The Gertie’s G20 Drinking Game

– Tony Abbott gets drunk and acts like the worlds’ most embarrassing uncle at a BBQ: dunk your head in a keg of VB, it can’t get any worse.
– You see someone wearing their G20 all access pass outside of the exclusion zone: top shelf, A grade scotch, two chunks of hand chipped ice.
– Held up by a motorcade carrying the assistant to the assistant of the guy who shook Obama’s hand: lemon, lime and bitters (you’re driving).
– Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff asks where the restrooms are, isn’t seen again until Monday morning: one whole bottle of cachaça.
– King Abdullah mistakes Campbell Newman for his chauffeur: order a white wine spritzer and hang your head in shame.
– François Hollande and Matteo Renzi overheard comparing the size of their “planes”: a bottle of Australian red, just to annoy them both.
– A friend expresses surprise that Turkey is invited: glass of rosé.
– Shinzo Abe takes Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife to karaoke at the Brunswick Hotel after one too many frozen margaritas: there’s no such thing as too many margaritas, have another one.
– Lord Mayor Quirk asks Park Geun-Hye how his flight from Toyko was: find Tony Abbott and congratulate him for not being the most embarrassing uncle after all. Share a shandy with him.
– Protesters overthrow the Convention Centre and turn it into a rave party: two litres of bottled water, followed by a tantrum on Tuesday.
– South Africa is here as well? Sheesh, have a Captain Morgan’s and tell me how this G20 thing works again?
– Xi Jingping and Mariano Rajoy caught goosestepping behind Angela Merkel: crack a Lowenbrau.
– Obama fails to recognise Stephen Harper, leader of Canada: oopsie daisie, best break out the moonshine.
– David Cameron bets The Falklands in a game of late night poker, loses to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina: two pints of warm lager (actually, make that three).
– Narendra Modi tweets a photo of Barnaby Joyce holding a pineapple tart with the caption “who’s the fruitcake?”: double rum and coke. Bundy, of course.
– Vladimir Putin is seen leaving The Wickham in the early hours of Sunday morning: Wet Pussy shot.
– Indonesian President Joko Widodo takes one look at all of them, decides he doesn’t want to be in politics after all: champagne for you sunshine, you’ve got a reason to celebrate.

Written for Gertie’s Bar & Lounge


To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before

So apparently I’ve reached that point in my life where, when I catch up with friends, all anyone wants to ask me is whether I’m seeing someone. I’m not sure if it’s my clitoris or my heart that people are most concerned with, but either way they aren’t concerned with any other achievement in my life. Correction – any actual achievement in my life. All they want to know is if I’m attached, and if I’m not, then why not?

“But you’re so pretty/funny/smart/successful/blah blah blah”…who cares? It’s all irrelevant if what you’ve got isn’t what’s on demand.

It’s weird. I guess I hit ‘married with children age’ a while ago, although I never really felt it happen. But suddenly I’m the single friend, and everyone wants to see me paired up. People look out for me, they feel sorry for me. They want to ‘see me happy’ as I keep getting told. For some reason, we’ve worked out that it’s not polite to ask if a woman is pregnant, but to put someone in a position of analysing their desirability is still okay. The reality is I’ve been dumped more times than a Channel Ten newsreader, and while I’d be kidding myself to say it didn’t hurt like hell to feel that I’ve never been worth holding on to, for the most part it’s not a big deal. I get that I’m a bit left of centre and most of the time I can handle that. My mother let me off the hook a long time ago when she told me that not everyone was meant to fly accompanied. I remember at the time feeling so much calmer with that thought. Shame the rest of the world didn’t get the memo.

Not that I don’t fall in love. I do, though rarely with the appropriate target. I seldom find people who spark my curiosity anyway, so it doesn’t often matter.

And then today someone commented on how many times my position as girlfriend has been made redundant, and I thought to myself “fuck this” – I may be single and live alone, at risk of becoming the crazy cat lady my brothers always said I’d be (bollocks to that, I’m a dog person), but without the knock downs I wouldn’t know I can get back up again…and I wouldn’t have such an extensive music collection. And sure, there are days where having to face another partnered friend and their well-intentioned questioning is just too hard. But it is the way it is.
So screw it. I might have a worse batting average than…um…some shit cricket player (I don’t know names)…but I have learned a lot from every single one of those relationships. They might not be good for a back massage any longer (actually none of them ever were), but these are the things I have accumulated along the way…

The world’s best taco recipe
Joan Armatrading
Learning to use my mirrors when I’m reverse parking
Champagne at midnight
Knowing that Calvin Klein men’s boxers are the most comfortable sleepwear ever
Bright red lipstick
Funny Girl
Brain Pickings
Kurt Vonnegut
Dusty Springfield
Wine appreciation
Carol King
Midnight in Paris
How to walk in super high heels
How to pitch a tent
M People
Honey Birdette
Brazilian waxing
The rules of AFL
How to order caviar
How to use a strap on (sorry mum and dad)
How to ride pillion on a motorbike
The best way to eat oysters
Patsy Cline
The best Vietnamese in Sydney
How to apply a smoky eye
The Pretenders
How to cook a lamb roast
Friends (not the exes – ugh – but the people around them have almost always been worth it)
A million other little things that have made me who I am

I realise that most of these aren’t particularly exciting. But sing ‘em to the tune of Willie Nelson’s To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, and you may just be on to a winner.

