Life As I Know It


My life, in hindsight, is hilarious. Right from birth I have been involved in all manner of ridiculous hijinks, beginning with the erroneous entry by a clerk at the registrar’s office of my gender as “male” on my birth certificate. This simple mistake did not seem particularly funny when I stumbled across it as a sensitive and moody 16-year-old whilst gathering all of the necessary documents the night before I went for my Learner’s Permit.

On the floor of my parent’s study next to the open filing cabinet, I stared down at my lap, frantically searching my mind’s archives for the detailed drawings of female anatomy we’d been shown in Year 7 Health, which I had instinctively filed away as potentially life-saving information. Mentally tracing the images, I ascertained that all of the visible bits that define one as a female were indeed intact. But my brain had already started on an alarming course of inquiry with the rampant speed of a runaway train: Why do I have that weird pain in my groin when I push on my belly button? Is it connected to where my testicles used to be?  Is that why I’m so tall? Is that why I don’t have boobs yet? Oh God, is that why I hate wearing skirts and dresses and always do hilarious impressions of dudes around my friends? And that weird scar just under my stomach, that’s got to be from something. Although it could be a stretch mark. No, it’s a scar. I didn’t even get my period until last year; maybe the lady hormones they’ve been secretly giving me hadn’t kicked in properly yet. That also explains the lack of boobs.What if I had both parts when I was born and they decided to make me a girl but they weren’t legally allowed to write female on the birth certificate because I still had a penis at that stage? OH GOD, WHAT IF IT GROWS BACK?!!!

As you can imagine, this train of thought lead me to a very distressing state. By the time I confronted my mother with the evidence of my hermaphroditism a mere five minutes after finding it, I was completely convinced that she had given birth to a little girl-boy combo. I burst into tears.

“Who else knows?” I whimpered, holding out the record of my freakdom.

Baffled though not surprised by my tears (like many teenagers, I was prone to melodramatic states of distress) she took the paper from my limp hand and shook her head slightly in total bewilderment. “What, darling?”

“That.” I pointed mournfully at the offending words. Gender: Male. 

My mother stared at the page with fixed eyes. She mouthed the words. I watched her eyes flicker and scan as she read the entire document from start to end several times, trying to process what she was looking at. Then the penny dropped and I watched her eyes widen in surprise.

Wanting reassurance that her reaction was due to the newness of the information and not due to her years of careful subterfuge being brought to a sudden end, I began to ask. “Am…am I…?”

She began to smirk, trying desperately to hide her amusement at what was, in hindsight, a completely ridiculous situation. “It’s a mistake, you silly girl. I’ll call them in the morning and have it fixed. Go and show your father, he’s the one that entered your birth record.”

Instantly my fear dissipated and was quickly replaced by indignance and rage. “IT’S NOT FUNNY! I have to show this tomorrow to get my licence. People are going to think I’m a freak! You guys are the worst parents ever! How do you not even notice that your only daughter’s birth certificate says ‘male’? WHY DON’T I JUST GROW A PENIS AND THEN YOU’LL BOTH BE HAPPY.”

Yep. That’s how it went down. By the time I saw my friends on Monday it was kind of funny. By the time I had to use my new, anatomically-correct birth certificate to prove my identity when enrolling at university it was really funny. And by the time I started a new job and was sitting around in the staff room with my colleagues, looking for a way to break the ice, it was hilarious. (NB I have since discovered that while it is indeed an extremely amusing anecdote, it is not appropriate fodder for first date material. Needless to say, that one didn’t ever call me again. Lesson learned.)

