my stomach and more often than not, an oddly shiny eye.
Progressing from the Beginner stages to Primary, Intermediate and then Open divisions happened over the course of the next three or four years. My family couldn’t afford the fancy costumes at first, but somehow or other mum managed to hide the true total costs from dad and I never went without something, even if it was the pre-loved fashions of the other girls. It was seemingly always the richest kids with the glitteriest tiaras that took home the big trophies, but I didn’t care all that much. My dancing kept me out of the house and away from the ordinary, and instead of being swept up by house chores and hormones I was being groomed as a reasonably respected little entertainer.

I got better and better at dancing, but I was certainly never the best. At the same slow rate I grew closer and closer to adulthood, but I was still a kid behind the ever-developing arsenal of fake tan, wigs and diamantes. My dancing teachers were committed and generous, but at the same time they could be brutal. Weekends were too often spent in championship ‘workshop’ conditions, which meant that our feet bled, knees ached and muscles burned to the point of spasm from hours upon hours of repetitive strain. Other girls came and went, but for the majority of those years I was too afraid to rock the boat in case I lost my distraction from what was going on at home or at school.

Dancing stopped being an effective diversion some time after my seventeenth birthday. I’d travelled interstate every year for at least half a decade with my competitions and I’d travelled to Northern Ireland to pursue my ‘dream’. I wanted it, and I eventually worked hard for it, but the praise was peppered with guilt for being so expensive and causing ‘real world’ financial issues with my folks. My schoolwork eventually suffered.  My high school boyfriend was doing what high school boyfriends do best and filling me with the confidence to run away and leave my stress behind. When that intense relationship fell apart, my dancing did too. Bitterness* replaced joy and the music eventually lost it’s draw. I went to practise once a week, and then once a month, and then not at all.

Whenever I hear a tune that is remotely jiggable, I dance it with my fingertips. Every irish dancer does this, I'd imagine.  I get shitty with myself when I can't remember how each dance went, and the versions it took on as the trends changed. I kind of hope that one day some friendly stranger asks me to hold their hand and do some Jump 2-3’s in a circle with them, because that’s how a true Irishman or woman would probably react if they found out that I knew how.
*Read alcohol and party drugs

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Three: Walls Don't Talk, I Do.

My mother and fathers marriage, although surviving multiple decades before combustion, was of even greater volatility. I say this as if I was there from the start, but I was born long after any fires of passion had turned to suspicion and contempt between them.

They lived through each day's task list just to get to the next, it seemed, struggling against each other as if morbidly motivated by the decay of their intimate lives. I loved them individually and more so with any glimpses of reciprocal joy that my sisters and I could harvest from them, but after seeing them throw garden tools at each other and speed away in the Fairlane clash after clash, I very quickly assumed that marriage was not an effective constitution for the role modelling of healthy interpersonal relationships. I knew that something was really off when we tried to take some friends to the movies in the City. I might've been about five years old. It was school holidays and my parents rallied up us three girls and our mates, which seems a difficult task in itself in retrospect and all fairness. We took the train from Wanneroo to Perth, but by the time we'd pulled away from the station Mum and Dad were casting vehement looks at each other from across the aisles. We blocked around to the cinemas and I think they got into a massive fight about what money they were using to pay our friends movie tickets with, so before we had a chance to grab our tickets Dad took off and Mum was sobbing uncontrollably, with seven kids staring at her, wide eyed. She tried to chase him down, pleading him to validate her argument, and we scrambled behind in tow all the way back onto the train and back to Wanneroo, without the social credit of seeing The Rescuers Down Under in the big smoke. My big sister kept asking me to shush every time I asked a question, but it was clear to me that I wasn't the only one wanting resolution.

I didn't grow up with any expectation that my parents would want to share their lives with me after I reached an age in which I could fend for myself, perhaps because I sensed that the family dynamic was already strained beyond the powers of my intervention and thus destined to break apart before I got a chance to stitch anyone or anything back together. If the walls of our family home could talk they wouldn't yell, and if they had fingers they wouldn't point. The fear of the walls breaking apart and exposing our weaknesses was possibly the mortar holding my parents together all that time. Unsurprisingly, we had mixed reactions to their ultimate divorce, even if it took the GFC for them to find a reason to call it quits that lay outside of their own emotional deadlock. I felt relief, and not unlike a vulture I picked through the decomposition to find two unique parents in which to develop new individual relationship frameworks with.

I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. Things happen in which we find reason, and sometimes this is in order to forgive.  It's harder to talk about things close to home, and that gives reason enough to place a high importance on sharing them.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Two: Seven Times, From First to Last.

"Have you ever been in love?"

"Oh yes." she replied. "Seven times, from first to last. And I can tell you, that unlike the tick of a clock nothing can be predicted in such affairs but the rapture and sorrow of your first and last kiss."