Alternatively, skull a bottle of red and cry yourself to sleep. It’ll all be okay tomorrow…

A Killer Rack

I was chatting with a mate a while back about my desire to change careers, and she asked me if I felt I was an expert in anything.

“I dunno” I replied offhand. “Probably boobs.”

We laughed, because everyone knows Boob Men don’t come much bigger than me. What can I say? I’ve never been any different. All I know is that any time a decent set of boobs appears in front of me, I lose the ability to speak. I’m like a rugby league player trying to string a sentence together.

Lately though, boobs have been messing with a close friend of mine and they’re starting to lose their appeal. They’ve tried this before with other friends, even succeeded on two occasions in taking great women I knew. But this time I’ve been a little closer to the action, and it’s highlighted to me how little I understood of breasts at all.

I suspect some of us girls are a bit blasé about breast cancer. We are bombarded with ‘breast cancer’ messages and campaigns almost to the point of being desensitized by it all. We know to check our breasts and we know the risk factors from lifestyle choices. Sure it can kill us, but the statistics are on our side, and most of us know at least one woman who’s been diagnosed, had a lumpectomy and a round of treatment and come out of it the other side with little to show for it other than a new hairstyle.

Well, yes. Except, no. Big NO.

Breast cancer is horrible. It is a hideous, nasty, insidious disease that attacks us at the very core of our being, not only because of the importance we place on our breasts, but because our bosom is also where our heart is, where so much emotion is stored and felt – as though our chests needed any more pressure placed on them. For all the feminist ranting about the over-sexualisation of breasts, the truth is that our boobs are more than just utilitarian objects designed to feed babies.

We are destined to have a dysfunctional relationship with our breasts. From the minute our chests begin to fill out, or even more awkwardly don’t, they are an undeniable sign of our burgeoning sexuality that is visible to the rest of the world. We are judged on them, and judge ourselves on them, from the minute they appear. The other things that come with puberty, like pubic hair and menstruation aren’t readily available for viewing (well, you’d hope not), but our breasts? We have no control over them. They force us to confront our body’s development in comparison to our peers, and often they’re the cause of some pretty soul destroying taunts as we negotiate adolescence. Some of us are lucky enough to get through it all and end up happy with what we’ve got mammary-wise. Some of us get there via push up bras and cosmetic surgery. Some of us never learn to love our breasts at all. And for an increasing number of us, we wade through all that only to have our breasts betray us and develop life threatening tumours anyway.

It’s a lonely journey, cancer. Much as she has many people there for her, no one is really there with my friend. I don’t know exactly how bad the post-surgical pain was, although her tears gave me some idea; I didn’t know exactly how rattled she was by the diagnosis, although I could sense it in her text messages and emails and every black-humoured remark. I didn’t know how scared she was of what the future held, although I could guess. I was scared for her too. And I may have been alongside her in the hospital for part of it, but only one of us was the patient.

I sat in a scanning room in Nuclear Medicine, arguably the grimmest part of any hospital, while she had radioactive fluid injected into her nipple by a doctor she’d met only minutes before, the same doctor who was at pains to make sure it was okay I be in the room lest I get a nipple flash – as though there’s something awkward about a friend seeing your boobs, but not a bunch of medical staff. The room, at once high tech and 1960s retro, was a bit like the set of The Thunderbirds. The off-grey walls and floors and harsh lighting only added to the alienation. I watched her being slid into the PET scanner, manoeuvred and bossed around by staff who go through it too many times a day, saw them tape her breasts and draw guides for the surgeon on her skin in Nikko pen. I kept wanting to say “you know that’s a person there, right?” as they joked amongst themselves and worked out where to put the markings. It was all I could do not to reach out and grab her hand, give her some form of human contact amongst all the science fiction.

And yet I saw some of the sweetest moments of humanity in that hospital too. Fleeting connections between strangers that made all the difference to both of them – whether between the staff and patients, patients and their visitors, or between the patients themselves. There is an immediate level of intimacy created when people are brought together through illness. Maybe it’s just because someone else knows how bad the hospital food is, but it’s a connection nonetheless.

