I do my laundry not at my apartment, where I don’t have a washing machine nor access to one of the communal laundry rooms that apartment blocks some times have, but at a laundromat down the road. There’s one a little closer, within walking distance, but after going there several times and finding that the man owner enjoyed staring at me as I put my clothes into the machine, I stopped going there. He didn’t stare in a sexual way, which I wouldn’t have much enjoyed either, but in an accusing way, as though I didn’t know what I was doing and I might break one of his heavy-duty industrial machines. One wash cost eight dollars too, which I thought was a bit steep. So instead I stuff as much as I can into my backpack and ride to a laundromat where no one stares at me.
A middle-aged Vietnamese woman called Sue* runs the place. She’s there to give you change if you need it, and when you collect your dry cleaning, she’ll go directly out the back, head down, without having to ask your name. Once she mended the zip on my favourite tartan skirt – busted because I’ve grown a little too big for it – and when she gave it back, neatly fixed with an invisible zip, she ran her hands slowly over it and said ‘Very beautiful’. She does the ironing at the front window, which glows yellow in the morning, while listening to talk back radio. Some times she’ll turn it to the classical music channel if the talk back becomes too droll. She wears a pair of black weight-lifting gloves while she irons. I like to watch her, though not in either a sexual or an accusing way. I just think she’s interesting and hard-working. I like her very much.
It’s only getting to the laundromat that I don’t much enjoy. I have on occasion loaded up by backpack and the front basket of my bike with as much laundry as possible, but I’ve stopped doing that after a wet tram track incident in which I was lucky to come away unscathed. While this means that I have to go more frequently, I actually don’t mind, it’s a nice quiet place to relax and read. The dryers thundering, the washing machines thrashing, the clicking of a cycle finished, Sue’s iron sighing – ahhh – as she props it up – somehow it’s all very soothing.
I received a text message from a man this week that started with ‘Hey sexy’. The rest of the text, though grammatically sound, was equally disturbing. He promptly received an ‘I’m not sure about this’ text and I hope to never hear from him again.
I’ll be 27 in a two weeks – is this really where I’m at? Receiving text messages that can only be likened to the ones I might have received after a grapevine pash and dash back in Mildura circa 2003? Honestly. I’d rather sit up in bed and eat a Bavarian pie and drink a beer than have to lower myself to this. Yes, lower myself. I’ve had it with these nunchucks.*
There are men all over ruining their chances with women because they are text happy/say incredibly embarrassing and distasteful things/are idiots/use terrible shortened form, and the list goes on. I’m going to go out on a limb, for both girls and guys, and say, when you’ve only just met someone, avoid texting at all cost. If you simply can’t, then you must follow these rules:
1. Don’t start up a text conversation as a way to get to know the other person. Text conversations are terrible things. They are my hell.
2. Use a smiley if you simply have to, but don’t ever sign off with an X. And don’t call the person sexy or any other pet name because, let’s not forget this, you don’t know them yet!
3. Don’t text all the time. There has been at least one occasion in my life when a guy was texting me daily but every time I suggested actually catching up he didn’t want a bar of it. I got hooked on the texting, I tried to be funnier and funnier, and then it was all over and my text buddy was gone. Just don’t be texting all the time. It’s for twits.
4. Don’t make jokes about sexual health. I got pash rash from a guy once (fucking beards, right) and a few days later he texted to see how my rash was (I know, the text every girl dreams about). I wrote back, ‘Which rash?’ And it all went pair-shaped from there. The humour was lost (or never existed) and he didn’t get it, meaning I had to explain that I’d made a crude joke about an STI etc etc etc. It was plain exhausting.
5. Don’t text someone and tell them what you had to eat that day. And don’t think that people don’t do this because they do. No one cares if you had fish and chips. No one.
* I thought a nunchucker was that thing one of the Ninja Turtles used, but I decided to Google it (specifically, nun chucking) and got quite a surprise from it’s alternative meaning. Urban Dictionary, sometimes you horrify me.
I am a dirty liar. I tell you the most exciting thing that happens in my life is updating my Goodreads profile and it simply isn’t true.
I also won the Most Valuable* Player Award at (very social) netta netball for the Taipans – and I got a freaking trophy! It turns out you are never too old to win your first individual trophy, and mine is taking pride of place on my bookshelf. After a ten-year hiatus, I’m feeling pretty good about this.
* Valuable is most certainly used liberally in this sense. And I can’t say for sure just how many people actually voted. It could be as few as two and as many as, say, eight. But, hell, does it matter? I got a trophy with my name on it!
1. Accidentally signing off a work email with X.
2. The possibility that some day one of your girlfriends will ask you to wear a matching bridesmaid boob-tube dress.
3. The fact that everyone is either in a relationship, getting married or having a baby and you… you spend a lot of time at home Googling ‘Jon Hamm’s wang’.
4. The fact that updating your Goodreads profile is, most definitely, the most exciting part of your week. The fact that some weeks you update it multiple times.
5. The thought of a man referring to your vagina as a pussy or including an X in a text message.
6. The fact your teeth are yellow and it’s undoubtedly because of all the coffee you’ve drunk over the last decade and the many times you’ve passed out after a night on the reds without brushing your teeth.
7. Finding out you’re the only one of your friends who doesn’t drink green juice. Trying it and choking on the roughage.
8. The possibility that you may already be bored with your career. And the fact that after all of these years blogging a publisher still hasn’t head-hunted you to write a book. (The fact that years ago you actually believed this was going to happen.)
9. The fact you and your friends now wear leisure gear as clothes and you’ve become those people you used to make fun of.
10. The fact you don’t care what other people think about you anymore, and you’re not sure if this a thing of internal liberation or decay.