Dorothy was a spinster for some time. It says so on certificate, right in the spot that lists her occupation, pre-domestic coercion. I like to think that as her granddaughter we might now have indulged in conversations about romance, had she still been alive. She might've told me about the occasion in which two seperate suitors rode on horseback to her family property to escort her to the same dance. We might have discussed too, the impact of war on her young family, and of the tension of those days that lead into weeks that lead into years. Maybe I could've gained a greater perspective on life's commitments and regrets. I would beg to talk about each year, without any blanks, to congratulate her not just on her life as a wife and a mother, but on those experiences that she hid away from the limiting opinion of others.

Through the instinctive eyes of a child, her marriage to my grandfather was like a perennial winter.  On more than one occasion he showed up at my family home unannounced, some three and a half thousand kilometres away from her, having driven all the way from Melbourne to Perth on a whim. No one ever asked him why he felt the need to escape her, and only in retrospect can I imagine how she felt as he 'left for milk,' failing to return for a fortnight or more, and with empty hands raised in demand of roasted meal.

~To be continued.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty One: The Ties That Bind.

I saw online that a close girlfriend of mine from school was due to be married.

The next night I found myself in a Fetish Club watching two costumed women. They were fervidly circling a seated gentleman in a cyclone snare of knitting wool, and even though off-stage, their unique dramatic indulgences gained them a particularity that distinguished their act from the other kink around them. Their victim was yarn bound from shoulder to knee, nipples popping out like the corners of flattened milk carton spouts. I imagined cutting him free, watching his cocoon fray upon release into an erogenous pom pom. I was lost as spectator, suspended in wonderings of how a young man found himself publicly flogging his wife in stocks, or in another instance, how a man wearing a thong and a traditional Native Indian headdress first experimented, slinging his girlfriend up with rope ties from a roof hook. 

After the group dynamics of the more involved patrons were established, and probably after I realised that no-one was going to lay into me with a paddle without my consent, my own self inquiry emerged. I was comfortable there among the ladies in latex, and perhaps even more so among the men dressed as ladies in latex. This place of assumed disrepute seemed to be a place of unparalleled respect and honesty. It appeared to be a joint where partygoers could congregate to escape the repression of that which truly made them feel alive, and their bold and brave pursuit of self actualisation made me wish that mainstream culture could make room for such authentic confidence and adventure. 

It was the next morning that I saw online that my mate was getting married. I felt a surge of rejection, and even though I hadn't had much contact with her for many years I was confronted by the realisation that although once close, most of my friends had drifted away. I'd been noticing the special occasions of those that I once deemed dearest pass by not with my own involvement but with guilty mouse clicks through profile pictures and status changes. The internet makes it easy to be a voyeur into other people's lives and not active participants in them. Herein the self discovery lies, of rejecting the path of no resistance; the one in which we wake just to work, scrub our decaying teeth and repeat until death, save for the brief illusory pleasures of youth and conventional asylum. I don't want to rely on the security of established safety nets, even though I might mourn the natural extinction of them. I want to push back at my social networks to see who would really like to share with me the type of life that challenges and inspires. I'd like to see who'll play with me, maybe not with whips and ropes, but with an undertaking of honesty and courage and a commitment to having an endless collection of colourful stories to share. After all, life seems to be a delicate jig around pleasure and pain. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty: Riot.

Depression is such a dick.
Here is a real story.


I've heard it referred to as a black dog, but the depression that I know isn't like a pet. It's not something that I would breed pure and parade at a showground. I don't seek companionship with it. It isn't a beast outside of myself, mostly it just feels like I'm divided into vacillating healthy versus unhealthy hemispheres. I'm generally managing work and (minimal) social stuff, but running in the background like some sort of corrupted app is the volatile presence of feebly suppressed fear. Oh, and sadness. Much sadness. Super negative and sometimes violent self-talk results, and like a set of pop-up notifications they are super fucking tricky to disable.

It has helped that I sought help and received a diagnosis, and I am learning how to make triggers lesser...well, lesser triggers.

I miss how I used to be before I was depressed. I guess I hope that somehow knowing what a big old dark emotional pit looks and feels like will make me less of pretentious, privileged asshole. I don't know. Maybe the state of being depressed is a result of trying to make it in this unjust, unfair world where people are starving and others are wiping their shitty asses with wet wipes just because it makes their anus' smell less like their ego.

One benefit of wanting out is wanting change. The change part is good, because it's a way of giving energy out to issues and causes bigger than myself. Discrimination and social injustice; these matters actually matter more in the world outside of my head, and another by-product of feeling shit all the time is being able to see and help others that are actually being treated like shit.

And I don't really know how to end this blog. This is my attempt to be transparent, and maybe even make someone else feel more comfortable to do the same.

We're all fighting our own riots, right?