The fatalist in me says that breasts are just breasts – who cares if they go? And actually, I do believe that. Having a killer rack suddenly takes on a whole new meaning when there’s a Grade 3 malignant tumour nestled in your cleavage. If they’re out to kill you, then get rid of them. It’s not like your personality is stored in your mammary glands.

But I still have my breasts intact, and I don’t know what it’s like to mourn their loss. Another patient, full of good intentions, said that it’s better to be safe than sorry. She was right, of course, but my friend’s response “I’m both” was gut-wrenching.  It doesn’t matter how many times a woman is told she’s sexy, there’s a part of her that fears being undesirable. So imagine the psyche of a woman battling the combined effects of chemotherapy – the disappearance of distinguishing features like eyebrows, eyelashes and hair; the nosebleeds, blistered skin, lethargy, nausea, weight gain (or loss depending on the person) – along with the crippling depression that is both a symptom and a result of treatment, and whose scars across her chest continue to pull and hurt and send phantom pains shooting from the nerve endings where her nipples used to be. Can you imagine the strength it takes just to get out of bed some days, let alone out the front door? Seeing someone who oozes self-confidence be so vulnerable is heartbreaking. This should not be happening to her.

And yet, why not her? That’s the nature of this stupid thing. It doesn’t give a shit that she’s fought enough already to be here. Cancer is completely indiscriminate in its selection process. It’s never cared about any of the people I know who’ve answered that knock on life’s door.

I simply can’t fathom how anyone copes with being told they have cancer. It’s terrifying enough as a friend to hear words like tumour, mastectomy and chemotherapy. To be able to remain a functioning member of society when you are at your most fragile; when control of your life has been taken from you and put in the hands of a stranger now known as your oncologist; when dealing with the shock and fear and disbelief at how quickly life exploded has turned your brain to mush and left you unsure of every decision you make; when you can deal with it all with humour; when you can maintain some semblance of life despite all that, and when you can come out the other end never once having asked “why me?” while knowing there’s still so much ahead to get through…well frankly, that’s where my words run out.

And so, my love affair with breasts has hit a rocky patch. I still think they’re lovely, but I now view them the way I view a potentially dangerous dog. I’m happy to play with them, but I expect them to attack.


An Open Letter to Tony Abbott’s Daughters

Dear Louise, Bridget & Frances,

Hi girls. You don’t know me but I know you. Only from TV of course, but I still feel an affinity with you. I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I guess it’s pretty hard to stay anonymous when your dad’s running for Prime Minister, hey? It’s just that I’ve been watching these past few months as you’ve stood loyally beside him, and I really feel the need to reach out to you and say you’re not alone – I too have an embarrassing dad.

I know all too well what it’s like to have a loose cannon for a father, although I admit from the outset you girls have it way worse than I do. My dad isn’t in the public eye. No one other than my mother and brother generally hear the daft things he comes out with, unless he’s saying it on facebook. Oh god, there’s a thought. Your father doesn’t have an account does he? I can just imagine what he’d be like commenting on your photos:

 “Hey Lou, what boat did that Asian mate of yours come in on? Must‘ve been on Julia’s watch. LOL!”

“Bridget, is that your boyfriend in the pink shirt? LMAO, poofy much?!”

“Franny, is that guy wearing a Jesus Is My Homeboy t-shirt? OMG! WHERE CAN I GET ONE???”

No, you need to keep him well away from facebook. Social media and embarrassing dads go together about as well as teenage girls and Bacardi Breezers. They get silly and uncontrollable. I learned that the hard way, trust me. My father now has his own fan base amongst my facebook friends because he’s always divulging personal information about my formative years. They think its endearing; I think its grounds for patricide. I should probably block him altogether now I think about it. But I digress.

My point is I know what it’s like to cringe in anticipation every time your dad opens his mouth in public. I know what it’s like to tense up when an obviously gay waiter serves him in a restaurant, or when the bank teller is Asian and asking too many questions. I know that overweight people are like a red rag to a bull, and women in burkas are…ugh, let’s not go there. Having an unpredictable maniac for a father can be so damn mortifying, can’t it? I know there’s an unwritten rule that dads are supposed to embarrass their daughters any chance they get, but some put more effort in than others. I’ve wanted the ground to swallow me up on more than one occasion. The day dad told a ‘woolly woofer’ joke to two blokes not realising they were actually a couple was a highlight, as was the time he mistook a man’s wife for his mother and made some comment along the lines of “what time do you have to have her back at the home?” Groan. The man needs a muzzle.