My life is full of these sorts of ridiculous, there’s-no-way-that-actually-happened-to-you misadventures. In Year 12 I macked on hardcore with a totally hot dude who I assumed was 18 but turned out to be in my cousin’s Year 9 class (yep) at St Patrick’s. My nickname for remainder of year: Polanski. (We’d studied Macbeth the previous year and unfortunately this occurred before Demi Moore and the Desperate Housewives made the idea of cougars seem acceptable.) At the time this whole situation was completely mortifying. I now appreciate the humour in it. Last year I returned from my brother’s wedding to discover an extremely agitated bird in my kitchen due to my dip-shit housemates leaving the back door wide open. During my efforts to remove it, I stubbed my foot so badly that I fractured my little toe. It also managed to shit on me twice mid-flight, once in the eye as I was looking up and trying to herd it out with a broom at the time. Five years ago my dad tried to have an affair with my best friend by turning up at her house while in the city for a business trip and attempting to woo her with the presentation of thoughtful gifts and a totally gross ‘American Beauty’ style prepared speech about the beautiful woman she’d blossomed into. (For the record, he’s no Kevin Spacey either.) 18 months ago I had a wart burnt off my leg, the pain of which resulting in my optic nerve shutting down which caused me to faint dramatically, exposing my underwear to a room full of people and receiving a whiplash injury to my neck for which I was required to wear a foam collar. Last year I was caught in a traffic jam with the window down when a really cute guy in the car next to me started to chat me up; my panicked reaction was to stare straight ahead and inch my car forward until he was no longer in my peripheral vision. A few months after breaking up with my ex I ran into him in the waiting room of my doctor’s practice where I’d just received a new Implanon birth control implant and an STI test due to all the newly-single intercourse I’d been enjoying. One time as I was driving home from work I gave my nose a really good pick, only to look up and see one of my colleagues grinning at me in the rear-view mirror. Last year at a wildlife sanctuary I was bitten on the foot by a penguin. (Okay, so the last one isn’t true, but you’re getting an idea.)

There are several ways to react to this kind of life, one that seems to be built on one ludicrous incident after another. I could lament my ill luck at having a dubious confirmation of my gender, terrible ability to accurately judge other people’s ages, shitty housemates, a sleazy dad, an embarrassing physical overreaction to pain, no flirting ability and a lack of grace in any number of social situations. Or, I could simply shake it off, laugh and embrace these awkward and absurd experiences as being the very things that make up life as I know it.




Finding oneself extraordinarily drunk in a well-known, seedy Melbourne bar at 2am seated opposite a group of much younger men can only lead to one thing: a sudden appetite for veal.

At 27, I hadn’t really considered myself old enough to seek out an affair with a lusty toy-boy, Desperate Housewives style. After a night of various highs and lows, Lucile and I found ourselves at Pony with a jug of cider. Seated at the edge of a long couch with a view to most of the male prospects in the room, things were looking dim. But there they were, at the other end of the long suede couch: young, fit, full of energy and obviously excited by the thought of chatting up older women. Lucile pointed them out first. I laughed and called them “teenagers,” which prompted Lucile to lean over and ask one of them his age. 21. She turned back to me, grinning, eyebrows raised triumphantly. “See? They’re not teenagers!” I glanced around once more for a reason not to, and then slid down to their end of the couch.

It was like being any female person walking into an IT server room. We felt like queens. They asked more things about us than they said about themselves. They thought our very ordinary jobs were “awesome,” and carefully guessed our ages as “mid-twenties.” They emptied the change from their pockets to buy us drinks.

After the initial group conversation I began sizing up our new-found dude-possy, like a cowboy sizing up a group of new steers, deciding which one he’s gonna hog-tie and brand. There was the Show-Off, who seemed incapable of going for more than a minute without interrupting a conversation to make a smart-arsed comment and couldn’t sit still; the Attached-but-Unattached, who said he had a girlfriend but was making no real effort to remove himself from a potentially relationship-threatening situation; the Runt, who sat silent and wide-eyed with his tail between his legs; and the fourth one who I couldn’t quite put a label on. Flirtatious without being crude or arrogant. A little nervous, but in an endearing way rather than a this-guy-is-going-to-wee-himself way. Cheeky sense of humour. Ready grin with a hint of a dimple on one side. Large, intense eyes. He leaned in and said something about wanting to get better at guitar, then stayed close to my face, drinking me in with those dark grey saucers, and murmured “your eyes are so pretty…”

His name was Joel, he lived in the outer eastern suburbs, and I didn’t feel the need to ask anything more about him. He was an excellent kisser- soft, sensual, just the right amount of tongue and no excess saliva- and had certainly lost all traces of his earlier nerves. Every now and then he would press his mouth to my ear to make yet another promise of what the night had in store for me. After about 40 minutes of kissing, grinding and generally grossing out the patrons sitting behind us (but who cares, it was Pony) we jumped in a cab headed to my place.