11. The fact that these are, obviously, the fears and worries of the 20-something who has typed this list.
A Colombian guesthouse run by an old lady who dressed her dog in pink knickers.
The old lady asking me and another girl to leave because she thought we ate her papaya.
A French man accusing me of stealing his hair gel.
A young Burmese girl saying: ‘Your eyes, they are so beautiful.’
Getting lost in a frontier town. Asking a taxi driver where I was. Them taking me to my hotel and refusing to take my money.
Car crash fatalities on the side of the road: Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cambodia.
The bus slowing down but not stopping. Survivors wandering aimlessly, covered in blood.
Using a pocket knife to cut fresh mangoes, bought from a man pushing a wooden cart. Eating them greedily with the juice running down my face.
Watching a row of businessmen slurping soup in Tokyo.
Watching the pages of War and Peace blow out of my book and on to the Caribbean.
Watching a family wave goodbye to the boy sitting next to me on the bus.
A bus window framing the star-scattered Bolivian sky. Wiping away tears.
Listening to a torrential storm in the middle of the night. Whispering to my German friend, ‘Are you awake?’
Feeling a complete separation from ‘home’. Feeling happy.
Racing back to my room to watch the sunset over the rice fields in Indonesia.
Practising yoga on the beach.
Late-night laughing fits with my friend in Sri Lanka. Quiet days.
Diving with manta rays. Gripping dead coral, thinking the swell would be the death of me.
The dive master saying: ‘How was it for you?’ Me saying: ‘That was horrible.’
Crying in the shower later. Knowing I’d been scared.
Raw, true emotion. Accepting it, and then letting it go.
Being my best friend. Loving and caring for myself. Accepting chaos and uncertainty.
Being real. Taking ownership.
Letting go. Letting go. Letting go.
Changing. And only realising later.
When I lived in Cremorne, I used to go to the movies at the Como in South Yarra all the time. Sometimes I’d go with a friend but mostly I’d go by myself. I love going to the movies, and I was also desperate to spend as much time as possible away from my share house. But when I’d buy my ticket the guy at the counter (always the same one) would say, ‘Just one today?’ I’d say, ‘Yes, looks like it.’ And he’d sigh and say, encouragingly, ‘Oh well, maybe next time.’ It got to the point where if there was one person in his line and the other cashier had twenty, I’d go to the latter just to avoid him.
He made me feel ridiculous.
Because there’s this assumption made by many (many, many, many) people that single people are ashamed of being alone and/or unhappy because they are alone. And you constantly get asked to justify why/if you are happy, as a single person. Are you happy being single? And the poser of this question usually tilts their head to the side, encouraging you to let it all out. Their heavy sigh says, ‘C’mon, tell me. Are you happy being single? Are you? No, I mean, are you really happy?’ And of course what they mean when they say this is: ‘I don’t know how you do it. How do you do it? You spend so much time by yourself. The thought of it is utterly unbearable.’ And what they mean by that is: ‘You are missing out.’ Or, simply: ‘Your life sucks.’
And if you say you are happy (being single or otherwise), they don’t believe you anyway. I mean, how could you be? You are all alone!
In the year 2000, as a thirteen-year-old, I was penning such reflective and observant journal entries as ‘We sat on the oval at lunchtime. Sally got hit in the head with a football. You could tell she was trying not to cry’ and ‘Went to see Scary Movie last night. It wasn’t very scary. Not as scary as Scream, anyway. We sat in the middle row.’
A millennium earlier, around the year 1000, a woman named Sei Shōnagon was penning observations of her time as a lady in waiting to Empress Consort Teishi in modern-day Kyoto. The Pillow Book is a collection of stories, reflections, poetry and, what I find most amusing, lists. One of my teachers mentioned it in class and I’ve been obsessing – and guffawing – over it ever since.
First published in the seventeenth century, it is incredibly relevant, wonderfully honest and completely unforgiving. Read and cringe.
70. Rare Things
A son-in-law who is praised by his adopted father; a young bride who is loved by her mother-in-law.
A silver tweezer that is good at plucking out the hair.
A servant who does not speak badly about his master.
A person who is in no way eccentric or imperfect, who is superior in both mind and body, and who remains flawless his whole life.
People who live together and still manage to behave with reserve towards each other. However much these people may try to hide their weaknesses, they usually fail.
93. Surprising and Distressing Things
While one is cleaning a decorative comb, something catches in the teeth and the comb breaks.
A carriage overturns. One would have imagined that such a solid, bulky object would remain forever on its wheels. It all seems like a dream – astonishing and senseless.
A child or grown-up blurts out something that is bound to make people uncomfortable.
All night long one has been waiting for a man who one thought was sure to arrive. At dawn, just when one has forgotten about him for a moment and dozed off, a crow caws loudly. One wakes up with a start and sees that it is daytime – most astonishing.
Someone speaks about things that he cannot possibly know from first-hand experience or in any other way; and he does not given his hearers a chance to object.
One of the bowmen in an archery contest stands trembling for a long time before shooting; when finally he does release his arrow, it goes in the wrong direction.
134. Things without merit
An ugly person with a bad character.
141. Things That Give an Unclean Feeling
A rat’s nest.
Someone who is late in washing his hands in the morning.
White snivel, and children who sniffle as they walk.
The containers used for oil.
A person who does not bathe for a long time even though the weather is hot.
All faded clothes given me an unclean feeling, especially those that have glossy colours.
142. Things That Seem Better as Night Than in the Daytime
The lustre of dark red, glossed silk.
A woman who has a drawn forehead but beautiful hair.
The sound of a seven-string zither.
An ugly person with an agreeable nature.
The sound of a waterfall.