It’d be easy to write them off as old farts from another generation, but your dad’s 20 years younger than mine. I guess that actually makes my dad pretty groovy by comparison, seeing as he supports marriage equality and believes women are capable of making informed decisions about their reproductive systems without state or religious intervention. Maybe a life of ardent Catholicism has aged your dad prematurely. All that altar wine can’t be good for you. Thankfully my dad has never actually described my virginity as “a precious gift”, although he has jokingly offered cash incentives to any bloke who can successfully put a stop to my lesbianism. At least I think it was a joke. Who can tell? Dad jokes are seldom actually funny. And I don’t think he’d even know there’s a vaccine available for cervical cancer, let alone actively seek to discourage me from getting it (just on the virginity thing – did your dad even know the status of your virginity at the time? I mean, I tell my dad virtually everything, but we’ve never had that conversation).

Look, I know your dad’s not all bad; I’m sure neither of our fathers actively set out to offend. But the difference is mine does occasionally give the impression of not wanting to insult people. I’m not sure ol’ Tony’s ever bothered to concern himself with what’s considered offensive. I mean that thing he said the other day about marriage equality being “radical change based on the fashion of the moment” as opposed to a matter of human rights was a real doozy. Guess that’ll make for a pretty interesting Christmas lunch if your aunt’s there this year, huh? Even worse than the Christmas my dad told a ‘curry muncher’ joke in front of my brother’s Sri Lankan girlfriend. Oh, the memories… 

And then there’s that thing about turning back the boats, despite the majority of Australians wanting to see a refugee solution that’s far more humane. We all know he must have been joking when he said it because no one in their right mind would think that was smart policy, but it made him sound like he’d just flown in from 1954. Surely he’s not that out of touch with the rest of the country?

Even the day my dad inexplicably gave the finger to a couple I’d waved at seconds prior because he assumed they were friends (they were actually clients, but even so, who spontaneously gives the finger to strangers?!) pales in comparison to Tony’s sex appeal comment. Good thing Mark Latham waded in to the fracas with an even bigger clanger. Lucky that dude only has sons!

You have got one up on me though. You’ve managed to convince your dad not to wear the budgie smugglers in public, whereas I’ve never been able to convince dad his Speedos aren’t a good look. God knows what it will take to get my father out of them. Scissors, probably.


My father. Like I said, I feel your pain.

Anyway girls, my advice is to try not to let it get the better of you. A lot of us have complete nutters for fathers, minus the ever present media attention of course. Which I guess actually points to the fact that none of us really have any idea what it’s like to be you. Except perhaps Jessica Rudd. You  wouldn’t believe the crap her dad puts on twitter…

Best of luck reining the old boy in between now and September 7,


For Iris

I remember the first time I met you, at a dinner party in Balmain. You seemed smart and funny, although slightly annoying in a peppy, sunshiny way. I now know you can be far more energetic than you were that night, but at the time I found your positivity just a bit more than my cynical nature wanted to deal with.

It was a weird party; for a start it was totally vegetarian, and we all had to bring a plate. The house was insanely gorgeous, but also a little creepy. And the mix of people was unusual. Great, but unusual (remember that intense American girl Paula, who we all individually thought had a crush on us, but who was really just an attention seeker, and who fortunately vanished from all our lives, never to be seen again? Anyway…) It turned out I met lot of people that night who are still my friends, so I guess Mon knew what she was doing after all. Mon performed for us. I didn’t even really know she could sing or play guitar, let alone that she was actually good at it. It was long and boozy and fun. There was candle wax everywhere by the end.

The terrorist attacks had just happened in New York, and the world was still reeling. We all did our best to keep the conversation light, but it was hard to be flippant with those images in our minds. I was pretty sensitive to it, given Tove had only just moved there and for a little while I thought I’d lost him. Talk kept going back to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Leon’s sister Silvia was at the party, and the frustrated activist within her kept coming out with conspiracy theories. She almost sounded on the side of Bin Laden. I could see you sizing her up in your quiet, analytical way. I suspected you thought she was full of shit too, but instead of coming out and telling her like I was, you continued to sit and listen respectfully to what she was saying. It was only later, when it was just the two of us in the kitchen, that you rolled your eyes and said “is she fucking serious?” We’ve been friends ever since.

It’s funny how that first meeting is exactly how I think of our friendship always being. Me, a mouthy opinionated bull-at-a-gate; you the hand on the shoulder, reminding your friend to breathe. Maybe it’s the Asian Buddhist Zen thing you’ve got going on in your genetic makeup. More likely though, all those years of studying psychology, combined with a natural curiosity for the human condition and a gentle disposition, has made you incredibly sensitive to everyone around you.

