First, let me say this: J-man is the kindest, most loving, supportive, considerate and wonderful husband. He comforts me every single Sunday night when I am sad the weekend is over. He tells me he loves me everyday. He reassures me that I do not have a moustache. He compliments my outfit every morning. He pretends to be interested in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. He tries weird vegetables to support my new-found vegetarian-ish diet. At the top of the escalator at Wynyard, he decides he will go back down to buy me a rose from a sad-looking guy who is not making any sales late one night.
Now let me say this: J-man gave me a rash last week. An angry, mysterious rash.
This thing was brutal, it was all over my body and spreading faster than a Hustler centrefold.
I put it down to a weird reaction to suncream, because there was nothing else I had lathered all over my body. Then I started to suspect foul play from J-man, thinking maybe he was secretly using some sort of man lotion called “God of Flame and Fires” and was too ashamed to tell me. I took an antihistamine and figured that was the end of the story.
The next day it flared up again and and people around me were looking concerned, urging me to go to the doctor. Pfft I’m no wuss, I thought. Cut to about ten hours later when I snapped awake at midnight, itching all over and experiencing pain in my neck. That’s it. It’s meningitis and I am going to die. I woke J-man, tearfully told him of my fate and he took me to the bathroom where he bludgeoned me to death with the toilet brush ran a cool towel over my skin.
The next morning there was no evidence that I had died in my sleep, so I got on with living.
Then yesterday we decided to go to the beach, but hadn’t yet replaced the giant tub of suncream that had apparently offended my body so much. I threw caution and my good looks to the wind and rubbed it on. Nothing. Totally fine. No bumps, itches or calling of caterers to make bean nachos at my wake.
When I picked up my beach bag and looked inside, it suddenly dawned on me. The week before J-man had picked a little bottle out of the pantry to fill with suncream, so we didn’t have to lug the entire tub to the beach.
That little bottle in my bag had until recently contained hops – those pungent, stinky, highly-perfumed, gag-worthy, wheaty things you make beer with.
“Oh,” J-man said. “That’s it. It would’ve been like you were rolling around in grass for hours.”
The question I am most frequently asked – after “Cheque, savings or credit?” “Where’s the photocopier?” “Have we met?” and “Gross. Was that you?” – is “Great dress. Where did you get it?”
Usually I just say: “Thanks Mum, it’s from an op shop”. But because I just can’t walk into my parents’ house every six to nine months without being bombarded with compliments about my clothes, I thought I really should address that question here. Address! Ha! My quick wit goes so well with my finery.
The long answer is: mostly eBay, sometimes markets, occasionally op-shops and, if I’m feeling vulnerable, vintage clothing stores. It’s quite boring compared to the “It’s from a little Parisian pop up shop my personal sherpa found while collecting my fresh Evian water on Mount Everest Base Camp III” answer you so often read in the Sunday magazines.
Here are some of my most recent finds*.
The red dress
When I see a dress I really like I have little daydreams about what I could achieve while wearing it. When I saw this little baby on eBay in all its crimson, fringed, body-hugging glory I immediately imagined walking into a party where everyone knows my name (for once). Out of a haze of cigarette smoke, lust and glace cherries, a talent scout approaches me and asks me to do a walk-on part in a community television role about a line dancing stripper with a heart of gold.
The lacy dress
J-man and I are going to a wedding in a few weeks and I’ve been saving this dress for the occasion. When I saw it hanging on a rack at Surry Hills markets, I imagined walking into the church late, my hair flowing in the breeze. The spotlight abruptly shifts from the beaming bride to me; mysterious, alone and pouting in the back row. Out of a haze of cigarette smoke, confetti and cuckolded brides, a talent scout approaches me, inspects my armpits and asks me to be the new face of Impulse body spray.
I love onesies. You have excellent sun protection, can roll around on the ground and sit like a dude. When I saw this in a vintage clothing store on King Street in Newtown I imagined skipping through a meadow, free and without fear of revealing my shame. Out of a haze of cigarette smoke, daises and fertiliser, a talent scout approaches me and asks me wear the hell I keep my keys in that thing.
* Apologies for the lack of human in the photos, but I have developed a horrible, reoccurring whole body rash. It appeared on Sunday and I was totally convinced it was caused by the transfer of some kind of perverted body lotion J-man had acquired in a last ditch attempt to seduce me. I think it’s actually weird reaction to new sun cream.
I went water skiing for the first time in about a decade on the weekend. Most of the muscles in my body still hurt. I’m pretty sure the ear muscles of people who have been around me for the last three days are also hurting from all the whingeing-slash-bragging I’ve been doing.
J-man and I went to visit my parents in Orange and dad took us all to Carcoar Dam for a day on the boat. We all had a go on the biscuit – which I believe in other circles is called a “tube” – and Dad was the only one to fall off. He says he jumped off when J-man tried to take him on an s-bend, we say he fell off as a result of J-man’s trickery at the helm.
I really wanted to have a go at water skiing, something I learnt to do in late primary school and early high school, but I wasn’t sure I could still do it. I slipped into my wetsuit (after checking it for spiders) and had trouble putting on the heavy skis in the water (after checking them for spiders). I wanted to give up until J-man said “You’re struggling even putting on the skis, do you think you’re fit enough to waterski?” That was it. It took a few goes getting up and out of the water, so each time dad would drive the boat around to pick me up I would say to myself “You can do this Steve. Show J-man who’s boss”. And then I did. And I skied up and over the wake and back again, even doing a few mini jumps and taking the time out to ski one-handed so I could flip J-man the bird.
Mum told me it was all about muscle memory, but as I sailed across the glassy water I was also reminded of when I first learnt to ski. The family of a primary school friend taught me by patiently dragging me behind their orange boat called Popeye. My friend would spoon me in the water and put her feet on the skis to hold them up. I still have scars on my wrists that mark the first time I made it out of the water, after first banging my arms on the sharp sides of old wooden skis.
I would spend weekends with her family at the dams around Orange quite a lot towards the end of primary school and in the early years of high school. Her family was so different from mine. I remember her dad singing “Every night, every day, every possible way, we will do it, yeah yeah” on a trip home once. When I repeated the tune to my dad, he was less than impressed and he had to explain its meaning to me. My friend and her sister were huge belly-laughers, who wildly jumped off pontoons and loved being thrown off the biscuit into the water. They seemed fearless. Their family also ate a lot of stuff we were never allowed to – her mum made a Barbie pool cake for one of her early birthdays and microwaved McDonald’s she had picked up from town. The girls were allowed to read the sealed sections of Dolly and Girlfriend out in the open. Later in high school, my friend was allowed to have parties in a spare paddock of the family’s property. It was out there, in the dewy grass under a clear winter sky, where I learnt an important lesson: Always bundle up your clothes and take them with you on a nudie run.
None of this really has a point, except that I’m so grateful to have had a bare foot, bike riding, paddock bashing, water skiing childhood.