As he got out of the taxi and rolled a cigarette I noticed his nerves had returned. We chatted for a bit on my front door step before I led him through the house to my room. As we began kissing again I assured him that we didn’t have to do ‘everything’ if he didn’t feel comfortable. He stared at me like I’d just told him that my bed was made of cheese, then flashed that half-dimpled grin as his confidence came rushing back.

The guy was a natural. Every touch, kiss, caress and movement was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was as though he could read my mind. After a few hours of intense foreplay and so much incredible kissing I was afraid he was actually grating my chin with his stubble, we came to an impasse: no condoms. As was evidenced by my untidy room, my unmade bed and my ungroomed south-o’-the-border, I was not expecting company and had not thought to detour via the 7 Eleven for the necessary protective measures. When I asked why he didn’t have his own provisions he gave me another grin and simply shrugged, ‘Well I didn’t know someone was going to take me home…’

We spent hours in limbo, dozing flittingly between bouts of intense fervour, tangled in each other’s limbs for most of the night. As the daylight began to spill under my curtains, in the brief euphoria that comes an hour or two before the onset of a horrific hangover, I could take it no more. Action was required. Peeking first out the window at the empty car port to confirm that my housemate had left for work, I crept down the hallway wearing a shirt and no pants, a la Donald Duck. I paused at the threshold of his open bedroom door, momentarily weighted by the line I was about to cross. I knew it was wrong. I glanced back down the hall to my now light-filled bedroom, mentally tracing over the hours of teasing and foreplay that had led to this moment. And with my legs (and other parts of my lower body) trembling, I tiptoed through my housemate’s strewn belongings and nimbly plucked two condoms from his open bedside drawer.

It was worth it. After almost 5 hours of foreplay we knew exactly when to move, when to stop, our exhausted bodies suddenly revived and renewed before collapsing in a stupor of pleasure. After a tangled powernap and a brief but enjoyable Round Two, he left in the haze of hangover onset. Wanting nothing more than to lie motionless in my bed for hours, I was presented with my next problem: I needed to replace that which I had taken before my housemate returned.

My first hurdle was the intense throbbing pain in my head and churning in my stomach that had all but paralysed my body and addled my brain. The second problem I faced was the absence of my car, which had spent the night at the station after we caught the train to the city. With no idea of my housemate’s ETA there was nothing for it – I was walking to the shops.

After a brief shower, during which I clutched my stomach and sobbed loudly to no one that the water was punching my brain through the top of my head and I wanted to sleep or maybe die, I dressed myself and headed out into the harsh light of day. My sunglasses, on the passenger seat of my car, were in no position to be of assistance, so I squinted into the overcast glare and icy headwind through bleary, miserable eyes and began forcing my legs to walk the 1.2km to the supermarket. Passing a church on the way as worshippers filtered out with an air of peace and satisfaction, I momentarily considered repenting and just calling it quits. The thought of actually having to admit my crime in my state of wretchedness was too much to bear, so I trudged on. My next round of punishment was in the purchase itself – an assortment of tacky colours, textures and flavours with names like “Raspberry Ripple” and “Bangin’ Banana” in order to replace the two purloined items with their identical kin.

My return journey was worse than the initial one, despite the procurement of some hot chips and a Coke. I shuffled miserably down my street with dead eyes, slowly chewing chips with an open mouth, a lone box of assorted coloured and flavoured condoms swinging mockingly in a plastic shopping bag that dangled from the crook of my elbow while my hand stuffed chips towards my face like an imbecile posting letters. The punishment fit the crime. My disgrace, self-pity and repugnance in this moment was equal in power to the hedonistic pleasure that had led to my transgression.

As I lay immobile on the couch later that day, determined to keep the chips on their descent through my digestive tract where they seemed to have found a foothold with which to climb back up, I received a text:

So tired. Can hardly move. Totally worth it x

He was right.