I haven’t always returned the favour. I wasn’t a particularly good friend a lot of the time. Bogged down in my life, permanently distracted by work and a relationship that required a lot of ‘handling’, I didn’t always make time for you when I really should have. You never gave up on me though. You hung in there, listening to my dramas and never judging. You were the only one who never once said “Why on earth are you still with her?” instead asking “What makes you stay?” We even survived my clanging assertion that I didn’t find Asians attractive, and my hurried “you’re okay though” afterwards.

You have always been such a good friend; an involved, attentive, conscientious friend, who puts huge energy into maintaining connections. Thank god for that, because without your input we’d have fizzled out years ago. I remember saying to you once that no one would ever be as good a friend to you as you are to them. You replied simply “I know.” That isn’t what friendship is about for you.

There were a lot of years, the Alice Springs and Darwin years, when we didn’t have much contact other than me teasing you for moving up there and teaching blind Aboriginal lesbians (really, could you have found a more specialised field?) Then facebook became a thing, and I said to you “get on it” and you did, and we were back on track.

You were living in London by then, and had started dating someone. A Dutch girl called Lidia. Of all the nationalities in Europe, you went for my least favourite. Some bad experiences meant I couldn’t believe my friend could be attracted to anyone Dutch. “What about an Italian? Or a Spaniard? Why does she have to be DUTCH?” You emailed me a photo. At least she was attractive. I could see what you saw in her physically, even if I didn’t get the Dutch thing. As time went on I had to quieten down. You clearly had a lot in common. Sport and the outdoors primarily, and frankly I was relieved there was someone other than me for you to discuss those things with. Exercise? Who, me?

When you moved in together, I tried again. “Are you sure? She’s from HOLLAND.” You just laughed. Eventually I gave up. You’d learn soon enough.

But you didn’t. Even during the rough patches every relationship goes through (which I naturally always blamed on your girlfriend because she was Dutch) you always showed complete respect and love for her. You were never comfortable hearing anything negative being said about Lidia, no matter what was going on.

And it turned out, bizarrely, that you were completely right and I was completely wrong (who’d have thought?!) All the hard times, all the tough, confusing moments when nothing was sure and you were both re-evaluating what you wanted, were worth it. You two broke free and became a happy, unified, team. You made changes, and you supported and encouraged each other. You grabbed life by the balls and attacked it as a couple. And you had so much fun doing it. Is there anywhere you didn’t get to, any mountain you didn’t trek over like a right pair of Alpine lezzos? All those god damn camping trips, cross country skiing trips, early morning departures to meet the ferry, car trips that involved snow chains. Every time a new lot of photos appeared on facebook, I’d think ‘ugh – jesus they deserve each other.’ There were never enough cocktails and city lights for me to be too jealous of your vacations! And yet, I would have loved a little of what you two were sharing.

I got over the Dutch thing. I even used a bit of Flemish on her, much to her amusement. “Hey Sweetmilk” never got old, not for me at least.

Discontented with London, and keen for fresh challenges, the search for a new home was on. There were so many avenues open to the two of you, so many options. Eventually you settled on Australia. Excitingly for the other Carrie & I, you decided on Brisbane. Visas were applied for, signed affidavits testifying to your relationship were filled in. What did I write? “I don’t know a couple more committed than Iris and Lidia.” It was the truth.

Then we waited. You guys packed, organised, sorted and started selling up. We waited. And waited. Your intended departure date was getting close. Six weeks! And a civil union to squeeze in before you left.

Finally we got the news on Thursday that you’d been approved. And we all got excited, and joked about how best to celebrate.

And then…and then…a phone call from a number I didn’t know woke me early Friday morning and a shaken, crying voice said hello and it was the other Carrie…and there was something about an accident, and a darling friend on the other side of the world was left shattered and broken, and a beautiful girl gone, and none of us knew what the hell was happening.

And now all that is left to do is be here for you. Unable to be there, I can only say “I’m here” and my arms aren’t long enough to reach out and hug you, but my heart is with you and my mind is always on you and I love you.

I know eventually we will all start to breathe again, and not feel this terrible weight of sadness. It won’t go away but it will change and shift, and we will be able to see further than we’re currently able to. And then we will know that your pain is a little less raw, and we will find you again on the other side of your grieving, changed forever, but still our beautiful friend.

But right now that moment seems very far off, and there’s nothing to say except “I’m here”.


Marriage Equality, Let’s Get On With It.

Fifteen years ago I was on a Qantas flight approaching Auckland when the pilot came over the loud speaker to give his final address before landing. As he signed off, he came out with

“Ladies and gentlemen, local time is 3pm. Don’t forget to set your watches forward three hours, and your calendars back 30 years.”

New Zealand jokes, I’ve heard a few. I was a Kiwi joke myself for a while. Despite emigrating to Australia when I was only a few months old, I spoke like quite the little New Zealunder by the time I reached primary school – and my classmates showed no mercy. I was constantly teased for the way I said pool, or dancing, and just generally considered a bit ‘thuck.’ I still get ribbed when people find out I was born in Gisborne. Extracting the urine from Kiwis is a national pastime in Australia, even I do it, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to make those jokes without sounding like a massive one yourself. The haberdasher’s on the main street of Oamaru may still have the same fabric in the window that they did in 1961 (true story, ask my mother) but New Zealand is a lot further ahead than Australia in other areas.

Despite a persistent reputation as the world’s wallflower, New Zealand has been quietly proving itself as the thinking person’s nation. They were the first country to give all women the vote, and the first country to elect an openly transsexual politician to office. They declared themselves nuclear free before any other nation, and they had a female prime minister thirteen years before Australia got there. Last week’s vote to allow amendments to the marriage act, thereby making them the first country in the Asia Pacific region to achieve marriage equality, is only the most recent of a long history of socially progressive decisions. Yet Australia still thinks of New Zealand as a naïve little cousin.

A friend pointed out this week that Australia has appropriated so many of New Zealand’s best exports – Kimbra, Crowded House, Phar Lap, pavlova – but seems unable to adopt even a little of their social awareness. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d happily return Russell Crowe and Rebecca Gibney for just a slice of New Zealand’s commitment to social inclusion.

We’re pretty proud of our laconic, larrikin reputation, but it doesn’t get much done, does it? The footage of New Zealand parliament’s overwhelming vote in favour of marriage equality has been broadcast all over the world, despite it being a week that included the Boston Marathon bombing, and ongoing tensions in Iraq leaving 119 civilians dead. Julia Gillard said she was “unmoved” by New Zealand’s ruling, but she must have been the only one who was. Juxtaposed against the footage of people running injured in Boston or lying on makeshift hospital beds in Iraq, the five minutes of footage of New Zealand politicians embracing openly lesbian MP Louisa Hall as the public gallery broke spontaneously into a version of Poekarekare Ana seemed to transfix the world.  To me, that shows the planet is desperate for more acts of love, respect and inclusion and less focus on what divides us all.

If ever we needed proof that our national predilection for apathy is no longer working for us, this is it. We’re busy taking the piss out of Julia Gillard’s jackets, but not her stubborn inability to learn and adapt to the changing world around her. What’s New Zealand doing? Oh, they’re just making genuine changes that improve the lives of their less equal citizens.

It’s time we got serious and started to demand more than wardrobe changes from our politicians. As a nation, we’re in danger of looking like a social backwater. Nothing highlights this better than our current stance on marriage equality. The latest data shows 64% of Australians believe marriage equality should happen; it is ONLY the politicians standing in the way. If we really wanted to do something about it, we could. We actually could. Those of us who believe in equality are no longer the minority, but we’re allowing ourselves to be represented that way.  With the exception of a very small group of highly motivated activists, our commitment to changing the existing marriage laws goes as far as clicking yes or no in an online survey, but armchair protesting can only take an issue so far. If we’re not willing to get off our arses and really force the issue en masse it won’t happen.

The overwhelming reaction to marriage equality is that most people are sick of talking about. I’m sick of talking about it too. We need to stop acting like a mother nagging her kid to clean their room, and simply put our collective feet down. Enough is enough. Everyone needs to get involved in this, not just the GLBTIQ community. We need our families and our friends, and the wider community, to step up and show their support. Basically we need that 64% to become highly, and undeniably, visible.

We also need to stop clutching at economic straws, such as what gay marriage and the pink dollar will do for the economy, because it’s detracting from the real wrongdoing. Equality should not be reduced to financial reasons. I should be allowed to marry a woman because I love her, not because a politician can see financial gain in it. For someone to tell me I’ve been granted a basic human right solely on the basis of economy doesn’t make me respected. It makes me a commodity. The “Gay Bridal Registry” may well end up a lucrative by-product of marriage equality, but it shouldn’t be a main reason for doing it. That’s like only getting married for the presents, not the lover.

If we can do that, then as far as I can see there’s nothing stopping us from joining New Zealand. Well, except one. We need something to sing in parliament too, a song that’s Australia’s answer to Poekarekare Ana, because I’m pretty sure the old “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” thing just isn’t going to cut it.

by Caz.

Chinks In the Armour

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only lesbian who doesn’t fancy Ruby Rose. I know we’re all supposed to love a heavily tattooed, spikey-haired lezzer with a bit of talent and a lot of fame, but that’s never been my bag. This week though, I could have French-kissed the bejesus out of her. Talking about her battle with depression was a very courageous way to get my attention, certainly more effective than flashing her tits in FHM a few years ago.

I’m not normally a big fan of public emoting. I’m not even really a fan of writing about my emotions directly, I’d rather let them weave into my work organically than state implicitly ‘this is me’, yet in December last year I stood in line at my local Coles and burst into a very public bout of uncontrollable tears. Not the sort of tantrum brought about by long queues and a shortage of cranberry sauce that’s acceptable at Christmas time, but a silent overflow of tears that hurt my throat, and crushed my chest.

I had noticed the girl in front of me was covered with scars. Long, purple lines covered her forearms in a crosshatched mess of pain, and one angry, red one travelled from somewhere under her skirt, down to her knee. I’d seen similar scars before – on a friend, on the guy who works in the Night Owl – but I’d always been dismissive of them, waving them off with a reaction that was more ‘you hopeless emo’ than ‘you poor thing’. I never understood what would possess anyone to cut themselves up, why they’d want to do that to themselves. Recognising myself in her scars definitely wasn’t in the plan.


I had been in a fog since morning, drifting from one task to the next, just getting done what needed doing. I was going through a very confusing break up at the time, one that had taken me so by surprise I simply couldn’t get past the shock to even deal with it. I was doing what I always do in those situations, which is to get up and get on with it and try to live around the hurt. I had to get up and get on with it. I run a business that employs people who are dependent on me for their livelihoods, so I did my best to ignore how I was feeling. I knew I was pretty drained emotionally, but it took a stranger with distressingly visible signs of pain to show me just how much I was hurting under my own skin.

Given my state of mind back then, my meltdown wasn’t a complete surprise. I hadn’t expected it to come to a head quite so spectacularly and in such a public location though. The strength of my reaction frightened me. I was so embarrassed by how pathetic I must have seemed that I went into hiding. I curled up on the couch and stayed there for two full days. I called in sick to work, and ignored phone calls. I replied to text messages only if I absolutely had to. And until last week, I didn’t tell anyone about it.


It’s hard for me to write about this period without it sounding dramatic, which means it’s hard for me to write about it full stop. I don’t do drama, I prefer to keep things light. 2012 was a bust, horrible from beginning to end. It was like living through twelve months of sensationalist tabloid headlines – relationship breakdowns, financial dramas, family stresses, more relationship breakdowns, business and staffing problems, best friends dating exes, exes dating other exes, housing problems, health issues. I was New Idea, Woman’s Day and Who Weekly all rolled into one tattered publication. At the time I brushed everything off with “It could be worse, it’s not cancer” because I was trying to keep some perspective, but if the best you can say about a period of time is that at least no one you love died it’s not saying much, is it?

By the end of the year I was a mess. My hands shook all the time, I couldn’t sleep, I was drinking more than I ever had (which on this occasion IS saying much), I wasn’t eating, and I would cry at the drop of a hat. I couldn’t believe I’d become that person – the one with the continual dramas about nothing. I was under a lot of pressure to be okay, from myself and others. I was aware of friends going through far more traumatic events. Yet the truth was that, despite telling myself it could be worse, I couldn’t actually have felt any worse.


The best indication that all was not well in my brain was that I couldn’t write. For the very first time in my life, I had no words. Deadlines came and went without me acknowledging them, story ideas dried up, I didn’t have a creative atom in my body. Writing is my outlet, but it’s only therapeutic when you can actually get the nonsense in your head out. And shitty heartbreak prose isn’t my style anyway. Thank god I can’t paint; my apartment would have been overflowing with huge canvases, painted black and pierced with stab marks. Nice, very postmodern. I was trapped inside myself.

I walked for hours every day trying to clear my head, but when I need to get away from my thoughts the very worst thing I can do is walk. Walking time is thinking time for me, and I was sending myself mad. Sleeping didn’t help either, because there was pressure for it to be a relief from the pain, and consequently gave no real rest. I would sleep knowing I was only going to wake up and feel awful again. I wanted it over. I know that my love for my parents meant I would never have thrown myself off the Story Bridge, but I honestly thought about it every single day.

I needed something to show for the pain I was feeling. That’s why the girl in the supermarket upset me. I could see that she once felt that way too, that her scars were something tangible, and that causing herself physical pain had given focus to her internal pain. That I understood even a fraction of what made her do that to herself scared the hell out of me.

Friends began to worry about me. I could tell they were discussing it whenever I wasn’t around. Eventually one suggested that it might be time to engage a professional. I listened, and made an appointment with my GP. She confirmed what I’d begun to suspect – that I was in the middle of a full emotional breakdown and diagnosed me with depression. Having no desire to become a totally mournful bitch, I got over my distrust of psychoanalysis, found a therapist I liked, and began to regain control of myself. I also went on a high dose of happy pills.


Antidepressants have been my liberator. I don’t want to be on them forever, but at a time when I had little control over my behaviour, they acted like emotional Botox and gave me a break from the black emptiness I was feeling. I’d want to cry, but I just couldn’t. Eventually my brain gave up trying, and gave being happy a go instead. The clarity allowed me to focus on the real issues.

At this point, I really need to acknowledge how lucky I am to have amazing friends around me. And by lucky, I mean seriously lucky. I have an incredible pack of loyal and loving supporters who never once judged any of my behaviour during this period (well maybe they did, but they didn’t let on), and who made a point of being there for me without condition. I honestly don’t know how people get through life without a close posse around them. Streisand was right; people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. It might have been a miserable way to learn how loved I am, but I’m glad to know it now.

I also highly recommend removing whoever you need to from your life. Just tell them to fuck off. Seriously, use those words. You’ll feel better. Maybe that’s the best way to treat depression too. Get angry with it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but neither is removing people you care deeply about – even when you know it’s the right thing for yourself. The adage says that life wasn’t meant to be easy, but sometimes by doing what’s most difficult, life gets a whole lot less complicated.


As for where I’m at now…I’m getting there. I still have days where I feel the emptiness coming back, but propelled forward by good friends, good drugs, tight family and a great therapist, I’ve started to see so much more ahead of me than the fog of sadness had hidden. I feel strong enough now to look beyond the protective wall those things have created. There are still a few chinks in my armour, but they’re being polished out. And I’m happy, albeit in a way that knows a price was paid for it. In fact, maybe it’s not happiness at all. Maybe relief is a better word – relief that I came through, that I can see I’ll be okay. Things are different now.

I felt so stupid for having such a seemingly irrational response to what was just another break up, and continuously asked myself the same question my mother did: “Why do you need therapy? Because you’ve let that <insert offensive description of my ex> make you feel bad?” But depression isn’t rational and it isn’t even so much about the catalyst for it. It’s about a genuine inability to lift out of feeling helpless and hopeless, and no one needs to feel stupid about that. We do though, and it stops us asking for help. That’s why I’ve chosen to write about the last five months. The more voices saying “me too”, the easier it will become.

One last thing. Nora Ephron once said the following:


Print it out, stick it on your mirror. She knew her stuff.

By Caz.

The Donkeys, The Muppets and Me.

I donkey voted today, and I feel a bit dirty about it. I didn’t do it out of a lack of respect for the voting system, nor because I thought it would be funny or smart. I did it because for me personally, it was the most honest decision I could make, the one that sat most comfortably with me.

A friend of mine called me out on this, saying that by donkey voting I give up my right to whinge about politics, but I strongly believe the opposite is true. I didn’t donkey vote out of complacency or laziness. If I was either of those things I wouldn’t have dragged myself out of bed while suffering a fairly substantial hangover, fight for a car park at the local state school, wait in the absentee voter’s queue for an hour and a half while ratty little kids tried to sell me over iced cupcakes, cans of home brand soft drink, and overcooked sausages in home brand bread. Hold the home brand BBQ sauce, thanks! If it were simply a matter of laziness, I would have taken two more Nurofen, rolled over and gone back to sleeping off my headache.

If anything , the fact that I feel so unrepresented by the various parties should entitle me to complain even more loudly. I pay personal and company tax, I pay rates, fuel excise, GST, customs duties, fire service levies, superannuation tax, fringe benefit tax, and probably a whole lot more I don’t even know about. And yet, none of that guarantee me fair representation in government.

I take my voting seriously. I suspect I’m one of the more informed members of the electorate. I research the parties, read up on their platforms, I find out who they’re giving their preferences to. I do this for every local, state and federal election. I come from a very pro Liberal background, the daughter of small business owners who’ve been self employed for about 40 years. I am a small business owner myself. For me to give my vote to the LNP would be as easy as breathing.

But I am also a lesbian who wants to be able to marry my partner if I choose to, and I care about the environment, and want to see more money spent on education and health, and less on police helicopters. I am anti organised religion, and certainly anti any religion based groups having any say at all in terms of policy.

I am economically conservative, but socially progressive. And I want to vote for a party who believes the same. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option. You have to be either one or the other when it comes to voting. Which is weird, because anyone I talk to seems to love the idea of an economically conservative, socially progressive government. It, um, makes sense. It certainly seems to be far more representative of the community I live in.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because it’s not an option. I donkey voted because I didn’t feel any party deserved my vote. Major policy agendas on both sides of politics turned my stomach and I felt ill supporting either.

And yes, I know there are alternatives, but in the electorate I vote in the alternative is Family First. Errr…thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather lick the rim of Bob Katter’s hat after a night line dancing at a Lee Kernigan concert.

So, today I voted for a donkey. It seemed somehow better than voting for a muppet who doesn’t understand me.